Unusual(?) Class 385 braking technique

hexagon789

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When I first travelled on this Class back in 2018 on the Shotts line, I remember noticing drivers were predominantly braking using repeated light (possibly initial or Step 1) applications which were held only briefly and then released before being re-applied a few seconds later.

I assumed at the time thus was drivers still getting used to their new charges and the brakes were much better than the 156s and so the brake handling was more reflective of trying to match a 156 braking profile until confidence with making a sustained harder application was built.

However, today I travelled by 385 again for the first time since and again the same braking method was employed - lots of repeated short and light applications with the only real use of a harder application being to fine tune to stop to the correct mark.

Is there a particular reason for this approach? I always understood that 'fanning' the brake by repeatedly applying and releasing was not generally well regarded as a braking technique and I'm curious as to why this technique only seems to be employed on 385s as I've never noticed this approach on the likes of 380s and so forth where a moderate (say step 1 or equivalent) application with some splashes of a firmer (presumably Step 2) application to check retardation and stopping on the mark is the norm.
 
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RailUK Forums

365 Networker

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This is quite common on many TOCs - Southern, SouthEastern, Thameslink and Great Northern for example. I think this is just the way drivers are taught these days. In my opinion though it's quite unprofessional as some drivers seem too apply and release from step one until about half way down the platform, then they coast and finally the brakes slam on into step 3/ full service and the train stops with a heavy jolt. Although not all drivers are like this - there are still some who can apply the brake and stop with very few adjustments.

Here are some examples:-

1. The most frequent braking technique - series of step 1 applications and heavy final application. (skip to 0:53)

2. Less frequent, smoother braking technique. (Skip to 3:58)
 

ComUtoR

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In my opinion though it's quite unprofessional as some drivers seem too apply and release from step one until about half way down the platform, then they coast and finally the brakes slam on into step 3/ full service and the train stops with a heavy jolt

May I ask why you think its 'unprofessional' ?
 

365 Networker

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May I ask why you think its 'unprofessional' ?
Because a hard jolt when coming to a stand could cause standing passengers to fall over, the constant application and release of the brake is also quite uncomfortable. I also remember reading that coasting down the platform can cause over-runs if the driver becomes distracted.
 

Astro_Orbiter

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Everyone is different, there's 40 year drivers I've been in the cab with who must make about 30 brake applications and releases approaching stations, and others who will make 1 or 2. Whatever works I suppose, everyone is different, and as with all jobs some people care a sight more than others about being good at what they do, some just do the minimum.
 

43096

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Everyone is different, there's 40 year drivers I've been in the cab with who must make about 30 brake applications and releases approaching stations, and others who will make 1 or 2.
Do they still think they’re driving a vacuum braked train?
 

ComUtoR

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Because a hard jolt when coming to a stand could cause standing passengers to fall over, the constant application and release of the brake is also quite uncomfortable. I also remember reading that coasting down the platform can cause over-runs if the driver becomes distracted.

Many thanks for the reply.

Some of those "hard jolts" aren't actually the braking or even a 'hard brake' to stop. On our trains the rear unit will often bump into the front when coming to a stand. This is due to the uneven braking of each individual unit. Also, in DOO land, its often imperative to ensure an arcuate stop so that you are precisely on the stop mark and aligned to the DOO monitors. This also means that you may need a firmer brake to ensure a good stop.

In both those videos the unit looked pretty smooth under braking. I agree that constant brake/coast may be an issue but for more scientific purposes I'd like to know more. The Driver may be compensating for the track and prevailing driving conditions. Lots of things contribute to your braking technique.

One thing to also consider is the TOC driving policy. Most TOCs are moving away from aggressive driving and braking techniques. So what has happened (at my TOC) is that you tend to default to a lighter brake and "fan" the brake instead of smashing it into two and praying to Jebus you're gonna stop.

Overruns are complicated. Distraction would certainly be where you can rightfully say was 'unprofessional' but that then eliminates the braking technique. More often I would say that its the aggressive braking style that causes overruns. Drivers who love to hit a station hard, regardless of the conditions or that love a good late braking technique.

I'll also add the unit itself may be the cause. With 700s most of us hated the way it always kicked at the last second. Trying to get a smooth stop is a matter of professional pride. 700s were/are a nightmare to stop smooth. Just as you stop the tread brake will kick in an the unit will come top an abrupt halt. Some units have various braking foibles that can affect how you brake. Other units I drive have a 'blended brake' and will switch from regen brake to friction at a set speed. More often than not the blending is off and the friction kicks in and causes a jolt. One of our units is infamous for just dropping out entirely and the unit will lurch forward. To combat the lurch you add more brake to compensate. Or you are in step two when the unit drops the regen and you get a sudden brake two application.

All in all, braking a train is more complicated than we think.

Hope that helps.
 

365 Networker

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Many thanks for the reply.

