Do trains have fuel gauges in the cab?

jfowkes

Member
Joined
20 Jul 2017
Messages
556
Very simple question, just out of curiosity!

I can imagine that there's no particular need for drivers to know the fuel state of a train, given that there's not a lot they can do about it. I'm guessing "fuel management" is left to depots and planners.
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

martin2345uk

Established Member
Joined
21 Sep 2011
Messages
1,646
Location
Essex
I would imagine so!

Imagine a '66 hauling a long container train and conking out in the middle of nowhere having run out of diesel...
66s have a fuel reading on the in-cab computer but on 7/10 locos it doesn’t work, and yes we’re meant to check the fuel gauge on the tank itself when taking over a service (“,)
 

Vespa

Member
Joined
20 Dec 2019
Messages
755
Location
Merseyside
I would imagine so!

Imagine a '66 hauling a long container train and conking out in the middle of nowhere having run out of diesel...
If you run out of diesel, it would have to be towed as the diesel would need to be pumped through to get it going again.

Not something to do on a mainline !
 

hexagon789

Veteran Member
Joined
2 Sep 2016
Messages
11,803
Location
Glasgow
I believe mostly no; most have just an external gauge on the tank itself. Obviously there are exceptions as outlined above.
 

skyhigh

Established Member
Joined
14 Sep 2014
Messages
1,450
Mostly no. 14x, 15x and 170s you can only check from below sole-bar level with a sight-glass (which is sometimes blocked/too dirty to see anyway).

Modern stuff with a TMS like 195s will have a readout for fuel levels.
 

47827

Member
Joined
3 Mar 2020
Messages
310
Location
Middleport
Class 47s and the older BR fleets I know certainly didn't. Faulty readings or simply failing to check the gauge though did lead to failures. I recall Polmadie kicking out 3 locos in the late 90s on the same week of Virgin diversions via Dumfries that hadn't been topped up properly leading to 3 "out of fuel" failures on the move. We had an 87 and a 90 on consecutive days on the days where it happened on the train routed via Mauchline and Prestwick as we'd just managed to reach the overheads where it happened. The third incident with single tank 47635 was a few miles north of Gretna so Freightliner sent a pair of 47s to collect us.

If the drivers had looked at the fuel gauge its possible some or all of those incidents wouldn't have happened. But there was a culture amongst most crew to trust the previous person or shed it had started on a little too much.
 

JN114

Established Member
Joined
28 Jun 2005
Messages
2,860
Predominately, trains run on miles since last fuel, rather than gauges.

That won’t drain the tank, but it’s a safe approximation.

For example a 165/166 Turbo will do 1200mi between fuelling; a Sprinter will do 1600mi.

Gauges or sight glasses only come into it when you start pushing your luck with those mileages.
 

43066

On Moderation
Joined
24 Nov 2019
Messages
2,638
Location
London
Mostly no. 14x, 15x and 170s you can only check from below sole-bar level with a sight-glass (which is sometimes blocked/too dirty to see anyway).

Add HSTs to the above list, with an external gauge on the power cars.

22Xs start to give an advisory through the TMS stating when fuel is between 20% and 50%, but you can’t interrogate levels beyond this (might be possible in maintenance mode).

Gauges or sight glasses only come into it when you start pushing your luck with those mileages.

It was/is not completely unknown for HST power cars to run dry due to mistakes in diagramming.
 

wobman

On Moderation
Joined
2 Jan 2011
Messages
427
Most DMU's have fuel gauges below the sole bar on the outside of the units
 

Nym

Established Member
Joined
2 Mar 2007
Messages
8,682
Location
Somewhere, not in London
66s have a fuel reading on the in-cab computer but on 7/10 locos it doesn’t work, and yes we’re meant to check the fuel gauge on the tank itself when taking over a service (“,)
Something on a 66 doesn't work as part of the Q-Tron or EMD Computer... "Shock horror!"

On the subject of freight locomotives, most freight locomotives are fitted with Wabtec Q-Tron OTMR which can include remote monitoring of fuel consumption, which I know that a lot of FoCs use for monitoring the fuel levels by essentially recording usage, even when there isn't a physical gauge included as part of the Q-Tron.
 

6Gman

Established Member
Joined
1 May 2012
Messages
6,977
In my days as a unit diagrammer calculating mileage completed and getting units back to a fuelling point at the appropriate stage was a very important part of the job.

Partly why I enjoyed DMU work rather than EMU work - more of a challenge!
 

MotCO

Established Member
Joined
25 Aug 2014
Messages
2,234
Are all diesel trains 'topped up' when refuelled, or just given enough fuel until their next scheduled refuel (plus a bit extra.)?
 

ChiefPlanner

Established Member
Joined
6 Sep 2011
Messages
6,792
Location
Herts
TOPS print outs used to indicate when a loco had been last examined and fuelled. Not always reliable.

I recall certain occasions where a check in service was called for , once having had to block an adjacent running line to do , and of course to take a cloth to clean the aforementioned gauge. Never good policy I was told to rely on the bottom of a fuel tank for sludge etc present.
 

JN114

Established Member
Joined
28 Jun 2005
Messages
2,860
Are all diesel trains 'topped up' when refuelled, or just given enough fuel until their next scheduled refuel (plus a bit extra.)?

Always brimmed, otherwise it makes the fuel range method of working unworkable.
 

