The new German concept of "Push-Pull" train service.

We all know that travelling by plane has become downright painful during the last few years. The airlines seem to be doing everything in their power to make the passenger experience absolutely miserable. In contrast travelling by train was reputedly a wonderful antidote to the awful airline experience. One would be whisked across the countryside with nice, quiet comfort in brand new electric trains. 

Well, maybe not! At least not in Germany. Here is an interesting story from the southern part of the birthplace of teutonic efficiency:

It appears that one of the new electric trains of the Bayerische Oberlandbahn got stuck on the rail line between Salzburg and München. Somehow the engineer/driver managed to stop the electric train with it's pantograph right in a part where the catenary had a "dead section". These sections of the overhead catenary are rather short, several feet usually, and serve to physically separate overhead electric supply systems for a variety of technical reasons and carry no electricity.

Well, our good engineer managed to put the train pantograph right in the middle of one of those sections. Normally the train just "coasts" through at speed. However, for whatever reason, this particular train stopped smack in the non-electrified part, leaving the train without electric power and thus unable to start up again. But leave it to this particular engineer to come up with a rather unorthodox solution: He decided to walk through the train, asking passengers to please get off and push the train to reach the electrified part of the overhead wire!

According to the local news media this mad scheme apparently worked. Instead of waiting for a locomotive to get them started up again, the passengers managed to get the 140 ton, Stadler Rail built, "FLIRT 3" electric multiple unit under the electrified section, got back on the train and were then on their merry way to München. 

Of course in todays world with everybody possessing a smart phone, we have pictures and video of this bizarre episode:

OK, everybody push now! 

(Video and the above photo are from the "Münchner Merkur"

At first glance this may be an amusing episode. But the rail authorities in Germany and BOB, the rail operator, are far from being amused! This stunt could have resulted in some serious tragedy. Consider that this is a double track, very busy main line. Just image what could have happened if another train had come down the opposite track.

Not all of my readers are familiar with railway technology. So here are a few photographs to illustrate the technology behind the above story: 

Catenary in Germany. Photo by Ralf Meier

More often than not, main line electric trains get their electric power from overhead wires or catenary. In Germany the catenary is electrified at 15000 Volts and 15 2/3 Hertz. 

As I mentioned, on occasion the sections of catenary are electrically insulated for diverse technical reasons. here is a photo of one variety of insulator.

A Catenary Insulator Section. Wikimedia Commons Photo

The power from the catenary is then collected with a pantograph (or several) mounted on the roof of the train. Here are three photographs from my HO scale railroad lay out showing pantographs and catenary:

(Three preceeding photographs by Ralf Meier) 

And here is a photo of a "Pushee":

A Bayerische Oberlandbahn Stadler Rail Company "FLIRT 3" Electric Multiple Unit. Photo by Tomas Kruchta