One more journey

APT-P on the move in 1990

In June of 1988 the seven remaining APT-P cars were hauled on what, at the time, was thought to be their final short journey, from sidings at Crewe Electric Traction Depot, up the Chester line and onto the Heritage Site. Here they were manoeuvred onto specially laid track, once in position the temporary point over which the train had travelled was removed leaving the APT standing isolated from the other Heritage sidings.

Staff and volunteers then went to work to recommission some of the on board facilities in order that visitors could enjoy the comforts of the train and purchase drinks from the buffet bar.

During the summers of 1988 and 1989 the train was regularly used in this way, as well as serving as a workroom for visiting school parties.

With the sale of the land by the council for retail development it became clear that the APT must once again move. Several locations were considered, the chosen one being next to the West Coast Main Line on a narrow strip of land owned by British Rail.

The next problem was HOW ?? Laying track across the site was ruled out because the radius of curvature would be too small, cranes and helicopters were also mentioned! It was decided to call upon Econofreight Heavy Transport, a Middlesbrough based company who regularly work all over Europe moving unusual loads such as oil rigs. They surveyed the site and drew up a plan to split the train and move it one section at a time; because of the articulated bogies the only way it could be split was into four sections as shown in the table below -


Section Vehicle
1 48106 DTS 33.70 21440
48602 TBF 31.90 21100
2 49006 NDM 67.50 20400
3 49002 NDM 67.50 20400
4 48603 TBF 31.90 21100
48404 TRBS 26.75 21000
48103 DTS 33.70 21440

In order that the NICOLAS Hydraulic, Self Powered, Electronically Controlled (HySPEC) modular transporters could be driven underneath each bogie, the entire train needed to be jacked up to a height of 1.3 metres.

Firstly all the primary traction rods were removed along with the C-APT aerials as they protrude below the level of the bogies, then 22 shallow holes were dug at each side of each of the bogies, into these steel plates were placed, a spreader beam was slid under the bogie and then hand jacks were used to raise the beam to enable the hydraulic climbing jacks to be placed between the beam and the steel plate.

These jacks were all linked to the same control unit so that they all lifted together. The jacks were so named as they climb up wooden blocks by lifting to allow wood to be slid underneath, then the ram was retracted and more wood slid in. The ram was then pushed out again raising the train by a further 100mm, more wood slid in and the process repeated, until the section was at the required height of 1.3 metres. The jacks were then replaced by stillages, to enable work to progress on the next section. Meanwhile the rails were removed from underneath the raised section, this was necessary as the transporters could only be used on flat surfaces. The rails were moved over the site ready for when they were needed to be put under the relocated train.

When the train was fully raised, the HySPEC transporters arrived. They had four driven axles, and each wheel could be turned independently to any angle, so if required the trailer could carousel on the spot. After being unloaded by crane one was taken for a test drive across the car-park and onto the newly prepared site, here problems were found. Due to the loose ground the wheels of the transporter tended to spin at high speed this combined with the deep tread on the tyres to produce a highly effective digging tool, soon the unit became well and truly stuck after being rescued by an excavator a decision was made to lay steel sheet over this area.

Meanwhile the other three transporters had been positioned under each of the bogies of the two car section (48602 & 48106). With an operator at the controls of each unit, the move began. Things got off to a bad start with all three transporters moving off sideways in the wrong direction, after an emergency stop which clearly demonstrated the APTs tilting capabilities as it lurched sideways, they then slowly moved off across the car-park occasionally stopping to make small adjustments and check their progress. The direction of travel then changed to bring the train down a prepared path and onto the tarmac drive, it was then forward again to bring it parallel to the ballasted area where the sleepers had already been laid. The transporters wheels were then turned through 90 degrees to enable it to move sideways over the new position, and after a number of small movements of each of the three trailers in turn to align it correctly, stillages were placed under the spreader beams and the transporters lowered and then removed.

The next day the same procedure was carried out for the two powercars in turn. Meanwhile the rails were put onto the sleepers under the newly positioned section, ready for it to be lowered again using the climbing jacks.

The movement of the power cars went quickly and smoothly, this then left just the three car section. There had been problems with jacking up of this section caused by the uneven weight distribution of the buffet car.

This section needed all four of the transporters and also the most manoeuvring, this involved zigzagging across the car-park, during this movement a loud bang was heard from between two of the coaches, this was found to be one of the dampers being pulled apart as one of the transporters had not been driven at the same speed as the rest; thus causing a tight curve between the two coaches. The move then continued towards the main drive, here one of the wheels began to spin. A quick acting volunteer shouted a warning and it was stopped just in time. This unit then continued down the drive and through the gates, and then, when the back end was on the drive, back out again and finally moved sideways over the sleepers. Here it was transferred to stillages to allow the remaining track to be laid. Then finally all the sections brought down to rail level.

The move was then complete, all that remained to do was to re-couple the sections together. With this done, the 415V 3-Phase electrical supply was connected in time for this summer season, the external paintwork has been cleaned and the buffet car is now being used again. This new position gives superb views of both the Manchester and West Coast Main Lines.

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© R G Latham 1990.