Five things you didn’t know about our winter fleet

It takes a special fleet to keep passenger trains moving in snow and ice.

Our seasonal track treatment vehicles and machines are ready at depots across Britain for deployment where needed.

Here are five things you didn’t know about our winter fleet:

  1. Steam still helps run the railway! The winter development vehicle (WDV) blows hot air around the running rails - specifically around points and crossings - to melt snow and ice stopping the points from working. It’s fitted with steam lances to melt the more built-up stubborn ice deposits.
  2. During periods of freezing fog or freezing rain, electric locomotives can knock ice from overhead lines - which carry electricity to trains - before it can cause a critical failure or stop the electric current.
A winter development vehicle

3.   We use three different types of snow ploughs. The snow and ice treatment trains (SITT) plough can be added to the front or rear of a SITT if significant snow fall has closed a third-rail route. Heavier snow calls for the deployment of our more robust ploughs - the Bielhack V plough and Independent plough. The Beilhack is shorter in height than the Independent, giving the driver greater visibility over the plough.

A driver's view from a Beilhack plough...

4.   Two locomotives must be coupled up to use the Independent plough, due to its size. This also gives flexibility and resilience. Both Beilhack and Independent ploughs are stored at strategic locations and help to clear heavy snow, but aren’t deployed for avalanches, which could contain hidden rocks, ice and debris.

5.   You might be surprised to hear propellers are essential to the railway. Our two snow blowers, based in Scotland, are fitted with propellers that cut through and blow away snow drift. A special hydraulic turntable within the machine makes it possible for the snow blower to turn around on its own if needed.

A snow blower, fitted with a propeller