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Edward Thompson: Discussion & Analysis 2012 - Present

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by S.A.C. Martin, May 2, 2012.

  1. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Well-Known Member

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    That is true, however the consistency in this approach is not shown by railway historians where Gresley and Thompson are concerned. All of Thompson's perceived failures are his own and Gresley's are in some ways underplayed (J39s? B17s? The P2s?).

    Fair points all.

    I have that book, so I will go and read it. Thank you for the heads up.
     
  2. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Well-Known Member

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    Some really sad news reached me by way of the LNER Forum this week past, that Peter Grafton has recently passed away.

    No one else in railway preservation tried to give a more balanced view of Thompson than he did. I regret not having been able to interview him before he passed. In many respects I don't believe anyone, least all of myself, will do Edward Thompson the justice he did.

    May he rest in peace.
     
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  3. sir gilbert claughton

    sir gilbert claughton New Member

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    i hesitate to post following the sad news above ,but I suppose somebody has to .....

    some of this is anecdotal , simply because I am 70 , rather than 90 . also I have read much of the thread , but skipped some .

    I am not hugely knowledgeable on LNER matters ,but rather an interested observer, so technical and personality matters I will try to avoid , rather , I would give my impressions of what I have read and witnessed since the mid '50s.

    I have seen (but may have missed) no reference to the B12s . ET did most (all?) the work on their conversion during his time at Stratford. they may well have been the best thing he did. it may be significant that HNG let him do this . it may also have had a bearing on his subsequent elevation to CME - I dunno.

    Thompson has to be judged by the times he lived in .Nocky wrote that ET invited him to talk of his (ETs) plans for LNER motive power . in short , he intended 2 cyl. machines to be the mainstay of the railway . Nocky was horrified and said so ,but much later.
    Nocky also likened the 3 cyl fleet to "old harridans" at the end of the war . I have seen it written that a senior LMS person was asked to cost the conversion of Gresleys Pacifics to a more reliable mechanical layout. this allegedly was not done because the cost was to high...... true?...... again I dunno.
    what is beyond dispute , is the LMS emerged from the war with a stud of engines that were still doing the job. the LNER was struggling with a lot of fragile pacifics that had never been designed to be heavy haulers,plus a lot of pre grouping stuff that would have been scrapped years earlier if the money had been there.

    as far as personality goes , my impression is that ET was a difficult man , but capable of great kindness . HNG was one of a kind and maybe nobody could have filled his boots , but the emasculation of 1470 was thoughtless in the extreme , and he must have had a choice - he was the boss.

    the B1 s were an engine that did the job -cheaply- and they had to have the same RA as the B17 , so they were built light - like the B17 -and like the black 5 . and they all got rough .
    his rebuilds gave a lease of life to some old engines , although I cant see that the GC rebuilds repaid the cost of conversion, but all the railways were skint , the LNER tho was the skintest , and in many ways he made the best of a bad job

    my assessment is that he had a clear vision of what was needed -ie. 2 cyls .cheap to build and maintain ,and he was probably right in his view - he may even have built a LNER Britannia ,but as a leader he failed, because he couldn't carry his team with and what he did to 1470 will haunt his memory.
     
  4. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Well-Known Member

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    The things written about 4470's rebuilding is so ingrained that it feels impossible at times to convince people otherwise.

    Here is something I have typed up for my book - it is Dick Hardy's interview with Steam World in May 1992 - and remember, he was actually there at the time that 4470 was being rebuilt, and was personally involved with it:

    To my mind, that seems far more reasonable, plausible and true to life than the oft repeated story of Thompson "wanting to get revenge" by rebuilding Great Northern.
     
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  5. 30567

    30567 Well-Known Member Friend

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    But don't you a different personality might have said 'What's the next one due in--- Captain Cuttle--- right that's the one'? From a random chance out of 78 locos it just happened to be that one.
     
  6. damianrhysmoore

    damianrhysmoore Active Member

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    The 'tidy minded clerk', selecting the one with the lowest number, the oldest one, holds some water in my book. 'first built, first due for rebuild' makes sense to anyone with the mildest hint of OCD
     
  7. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Well-Known Member

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    But it was NOT a choice of 78 locomotives!

    The rebuilding was ONLY going to apply to a class A10 - not an A3 (which Thompson had included in his non-standard classes to be maintained group) - which was the new classification given to the original low pressure A1s.

    There were in 1945 around 7 of these left (including Flying Scotsman, for point of information). The point being that there were a very limited number of A10s left at the time that 4470 was chosen.

    The rebuilt example would have proved a prototype for a new build batch of A1s in that vein, and other A10s could have been rebuilt in the same manner.

    (In the event, things overtook the lone A1/1 and the Peppercorn A1 was introduced instead).
     
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  8. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Well-Known Member

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    When you realise that Thompson doesn't necessarily hold the power to actually pick a locomotive out of a group and say "I want that one rebuilt" it makes all the commentary about him being petty minded regarding Great Northern look rather silly, to be frank.
     
  9. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Well-Known Member

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    One thing to remember is that Edward Thompson was well aware that the cost of converting locomotives was probably too high - which is why the total number of rebuilt Gresley engines by Thompson (A2/2, A1/1, B2, K1/1, K5) is a very, very small figure in comparison with the classes that were built all new (L1, K1, B1, A2/2, A2/3).

    In any event, most of Gresley's classes were part of Thompson's standardisation plans and were included in the "Non standard to be maintained" group of engines (all of the Gresley Pacific classes bar the A10s were included in this).