Some of those "hard jolts" aren't actually the braking or even a 'hard brake' to stop. On our trains the rear unit will often bump into the front when coming to a stand. This is due to the uneven braking of each individual unit. Also, in DOO land, its often imperative to ensure an arcuate stop so that you are precisely on the stop mark and aligned to the DOO monitors. This also means that you may need a firmer brake to ensure a good stop.

In both those videos the unit looked pretty smooth under braking. I agree that constant brake/coast may be an issue but for more scientific purposes I'd like to know more. The Driver may be compensating for the track and prevailing driving conditions. Lots of things contribute to your braking technique.

One thing to also consider is the TOC driving policy. Most TOCs are moving away from aggressive driving and braking techniques. So what has happened (at my TOC) is that you tend to default to a lighter brake and "fan" the brake instead of smashing it into two and praying to Jebus you're gonna stop.

Overruns are complicated. Distraction would certainly be where you can rightfully say was 'unprofessional' but that then eliminates the braking technique. More often I would say that its the aggressive braking style that causes overruns. Drivers who love to hit a station hard, regardless of the conditions or that love a good late braking technique.

I'll also add the unit itself may be the cause. With 700s most of us hated the way it always kicked at the last second. Trying to get a smooth stop is a matter of professional pride. 700s were/are a nightmare to stop smooth. Just as you stop the tread brake will kick in an the unit will come top an abrupt halt. Some units have various braking foibles that can affect how you brake. Other units I drive have a 'blended brake' and will switch from regen brake to friction at a set speed. More often than not the blending is off and the friction kicks in and causes a jolt. One of our units is infamous for just dropping out entirely and the unit will lurch forward. To combat the lurch you add more brake to compensate. Or you are in step two when the unit drops the regen and you get a sudden brake two application.

All in all, braking a train is more complicated than we think.

Hope that helps.
Very interesting, thanks. I'm surprised that modern units like the 700s have tread brakes.
 

Fincra5

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Very interesting, thanks. I'm surprised that modern units like the 700s have tread brakes.
They do, due to limited space on the Motor Bogies. And as pointed out, because of the nature they apply, a traditional(?) smooth stop from a Disc Brake isn't possible on all units.

As long as the train as safely stopped... thats the important bit.
 

irish_rail

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I'm not proficient with 385s but am with their 80x cousins.
If the driver is repeatedly using minimum brake on and off, then it would barely be noticeable the train is braking. That is a good braking technique in my opinion.
By the sounds of it , you are experiencing a driver making repeated medium brake applications, which, on modern stock does give a very poor ride.
 

class ep-09

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Because a hard jolt when coming to a stand could cause standing passengers to fall over, the constant application and release of the brake is also quite uncomfortable. I also remember reading that coasting down the platform can cause over-runs if the driver becomes distracted.
“our” jolts are nothing comparing to how train drivers brake on the Continent .

There is quite few videos ( cab rides ) on You Tube showing train getting in to a station platform at 50-60+mph

Not everywhere of course .


Especially if train is still equipped with old school breaking blocks .
 

365 Networker

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“our” jolts are nothing comparing to how train drivers brake on the Continent .

There is quite few videos ( cab rides ) on You Tube showing train getting in to a station platform at 50-60+mph

Not everywhere of course .


Especially if train is still equipped with old school breaking blocks .
They must have been very long platforms! Although, in the uk at least jolts seem to be harder when the train comes into the platform slower and on trains with blended brakes.
 

centro-323

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Do the 385s have a similar non-notched power/brake controller to the 80x's? If so, the technique of braking for a few seconds at a time seems quite unusual. I understand that doing that gives you plenty of margin for error, but so would a continuous initial brake application, where you would still have around 80% of the braking % gauge left in reserve if things got a bit sketchy. On the other hand, if they are braking for 10 or so seconds at a time, this makes more sense.

In an 80x for a decent length platform, I might for example make a 30% brake application at a point far out from the station, and then coast for a short while once down to 30mph in good time. Then brake back in at 20-30% to slow more at the platform ramp, and coast again once down to 10mph (where the friction brakes take over from regen, you can feel this as a passenger when the brakes temporarily release and re-apply). Then a final initial brake application when near the stop marker, increasing to 30% if required but always back to minimum before coming to a complete halt.
 

Starmill

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I've noticed that some ScotRail drivers seem to use this technique on class 334s also. I often wondered if it was to guard against what they thought was likely slipping. I've never noticed harsh breaking done in this way, only light brakes interspersed with a complete release.

And of course the lighter you can keep it on the brake, the less energy your train will consume.
 

bramling

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May I ask why you think its 'unprofessional' ?

All other things being equal, having to release brakes on a regular basis whilst braking for a station stop is certainly poor technique, it smacks of a driver who isn’t confident with their own driving. The sort of braking seen in the first video would really only be expected to be seen during poor adhesion conditions. Anyone braking like that on a routine basis is almost certain to lose time.

If a particular type of train is more prone to drivers braking in that way then it would point to drivers not being totally confident in their handling of the brakes. I’d be surprised if a TOC trained people to brake that way for normal driving.

