Leading fleet and rail graphics specialist, Charles Rayner Ltd, delivers a ground-breaking train wrap

November 23, 2021
TOGETHER FOR OUR PLANET TOGETHER FOR OUR PLANET

Commercial fleet and rail wraps are commissioned by their end-users generally against the expectation that the matter which the wrap promotes, branding for example, will be seen and remembered. Some studies suggest that around six-thousand pairs of eyes an hour see a wrap when the fleet asset it covers is going about its business.

Impressive as that number is in confirming the value of branding and advertising wraps in marketers’ and advertisers’ mixes, it serves only to contrast the context of a train wrap of extraordinary significance produced by Milton Keynes based rail and fleet graphics specialist Charles Rayner Ltd. The wrap in question promoted the event and aims of the COP26 conference in Glasgow.

While it’s newsworthy for promoting an event of great significance, the wrap is all the more notable because recyclable materials were involved in its manufacture and it was applied to a revolutionary, hydrogen powered train.

The wrapped train was a showcase for locomotion technology that will drive the decarbonation of the railways and it was in Scotland for COP26, along with the world’s leaders, the world’s press, and many thousands of others attending or observing.

The wrap was seen by millions around the world, and locally, as all eyes turned toward Glasgow during the two-weeks the conference was running. Given the significance of the event the wrap promotes, and the scope of its stage, Charles Rayner’s work rightly claims its place among the most important and recognised wraps ever produced - anywhere in the world.

COP26 was a polarising event heralded by many as signifying the last chance the world has to avert catastrophic climate change. It was also a showcase demonstrating that humans have a capacity for invention and, when that faculty meets commitment to change, change can indeed happen. The wrapped train is an exemplar of what’s possible when creative ideas and heads meet, missions are agreed, and actions result.

The hydrogen powered train is the first, and so far only, example of what could become a new and very welcome means of travel that will benefit the planet. Answering to the name HydroFLEX, it’s the work of rolling stock owner and asset manager Porterbrook, and it’s propelled by a retro-fitted hydrogen-fuelled power plant helping legacy rolling stock rise to the call of new mission.

Hydrogen isn’t as power-dense as conventional fuels and so occupies more space. When it’s produced using renewable resources though, ‘green-hydrogen’ is much friendlier than other fuels, with water vapour being the by-product at the location of its use. Integrating the plant into a train originally designed with anything but hydrogen in mind was a far from trivial development, but it suggests that many candidates for the treatment exist in the world’s rolling stock.

Porterbrook collaborated with Network Rail to bring its HydroFLEX train to COP26. The train itself was further converted to include an ‘onboard boardroom’ and give invited guests a place to discuss matters of global significance. Clearly, Porterbrook’s revolutionary development could be a pivotal component in decarbonising the rail network and it emphatically demonstrates that the science is sorted.

The train and all it portends needed to demonstrate it had arrived at COP26 and that suggested a branded livery promoting it and its contribution to both the event and transport’s future.

Having successfully delivered livery graphics for another of Porterbrook’s rolling-stock developments, the HybridFLEX train, Charles Rayner Ltd was approached, in conditions of strict commercial confidentiality, to produce and install a COP26 themed wrap for the revolutionary HydroFLEX. The wrap’s design was prescribed and the team at Charles Rayner’s first task was surveying the HydroFLEX train and preparing the supplied data for print production.

At the time of its survey, the HydroFLEX train was hidden from the eyes of the world and was in the process of having its hydrogen power plant installed and its interior modelled and fitted. The train’s exterior was refurbished too in preparation for for the wrap. Dozens of people were working in and around the then incomplete train and it was minus many components that would have a bearing on the wrap’s fitting. The train’s roof was also included in the scope of the wrap’s design. Much detailed and iterative data editing by the Charles Rayner team was needed to ensure the message would be legible across the roof’s deep corrugations.

The wrap’s design is largely printed and its colours were specified subject to the tightest matching discipline. Charles Rayner’s production team trusted Metamark’s MetaWrap MD-X wrapping film to deliver the colour-critical results, having previously worked with the film on the HybridFLEX livery project, a decision signed off by UK Government representatives for the HydroFLEX project. Another factor considered in specifying and agreeing to use Metamark materials, was the products’ recent qualification for inclusion in Metamark’s newly launched MetaStream initiative.

