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Another L & B thread

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by ross, Oct 25, 2017.

  1. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    Being, as I am, an occasionally original thinker, I have always endeavoured to challenge my own assumptions as I do those of others, and ask myself “why do you think that?” This, as now, sometimes leads me into critical analysis of something I am actually very fond of, to try and dispassionately assess its actual worth or quality.


    I remember when I first heard of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway which at the time had been closed nigh on 44 years. The writer briefly described this “charming but now sadly closed” railway, and I immediately felt such a pang of regret that I never would know this line. Further reading led me to the impossible hope that perhaps one day the railway would somehow live again- in spite of all its locomotives being cut up and all the rolling stock going off to be chicken sheds and summer houses across north Devon.

    Perchance....


    But enough of childish (and adultish) romantic longings. What is it about the L&B that has enabled it to excite so much loyalty, longing, and ultimately the determined effort which has brought it back to life?

    The Campbelltown and Machrihanish was built 20years earlier, and survived almost as late as the L&B, but few outside of Kintyre know of it. The Southwold similarly was built earlier and survived until road motor transport came along and is chiefly known for a series of comical postcards which made fun of its deccrepitude and slowness. The Leek and Manifold had some of the best equipment ever on British narrow gauge, but is little known outside of railway enthusiast circles.


    What is it about this long lost railway, with its inefficient and funny looking locomotives that for 40 years dawdled their way across the top of Exmoor, that is so appealing? Is it really just down to Catchpole, or is there something more?
     
  2. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Interesting thoughts. My guess would have to be that with a canny main backer like Sir George Newnes (a publisher of some note), the L&B benefitted from a level of publicity at birth which left similar sized companies in the shade. Add to that the popularity of Lynton & Lynmouth (my own first point of contact with the then moribund line back in 1964 and nearly evey year until '72), an area steeped in the Lorna Doone mythos and we may be part way to an explanation. My grandmother, aunt and uncle all knew the L&B as a working railway and all three were still mourning it's demise 30 years later. I hope it's not too much longer before I can renew that family connection. With the increased tourism these days (thank you the M5!) and the National Park status of Exmoor, the prospects today seem way better than the old line could have dreamt. Let's hope so!

    About 35 years ago, I undertook a pilgrimage to see the remains of the L&MVLR. Although the Hamps and Manifold valleys are lovely, for tourists at least, they are rather eclipsed by nearby Dovedale. The line itself lived and died in relatively unsung obscurity with the principal commercial efforts, certainly by LMS days, being largely confined to the profitable dairy traffic to and from Ecton creamery, the demise of which doomed the line. When I was there in the summer (!) of 1981, Wetton Mill lived up to it's name. It started raining while I was 'investigating' the "Light Railway" at Hulme End ... quite thoroughly as it turned out, it was still pi**ing down 4 hours later. Thank Bob Swainsley Tunnel, on the section now used as a road, is dryer than Sharpthorne! The campsite at Wetton looked like a water meadow by the start of Day 2! The dozens of photos taken were lost in a move about 25 years ago, which with my photographic skills is less of a tragedy than it may sound. Even today, roads in the area aren't brilliant and public transport near non-existent. Great area for yer actual 'outdoors activities' types, but not really family holiday territory.

    The C&MLR is one I've only read up on, but without the pleasure steamers of the pre-WWII years, it's a pretty remote place which you wouldn't come upon through chance alone. Unless there were a concerted effort by tourism interests, the chances of ever seeing a narrow gauge railway round those parts again are as close to zero as makes no odds, unfortunately.
     
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  3. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Don't know to what extent it was significant, but was there any other narrow gauge railway in the country that had a direct cross-platform connection to through trains to London? I wonder whether there is an element of the tail end of the L&B just catching a period of enhanced leisure time in the 1920s and 1930s in which even the modestly affluent could catch a direct service from London, transfer to a quaint little train and spend a week's holiday at Lynton? Conceivably that led to more people becoming familiar with the line, and in later years mythologising it to a degree.

    I suspect as well that it is a little different from many other lines in that there was something of a mainline ambience, i.e. operation by one of the "Big 4" with a smart livery; mainline signalling and so on. Whether it was true or not, it always seemed to appear to be a very smart, albeit miniature, railway; quite distinct from the dilapidated nature of some other narrow gauge and light railways of the time.

