RUSSIA’S prototype Sokol high speed train has completed over 10000 km of test runs and is due to end its programme of trials by the middle of this year. This should pave the way for series production to go ahead at the Transmash plant in Tikhvin - the Ministry of Railways is forecasting that demand will total 70 to 90 trainsets, each of 12 cars, by 2010.

After the initial tests (RG 9.99 p567), the 1520mm gauge six-car trainset was moved to the Chudovo - Lyuban section at the northern end of the 654 km Moscow - St Petersburg main line, where it attained a maximum speed of 160 km/h. Tests covered all mechanical equipment, including the couplers, and the asynchronous traction package.

The aluminium-bodied unit then underwent further trials at Shcherbinka, south of Moscow, where the All Russia Railway Research Institute has a 6 km loop available for continuous running. It is here that virtually all Russian Railways’ rolling stock undergoes testing and acceptance trials. Shcherbinka was the testing ground for Russia’s only other high speed electric trainset, the ER200, which attained 206 km/h on the main loop in 1975.

Work on the Sokol unit at Shcherbinka covers a range of braking tests, including performance of the disc brakes, of which there are four on trailing axles. Both power and trailer bogies have a 3000mm wheelbase.

On completion of trials at Shcherbinka, the dual-voltage (25 kV 50Hz, 3 kV DC) train will again run on the Moscow - St Petersburg main line, where it is expected to attain its maximum speed of 250 km/h on a specially equipped section of track.

Preparations for series production of Sokol units are meanwhile being made at the Transmash plant in Tikhvin. n

CAPTION: Main picture: Arctic conditions at Shcherbinka earlier this year gave design engineers the opportunity to check the performance of traction and other sensitive equipment

Right: Sergei Smirnov, a driver at the All Russia Railway Research Institute at Shcherbinka, gets a feel for the Sokol trainset

Below: On September 25 last year the Sokol prototype arrived for the first time at the Moscow terminal of the October Railway in St Petersburg

Photos: Igor Kisselev