Why would you build a modern freight wagon without bogies?

linmanfu

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I have been studying late British Rail/privatization era freight wagons. I noticed that some of them seem not to have bogies. My understanding is that bogies are better for ride quality and protecting both wheels (well, tyres) and track from wear. Ride quality may not be a major consideration for inanimate freight, but I would have thought that reducing wear would be. In particular, the VGA wagons built in the early 1980s had an ~30ft wheelbase and were apparently allowed to run up to 75 mph (120 km/h) on selected routes. To the layman, it seems that would be a good case for bogies. Yet it looks to me as though they did not have bogies and none of the descriptions mention bogies.

Can anyone explain this, please? Did they actually have bogies and I've missed them?

If they don't, is this just penny-pinching? I presume that the extra parts for bogies add considerable capital expense (but save maintenance costs later).

Was it about reusing jigs from an earlier design?

Or are there other factors that I don't know about? Some reason why bogies are not a particularly good fit for covered merchandise vans, even now?
 
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hexagon789

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I have been studying late British Rail/privatization era freight wagons. I noticed that some of them seem not to have bogies. My understanding is that bogies are better for ride quality and protecting both wheels (well, tires) and track from wear. Ride quality may not be a major consideration for inanimate freight, but I would have thought that reducing wear would be. In particular, the VGA wagons built in the early 1980s had an ~30ft wheelbase and were apparently allowed to run up to 75 mph (120 km/h) on selected routes. To the layman, it seems that would be a good case for bogies. Yet it looks to me as though they did not have bogies and none of the descriptions mention bogies.

Can anyone explain this, please? Did they actually have bogies and I've missed them?

If they don't, is this just penny-pinching? I presume that the extra parts for bogies add considerable capital expense (but save maintenance costs later).

Was it about reusing jigs from an earlier design?

Or are there other factors that I don't know about? Some reason why bogies are not a particularly good fit for covered merchandise vans, even now?
I don't know if you've heard of Pacers (British Rail four-wheel railcars of classes 140-144), but these used a non-bogied chassis based on the design of the High Speed Freight Vehicle (HSFV). The HSFV was designed by BR to allow faster container transport and was tested, successfully, at up to 140mph.

So arguably, for freight, fixed four-wheel is fine and would reduce the costs involved in construction and maintenance.
 

matacaster

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I don't know, but a couple of things which spring to mind
-'new' freight wagons are sometimes rebodied underframes etc to save money- depends what is available
-the short projected lifespan of a particular freight contract or low price might mean that recurring savings are never able to be recovered. Thus cheap and simple format works.
 

linmanfu

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I don't know if you've heard of Pacers (British Rail four-wheel railcars of classes 140-144), but these used a non-bogied chassis based on the design of the High Speed Freight Vehicle (HSFV). The HSFV was designed by BR to allow faster container transport and was tested, successfully, at up to 140mph.

So arguably, for freight, fixed four-wheel is fine and would reduce the costs involved in construction and maintenance.
I had the misfortune to use Pacers regularly on the mid-Cheshire line in the mid-2000s. One of their many flaws was that their non-bogied chassis screeched in pain on the curves between Altrincham and Stockport, which is perhaps why I am so convinced that bogies are a good thing. :lol:

Thank you for the reference to the HSFV — that is the phrase that I needed and led me to this fascinating description of BR's research into four-wheel suspension. The fact that they were putting money into researching freight suspension suggests that the traditional suspension on the VGAs was a definite choice.

I don't know, but a couple of things which spring to mind
-'new' freight wagons are sometimes rebodied underframes etc to save money- depends what is available
-the short projected lifespan of a particular freight contract or low price might mean that recurring savings are never able to be recovered. Thus cheap and simple format works
Thank you for those answers to my question. That helps to flesh out why saving capital might make sense.
 

Magdalia

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In the late 1970s/early 1980s BR established an extensive air braked wagonload freight network called Speedlink. Four wheeled wagons are good for wagonload traffic because they give a smaller minimum load.

Many of the traffic flows were from/to newly constructed private sidings with grants to fund them. Most of this traffic was lost to road when Speedlink finished. One of the few traffic flows that remained on the rails is the Heck-Biggleswade Plasmor Blocks, which I think still uses four wheeled wagons.
 

172007

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Don't forget the class 139 is a non bogied vehicle and its only approx 12 years old. The ride it gives is truly breathtaking in its roughness.
 