    Tom
     
  4. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    That sent me scuttling to my Bradshaw. The answer ... yes. The Southwold, at Halesworth. Just over 3h20m from Liverpool St.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
  5. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    I had a book about the Welsh narrow gauge railways. There was a sepia tinted photograph of Aberglaslyn pass, and a short spiel about the Welsh Highland. Pretty much said exactly that.
     
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  6. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Aye. There's a photo in "The Festiniog Railway Vol.2" of "Merddin Emrys" crossing the road towards Britannia Bridge with caption "A sight Portmadoc (sic) will not see again". Never say never, eh?

    I gave some thought to the C&M last year. A couple of thoughts came to mind (1) A vision of a Whisky sampling train and (2) That Brake 3rd really needed luggage doors on both sides.

    As lovely as the Barclay 0-6-2t locos were, sheer size would preclude recreating the design for use on either existing 2'-3" gauge line and if built to 2'-6" gauge (AIUI the originals were built to be readily convertible), I doubt the design would be any use on the W&LLR (let's face it, only that line's original BP locos are really suited), leaving the S&KLR and Great Whipsnade as the only two places where they could currently earn a crust. No suitable location in their native Scotland comes to mind, though maybe some of our number north of the border may know of somewhere with potential.

    It's near impossible to imagine that last few miles of the Mull of Kintyre ever attracting enough of "the right sort of" tourists to make the line vaguely viable, although I'd dearly love to be proved wrong.

    If there's much more to be said about the C&M, we'd best not impose further on the patience of L&B followers and track down or start an appropriate thread, but I honestly can't expand much on what's been said already.
     
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  7. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    The C&M design ought to do as well as any non-total adhesion type on the W&LLR, whilst the total weight of the L&M type was rather disproportionate to the adhesive weight available. The latter was a modification of the Barsi 0-8-4T and, provided the curvature could be coped with, it is rather a pity the same design was not adopted in Staffordshire.

    Paul H
     
  8. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    From an adhesion viewpoint, certainly no worse than 'Joan', though I stand by my point that nothing is a suited to the line as it's own original locos ('Sir Drefaldwyn' comes closest, but is a bit too butch for it's own undercarriage!). Thinking of the guest locos which have struggled on Golfa Bank (I noted no images of 'Superb' taking trains from Welshpool unassisted on it's recent visit), I suspect the boiler proportions of the Barclay wouldn't be best suited. Take a bow Beyer Peacock ... with a special mention for the Swindon boiler (but not the Swindon injectors!).

    Although the L&MVLR had a 1:40 climb on the final approach to Waterhouses, your comment about adhesion is one I agree with. Calthrop's L&M progenitor (the Barsi 0-8-4t) isn't a design I've ever clapped eyes on, but the later 4-8-4t would doubtless lack adhesion too. IIRC, there was a comment that the L&M stock would be too wide for the W&L in any event (pity, I love those balcony carriages). I always thought it a shame that the Welsh line didn't adopt the transporter wagon technology of the L&M. There's an old clip of a std gauge wagon being loaded onto one. It was a swift and painless process.

    One (silent) clip of the L&M, including transporter wagon being loaded:
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  9. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I'd go for a combination of factors. Well publicised, interesting, between two places of interest, via some very good scenery, provoking just enough nostalgia to be remembered properly, and a real part of a main line railway (at least post-1923). Then "that" wreath at closure, capturing a moment and an atmosphere that gives it that "something" to hang on in memory. If memory serves me right, it was also the most ambitious of the English narrow gauge railways in terms of both service and length.

    That's not to knock the others mentioned, but to suggest why the L&B has a particular grab on enthusiasts that the others, however worthy, don't quite have.
     
