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Ground breaking Advanced Passenger Train recognised as British engineering trailblazer

The Advanced Passenger Train-Experimental (APT-E) received a prestigious Engineering Heritage Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on Friday 24 May, at a special ceremony at Locomotion, the National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham.

The APT-E is awarded coveted Engineering Heritage Award at special ceremony at the Locomotion Museum, Shildon

The Advanced Passenger Train-Experimental (APT-E) received a prestigious Engineering Heritage Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on Friday 24 May, at a special ceremony at Locomotion, the National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham.

The APT-E was recognised as the world’s first self-propelled active tilting train and being the pre-cursor to tilting trains in current use like the Pendolino. The award was presented by Professor Isobel Pollock, Past President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to Paul Leadley, from the APT-E Conservation and Support Group.

Prof Isobel Pollock, Past President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said:

“The APT-E pioneered some hugely innovative ideas in railway transport, which still live on today. The train is testament to the fact that the UK is home to some of the most inventive engineering innovations in the world.

“The train marked a number of world firsts, including being the first self-propelled active tilting train; the first train to have computer designed wheelsets and active suspension; and the first train to run at over 100 mph on any track without side-to-side instability.

“Sadly politics, industrial relations and poor publicity lead to the demise of the APT project, but its legacy has been integral to the development of modern railway travel.”

Paul Leadley, from the APT-E Conservation and Support Group said:

“At long last the APT project has been recognised  as the peak of british railway engineering and design,  technology which is now in use world-wide on a day to day basis. Managerial and political issues caused the APT project to be scrapped, not the technology.  As Sir Peter Parker (Past chairman of British Rail), once said, we have solved a very difficult problem by developing the APT, now let’s take pride in it.”

The APT-E conservation & Support Group has been working on the restoration of the train for over 13 years, which also includes correcting the public’s views towards the APT project as a whole. This award is a fitting tribute to all who worked on the APT-E, and the entire APT project.

Anthony Coulls, Senior Curator of Rail Vehicles at the National Railway Museum said:

"The APT-E is often a misunderstood part of our collection.  The Institution’s award will raise its profile, quite rightly and show the importance of the train in the development of high speed rail travel as we know it."

The APT-E (Advanced Passenger Train Experimental) was a prototype advanced passenger tilting train. It was powered by gas turbines, the only multiple unit used by British Rail to use this technology.

The unit was only intended for testing and was never intended to be used in ordinary public service, although it did carry office staff and the occasional dignitaries on trial runs.

When its period of testing was complete in June 1976, it was sent to the National Railway Museum in York for preservation before being moved to the National Railway Museum in Shildon.

The APT was an experimental tilting high speed train developed by British Rail during the 1970s and early 1980s. The introduction into service of the Advanced Passenger Train was to be a three-stage project:

Phase 1, the development of an experimental APT, the APT-E, which was completed.

Phase 2, the introduction of three prototype trains, known as the APT-P, into revenue service on the Glasgow-London route. The APT-P enjoyed only limited service due to bad publicity.

Phase 3, the introduction of the Squadron fleet designated APT-S. This phase did not occur.

The Engineering Heritage Awards celebrate engineering artefacts of particular engineering importance. Previous recipients include Tower Bridge, the E-Type Jaguar and the Mallard Locomotive.

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