Ken H

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Probably a bit of 'what has gone before' The HAA Merry go round wagons were needed in large numbers (Over 11,000), and replaced loads of 4 wheeled vacuum or unbraked wagons. So they replaced the old 4 wheeled wagons with new 4 wheeled wagons, albeit with air brakes.
 

1Q18

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Don't forget the class 139 is a non bogied vehicle and its only approx 12 years old. The ride it gives is truly breathtaking in its roughness.
Twelve years of banging through dipped joint after dipped joint probably hasn’t helped them..
 

Sean Emmett

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Talgo trains have single axle wheelsets, used on high speed services in Spain up to 300 kmh. Bit of a special case though!
 

D6975

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Talgo trains have single axle wheelsets, used on high speed services in Spain up to 300 kmh. Bit of a special case though!
Talgos don't have axles, the wheels on each side are not connected in any way.
 

Dr Hoo

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Welcome to the Forums @linmanfu .

It is probably helpful to think about your question from a customer (or commercial) perspective rather than an engineering one.

When the development of a higher speed freight vehicle became urgent (when it was realised that with continuously welded rail and diesel traction that the older designs were unstable at more than about 45mph) there was still a very significant volume of 'wagonload' (or at least 'less-than-trainload') traffic. By no means everyone wanted to have 60 tonnes of traffic arriving in one lump in a bogie vehicle. At the time a 'lorryload' would have been around 20 tonnes.

Although it may not always be obvious, especially for bulk commodities, many flows actually comprised a mixture of product. E.g. a raft of 'coal' wagons might individually convey coke, other smokeless fuel, 'slack' for industrial use, anthracite and various grades of 'ordinary' coal in lumps. Or, in the days of smaller oil terminals, a mix of petrol of different octanes, gas oil and diesel. So smaller sizes of consignment would often fit customer requirements.

In some cases there might be infrastructure constraints, such as short weighbridges or tightly curving lines where the centre throw of long bogie wagons or the ability of even fully-extended couplings to cope was a critical issue.

I can think of various incidents during trial movements where we ended up with things like having to dismantle a hopper house to extract a maximum size granular chemical tank after it had risen on its suspension after discharge or nearly capsizing two Polybulk bogie grain hoppers when an over-enthusiastic shunt driver tried propelling them round a 2-chain curve at high speed.

Bigger isn't always better!
 

Irascible

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I have been studying late British Rail/privatization era freight wagons. I noticed that some of them seem not to have bogies. My understanding is that bogies are better for ride quality and protecting both wheels (well, tyres) and track from wear. Ride quality may not be a major consideration for inanimate freight, but I would have thought that reducing wear would be. In particular, the VGA wagons built in the early 1980s had an ~30ft wheelbase and were apparently allowed to run up to 75 mph (120 km/h) on selected routes. To the layman, it seems that would be a good case for bogies. Yet it looks to me as though they did not have bogies and none of the descriptions mention bogies.

Can anyone explain this, please? Did they actually have bogies and I've missed them?

If they don't, is this just penny-pinching? I presume that the extra parts for bogies add considerable capital expense (but save maintenance costs later).

Was it about reusing jigs from an earlier design?

Or are there other factors that I don't know about? Some reason why bogies are not a particularly good fit for covered merchandise vans, even now?

BR Research did a *lot* of work on 4w wagon suspension back in it's glory days - I think they were running test vehicles up to 100mph, but best check a BRR website ( or wait for one of the BRR engineers here to chime in! ). 4w stock is not necessarily bad - a bogie is a 4w ( generally ) vehicle by itself let's not forget. Axle loading is probably a bigger factor.
 

pdeaves

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Ride quality may not be a major consideration for inanimate freight, but I would have thought that reducing wear would be.
Fewer axles means less vehicle maintenance with fewer moving parts. Overall track wear will be approximately the same (two high force axles vs four, half force ones). Bogies are for comfort (as you say, freight doesn't moan about ride quality) and, latterly, for spreading the load of much heavier weights.
 

Ken H

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Fewer axles means less vehicle maintenance with fewer moving parts. Overall track wear will be approximately the same (two high force axles vs four, half force ones). Bogies are for comfort (as you say, freight doesn't moan about ride quality) and, latterly, for spreading the load of much heavier weights.
I think damage to the contents was a real issue. Which is why shocvans were developed. Better springing to reduce damage.
 

Sean Emmett

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Yes, but those wheelsets do not have conventional axles - each wheel is independent, they aren't linked by axles.
The Talgo website refers to axles, although I appreciate it's a bit more complicated than that, especially for the gauge changing variants.

