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Catenaries and power pickups #141641 09/27/04 11:44 AM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,486
Texas_Ranger Offline OP
Inspired by the "Odyssey" thread I decided to elaborate a little on different styles of catenaries and power pickups. I know three basic types of catenaries, all of which are used for tramway and subway systems in central Europe.
I don't know the correct English terms, but literally translating it's single catenary, flat chain catenary and high chain catenary. Single means there's just one single copper wire held by suspension wires running from pole to pole or from the houses across the street.
[Linked Image from]

High chain is what you see in the picture, the power wire and above a second arched wire that gives mechanical strength.
[Linked Image from]

[Linked Image from]

Flat chain is high chain turned 90 degrees.

Now to the power pickups. The oldest ones are the lyra pickups.

[Linked Image from]

They were used until about 1930. In 1925 so-called scissor pickups made their appearance in Vienna. They were first used on the type N Stadtbahn cars (a former urban steam railway system was converted to electric operation with tramway-like 2-axle cars seen in the first picture for "high chain catenary", the dirty brown cars).

[Linked Image from]

After 1964 they were surpassed by standard pantographs.

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Re: Catenaries and power pickups #141642 09/27/04 01:22 PM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 381
Hutch Offline
Thanks T-R, I also am a fan of tramways – that’s why I took the picture. It helped that, when I lived in the UK in my youth, my home was close to Blackpool – the UK’s last surviving traditional tramway and Britain’s first electric tramway by the way. Try here for a rich source of pictures.

Technically the term ‘catenary’ only applies to your ‘high chain’ style of overhead as the word describes the mathematical curve that the top supporting wire adopts under the effect of gravity.

I find your ‘flat chain’ hard to imagine. Is that the set-up used to guide the overhead around a tight curve between poles or other building supports?

Re: Catenaries and power pickups #141643 09/27/04 01:46 PM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,486
Texas_Ranger Offline OP
Oh, didn't know that.
I have no idea how and why exactly the "flat chain" is used, I only read about it in a Book about Hannover, Germany. Here in Vienna we only got single wire and catenary (the latter on the former Stadtbahn, now subway line U6).
I can try to find a picture in the book.

Re: Catenaries and power pickups #141644 09/28/04 04:00 AM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
pauluk Offline
Good pictures T-R, and thanks.

Are all the Vienna systems running on the traditional 500V (-ish) system?

Not being born until 1966, most of these systems were long gone in England when I was a kid, and the Blackpool system Hutch mentioned is really the only fully-fledged one I've ridden (other than short tourist-type lines, such as the Seaton Tramway in Devon). It's amazing how in recent years there's been a big push to replace these networks as traffic congestion as become high on the agenda, but the modern replacements just don't have the same charcter, in my humble opinion.

I remember years ago reading about the old interurban services in North America and being fascinated by them.

Here are a couple of links to some more interesting information:

Re: Catenaries and power pickups #141645 09/28/04 09:35 AM
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 54
ianh Offline
Blackpool isn't the only surviving tramway in Britain though...


Re: Catenaries and power pickups #141646 09/28/04 10:47 AM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 381
Hutch Offline
Hi Ian,

Good to see a Manxman onboard. In my post above by refering to to the United Kingdom I was geographically excluding the Isle of Man which is one of my favourite places on Earth. [Linked Image]

The Manx Electric Railway has more the character of the USA interurbans that Paul mentions above rather than the classic town system of old. I think the MER runs the oldest electric tram in regular service: Nos 1 and 2 built in 1893 by Milnes. I've had the pleasure of riding in No. 2.

Even Blackpool is different in that regard with the majority of on its own reservation - that is probably why it survived. One has to go to Fleetwood town centre to witness some of the original flavour of a British street tramway.

In Douglas it is interesting that the horse tramway was never electrified as originally intended. Had it been so, it too might have gone away with the increase in road traffic along the promenade.

Re: Catenaries and power pickups #141647 09/28/04 11:19 AM
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,486
Texas_Ranger Offline OP
Glad you like the pics.
Originally the tramway system used 550V DC, which was later converted to 650V. Since voltage doesn't matter too much for systems like this rumors say they're slowly raising to 750V, but that's not confirmed. The Stadtbahn always used 750VDC which is common for subway and long-distance (sometimes interurban) tramway systems around here. The interurban tramway to Baden uses 950V on their lines out of town, shares the U6 750V for a short distance and the tram 650V downtown. That's a real cool system A tramway, about 30km long I guess, linking all the small villages to Vienna, going every 7.5 or 15 minutes. It's the last remnant of the old lines that went far into the countryside.

The voltage is a reason why even the new Stadtbahn cars from 1954 (pic #3) had incandescent bulbs instead of flourescent tubes. Tramways used AFAIK a 220V flourescent tube and two 220V light bulbs in series. The Stadtbahn had 6 95V bulbs wired in series to get up to the 750V. Only the 1980 cars had inverters and flourescent tubes.


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