The Locomotive & Carriage Institution
12th October 1999
by Peter Lindop
Wednesday 12th October saw 14 members meet at Waterloo station, for a short walk to the Eurostar offices at Holmes House. Here we wore met by Phil Eke, simulator manager. As the previous group of trainee drivers was still using the facility, we went for a cup of tea first. They must have had quite a few problems thrown at them, taking four hours to cover just three miles!
Eurostar opened the four-floor Holmes House in early 1992 for language and technical training. The driver simulator was ready later in the year. This comprises of two areas, a complete real cab (with full sound effects), and a classroom. High on an end wall are three large screens; the centre one shows the output from a TV camera showing the cab deck and how the driver is operating the controls. The left-hand screen shows the various cab desk displays speedo, brake gauges, power and line voltages, a bank of 18 fault and information lights. The right-hand screen shows the view out of the cab window. The reproduction is good rather than completely accurate while every tree looks the same, all the woods are in the right place. All stations, tunnels, bridges, etc. are there.
The instructor's desk has these, and other screens, including one showing a gradient profiled route diagram with the "train's" position marked on it. Controls on the desk allow just about anything a real Eurostar could expect to meet to he programmed into the simulator for the driver to encounter!
The genuine Eurostar drivers have 5 refresher visits to the simulator per year, which keeps the simulator full. To qualify, a driver needs over 5 years main line experience. He/she then has about a 15-month training period before being passed out to drive Eurostars.
Our train was the 05. 19 Waterloo - Paris "red-eye" service, which we picked up at Ashford (06.00). As Phil explained the various controls and displays, we could see a good sunrise out of the cab window! And then it was our turn to take the controls. You soon lost the fact that you wore in a building in London, as you became involved with the simulation and it all seemed real. The French have a simulator, which also has a motion effect, but apparently it makes you feel ill!
As we approached the tunnel, and ~had from third rail to overhead line pick-up, the dials automatically swooped from imperial to metric. Along the way severed incidents were encountered or tried;- over-speeding, not resetting the deadman's device, not slowing down fast enough for signals, trying to pass a red signal, in most cases the brakes automatically were applied. At one point we oven suddenly came across a thick fog patch. Everyone had a go at driving, and in the end, by staying longer than anticipated, we got right through to Paris. And so the final, enjoyable, visit of the year was over, on British soil but with a European feel!
Eurostar Cab Layout.
Some of the descriptions are rather 'odd', presumably due to less than perfect French to English translation!