If you register, you can do a lot more. And become an active part of our growing community. You'll have access to hidden forums, and enjoy the ability of replying and starting conversations.

Edward Thompson: Both sides of the Story. Discussion 2012 - 2019

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

  1. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Messages:
    15,975
    Likes Received:
    22,640
    Location:
    21C102
    The SR has previous experience with derived motion, and had decisively moved away from it in 3 cylinder designs long before OVSB’s arrival.

    As I am sure you are aware, Bulleid’s over-riding desire on the valve gear of his locos was for it to be fully enclosed “like a car gearbox” with the objective of reducing preparation time and I suspect increasing time between overhauls. As is well known, it didn’t quite work out like that (not least because his original intention of gear-driven drive had to be changed to chain-driven for War production reasons over non-availability of suitable gears). But separating intention and execution, it seems clear to me that his intention was to design a solution with improved availability from lower manpower; to that extent he may well have been conditioned on the LNER with experience of the same availability and maintenance issues that caused Thompson to go down an alternate path of rugged simplicity. The end result may have been different, but I think you could make a case that both Thompson and OVSB saw similar issues with the Gresley designs, but took different design approaches, and with differing degrees of success, to try to resolve them.

    Tom

    (PS - re-reading this draft, I noticed my auto-correct has changed “War” for “WSR”. No comment ...)
     
    ragl, MellishR, jnc and 2 others like this.
  2. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Resident of Nat Pres

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2007
    Messages:
    28,875
    Likes Received:
    12,135
    Occupation:
    Training moles
    Location:
    The back of beyond
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I suspect what the SR had done before wouldn't have swayed Bulleid from ploughing his own furrow. As for making a case that Bulleid saw similar issues with the Gresley gear as did Thomson, I disagree. Bulleid's enclosed motion needed a somewhat different approach from both conventional and derived motions. The fact is that all of these people are now dead so without any written evidence from them, it's all supposition as to what they did or didn't think.
     
    60017 likes this.
  3. PoleStar

    PoleStar New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2018
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    22
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    West Midlands
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
     
  4. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2010
    Messages:
    3,149
    Likes Received:
    3,796
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Apprentice Railway Engineer, Children's Author
    Location:
    Sidcup, Kent
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I think the point Tom was making (which is more relevant) was that Bulleid also recognised manpower and materials were an issue, as Thompson did, hence his approach to design (Q1, Pacifics).
     
  5. PoleStar

    PoleStar New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2018
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    22
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    West Midlands
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    According to Nock, British Locos of the 2oth Century, Vol 2 page 108, Thompson originally asked Bulleid to write the report, but he declined.

    Just saying...
     
  6. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2010
    Messages:
    3,149
    Likes Received:
    3,796
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Apprentice Railway Engineer, Children's Author
    Location:
    Sidcup, Kent
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    For which there is no material primary evidence to suggest that Thompson ever asked Bulleid.

    Another Nock-ism, IMO and I say as much in the book.

    My rule of thumb with Nock is that he is useful up to a point but there are several points which have no evidence, or can be easily disproved.

    This is one of them.
     
    ragl likes this.
  7. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2005
    Messages:
    2,796
    Likes Received:
    2,115
    Occupation:
    Once computers, now part time writer I suppose.
    Location:
    SE England
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    That's nonsense. It was a locomotive committee decision. Its in the minutes: I've read the original documents myself. But yes, they did spend over two years looking for a body to take them on before they were eventually scrapped. At the time Stanier was assistant to the London area Divisional Locomotive Superintendant and not even at Swindon!!

    See https://www.devboats.co.uk/gwdrawings/northstarmyth.php for a fuller account.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2018
    ross and S.A.C. Martin like this.
  8. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2010
    Messages:
    3,149
    Likes Received:
    3,796
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Apprentice Railway Engineer, Children's Author
    Location:
    Sidcup, Kent
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    It's funny isn't it Jim? I'm working from much the same sort of reference material as you have, and it never fails to amaze me how much there is that is absolute myth written by outside sources talking about railways.
     
    ragl, jnc and Jimc like this.
  9. jnc

    jnc Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2012
    Messages:
    774
    Likes Received:
    823
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Western Atlantic
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Odd that he felt that way, given his involvement in the report!

