Network Rail’s prototype Class 73/9 Ultra73 locomotive was unveiled at Railway Vehicle Engineering Ltd’s Derby works on June 13.
The rebuilt ‘73’ is substantially complete, and was presented by RVEL to NR for inspection and approval of the re-engineering, cab layout and general design.
Two Cummins diesel generator sets supplied by the National Railway Equipment Corporation in America, electronically controlled power conversion equipment, and new electro-pneumatic brakes make up the basis of the new design.
These improvements enable the ‘73/9’ to provide the same power operating under diesel as it does via the third rail, while being cleaner, quieter and more fuel efficient. It also meets the requirements for electromagnetic and signalling compatibility.
Now that the cab layout meets NR’s approval, work can be completed in the second cab. Checks and sequence testing can then begin, before the prototype is moved to the test track in the autumn.
Prior to its conversion the locomotive was 73104, and is now numbered 73952. The second locomotive in the scheme (73211) is about six weeks behind the first in development.
NR plans to base the first two rebuilt ‘73/9s’ at Derby, to be used on infrastructure monitoring trains. There are no definite plans for any more to be converted, although RVEL owns two further ‘73s’ (73101 and 73139) that could be used. RVEL spokesman Rupert Brennan-Brown confirmed that the company is talking to “a number of potential customers about the possibility of converting more”.
It was announced back in 2011 (RAIL 673) that the project would go ahead, with the intention to begin testing in 2012. Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin visited RVEL’s works in June 2013 (RAIL 724) to see the progress on the project, which he described as “innovative”.
Brennan-Brown said: “The project has faced some particular engineering challenges along the way that took longer to overcome than first envisaged.”
Class 73s as standard are electro-diesels, capable of 1,500hp under third rail operation and 600hp using their English Electric 4SRKT engines. The rebuilt ‘73/9s’ will use two Cummins QSK19 engines that are capable of 755hp each under both electric and diesel, providing 40% greater fuel efficiency. These engines are also fitted to Class 185s, ‘220/221s’ and ‘222s’.