    So there was never any inclination to en-masse convert the existing Gresley classes.

    The only class that was converted in its entirety was class P2 - and arguably they were modified for a large variety of reasons coming together.
     
  10. 30567

    30567 Well-Known Member Friend

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    Sorry for ignorance. I can find 60101/3/6/7 and 12 as the others unconverted to A3 at that time.
     
  11. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Resident of Nat Pres

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    I think that quote from Dick Hardy is a useful reminder that the old railway workshops were huge organisations, and necessarily the chief would be directly involved in only the most consequential decisions. To which could be added, what we as enthusiasts might consider consequential (for example, whether any sentimental value should be attached to one specific capital asset) is probably rather different to what a wartime CME might consider as a consequential decision (Will the board approve my capital programme for next year, and do I have the capacity to deliver it? What do my availability and repair figures look like, and are they getting better or worse? Will we have sufficient motive power to run the service that the operations department have requested in two years time? etc. etc.)

    Tom
     
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  12. class8mikado

    class8mikado Well-Known Member

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    The big 'wonder if ' with Thompson is - if hadn't decided to retire would he have got a job or even 'the' job with British railways . In many ways his ideas we're in step with Riddles et al...
     
  13. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    And one might also ask how often it can be detected that the choice of locomotive for rebuild or destruction *was*, at least before the end of steam, related to sentimental value *for one particular* locomotive?

    I can think of the preservation of City of Truro, but how many others before the 60s? The last of a given class, yes, but I'm struggling to think of individual locos that were singled out because of their identity. No-one seems to complain that Jarvis rebuilt "Channel Packet". I've studied some of the GWR locomotive committee minutes, and off hand I can recall the demise of the last outside frame pannier tank being recorded, and the rebuilding of the Great Bear, but not much else. All Churchward's first of class, some of arguably major game changers, seem to have gone unheralded...
     
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  14. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Well-Known Member

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    He reached the age of 65 and had to retire. It wasn't a question of whether he chose to or not - it was company policy at the LNER. Gresley was also very close to retirement age when he died (64).

    I agree that his ideas were in step with Riddles. I can find no evidence that he in any way influenced the standard locomotive classes.

    The Standard 5MT, long heralded as that of LMS design only, must surely be recognised as some form of development of his B1: when you look below the running plate, at the 6ft 2in driving wheels and LNER walschaerts valve gear...all drawn by the LNER men of the Doncaster drawing office.

    Makes you wonder.
     
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  15. LesterBrown

    LesterBrown Member

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    Indeed Collect chose to rebuild Churchward's most famous first of class "North Star". But on the GWR there was by then no expectation that any locos would be preserved for posterity.
     
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  16. 8126

    8126 Member

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    On the other side of the coin, there are manganese steel liners and roller bearings in cannon boxes, which are very much late build Black 5 features, the roller bearings in particular requiring a fair bit of re-design to get them in. A couple of inches on the wheel diameter and the finer points of valve gear layout are actually fairly superficial details, especially when you consider that the 6'2" diameter came from standardising tyre size with the Britannia, rather than any great conviction that it was the right wheel diameter for a 5MT; standardising the 5MT, 6MT and 7MT would be a much more powerful influence (also worth noting that the tyres for these would have been standard with the Bulleids, if any pre-nationalisation class, given that they were secured in the same manner without a Gibson ring). The axle spacings have much more in common with the LMS product (in its late roller bearing form) than the LNER one, which is a better indicator of chassis layout - the fixed wheelbase is a couple of inches longer than the LMS loco, and about 10" shorter than the LNER. There's a De Glehn style bogie in true Stanier/GWR fashion. Then there's the boiler...

    While the Standard 5 wasn't a case of taking a set of Black 5 drawings and writing "Standard Class 5" in all the title boxes (an argument that might be made for the Class 2 variants), I think the dominant family influence is fairly clear, and it isn't painted apple green.
     
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  17. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Well-Known Member

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    I agree: it is the dominant influence. Absolutely. I simply feel looking at the wheelbase that there is an LNER influence there: and of course, it was drawn by LNER men and built at Doncaster Works by LNER men.
     
  18. Hermod

    Hermod New Member

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    A three cylinder 6 feet wheel pacific can be just as useful as 6 foot niners be they three or fourcylinders.
    It is kinder to the track and wheels are ligther giving more mass to make boiler of.
    When Thompson saved the P2 from being unemployed he just made one fault.
    He should have kept front axle drive.Much better stifness of frame and cylinders.
    His father in law mr Raven did in 1922 A2 pacifics.
    This makes the theory of Thomson seeking revenge on mr Gresley unlikely in my view.
    An A2/2 with front wheel drive could have been the most cost-effective and best looking pacific in UK.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
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  19. Dave Tierney

    Dave Tierney New Member

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    Why does anyone who praises the work of Edward Thompson have to be labeled an 'Apologist' for him? I wonder how many of you have actually fired on his locos? As well, please tell me why the P2s had such a poor reliability rating during the war when every loco was sorely needed for the war effort? That is the reason why Thompson was given the job of rebuilding them.
     
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  20. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    The pedant in me can't help pointing out that the strict dictionary meaning of apologist doesn't have negative connotations. Apology originally simply meant explanation with no sense of saying sorry, and apologist follows that original meaning - or at least did until recently. So apologist in the strict sense of the word is, I submit, exactly what Mr Martin is seeking to be.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
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