This weekend, the Advanced Passenger Train Prototype is celebrating its 30th anniversary since it entered preservation and found a new home at the Crewe Heritage Centre, so let’s recap its history, and once again enjoy the world at a different angle.
Built by BREL at Derby, for allocation at Glasgow and Crewe, the BR Class 370 ‘APT-P’ was an InterCity Development train, uniquely designed to provide faster journey times on the West Coast Main Line. The WCML, and other lines in Britain, were plagued with a multitude of twists and turns as railway companies of old attempted to navigate the hilly landscape; and while trains could probably take turns at higher speeds than they did, the passenger’s comfort would be jeopardised.
The initial APT project had already procured the APT-E (Experimental) which could tilt, but it ran off of diesel turbines and was, much like previous turbine-driven locomotives, inefficient at lower speeds. The next development if the project would be the prototypes, but continual stalls in progress eventually called for the (not so) stop-gap, the High Speed Train.
Eventually, in 1979, the BR Class 370 ‘APT-P’ was completed. The APT-P consisted of six rakes and spare driving second & brake first vehicles, numbered 370001 - 370007. Each rake would contain up to six articulated trailer vehicles and one non-driving motor vehicle, so that each train set would comprise of two such rakes with the motor vehicles being situated in the centre of the formation. These formations resulted in three almost identical sets of 12 to 14 vehicles in length.
The APT-P, seen departing Preston on a passenger service bound for Glasgow Central.
Each centrally-positioned power car consisted of four traction motors, delivering upwards of 4,000hp per power car. With around 8,000hp propelling the APT-P in total, it earned the accolade of the most powerful domestic passenger train in the UK, and would undoubtedly be able to reduce journey times, all it needed was a good tilting system.
Needless to say, it was good, it was very good, and in fact it was too good – as claimed by passengers and press. The active tilting system was so effective that you could not tell it was tilting, but when looking out the window, feeling level-headed and seeing the countryside bobbing up and down at the same time caused seasick-like discomfort. This issue would one day be rectified on the previously mentioned Pendolinos, but the ghost-tilt of the APT would be one of many issues to come to light.
The APT-P could tilt up to 9 degrees, depending on the severity of the curve.
Due to the shoestring budget during engineering, there were flaws in the manufacturing of the power car bogies which resulted in poorly fitting brake equipment. This caused brakes to stick to the wheel of the power cars causing them to overheat. There were also problems with various lubricants used throughout the power cars which caused oil filter blockages.
Despite the technical troubles, APT-P was credited with a number of firsts. It was the first passenger train to use self-contained septic tanks, and it housed a completely unique hydrokinetic braking system which was very successful and worked incredibly well. The APT-P was also the world’s first commercial passenger train to use tilting technology.
The APT-P would offer a passenger relief service between London and Glasgow, three days a week, between 1983 and 1985. However, it was forced into service during December and failed on one of its first big outings, dealing more damage in the public eye.
At a snowy Crewe station, the APT struggles to perform a southbound service after being pressed into winter passenger service.
Ultimately, after the technical problems, and a lack political will to take the project forward, the planned APT project would never be fully developed into the APT-S (Squadron) sets. The APT-P powercar would instead influence the BR Class 89, the prototype to the BR Class 91 InterCity 225 of the East Coast Main Line, and the tilting technology would be sold to Fiat, who refined their Pendolino family and would eventually sell their train sets back in the form of the BR Class 390, the tilting, spiritual successor to the APT-P.
A majority of the APT-P fleet would quickly be scrapped following its withdrawal, however in 1988, a small surviving rake, including two driving trailers, entered preservation at the Crewe Heritage Centre, where it would rest next to its old stomping ground, the West Coast Main Line. Exposed to the elements, upkeep of the APT-P has been a challenge, but to those who work on it, it is simply a labour of love.
From the first class seating of a BR Class 390 'Pendolino' can be seen its predeccesor, the APT-P, which resides at Crewe Heritage Centre.
2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the APT-P’s preservation at Crewe, and the Heritage Centre is hosting an event to celebrate the fact. A second preserved power car, previously stored at the now-closed Electric Railway Museum, has recently been transported to Crewe and will be ready for the festivities, freshly painted, after years of neglect.
And in Train Simulator, you can celebrate by taking control of this iconic “fallen stallion”, fly across the West Coast Main Line at 155mph today!
Decades old, yet still retaining a "futuristic" look and feel, the cab of the APT-P was the best thing out for its day.
Cascading along the West Coast Main Line, 370001 heads a shortened test rake at speeds previously unheard of, governed by the advisory in-cab C-APT system.
Gone from service, but never forgotten, live out your journeys to remember, your round trips to Glasgow, with the BR Class 370 'APT-P' for Train Simulator.