Whilst there are differences in emphasis, it still seems to be the general theme that one good brake application is considered to be best practice, adjusted as required, with earlier and lighter braking during conditions of poor adhesion.
 

hexagon789

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Do the 385s have a similar non-notched power/brake controller to the 80x's?
I believe they are 3-step rather than variable.

I've noticed that some ScotRail drivers seem to use this technique on class 334s also. I often wondered if it was to guard against what they thought was likely slipping. I've never noticed harsh breaking done in this way, only light brakes interspersed with a complete release.

And of course the lighter you can keep it on the brake, the less energy your train will consume.
I always understood continously 'fanning' the brake was bad practice (on disc braked trains with WSP (different for something like a non-WSP equipped Sprinter), particularly in poor adhesion conditions as it can confuse the WSP equipment.
 

Starmill

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I believe they are 3-step rather than variable.


I always understood continously 'fanning' the brake was bad practice (on disc braked trains with WSP (different for something like a non-WSP equipped Sprinter), particularly in poor adhesion conditions as it can confuse the WSP equipment.
I don't know. Is there a distinction in how rapidly the break is being disengaged after its first use? Perhaps it's only bad practice in mechanical terms if it is engaged for just one or two seconds?

I can see how going repeated from medium or heavy braking to a released brake would definitely cause ride 'bumpiness'. Maybe this is more subtle than it seems.

I've always wondered if braking to serve a station that's at the top of an incline you're climbing is a bit of an odd experience too.
 
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“our” jolts are nothing comparing to how train drivers brake on the Continent .

There is quite few videos ( cab rides ) on You Tube showing train getting in to a station platform at 50-60+mph

Not everywhere of course .


Especially if train is still equipped with old school breaking blocks .
I think this video shows this, although this is in the states. I don’t think that you’d see driving like this in this country (or even having the guard’s door open at such a speed).

Go to 10:00
 

pompeyfan

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I think this video shows this, although this is in the states. I don’t think that you’d see driving like this in this country (or even having the guard’s door open at such a speed).

Go to 10:00

that looks more like a wrong route offered and taken if you ask me.
 

hexagon789

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I don't know. Is there a distinction in how rapidly the break is being disengaged after its first use? Perhaps it's only bad practice in mechanical terms if it is engaged for just one or two seconds?
The best i can do is say that, you feel the brake bite and hear the regen/rheo kick-in and then cut out as the brake is released after only a few seconds.

The first technique summarised by 365 Networker is basically what ScotRail drivers seem to use on the 385s.

It's just as well they aren't using an old auto-air brake - they wouldn't get away with such a technique on one of those, they soon piss away all the air!

However - they don't seem to use the same technique on the older BREL Mk3 EMUs (no regen/rheo) where a more traditional Step 1/2 mix is still the norm.

that looks more like a wrong route offered and taken if you ask me.
It is stopping, just at the temporary boarding ramps beyond the end of the platform, presumably because the slow line was closed.
The video caption states:

Recorded from 1245 to 1945. Track 2 is out of service, so all eastbound trains are routed on track 1. Additionally, for the first half of the video, emergency track repairs had track 4 out of service as well, resulting in westbound trains low-leveling. Enjoy the action =)
 

EGKK26L

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I think this video shows this, although this is in the states. I don’t think that you’d see driving like this in this country (or even having the guard’s door open at such a speed).

Go to 10:00
This is quite frequent, the conductor is giving distance callouts to the engineer to spot the cars precisely so passengers can board using the crossings at the end of the problem - there is no other way to do it with sliding doors. Amfleet cars have grabirons in the vestibules for this purpose. There appears to be wrong line working and maintenance vehicles at other points in the video and this is also common practice; during longer periods there are often temporary 'bridges' built over the running lines to reach cars stopped on the express tracks.
 

43066

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All other things being equal, having to release brakes on a regular basis whilst braking for a station stop is certainly poor technique, it smacks of a driver who isn’t confident with their own driving. The sort of braking seen in the first video would really only be expected to be seen during poor adhesion conditions. Anyone braking like that on a routine basis is almost certain to lose time.

Agreed. It’s certainly a lot easier to achieve a smooth stop with a 0-100% continuously variable brake. I must say I find those infinitely preferable to the three step set up in the Networker and Electrostar family.

HSTs were (and no doubt still are) something else; the big risk there being stopping short because the brake took so long to release!
 

physics34

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I think there are a number of variables in this.

You have to remember that drivers working DOO with platform monitors basically have to stop spot on the right place, where as those with in cab monitors or a conductor who do the doors mostly have a little bit of leaway, a metre here a metre there. Its not always easy to do both...get it spot on and have comfortable stop. My technique is always to release the brake just before we come to a complete stop to smooth it out, but timing is important.

Ive also noted colleagues to use many applications to stop and i wonder why they do it, it seems hard work! But who am i to judge.....
 

EGKK26L

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Thought this would be of some interest with regard to braking techniques - station stop in Japan from 110kph, braking starts at 1:20, note the car stop markers in between the tracks.

 

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