26 March 2010

Driving a Class 378

One of our contributing writers is a trainee train driver and recently had his first go behind the controls of a Class 378 electric multiple unit (EMU) operated by London Overground. He has kindly written us an exclusive account of his first experience.

Dear Editors, I write with details of my first-ever ECS (empty coaching stock) manoeuvre and offer photos of the controls within the cab of my Class 378 'Capitalstar' EMU. Below are photos of the main controls and I have attached suitable (but lengthy) captions with each. The text that follows makes direct reference to the photographed controls.

TBC/DDS - Simply put this is what make the train go.

The DDS stands for Driver's Directional Switch. It has Off, Forward, Neutral and Reverse positions. Reverse is obviously only used for uncoupling or the 'pull away' test after coupling. The TBC is the Traction/Brake Controller. There are 4 brake steps, with the 4th being the emergency setting. To go from brake step 3 to emergency requires a firm push of the handle - this prevents the emergency position from being accidentally selected. When not in use the TBC is in brake step 3 in the rear cab. There are 4 power notches. In order to go from the brake step to a power notch the lever must be pushed slightly over to the left from the coasting position. The TBC is not spring loaded and is not a 'dead mans handle'.

Main Panel

The Main Panel includes the speedometer, brake gauge and Automatic Warning System (AWS) reset button and the Driver's Reminder Appliance (DRA). This particular device has helped prevent many Signals Passed At Danger (SPADs) since it was introduced.

AC/DC Power Supply Control

The AC/DC power supply control is positioned above the quarter light window, to the left of the driver. It is here that the lighting is set as appropriate and the ability to switch between power supply.

Right side of cab

This has 2 additional screens which can function as monitors for internal and external CCTV (needed for Driver Only Operation - DOO). The three screens are interchangeable. Three types of radio also feature here. National Radio Network (NRN) is the oldest and is being phased out, Cab Secure Radio (CSR) is the one most commonly used and is needed on any lines with DOO operation and GSM-R is about to become live but not in use yet. The handset has three modes: speaking to the signaller, cab-to-cab (C-C) for speaking to the guard in the back cab and PC which means PassCom - for speaking to someone who has activated the emergency alarm apparatus on board.

TCMS - the main computer screen

This is the main computer screen which controls the main functions of the train including Passenger Information Services (PIS) - it is where you log in and where faults are recorded and logged. Any fault rectification advice will come up here including if a passenger alarm has been activated (Passcom) and the ability to turn off heating, lock out doors etc. It is the brains of the train.

Cab floor

On the floor is the combined Drivers Safety Device/Vigilance pedal (DSD). The driver must keep the pedal depressed at all times while the DDS is in the Forward position. If the pedal is released a warning alarm will sound and an emergency brake application will result after 7 seconds. The DSD will sound an alarm every 60 seconds (sometimes sooner) if no driving controls are moved.

The driver must physically release the pedal and depress it down to acknowledge the alarm or an emergency brake application will result. The yellow button next to the DSD is the Passcom override. When an emergency alarm is activated, pressing the button overrides the brakes so the train can continue to a point of safety.

The Drive

Prior to my first drive, I had extensive time in the Class 378 simulator and practiced low-speed moves (shunting) around the yard.

Taking over the cab has become second nature now. The driver's key is inserted. This activates the cab. The DDS is turned to the neutral position. The AWS and TPWS self-test alarm sounds and I cancel it with the AWS cancel (yellow) button. The TCMS then activates and I log myself in, and go to the PIS screen and select "Sorry not in service", which is displayed on the inside and outside of the train. The CSR radio is then set up with the correct area code and the signal number we are standing at. The train running number is then displayed. Ours is prefixed with a '5' as we are empty coaching stock. '1' is express passenger train and '2' is normal passenger train. The LEYTR Blog covered this in detail here.


We are crossing from the Up line to the Down line and the signal is showing yellow. I am told to proceed. The doors are already shut and the blue door interlock light is illuminated meaning all the doors are closed. I select forward on the DDS and cancel the DRA by pulling it. Its red light goes out. Then I pull the TBC back and increase power to notch 2. The brakes release and away we go. I'm told to accelerate to 20mph and do a running brake test. This must be done before stopping at the next station or before a falling gradient or any reduction in speed such as a speed restriction. I push the TBC forward engaging brake steps 1, 2 and finally 3 in succession, noting the brakes apply and I am then instructed to re-accelerate to 20mph as we cross over the points onto the Down line.

