Here’s a quiz question. What type of train emits steam and water but is not a steam engine? Answer: it’s a hydrogen train – the first generation of which are planned for Britain’s railways, using converted former commuter trains from Essex. The stock is being developed by Alstom with the leasing company Eversholt Rail and will be capable of carrying sufficient hydrogen for 625 miles, with a top speed of 87 mph.
We should certainly welcome these trains, named Breeze. The Germans already have a first generation of hydrogen trains and there seems to be little down side, especially in Britain where it doesn’t look like there will be any significant electrification in the near future. The alternative is more polluting diesel trains.
But there is one worry. If the three-car trains prove popular, they may end up being overcrowded, since the hydrogen tank takes up the best part of the front carriage. But at least imaginative railway enthusiasts will be able to fantasize there’s a steam loco on the front.