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  10. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    Quoting Calthrop's "Light Railway Construction"
    "The total wheelbase is 18ft 6ins., but the rigid wheelbase is only 8ft 3ins., which enables the engine to run round extremely sharp curves. The engine and other vehicles are fitted with the Jones-Calthrop Patent Flexible Buffer-Coupling. At the Newlay Exhibition this engine took a train load of 180 tons up a gradient of 1 in 57, occurring on reverse curves averaging 200ft. radius. The curves as laid down were parabolic, and at the sharpest point were equal to a radius of only 175ft. During the trials the weather was generally very bad and the rails greasy, so that the performance, which was repeated many times daily, was a severe test of the powers of the engine. On several accasions the train was stopped on the reverse curves when mounting the gradient, and then re-started without difficulty"
    "On a level straight line, this engine will draw 1,036 tons at 15 miles per hour.
    On the heaviest gradient and curve on the Barsi main line, namely 1 in 100 on 600ft. curve, the engine will haul 291 tons at 8 miles per hour"


    Should have coped with a few milk tanks in Staffordshire then!
     
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  11. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    The "Calthrop System" (best regarded as a whole, due to the many interconnected design features) was undoubtedly ingenious, it also included provision of loco pipework for water lubrication of flanges on tight curves. The only comment I've ever seen about locos and gradients regarding the L&M was that when No.1 "E.R.Calthrop" was returned from repair at Crewe facing Hulme End, there was concern about water levels over the firebox on the 1:40 down from Waterhouses .... unfounded, as it turned out. The heaviest trains with one loco for which I've seen photographic evidence consist of two carriages, the low sided bogie wagon (loaded with milk churns) and two transporters carrying SG milk tankers (one was 6w). Given it was southbound, tankers and churns must have been full. There are a couple of photos of one loco hauling all four carriages, but that seems to have been all too rare. Weighin in at 12t 14cwt (for the open 3rds, compare with just over 9t for the W&L Pickerings), the carriages were pretty substantial.

    I always liked the terminology in the Inspecting Officer's report on the L&M, peppered with words like 'substantial', 'suitable' and 'most satisfactory', this report alone stands as testimony to Everard Calthrop's abilities as an engineer. In India, he is acknowledged as the father of practical NG transport, which undoubtedly resulted in many locations which would never have justified rail services benefitting from improved transport. Quite an achievement. He deserves rather more recognition, including within the railway fraternity.

    When I walked the L&M, the many underbridges (abutments and decking) and Swainsley Tunnel were in remarkably good order. Unfortunately, common consensus is that, now occupied by tarmac footpath and a (rather narrow) road through the tunnel, the L&M will remain "the one that got away".

    The 4-8-4t version designed for Barsi (a line about which I know next to nothing) was also used on the Cyprus Govt Railway (ditto, except I know it it closed 1951 and much of the route is close to, or on, the dividing line between the two halves of the island) were acquired for the 'mountain' extension to Evrykhou (rather drier rail than mid Wales I suspect!), but I know nothing further about what loads were handled, or when they were withdrawn, though none now survive. My observations on adhesion weren't aimed at Calthrop, but rather how any 2-6-4 would cope with a heavy train on a soggy 1:29 climb up Golfa.
     
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  12. Allegheny

    Allegheny Member

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    Wasn't the C&M just a mineral railway to transport coal from a colliery at Machrihanish to the port at Cambelltown?
     
  13. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Although I am not sure about the town section, the rest of the line could and does cope with 8 ft.wide stock, i.e. the Austro-Hungarian standard. Transporter wagons would involve just too much tare weight to be economic. Ironically, the railway does have a transporter now whose duty is to convey a farm tractor with a hedge brushing flail.

    I have always thought the Golfa bank would lay bare the inadequacies of the L & B 2-6-2Ts. How would the "scrawny chickens" cope with 4o tons up a mile of 1 in 29 topped off with multiple check railed reverse curves? Or a summit like a big dipper approached by the low one in thirties on each side?

    Paul H
     
  14. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Originally yes. Dating from 1876, in which form it superceded a canal. Extensively upgraded (and extended into Machrihanish), it opened to passenger traffic in 1906. It sort of faded out rather than close, with the last passenger services running in 1931. The grounded carriage bodies survived at Trench Point near Campbeltown until the mid 60's.
     