Back on topic, Talgo are looking to use their non-bogie gauge-changing technology in the freight market.
 

hexagon789

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The Talgo website refers to axles, although I appreciate it's a bit more complicated than that, especially for the gauge changing variants.

Back on topic, Talgo are looking to use their non-bogie gauge-changing technology in the freight market.
It's more like each wheel has its own axle, with each wheel being unconnected to its adjacent neighbour.
 

Adrian Barr

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I can't remember which book I was reading, but the author mentioned a particular type of freight bogie which appeared in the 1980s which was considerably cheaper than previous options and led to a shift towards more bogie wagons being built. I think they were talking about private owner wagons, but the same issue of cost would have applied to BR built wagons.

Given tight budgets and investment constraints, if there was a big cost difference it would have been a major factor in the type of wagons built, not something that can be dismissed as "penny pinching."

As mentioned already, there were also infrastructure constraints in various terminals built to handle standard wagon lengths of ~21 feet. I remember reading that one of the terminals handling grain at Birkenhead necessitated the use of 2-axle hoppers (instead of the larger Polybulk types) due to the curvature on the dock lines. There was a similar issue with many coal loading locations; even into the 2000s there were some locations unable to take bogie wagons. In the 1970s / 1980s Speedlink era it would probably have been difficult to standardise on a fleet of bogie wagons for general merchandise traffic. Even the long-wheelbase 2-axle wagons being built apparently caused problems at some locations, resulting in the VEA type, "traditional wagon designs refurbished and fitted with air brakes in the early 1980s to suit customers who could not handle the longer wheelbase of newer designs" according to this profile on the excellent LTSV wagons website - https://www.ltsv.com/w_profile_028.php

This picture gives a good illustration of the type of ancient sidings in use in places like docks (03 170 at Spillers Flour Mill, Wallasey Dock Rd, Birkenhead Docks). - https://www.flickr.com/photos/36034969@N08/4891699868/
There's a huge size difference between the 2-axle PAAs and the more modern Polybulks, captured well in this view with 03170 again - https://www.flickr.com/photos/feversham/12769190874/
The first bogie ferry vans to appear in the UK were also fairly massive compared to existing designs - https://paulbartlett.zenfolio.com/german3doorvan
I think these ferrywagons were some of the first large bogie vans to appear in the UK. By the late 70s when they appeared, many of the BR long-wheelbase opens and vans had already been built.

The four wheelers built for bulk flows are more of a puzzle. The HAAs possibly needed to be backwards compatible with older mine and power station facilities, although of course they were designed to use new facilities with low speed loading unloading. Quite why things like cement tanks and aggregate hoppers were built as four wheelers I don't know.

This interesting article on private owner wagons - http://igg.org.uk/rail/4-rstock/modpo.htm - mentions one reason for cement tanks being 2-axle:

In the 1970's Blue Circle invested heavily in 102 ton GLW wagons with two separate depressed centre aluminium tanks on a single bogie chassis. The tanks on these vehicles were plagued with cracks and by the 1980's they had switched back to two axle designs for new vehicles.

I think Petroleum wagons were being built in both 2-axle and bogie designs for many years. Some terminals might not have been suited to bogie wagons, and possibly the 2-axle types were cheaper to build.

The article linked above also mentions the Y25 bogie (which must be the one I remember reading about elsewhere). It's interesting that the French were researching freight bogies around the same time that BR were developing their long-wheelbase 2-axle wagons:

The French invested a lot of money in research on bogie stock in 1960's and 1970's, although the SNCF continued using four wheelers themselves. This resulted in the development of the Y25 family of bogies, enabling French wagon builders to offer large, high speed, high payload bogie stock. Fauvet-Girel and CFMF, two of the largest French wagon builders, used the Y25 bogies for their big Polybulk wagons. Storage & Transport Systems Ltd is the sole UK distributor for Fauvet-Girel and they began marketing the Polybulks in about 1974.

My understanding is that bogies are better for ride quality and protecting both wheels (well, tyres) and track from wear. Ride quality may not be a major consideration for inanimate freight, but I would have thought that reducing wear would be.

One thing to bear in mind is that a lot of general merchandise traffic in the Speedlink era open wagons and vans was not particularly heavy, so axle weights were fairly low and track wear less of an issue. Some of the 2-axle steel wagons would have conveyed things like wire-rod-in-coil or plate which would weigh far less than the slabs, blooms and coils loaded onto some of the bogie types like BAAs and BBAs.

The popularity of 2-axle aggregate hoppers is slightly more puzzling, but I suspect a lot of it came down to cost, and I'm not sure that there would have been any extra cost to the customer in BR days to take account of things like track wear from private owner wagons.