    Noel
     
    S.A.C. Martin likes this.
  10. huochemi

    huochemi Member Friend

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    1,847
    Likes Received:
    800
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    UK
    Not necessarily. Cox was writing his memoirs some years after the event by when he was party to the bigger picture and no doubt "now it can be told" gossip. Re the Thompson job offer, Cox also notes that many years later, he learned that "[the job] was [related to] one more of Thompson's many internal wars".
     
  11. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2010
    Messages:
    3,149
    Likes Received:
    3,796
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Apprentice Railway Engineer, Children's Author
    Location:
    Sidcup, Kent
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Totally agree Noel - given Cox did not exactly pull any punches in his report.

    I have said as much in this thread quite a few times. It does amuse to be accused of revisionism but a number of the key players involved have done a little of their own in revisionism.

    If I may point out that Cox was entirely aware of the reports intended scope, the audience it was intended for, and why Thompson had asked for it.

    It was I dare say easier for Nock and Cox to interpret events for their own ends after Thompson had passed.

    But that’s merely speculative: the fact remains that there’s no evidence of any involvement by Bulleid in the reports creation, and Coxs words on Thompson seem rather contradictory given his language and tone and assessments in his own report.
     
  12. 60525

    60525 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2006
    Messages:
    390
    Likes Received:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    I have seen it on record that OVSB wanted Caprotti for the MNs but a design could not be produced in time.
     
  13. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    932
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Isn’t there some criticism of Collett and Hawksworth for a lack of innovation. Of all the interwar CMEs Collett is rarely discussed. Which I think is a shame. He is the beige wallpaper of CMEs

    So, let us say Thompson had continued Gresley, it seems to me that he would be criticised just as harshly with hindsight for not attempting to get to grips with the problems facing the LNER.

    I know this is morbid but the ecliptic language about Gresley’s death is a source of frustration. It seems to me judging from above there is maybe more to the story than is normally written. How much time did the LNER have to plan for succession? Was it as sudden as Lord Stamp as is presented or was Gresley terminally ill for a while (even a few weeks or months gives you some time to work out what is to be done and this is a miles away from ‘X died last night, what do we do now’)
     
  14. PoleStar

    PoleStar New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2018
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    22
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    West Midlands
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    The Caprotti proposal for the MN is mentioned in HAV Bulleid's book on his father, which contains many interesting snippets.

    In Day-Lewises biography of OVB, it is stated that Gresley was invited to the naming of Channel Packet but was too ill to attend, and died three weeks later.

    Incidentally, both books indicate that OVB was friendly with Thompson.
     
    60525 likes this.
  15. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2010
    Messages:
    3,149
    Likes Received:
    3,796
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Apprentice Railway Engineer, Children's Author
    Location:
    Sidcup, Kent
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I have always felt there was definitely more to the story than is otherwise written. In Peter Grafton's book on Thompson it is related how Gresley would go round to the Thompsons occasionally after the death of his wife (both at that time lived in and around London) and there are other sources reporting how Gresley would throw himself more and more into his work. The V4s alongside the electrics would be the last locomotives Gresley oversaw the development of.

    So, please take this with the biggest pinch of salt you can. I have no proof for this hypothesis. However it strikes me as surprisingly quick that Thompson would take on the role of CME within a two week period. In that two week period, the LNER are supposed to have made approaches to other CMEs and engineers and conducted interviews/etc. All of which in the normal course of board matters (like, for example, when a chief of electrical was hired) would be listed in the board minutes and an outcome given.

    There's no such notes to that effect in the Emergency Board notes. What we actually have is Gresley's obituary, an acknowledgement of his work - and then Thompson's appointment at the same meeting directly after.

    I do not personally believe - given the LNER board and the Emergency Board's record on such matters - that anyone other than Thompson was considered for the LNER role. He was - again in my opinion - intended to be a stop gap by the LNER board.

    This works if you consider that on his appointment he was told that further locomotive development was not required.

    His role had been reduced, particularly the electrical side of things, the LNER board did not seem aware there were problems. Why else would you hire the next most senior engineer in the company to be the CME for the time being? Put simply, to act as a stop gap whilst you look for the next true successor.

    This also makes sense - to me anyway - when you consider that Thompson had the depth of experience and knowledge to simply "steady the ship", as it were, during the war.