MetaStream is Metamark’s process offering qualified volume users of a growing range of MetaStream-Ready Metamark materials a range of available options for dealing with printed and coloured graphics at the end of their lives, and the materials’ release-liners post-production.

Among those options is the MetaStream Recycling Programme that takes as its input used and recovered films and outputs, after processing, a range of useful plastic products including traffic cones and transport pallets. This avoids consigning useful materials to landfill or incineration, and means that signs and graphics producers can continue to work with familiar and proven Metamark products rather than untried materials that don’t deliver the circular recycling possibilities available to users of Metamark Materials and MetaStream.

The liners from qualified Metamark products are also admitted to the MetaStream process for recycling into useful paper-based goods and plans to include a proportion of recycled matter in liner constructions are being considered.

MetaStream has, in the past year, been tested and proven by some of the UK’s largest producers of vehicle liveries and it also constitutes the backbone of Metamark’s own Z2L, or Zero-To-Landfill goals dealing with the company’s already commendably low volumes of production waste.

MetaStream and its intent obviously mesh gears well with the COP26 train wrap. The wrap’s design reflects elements of the theme broadly promoting and branding COP26. A stylised representation of Earth, as seen from the vantage point available in space, is central. It serves to enforce the bald fact that all that stands between the Earth-bound population and the hard-vacuum and radiation in space is a fragile atmosphere.

This, and other elements of the design, are surrounded with fields of printed green with text elements rendered in black, including the UK Government’s insignia. The nuance the design delivers sits adjacent in conceptual terms to the branding and its design. ‘Together For Our Planet,’ is the sentiment that frames it brilliantly.

When the world’s the stage and every element of your performance is subject to scrutiny and critical review, it’s the ability to deliver to the very highest standards under such pressure that comes into sharp focus. On that basis, the applause belongs to the team at Charles Rayner for the wrap’s production and application. The printing is exemplary and the application, a masterclass in technical execution and complex project management.

The design gives no quarter or hiding place for printing inaccuracy or inconsistent elongation due to challenging application conditions. The Charles Rayner team didn’t need it. Thanks to its pre-production intervention and the sheer quality of its work, the prescribed design drapes the vehicle, to coin a new phrase, like a Charles Rayner Rail Wrap. It’s that good.

The Charles Rayner team didn’t have long at all to stand back and admire its work before it was signed off by a queue of involved parties. The wrap, every element of it, had to be obscured from view before the train could leave its confidential, indoor location, and make its way to Scotland. The risk of ’shrink wrapping’ the train was considered but moved aside and signed off in favour of a ’Stealth Wrap’ applied over the graphics and proposed by Charles Rayner’s team.

The secondary wrap, whose only role was to hide the applied COP26 livery, was meticulously applied by the Charles Rayner team using Metamark MDP-R, another MetaStream-Ready film whose primary application is short-term printed graphics. This material features Metamark’s Removable Adhesive and so would remove cleanly when the train reached its destination and the ‘covers’ could come off. Despite its limited outing, Charles Rayner’s MDP-R Stealth Wrap gets its fifteen minutes of fame.

When the time came for the stealth convers to come off the train in Scotland, the Charles Rayner team ensured the process went without a hitch and recovered the wrap material for recycling by the MetaStream Process. This material’s destiny isn’t slow decay in a landfill or going up in smoke in an incineration plant. It’ll find its way into other manufactured articles with long and useful life ahead.

Porterbrook’s success at COP26 brings critical focus on a technology that illuminates the way ahead for environmentally compliant travel. Its role will be helping to keep the wheels of industry turning and a decarbonised rail network running. It’ll also contribute to keeping the world turning on its axis.

Delivering the COP26 Branded Wrap for Porterbrook’s brilliantly conceived HydroFLEX train cements Charles Rayner’s position in the leadership vanguard of UK based fleet and rail graphics specialists. Thanks to its stage, those credentials are known world wide, and richly deserved.

For Metamark’s part, the MetaStream programme simply couldn’t have found a more appropriate or worthy platform to herald its launch. Signs and graphics producers will welcome the possibility of working with proven and familiar material and being able to contribute to better outcomes for all, including the interests of those with fleet assets and brands to promote.

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