  15. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    It would be interesting to get a definite statement from someone on the W&L. With their proclivity for ever popular balcony ended stock, if the C&M or L&M stock were viable choices, a couple of either or each would be a great addition to the British NG story. Forgive me if I still harbour doubts about the suitability of any locos lacking in total adhesion on the tortuous W&L route. "Joan" may well about cope, but the sight of even the BPs struggling for adhesion on Golfa only ever reinforces my own views, even if the sun nearly always shines during a Welsh summer. Adding more driving axles seems to me to be asking for trouble!
     
  16. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Forgive me Howard, but Calthrop has always struck me as a very competent man whom basic railways simply couldn't afford. A "gold plater" who was looking for a showplace for his ideas. For less than the cost of a L&M coach the very slightly more "prosperous" W&L got its complete carriage and wagon fleet. Judging from the replicas, the Pickering carriages provided a perfectly adequate level of comfort.

    Anxious to keep some sort of control over construction costs, the L&M Board instructed Calthrop not to provide the carriages with electric light. They arrived equipped with it!

    Paul H
    (Addendum [With apologies] What I should have said is that for £1,200 less that the L&M paid for its passenger stock, the W&LLR obtained all its passenger and freight equipment)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2017
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  17. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    They also told him not to give armrests to the peasants. He ignored that one too!

    As regards to costs, AIUI the whole point was that the restricted axle load (5 tons for the L&M) gave very significant savings in terms of rail section (35lbs/yd for the L&M, compare with the Talyllyn's 44lbs/yd). This facet is often specifically mentioned in justifying costs of quality rolling stock. The history of pennypinching on so many UK railways shows all too clearly what a false economy that approach too often is. Permit me to cite the tunnels on the Hastings line, some embankments we could all name and many "competatively priced" locos which needed expensive reboilering within a decade as examples in support of this view. The L&M was never saddled with the millstone of unplanned debt which bedevilled the independant L&B. Unfortunately, neither was it saddled with excessive traffic!

    I'd submit that Calthrop's approach stood the test of time very well. Construction of the L&M, certain earthworks aside (for which pre-Calthrop estimates were responsible), came in close to budget, indeed Calthrop is credited with saving an overspent scheme.

    Maintenance of a more modern fleet than the delightfully ramshackle collections on the Colonel's lines must have saved on repair times and costs. Lacking even the repair facilities of Newport, Blodge or even Maespoeth, comment on the L&M carriages in their last season was that, after 30 years, they rode "superbly". The ultimate failure of the L&M was connected purely with lack of traffic. From all accounts, resleepering was the cost element which signed the death warrant following the loss of dairy traffic. I'm not aware of a single instance of large outlay during the line's 30 years life to rectify construction faults. On a line of many river crossings in an area of higher than average rainfall, that's quite telling.

    Calthrop's system was diametrically opposed to that of the Col.Stephens approach, although that gentleman enjoyed a ready supply of obsolete lighter SG stock, on which it's owners were only too glad to realise some small return from disposal. In at least two cases, it was the investment needed to bring lines up to scratch, coupled with numerous ungated crossings, which doomed them.

    The 'shoestring' operation of lines existing on a knife edge was something common to all pre-nationalisation closures, whether to Calthrop or Stephens standards.

    My one criticism of the Calthrop system is, whilst readily suited to open terrain, the neccessity of construction to (slightly over) SG loading gauge made tunnelling an expensive process.
     
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  18. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    There are two main points about this line.

    Firstly it should not have been built at all (as witness the prophetic remarks of the labourer on the opening day).
    Secondly, if it had to have been built, it should have been standard gauge on account of its limited length.

    It is worth remembering that in order to receive a Treasury Grant, a light railway had to be operated by an existing company. If narrow gauge was involved, the light railway would have to meet the capital cost of the stock. In contrast standard gauge stock would be provided by the operating company from their existing fleet and the revenue cost reflected in the financial agreement.

    It would have been perfectly possible to obtain rolling stock which conformed with Calthrops design maxims from any number of reputable UK manufacturers at the time. This was the heyday of supply to light railways in the Empire. It was the extraordinary cost of the carriage stock for this poverty stricken concern which really made me think "funny".

    PH
     
  19. clam1952

    clam1952 New Member

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    There is or was a stretch of 1 in 29 on L&B just before Blackmore, granted not a very long one ;o)
     
  20. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Could be rushed I gather. Impossible to "rush" the Golfa.

    ph
     

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