    What the board seemed to expect was that Thompson would just carry on as is - I sense, though again it is my interpretation and I have no material proof - the board were genuinely surprised to hear they had maintenance problems throughout their fleet and that the new CME felt strongly about what should happen next.
     
    60525, ragl, ross and 3 others like this.
  16. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2005
    Messages:
    2,796
    Likes Received:
    2,115
    Occupation:
    Once computers, now part time writer I suppose.
    Location:
    SE England
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    You could argue, though, that if Gresley had been as good as Collett at the boring tedious stuff of improved manufacture and better detail design and lubrication, all the things the enthusiast can't see, then the LNER would have been in a rather better place when Thompson took over. According to Cook the design features that eventually sorted out the middle bearing problems were all improvements made under Collett's direct supervision, the original Churchward era designs were not quite satisfactory in service. Gresley was undoubtedly a better and more innovative designer, but there's a very sound argument that Collett was the better engineer. Of course no-one can be the best at everything!
     
    robpalmer, jnc, Robin and 8 others like this.
  17. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2018
    Messages:
    932
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Here, there, everywhere
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    No I do not currently volunteer
    Charles Collett: Both sides of the story. Coming to an Internet forum near you soon :)

    I do actually think that of all the interwar CMEs Collett gets the least amount of attention, over shadowed by Churchward.

    Also something of an ‘aloof’ personality, rebuilt Great Bear as noted... if @S.A.C. Martin wants to reappraise other engineers as next book then Collett wouldn’t be a bad choice.
     
    MellishR and johnofwessex like this.
  18. 8126

    8126 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    614
    Likes Received:
    510
    Gender:
    Male
    I have been thinking in that context that E.S. Cox's report was a missed opportunity for Thompson, in that he got the wrong person from the LMS to write the report. Cox was a concept design and testing man, which is all very well when you need a new school of design (although it seems Thompson had very clear ideas on what he wanted there). When you have availability problems on a grand scale in a fleet that exists, what you really need is someone with an eye towards detail design and works practice. Ivatt, with works management and divisional mechanical engineer responsibilities, might have produced a more immediately useful set of recommendations, if the LMS had been able to spare him for a while.

    There's simply no way of rebuilding a fleet on a massive scale in a short time under wartime conditions, but you can trickle in detail improvements much faster and cheaper, especially if the bit that needs improving keeps failing and needing repair. But other than major rebuilds of small numbers of engines, and putting 100A boilers on the B17 to make the (more powerful) B17/6, Thompson doesn't seem to have introduced any significant modifications to large numbers of Gresley engines, targeted at dealing with the known reliability issues as best as possible within the existing concept, or caught some of the workshop shortcuts which were exacerbating problems. I'm thinking in particular of the shortcuts taken on axlebox machining, which improved throughput but led to more hot boxes, thus creating a demand for more throughput, and so the circle continued until after the war. If the Gresley 3-cylinder machines were disproportionately affected by that, I suspect they were also disproportionately represented on the LNER's most arduous duties at the time.
     
  19. ragl

    ragl Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    Messages:
    1,609
    Likes Received:
    747
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Consultant Engineer
    Location:
    Shropshire
    Aaaaand, after all of these years with nearly 2500 posts on this thread, it amazes me that probably half of those posts have come from myth
    proselytizers whom, by the very nature of their posts, potentially suffer from the same, supposed emotional deficiencies that ET has so often been accused of having. That you have taken them on, risen above the relentless thread crapping and presented, sound, cogent and expertly researched evidence to the contrary, is truly commendable. I, for one, thank you for your persistence and enlightenment as to the fact that a railway isn't run from the platform end, with a Combined Volume, pencil and duffel bag.......


    Cheerz,

    Alan
     
    60525, pete2hogs, Forestpines and 9 others like this.
  20. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2010
    Messages:
    3,149
    Likes Received:
    3,796
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Apprentice Railway Engineer, Children's Author
    Location:
    Sidcup, Kent
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Thank you Alan for your kind words. I’m not sure I can put into words quite what that means to me.

    I think I’d like a year off from writing first...!

    But who knows. I might even be looking at writing a book on something closer to home.
     
    paullad1984 likes this.

Share This Page