The Tribometer Train

The 'Trib Train' was used to investigate the age-old problem of low friction between wheel and rail known as adhesion.

First entering service in 1972 its purpose was to verify laboratory tests on surface contaminants on the railhead.

It consisted of  Laboratory 11 RDB975046,  COV-AB RDB999900 and an auto-trailer RDB975076 usually operated with one of R&DD's own locos (e.g. the Baby Deltic or later the class 24 'Experiment' and class 31).

The COV-AB was one of a batch of ten fitted with experimental 'Taperlite' suspension and housed the instrumentation and  hydraulic packs, with special brake actuator units above each axle as well as tanks for laying fluid during the experiments. It had no conventional brakes and was fitted with end gangways for access.

A year-long general survey of adhesions levels was undertaken initially and numerous special tests were performed. The train was a common site about the railway in the 70s and 80s.

It was also used to assess the effectiveness of rail head treatment of the time such as water cannons.

It usually had motive power from the Research Division's own pool of locos including, the Metrovick CoBo 5705, the Baby Deltic 5901, class 24 'Experiment', the original class 31 which was unfortunately destroyed by fire and then whatever was available was used.

The last extensive use of the Tribometer Train to measure naturally occurring adhesion was in the early 1990s when a significant amount of measurements were taken to survey typical adhesion profiles on a number of BR routes.

The final use of the Tribometer Train was in 1996 to compare the performance of portable tribometers with a full-scale tribometer to calibrate the former. The Tribometer Train was not used after this and was eventually disposed of by AEA Technology Rail in 2004 - another victim of privatisation.

All three vehicles went to the Nottingham Heritage Centre where they remain awaiting restoration.

Metrovick Co-Bo 5705 at the head of the Trib Train with Laboratory 11 RDB975046 behind the loco pictured near Etwall on the Mickleover test track in 1972

Lab 11 is restored and running on the Dartmoor Railway

Gerald Anthony

COV-AB RDB999900 and the auto-trailer RDB975076 making up the Trib Train on the Mickleover test track in 1972

Gerald Anthony

Metrovick Co-Bo 5705 with the Trib Train at Derby in 1972



Class 24 'Experiment' with the Trib Train outside the Control Centre at Old Dalby

Colin Marsden

Old Dalby

The other end of Trib train at Old Dalby showing the auto-trailer

Colin Marsden


A close up of the recording vehicle RDB999900

Colin Marsden


Some of the Trib Train vehicles were preserved at the Nottingham Heritage Centre Ruddington - here is RDB999900

This vehicle was scrapped at Booths, Rotherham in August 2009


Auto-Trailer The  Auto-Trailer RDB975076 pictured at Toddington on the GW Steam Railway in 2010 but in 2018 it was spotted at Williton on WSR

K Schofield

More pictures will be added

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