« BackNews: The Prototype High-Speed Train Powered By Natural Gas

The Prototype High-Speed Locomotive Powered By Natural Gas


One of the ultimate tests of a pressure relief valve system is their use in storing and safely transporting volatile fuels such as natural gas, and a particularly fascinating era for natural gas and its storage systems was when British engineering experimented with the potential of gas turbines.

Whilst the most famous examples of British vehicles powered by natural gas take the form of cars created by Rover, one of the most fascinating, forward-thinking prototypes was the APT-E, one of the most ambitious trains ever produced by British Rail.

Short for Advanced Passenger Train-Experimental, the APT-E was a tilting train concept intended to be used on the famously curving West Coast Main Line.

What made it unusual is that in an age where trains were powered either by diesel fuel or increasingly by overhead power lines, the APT-E was powered by natural gas turbines.

This allowed the APT to run on railway lines that had not been electrified yet, but at the same time was not so heavy that it would cause additional wear to the rails. This resulted in the use of five gas turbines per power car built by Rover and supplied by British Leyland.

After protracted delays, it would set a British railway speed record when it was tried out on the Great Western Main Line, although it would also get into a dispute with the railway driver’s union ASLEF due to only featuring a single driver’s seat.

The test unit was modified repeatedly, with the turbines continuing to be upgraded, developed and tweaked to try and provide a more reliable power delivery.

Ultimately, this proved impossible, and versions of the APT after 1976 (also known as the Class 370) used powerful electric motors instead.

It never would ultimately enter full service, with the much less ambitious diesel-powered Class 125 taking its place, but the design concepts would later inspire the highly successful Voyager and Class 390 Pendolino trains.