Finally, it is worth mentioning one of the few "general merchandise" type flows left on the network (although it runs as a block train). The water trains into Daventry use IZA twin vans which are a pair of 2-axle vans linked by a fixed coupling. These are not all that different from the BR-era VGA wagons, and the reason for being 2-axle is probably that the typical contents are not dense enough to require bogies to support the weight. Having a pair of 2-axle vans gives a vehicle 90 feet long which maximises volume rather than payload. Here's a very nice photo of them at the warehouse in Daventry - https://www.flickr.com/photos/steam60163/51486008447
 

edwin_m

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I can't remember which book I was reading, but the author mentioned a particular type of freight bogie which appeared in the 1980s which was considerably cheaper than previous options and led to a shift towards more bogie wagons being built. I think they were talking about private owner wagons, but the same issue of cost would have applied to BR built wagons.
Could be a reference to EWS bringing in three piece bogies from the States. They got Thrall Car to build a lot of bogie wagons, taking over the former BREL York works, but that production soon moved to Eastern Europe. That would have been after privatisation though, so later than the 1980s.

Bogie wagons are less susceptible to derailment on twisted track than four-wheel wagons where the rigid wheelbase is much longer. This is probably why they were adopted universally in North America, where historically the track tended to be worse. RAIB has reported on several derailments from this cause in the last few years, all to four-wheel wagons I think, and usually where both the track and the wagon frame are marginally out of spec for twist but in combination this results in an unsafe situation.
 

ac6000cw

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In a general sense, bogie vehicles are able to cope better with poor track, hence their use pretty much from the beginning on railways in - at the time of construction - less developed areas like North America (where, due to low initial traffic expectations, new lines tended to be built as quickly & cheaply as possible, with minimal ballast and flat-bottomed rails laid directly on rough-hewn wooden sleepers). Thus the standard steam loco quickly became a 4-4-0, pulling a train of relatively short bogie vehicles (...which have just got much longer and heavier over time!)

It's interesting how simple (but clever) a freight bogie can be. The standard North America freight bogie has only three main pieces - two side frames and a transverse bolster, with coil springs only between the bolster and each side frame and no hydraulic dampers. Works fine up to 33 tonne axle loads at 70mph. The wagons Thrall built for EWS use a version of it.

Here's an example - https://www.amstedrail.com/products/bogies/trakmaster/
 
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jopsuk

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for coal wagons, one issue was axle load. One of the benefits with re-opening the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine was that coal trains to Longannet could switch to bogie wagons, which due to axle weight were banned from the Forth Bridge. On the capacity/empty weight/axle weight optimisation four wheel wagons were optimal on low axle weight lines, as a bogie wagon with low enough laden axle weight would have had low capacity.
 

ac6000cw

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for coal wagons, one issue was axle load. One of the benefits with re-opening the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine was that coal trains to Longannet could switch to bogie wagons, which due to axle weight were banned from the Forth Bridge. On the capacity/empty weight/axle weight optimisation four wheel wagons were optimal on low axle weight lines, as a bogie wagon with low enough laden axle weight would have had low capacity.
But (based on a quick net trawl for info) the tare weight of a 2-axle HAA/HCA is 13t (with a 26t/32t capacity), and a 4-axle HTA is around 26-27t tare with 75t capacity. So they are very similar in terms of tare weight per axle.

So in theory couldn't you just have put less coal in an HTA to keep it under the Forth Bridge limits? But operating via Alloa was obviously more efficient as you can fully load the wagons to their gross weight limit of just over 100t.

Of course, you've also got a 130t loco on the front of the train - which is not much longer than a loaded bogie coal hopper...(if concentrated weight is a problem)
 

Razorblades

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Some will find this interesting reading (at the link below, not my preamble garbage). I stumbled across it while searching for information regarding the Gloucester RCW low track force freight bogie, which I think is what an earlier poster was referring to as being the Eighties' development in this field.
From memory, RFS (who were at Doncaster certainly, and perhaps Kilnhurst previously) later took on the research and development in this field, possibly with ex-GRCW intellectual property, and definitely with a number of bogie engineers from Derby Loco Works, which by 1988 had become BREL's Bogie Division.

 

158747

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I think damage to the contents was a real issue. Which is why shocvans were developed. Better springing to reduce damage.
I believe the idea behind shocvans was by using longitudinal springs to connect the body to the under frame it then provided protection to fragile items being carried in these vans being damaged by forces in the horizontal direction during rough shunting moves (hump shunting etc).
 

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