Memories of working on APT

Ian Finch

My APT adventure started in December 1983, three months after coming out of my time being an apprentice in the various locomotive, carriage, wagon and plant maintenance facilities in Crewe, I was offered a  place on the APT team at Crewe ETD, getting my first ride on the train on day two.

Almost immediately become enamoured with the train and, along with the other six members of the team we started in earnest running the test train out of Crewe.

Initially starting on a three shift pattern, we took turns riding the test train two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, plus riding with the passenger service from Preston to Euston and return, handing over the reins at Preston to the Shields Depot staff, who carried out the maintenance on that train. We carried out maintenance and exams on the night shift, the afternoon shift being a one man liquid replenishing operation primarily, topping up transfer and final drive gearboxes and the bigger job of topping up the Glycol mix in the hydro-kinetic braking system tanks.

After a while the test train, which by now incorporated a "four axle" vehicle was diagrammed to run five days per week, so we dropped the 2/10 shift and added more staff on nights to accommodate the increased maintenance workload, while still maintaining a travelling presence on the passenger service.

When we were acting as riding maintenance our main job was to take regular, at twenty minute interval, temperature measurements from the transfer gearboxes as they had been prone to overheating since inception more or less. With the passenger service from Preston to Euston we rode in a complete rake, let over to the maintenance team, with a handy buffet car to boot and, dispatching the passengers, we then went out to Willesden sidings to do replenishing again of the gearbox oils and Glycol and a general service check. Leaving Euston again at 16.30 to head back to Glasgow alighting at Preston.

These passenger runs were always the most interesting from a speed point of view, especially on the return trip, as the London drivers were keen to reach Preston in time to catch a regular return service to London, so, shall I say, the speed limits were not always adhered too as no traction inspector travelled back up, so the drivers had free rein, we had a speedometer in the maintenance coach so could see our speed, regularly reaching 150mph in the high speed areas, as indicated by the C-APT equipment.

On our test train runs we were invariably trialling different grades of yaw dampers on the "four axle" vehicle, which was loaded with sandbags to replicate passenger weight. These runs were either to Euston from Crewe then back out to Bletchley for damper changes, sometimes twice a day. Or we ran from Crewe to Carnforth, marshalling into the sidings next to "Steamtown" to change the dampers for the return journey, again often twice in a day. There was a dedicated coach for the technical staff to study the telemetry of the ride using the different dampers to try and attain the best ride.

Having travelled hundreds of miles on the APT I can honestly say I never once got nauseous or sick, which was the favourite of the press for their anti APT rhetoric, and when using the "test" train we had a very high success rate against failure or breakdown.

Maybe if more notice had been taken of actual miles per failure of both trains and not adverse hearsay the project could have sustained for much longer. Over the years I have found myself defending the APT many times, even with fellow railwaymen, and rail enthusiasts. As one of a small band who saw first hand what this train could achieve, and could have gone on to achieve, I feel fortunate to have had the chance to work on and experience riding this fine example of British engineering, although only for a little over two years before the plug was pulled.


If you have any memories of working on the APT - Please let me know !

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Last Revised: 18.06.2022 8:28
by R G Latham
© 1998