Clarence Yard

Established Member
Joined
18 Dec 2014
Messages
1,472
Are all diesel trains 'topped up' when refuelled, or just given enough fuel until their next scheduled refuel (plus a bit extra.)?

At every diesel depot I’ve worked at, it was refill to the max. You never knew if it would stick to diagram and the power controllers always worked on the assumption that it had a full tank when leaving the depot.

If a loco or DMU ran out of fuel because it wasn’t filled up at it’s last depot visit, that, in BR days, was a Form 1 disciplinary for someone. It was a big no-no.
 

ChiefPlanner

Established Member
Joined
6 Sep 2011
Messages
6,792
Location
Herts
Of course , always filled up - and some depots give incentives - like checking the tyres , a windscreen wash , a set of 4 drinking glasses* and a free Daily Mail.

(in the 1960's - purchase of a full tank - allowed this wonderful "free" gift of the cheapest glasses known to humanity)
 

Cherry_Picker

Established Member
Joined
18 Apr 2011
Messages
2,728
Location
Birmingham
Are all diesel trains 'topped up' when refuelled, or just given enough fuel until their next scheduled refuel (plus a bit extra.)?

Tanks are always topped up afaik, it makes it easier to track fuel levels across the fleet if they just go back up to 100% after being on the pit.

It’s not like a car though. You don’t just look at the fuel gauge and realise that you should probably get some fuel next time you have chance, it’s all diagrammed. Units are tracked, fleet should know where they’ve been and how many miles they’ve done and be able to tell which unit needs fuel even if it’s 150 miles away. Obviously you’ve got to account for disruption and swaps and the like, but train planning is a full time job which goes completely under the radar of most people who use the railway.
 

Gloster

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2020
Messages
2,363
Location
Up the creek
Of course , always filled up - and some depots give incentives - like checking the tyres , a windscreen wash , a set of 4 drinking glasses* and a free Daily Mail.

(in the 1960's - purchase of a full tank - allowed this wonderful "free" gift of the cheapest glasses known to humanity)
And once you had all four (or six) glasses you could get a decanter to go with them. So cheap that even Ratners would not have sold them.

On one occasion I (as a signalman) got a shout from a driver saying that his train would have to go into Westbury as the loco needed to be changed as it was very short of fuel. I passed the message on and, luckily, made a note in the train register. Somehow the message didn’t get through and the train was heavily delayed as the replacement loco was not ready. Cue lots of ‘phone calls to find out why, even though it was only the empty news vans.
 
Last edited:

dk1

Established Member
Joined
2 Oct 2009
Messages
10,219
Location
East Anglia
No units/locos I have ever driven have had anything other than a sight glass below the sole bar until the Stadlers came along. This gives us a rough estimate in the diesel tank. For example when I checked on the TMS screen yesterday on 755402 whilst working a Stansted service it stated I had 73%
 

Vespa

Member
Joined
20 Dec 2019
Messages
755
Location
Merseyside
It would have been good practice to always fill up to the top before setting off on a run.
 

dk1

Established Member
Joined
2 Oct 2009
Messages
10,219
Location
East Anglia
The sight glasses where never very clean or reliable on the 15X fleet. It was always monitored via unit control based on mileage. The 170s where a big improvement but often needed wiping with a rag to check.
 

MotCO

Established Member
Joined
25 Aug 2014
Messages
2,234
Tanks are always topped up afaik, it makes it easier to track fuel levels across the fleet if they just go back up to 100% after being on the pit.

It’s not like a car though. You don’t just look at the fuel gauge and realise that you should probably get some fuel next time you have chance, it’s all diagrammed. Units are tracked, fleet should know where they’ve been and how many miles they’ve done and be able to tell which unit needs fuel even if it’s 150 miles away. Obviously you’ve got to account for disruption and swaps and the like, but train planning is a full time job which goes completely under the radar of most people who use the railway.

Is each unit's mpg fairly constant? I assume so so that you can tell when they need refuelling.
 

sw1ller

Established Member
Joined
4 Jan 2013
Messages
1,467
In a perfect world I’d assume they were pretty consistent. But when you factor in engines running at idle due to lack of other fluids or even not running at all, so the other engine/s have to do more work dragging them about, or even control arguing with you that the train you’re calling from is 200 miles away, which happens a lot more than you’d think, then I’m guessing mpg is a bit all over the place.
 

JN114

Established Member
Joined
28 Jun 2005
Messages
2,860
Is each unit's mpg fairly constant? I assume so so that you can tell when they need refuelling.

As I put upthread, but I'll expand –

During construction/commissioning of a type, fuel consumption is looked at across a range of duty cycles. From that a safe fuel range is devised - that range won't drain the tank, but it'll use the vast majority of the fuel (maybe 80-95%). Consumption rate does vary depending on how the train is driven, but the fuel range should account for that. Very occasionally when a type migrates to another area the fuel range will change as the duty cycle is radically different. At GWR for example our 165/166s currently run to 1200mi, however with the migration west that's now thought to be a lot closer to the limit than it is in Thames Valley. Investigations are going on to see whether it is prudent to revise that range down to 1000mi.

Control staff and depots will work to that mileage, and we should never take a unit over the mileage. In reality, mistakes happen - a unit is thought to be fully fuelled but hasn't, or the work todo isn't looked at closely enough and a set goes over miles. That is when sight glasses or TMS readouts come into play, and we have tables that give an indication of how far we can get on 1/xth of a tank.
 

Top