Train 18 is Indian Railways’ latest service that will replace India’s fastest Shatabdi Express train on the Delhi-Bhopal route from January 2019. Being manufactured at Integral Coach Factory (ICF) Chennai, Train 18 will be a special train for several reasons – the ‘Make in India’ train set will be able to travel at speeds of 160 kmph, it will have modular European-style seats, automatic doors with sliding footsteps, fully-sealed gangways, continuous windows for panoramic experience etc. But the most important feature, that will mark a technological shift for Indian Railways, and will be the first step to the future of train travel in India, is the fact that Train 18 will run without an engine! This new Train 18, codenamed after the year it is being made in, will be a self-propelled train set – a first for Indian Railways for inter-city travel.
So, how will Train 18 run without an engine?
To put it simply, Train 18 will be like the metro trains and EMUs that run in cities or the suburban networks without a locomotive hauling them. However, in case of Train 18 the technological evolution of the concept is more complex since it also involves capability of running at 160 kmph. Train 18 will have a driving cabin at both ends, hence eliminating the need to reverse the train set, once it reaches its final destination. According to ICF officials that FE Online spoke to, the concept of distributed power trainset for a mainline express service is a new ballgame!
To adopt the new concept, the traction system and power required for lighting and air-conditioning on the train had to be modularised and distributed across the train set as underslung, that is below the chasis of the coaches. In conventional LHB coaches, the traction system is part of the locomotive and the power for lights and air-conditioning is supplied by separate generator power cars. This new concept required development of a new design of the coach, bogies and electrical equipment.
An ICF official told Financial Express Online that most suburban trains run at 100 kmph, where as in Train 18, the technology is more complex since it is required to run at 160 kmph. “Unlike the suburban EMUs, the propulsion system will be underslung completely for Train 18 and the train set will be vestibule, that is inter-connected,” the official said.
Explaining how Train 18 will run without an engine, the ICF official said, “In Train 18, every alternate coach will be powered /motorized. It will be be called a motor coach. Each motor coach will have four 3-phase traction motors of rating 250 kw, approximately making the total rating of the motor coach – 1000 KW ( 1340 HP).” “For the 16-car train set, this will work out to 8 motor coaches × 1340 HP = 10,720 HP. This will be the power available for traction apart from the air-conditioning and other auxiliary electric loads. Two motor coaches will get power from one transformer mounted on the TC (trailer coach),” the official told FE Online.
Train 18, an all air-conditioned chair car, is expected to roll out in October – after which it will be handed over to the RDSO (Research Designs and Standards Organisation). RDSO will extensively test the new Train 18 before it is declared fit for service on the Indian Railways network. Depending on the feedback from RDSO on Train 18, ICF will then manufacture more train sets of this kind.