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There is a prototype for everything... (Worldwide Rail)

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Socimi

Nothing excepitonal here, an italian experimental locomotive undergoing evaluation tests and trial runs... in Hungary!

 

http://gigantclub.hu/gigant_club/pic/it/electric/E492/121-12.JPG

 

from http://www2.chem.elte.hu/gigant_club/pic/New/New_2002_3_1/index_hu.html

 

In the 1980's the italian national railways (FS) decided to electrify the main line between Sassari and Cagliari, Sardinia's (one of italy's two main island - the other is Sicily) biggest cities. Unlike the mainland network (wich runs at 3Kv DC), the electrification system choosen for this line was 25Kv AC 50Hz, in order to experiment a new type of electrification already successfully implemented by many other european countries (the prime examples for the sardinian project were France and Portugal).

 

The new locomotives were to be based on FS' lastest locomotives, the E632 class, altough using a standard B-B wheel arrangment rather than the E632's B-B-B one.

They were built by Fiat Ferroviaria and Ansaldo, and by 1987, 19 locomotives designated E491 (for 160Km/h passenger service) and 5 E492 (for 140Km/h freight service) were made.

 

While the construction of the locomotives (thanks to a modular design and use of already in-production components) was extremely fast (they were finished ahead of time by a couple of years), the construction of the infrastructure proceeded very slowly.

 

Funding problems, shifted company focus (on the 2nd generation Pendolino and ETR500 projects) and a general distrust of an unporved tecnology (atleast by italian standards) determinated the slow advancement of the project, but it was ultimately killed when a fatal flaw fas found: the armonic interferences of the 25Kv alimentation interfered with the railway signalling and comunications, to the point that re-doing all the island's interloking, communication and sigialling systems was deemed necessary for the (already expensive and overbudget) project to proceed.

 

The project was cancelled, thus no more 25Kv AC, but you can't simply throw away 25 prefectly working locomotives, so in the mid to late 1990s FS rushed to find new buyers. The SNCF was contacted but they refused as they were alreading rolling out their "Sybic" class BB26000.

 

A ray of hope came from Hungary, where they could have been used on express passenger trains (due to their 160Km/h max speed), and in 2001, E491 004 was shipped to Hungary along with one of the original designers at Ansaldo (and an Hungarian interpreter).

It was used on the 902/903 rapid trains togheter with a back-up V43.

Altough appreciated by Hungarian drivers (due to it's quiet sound-proofed and comfortable cab), it suffered quite a few issues, due to a long outdoor storage time,

the obsolescence of the components used for traction control (mind, these locomotives where designed with a full-wave rectifier+thrystor chopper controlling a brushed  DC motor, wich was standard in the mid-1980s, but by 2000s the GTO and later IGBT Inverters controlling AC motors were already commonplace), thus the deal ultimately fell trough and E491 004 was shipped back to italy.

 

In 2007 the Serbian Railways showed interest, but ultimately refused, as the locomotives were sitting 15 years out in the open (with some clearly rusting away) by then.

 

Finally, starting in 2012 they were sent to the scrapyard and disposed by 2016.
 One locomotive only, E491 011, has been saved and restored by Fondazione FS and it's now being preserved semi-static (it can circulate on the national network, but of course it has to be hauled by an another locomotive).

 

Trivia:

 

- Unit 004 was the choosen to be sent to Hungary (and prepared/maintained accordignly) because it was the easiest one  to move out of the sidings where the group was stationed (as it was the closest one to the exit).

 

- The 902/903 rapid trains hauled by the E491 004 were the first and only regular service trains hauled by an E491/492 class loco.

 

-An another usage proposed for the E491/E492 class was to run high-speed freight trains on (then being-built) high-speed lines.

 

- One of the problems encountered by hungarian drivers familiarizing with E491 004 was with it's brake notches: in hungarian practice, the closest position to the driver of the brake lever is emergency while the farthest position is relase. In italian practice this is reversed, the closest position to the driver is relase while the farthest is emergency.

 

-The other problem was with the accellerator(s), as since the inception of the E632 project back in 1977, italian locomotives have two distinct accellerator levers:

 

banco-E491.jpg

 

The one to the left of the driver's seat is the LCM, wich is  a combined dynamic brake/accellerator (it controls the locomotive's output in Kilowatts) and the one to the right is the LCA wich is the one normally used, controlling the speed of the locomotive (togheter with the LV, wich is a speed limiter, similar to the german AFB).

The LINV is the reverser lever.

Of course, you don't use both accellerators, one of the two must be in the neutral position, if not the locomotive's system reads them as both neutral.

 

Links

 

Italian-language reportage of the Hungarian test runs (includes detailed wiews of the cab and electrical circuit diagrams)

 

Image gallery of the units stored at Foligono and Livorno depots

 

Hungarian report about E491 004 being displayed at a Budapest railway station togheter with an UIC-X coach in"TrenoNotte" (Night Train) colors

Edited by cteno4
added cab image
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