THE WORKSHOPS of W. H. Davis in Langwith Junction, Shirebrook, are as busy as ever, with modification of existing wagons for new applications the principal activity.
The major decline in the UK coal market has left the rail industry with hundreds of 102-tonne bogie wagons that are now sat redundant in various sidings. Some have gone on to be used for aggregates, but operationally that brings its own problems. Aggregate is heavier than coal, and because of the axle loading on the network it is not possible to fill the wagons with an accurate weight.
Bogie wagons owned by VTG Rail, both in the form of HHAs previously operated by Freightliner and HYAs/IIAs that have been operated by GB Railfreight, are being reduced in length by having the middle hopper section cut out of them, before the remaining two halves are welded back together to create a shorter wagon. The result is that the wagons can be fully loaded with aggregate without exceeding weight limits. All vehicles passing through the works are being allocated a new design code to reflect the technical changes but are retaining their current identities and TOPS code. Currently around 20 HHAs are complete, and these are being fully repainted, while around three-quarters of the HYA/IIA conversions have been released, although the latter are only being patch painted to remove graffiti, at the request of the leasing company.
Elsewhere in the works, the first frames for the prototype new ‘Ecofret’ tri-deck intermodal wagon are being completed ahead of its testing, certification and commissioning process that should commence by the end of April. W. H. Davis is redesigning parts of the original VTG Rail Ecofret design to accommodate the new Axiom LN20.5 bogie. A total of 84 triple-deck wagons are to be built at Shirebrook, with each deck being 40ft in length, and capable of carrying either two 20ft or one 40ft container.
With the reduction in 30ft containers, the existing fleet of 60ft wagons is becoming less economic, leading to empty space on trains. The new triple deck vehicles will have conventional screw coupling and buffers on the outer vehicles, with bar couplings on the two inner connections. The first 16 of the production fleet are due to enter traffic towards the end of the year, with the second 16 to be ready for the end of January, with the final batch being delivered later next year. The first customer is GB Railfreight, which will lease 32 of the triple-platform wagons from VTG.