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Temple Mills Depot, January 2015

Stuart Smith


A small group of invited members met at Stratford International station for the short transfer to nearby Temple Mills Eurostar Depot.

Once cleared through security and an x-ray search, we were met by our guide (and fellow L&CI member) Peter De Lacey, whose day to day role within the depot is as Engineering Training Manager.

 

The whole depot complex is around 2 kilometres from end to end, and comprises of an 8-road maintenance building, a 3-road bogie drop & wheel lathe facility, plus stabling sidings at the east end of the depot. In addition, there are four reception roads & two tanking roads. The sole exit/entry point to the depot is via a single lead track towards London Tunnel & Stratford International.

 

A Eurostar set, or TransManche Super Train (Cross-Channel Super Train), to give it it's full title, is classified in the UK as a Class 373 train. However, with the recent introduction of the Class 374's, the refurbished examples of the 373 sets are officially being dubbed as e300 by Eurostar to distinguish them from the new Velaro e320 fleet.

 

A full 20-coach train is 394 metres long, comprising of 2 'half sets' of 10 vehicles each. The North of London sets (intended to be used on Regional services direct from the Continent to various destinations beyond London) were formed into 16-coach trains. These previously were operated by GNER on services from London Kings Cross to Leeds and York. Following the conclusion of these trains, they were transferred to SNCF for use on domestic services between Paris & Lille, with the exception of one half-set which remains at Temple Mills. As 2015 commenced, all of these sets had been withdrawn from active service, with an uncertain future!


The first building we entered was adorned with the nameplate "THE WHITE ROSE", which was taken from one of the GNER 'Eurostar' sets, when they came off lease from those services in December 2005.

 

Exiting from the lift on the above floor, we found ourselves looking down over the eight maintenance roads. Five full Eurostar sets were present - 3105/3106, 3223/3224, 3011/3012, 3209/3210 & 3005/3999. The latter set comprising of a standard formation, albeit with the addition of the 'spare' driving power car 3999 vice the usual 3006. (This additional vehicle is used to keep sets in traffic should a fault require the regular driving vehicle to be removed for maintenance reasons).

 

The various maintenance regimes were explained in detail to us, along with some of the codes used by staff at the depot.


A Grand Visit General (GVG) is carried out every three years on each set, with more regular routine checks done in between as required. A GVG takes between 11-15 days to complete, with less major exams taking around 2-3 days.

 

A large digital display board is located adjacent to the buffer stops within the building, and this details each stabled train and the various tasks to be undertaken upon them. Also listed is the 'expected' departure time for the set.

 

Whilst we were in this location, a sixth train entered the facility driven by one of the London-based drivers.

 

The sets are capable of operating on 25kV AC, 3000V DC, 1500V DC and 750V DC 'Third Rail', although as the sets go through their 3-yearly GVG, the 3rd rail equipment is being removed as it is no longer used. Additionally, all sets are currently being upgraded with the capability of operating at 1500V DC, as at the time of construction, only 8 sets were fitted as so.

 

6 of the 8 roads within the maintenance building have the facility to undertake the removal of roof equipment and pantographs etc,.

Overhead 'neutral' sections within the building facilitate this work.

 

Heading down to the ground level again, we were shown the Plant Equipment Repair (dealing with all kinds of mechanical equipment and forklifts etc), plus the immense area containing the Spare Parts Factory.   It was commented at this point, that apart from the actual shell of the Eurostar train, this area houses just about everything else needed to construct a working train!!!

 

We passed in front of the very busy Team Leaders Office - with three on duty per shift. The three comprise of 1 Heavy Maintenance Controller (dealing with the 'big' stuff), and 2 Servicing Controllers (dealing with the 'little' stuff). A large wall mounted display detailing every International Eurostar set, is colour-coded with the various faults attributed to each set.  Most are not significant enough to remove the set from traffic, but this is used as a single reference point for all maintenance issues across the fleet.

 

A small office next door housed the Operations Control (or Signal Box), which controls the movements within the depot complex, as well as having contact with the 'outside railway', for sets arriving and departing.

 

Parked adjacent to these offices is a fleet of pink bicycles used by staff to get around the vast site. Pink being used as an easy way to identify them within the depot confines so we were told.

 

We next made our way outside, and got our first sighting of one of the new Velaro sets (374007/4008). This was parked next to a single e300 power car (373006) with the distinct external differences between the two types of train clear and obvious to see.

 

Peter at this point explained that originally the new Siemens-built trains were to be used to expand the existing timetable to include Amsterdam as a destination. However, a rethink by Eurostar, will now see them replace the original trains (which date from 1992-96), and thus retain the current sphere of operation. Only 10 of the new Class 374's were originally ordered, but this has since been increased to 17 sets, with a possible further increase rumoured too. The original 10 sets were reportedly purchased at a cost of £700 million.

 

An average night at the depot sees sets arriving at roughly half-hourly intervals from 7pm-10pm. Due to the capacity constraints within the depot, a huge game of 'playing trains' takes place to ensure sufficient space is available in the required areas. Some sets are also stabled overnight at London St Pancras station (where basic routine servicing is carried out), and so freeing up some valuable capacity. With this theme in mind, the contract with South Eastern Trains to overnight stable their Class 395 'Javelin' sets at Temple Mills has just been terminated.


Another (and more important) issue of the overcrowding, is the inability to accept any further deliveries of Velaro trains from the Siemens factory in Germany. Currently only three sets are in the UK; two of which are at Temple Mills, with the third out-based at Dollands Moor Yard (Folkestone). This set is being used for nighttime evaluation & testing through the Channel Tunnel.

 

From here we were able to 'get up close and personal', with one of the stabled sets, and Peter expertly explained the various features as we walked along the full length of the train.


An issue that is still rife today on cross-channel trains is illegal immigrants attempting to gain access to the UK. Several of their 'known' hideouts and techniques were shown to us - most of which involve gaining access to very small and no doubt perilous places to ride at 186mph in potential freezing & noisy conditions.

 

The next part of our visit saw us cross to the Wheel Lathe / Bogie Drop Facility. This is a 3-road building with a huge pit in the centre to undertake such tasks. The depot claim they can change an axle in 20 mins with their state-of-the-art equipment. As with other areas of the depot, a whole host of spare parts (ranging from complete bogie frames to traction motors & many, many smaller components) could be found readily available here.  An internal user NITEQ Shunter (TM-LT-02) is housed here, and undertakes the movement of any non-powered vehicles accessing the Wheel Lathe facility.

 

To conclude our visit, we were invited into the cab of power car 3218. The compact and dated nature was instantly apparent. Several pieces of outdated equipment are still retained, such as NRN radio and third-rail compatibility switches, dating from the period when International trains ran to/from London Waterloo via the 'classic' lines.

 

The drivers 'blinkered view' was also clear to see, but fully justified as a means of ensuring concentration (and to limit the distraction/interference in the drivers peripheral vision) when travelling at 186mph. Hypnosis is a real and significant threat at high speed from Overhead Line Equipment (OLE).

 

Even though it is electric traction (albeit stationary at this point), the opening of the cab door behind us, demonstrated the ideal cab environment being maintained by the soundproofing insulation on the bulkhead walls/doors.

 

Concluding our excellent visit, we were escorted back to the security buildings where we said our goodbyes (and thank you's) to our host, Peter De Lacey

 

With this small visit undertaken successfully, it is hoped that we will be able to offer a repeat visit in the not too distant future, and open it up to the general membership.