The last signal was yellow so we proceed at caution and I gently bring the train to a stand at Queens Park station, adjacent to a Bakerloo Line train. Thankfully it is terminating but the signal only clears to yellow. Professional driving policy on a yellow signal is to only use half power and 30mph maximum (less depending on the conditions) as we expect to find a subsequent signal at danger. We had been crawling at 20mph up to this point and at Willesden Junction I get my first green signal and am told i can open up to the line speed of 45mph.

We accelerate with more vigour and I am soon pushing forward the controller to the coasting position to prevent that speed being exceeded. I am told to stop at the next station and choose my own braking point. The brakes on a modern Class 378 are very good compared with the older Class 313s and I select step 2 around 200 yards from the beginning of the platform, entering at 25mph, maintaining braking down to 10mph. I'm told where the stopping point is and further adjust the braking to bring the train to a gentle stop beside the 'stop car' board. Just before stopping I release the brake, then apply step 1 for a smooth stop, then brake step 3, DDS to Neutral (and DRA if needed).


Normally then we would open the doors but obviously are not required to do so on this occasion. I'm told to proceed. I check the signal which is green and that the blue interlock light is lit. DDS to Forward, power notch 2 and quickly to 4 and the train pulls away swiftly.

Along the way I am asked to stop at some stations although not many as we are running 5 minutes late but the main thing I did was apply the emergency brake at 45mph at the end of a platform. The front of the train came to a stand around 25 yards beyond the end of the short 3-car platform.

I finished off my driving session with a run into Euston station - an extremely busy terminus with multiple parallel lines. Care has to be taken to keep the speed down to 15mph on entering a dead-end platform and under 10mph half way along where the TPWS overspeed loops are to prevent an emergency brake application. I am a bit daunted by the fact I am still doing 3mph when I'm told to bring the train to a halt just 6 feet from the buffer stops.

It was a fascinating experience and one that I'm steadily growing more and more confident with. Driving trains has always been a long-term ambition and I am very much enjoying the in-depth and sometimes daunting training procedure. I hope the LEYTR Blog readers will find my first account interesting.


9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Basically one lever to go and stop. Try driving a bus. Much more complicated. For a start you have to steer!

A Bus Driver

pieinthesky_35 said...

Thanks for this piece, a fasinating insight.

Ani-circle Line said...

Wow, thank you for this. I commute using these trains and had no idea things were so complex. Drivers certainly earn their wage more than the guard who doesn't even check tickets.

Anonymous said...

Depends who the guard is!

I'll be checking em!

Mr B.

Anonymous said...

In regard to A Bus Drivers comment, we are required know the rule book cover to cover (the modules take up to quite large A5 folders), you have th highway code to remember (which is about 1cm thick), we have to know every inch of the routes we drive as do you but you base your driving entirely on sight regarding braking, ours is based on what we know is coming up, in fog you will travel slower, in fog we dont as our route knowledge is sufficient that we can drive a route at full speed with nigh-on zero visibility and still stop accurately and smoothly for stations.

piers7 said...

Interesting piece. The driver says that there are three power positions on the traction brake controller. Do the power positions limit the maximum speed like the old "Shunt" "Series" and "Parallel" positions? I wonder because, on modern LU stock, movement from "Off" into the "Power" "arc" as it's called, sets the rate of acceleration according to the position of the handle. It caused much confusion for drivers in the changoever period from old to new stocks.

Anonymous said...

very interesting and nice insight into the class 378,we drive the same thing but classed as a 379,very good trains(when everything is working)one piece of advice,(dont know about loral)but with greater anglia,we are able to set the dra on the move at the beginning of a platform ramp,but do not do it with the class 378's as the regen brakes switch off and go into straight into disc braking,resulting in a bit of jolt forward,as you can imagine not nice when approaching red!! but enjoy the mainline buddy,and a bit of advice from one newbie to another NEVER get too over confident as thats when things go wrong,treat everyday as its your first!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone. I'm the author of the piece and my time at Lorol is about to end as I move onto faster main line work. The experience has been invaluable. There's nothing to stop us setting the DRA on the move but I don't purely because I follow a strict procedure when approaching or stopping at red signals. Piers7: there are 4 power positions 1 = 25 % power and 4 = 100% power. They are very easy to drive. Its the routes which are intense. I'm also a coach driver which I still do occasionally as my hobby so I know all about bus driving in reference to the first poster.

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