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

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

  1. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    That’s one word for it :)
     
  2. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    She is but roll on 35011 in original form. Then we'll see what a real Merchant is capable of. ;)
     
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  3. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    In any question of comparison between Gresley and Thompson I am often reminded of the oft-quoted saying from the computer world where I worked before retirement :

    When attempting to escape from the crocodile it is often forgotten that the main task was to drain the lake !

    In the current scenario it appears to this (interested) observer that Gresley was looking long term but dealing with things based on the previous 30 years experience whilst Thomson was instructed by the LNER Board to deal with outstanding issues as a priority thus leaving future needs to one side. IMHO it was easier for the Board to instruct a "new" CME rather than a long-standing one with a host of credits to his name hence one presumes that any comparison of the 2 men needs a consideration of the authority both had from the Board to make - and take - decisions.
     
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  4. Hicks19862

    Hicks19862 Member

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    Always think it’s a shame a few more of the stationary boiler B1s didn’t make it to Barry.
     
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  5. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    One could argue that the original form Bulleids are much better locomotives in preservation than they were for the Southern, since the major flaws - high cost of ownership and high coal consumption - are much less of a problem than they were when a fleet had to be maintained, and the virtues - free steaming and distinctive appearance - are arguably more important. This isn't the place though, sorry.
     
  6. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    So true. Different situation, different brief leading to a different outcome. There you are - the book in a sentence!
     
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  7. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    You tease Al! :)
     
  8. ross

    ross Member

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    Even the most ardent “original Bulleid” fanboy must admit, will admit, that as built, there were elements of Bulleid's designs which were not wholly successful-self immolating oil baths for example. The Leaders were also a bit of a trip as an M7 replacement. Very expensive and not entirely successful.

    One can state these facts, and many authors have in their books over the years. One can form the view that Bulleid was ahead of his time, ahead of lubricant technology, or just a bit ahead of himself.

    That there are still unrebuilt light pacifics means that not the whole of Bulleids legacy was over-written, and the rebuilt locomotives owe their fantastic steaming ability, and a good deal of their looks to their original designer.

    The rebuilds were done to address certain perceived shortcomings in the Southern locomotive fleet. And the rebuilds were, importantly for the impashioned enthusiast, attractive machines. No-one has ever suggested it was because Jarvis took against Bulleid's spamcan styling and out of malice, and wished to rid Nine Elms of his influence.

    One can state similar facts about the Dean-Churchward succession, the Churchward-Collett succession, the Fowler-Stanier Succession, and the views can be debated from an engineering/aesthetics/performance/oh but that was my favourite as a kid/ viewpoint and still remain friends, but everything I ever read about Gresley-Thomson makes Thomson out as the most mean minded and bungling CME the world has ever known. I certainly believed that until this thread started.

    Not challenging that is facile. One might as well agree with the news journalists who claim the Flying Scotsman is the oldest/fastest/most powerful train in the world.
     
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  9. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    I have no axe to grind one way or the other on this. Whilst my post #2626 was in jest, the context definitely is not. Without dragging this thread away from its focus too much, I think that many will acknowledge that Bulleid was under some constraints of materials when he designed his Pacifics but he had the luxury of starting this work before WW2. Thompson did not although both were subject to similar circumstances of the time. The other difference of course is that Thompson followed someone who could do no wrong and by all accounts Thompson was not 'on the same page' as SNG. Actually, neither was Bulleid but he didn't make a big deal of it and he cherry-picked some ideas whilst making changes - for example, on a relatively trivial point, he decided that cylinder drain cock controls were best on the driver's side.

    What I'm saying is that your 'the most mean minded and bungling CME the world has ever known' is the sort of hyperbole and nonsense that gets a meaningful discussion a bad name. And from the point of view of this thread I can understand why any researcher needs to ask questions that might be anathema to a Gresley devotee if only to dismiss the question at a later date as a blind alley or simply a false question.
     
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  10. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I think you are doing @ross a bit of a disservice - he wrote:

    (My emphasis)

    In other words, the comment about “mean minded and bungling” having read the debate isn’t his formulation, but for a long time has been the received wisdom.

    It is Thompson’s tragedy that, it seems uniquely amongst CMEs, he has been at the receiving end of an unashamedly partisan and unjustified interpretation of his legacy by later authors, who seem largely to have thrown objectivity aside, for reasons that aren’t clear.

    Tom
     
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  11. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    It is interesting to speculate what mr Jarvis could have made of P2 white elephants if he had not been posted to Turkey to support Stannier 2-8-0 against german 2-10-0
     
  12. Cartman

    Cartman Member

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    You can't describe Thompson as bungling, he did design the excellent B1, in my opinion the LNER's most versatile and useful loco.
     
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  13. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    He wouldn't have made anything of them as he was an LMS man and would have had no influence over Thompson's LNER loco policy.
     
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  14. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    It was just a thought.
    The Gresley/Thompson debate for me boils down to could Thompson have made a better P2 rebuild than the A2/2?
    B1´s were better than Sandringhams.
    And according to Cox also smarter than V4s.
    In Germany good old pre-WW1 P8 4-6-0 outdid post WW2 -BR23 2-6-2s.
    This indicates to me that Thompson was a better engineer than Gresley.
    LMS got Stannier from outside as did Southern with Bulleid so promoting Jarvis to LNER was unlikely but not against the law.
     
  15. huochemi

    huochemi Well-Known Member Friend

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    Assuming you are focusing on Thompson's decisions as a CME, rather than a broader biography including whether he was kind to children and animals (it seems that ET was not someone who people warmed to, unlike Gresley and Peppercorn, but I assume you are not seeking to challenge that by saying that everyone misunderstood him?) this really boils down to whether ET's substantive decisions were justified in the circumstances (and justified may mean that it was one of several equally valid decisions that could have been taken), and I think from your posts on here you can show that.

    I think you are on difficult ground if you try to argue that someone's perception is wrong (as a philosophical point, can a perception be wrong?), and it seems to me that you need to make a distinction between enthusiast literature, and comments from people who worked with Thompson (e.g. Cox) or were party to gossip in the echelons of LNER power (Bonavia). These latter do not need to justify their comments, they are almost certainly their perceptions based on their own dealings and/or what was said by others around them or in the directors' mess, but such comments are more humorous than an indictment of ET's decision-making. In the organisation I worked for, it was common knowledge that the Chairman at the time did not like one of the senior managers and referred to him as the "ELF", an acronym for "evil little f*****". That was factual to the extent that he was diminutive, but it was no judgement on the latter's professional abilities.

    In case you think I am biased against ET, I would prefer to see a replica A2/2 than a P2.;)
     
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  16. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    Me too
     
  17. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I don’t think there is any doubt that Thompson was a difficult man. No argument from me.

    I do think a lot of the “Machiavellian campaign” quotes can be dispensed with though. If we accept there were genuine issues, and Thompson was tasked with resolving those issues, and also see that he couldn’t (and didn’t want to) “rid the LNER of Gresley” then we should absolutely correct the record on that.

    From my POV, Thompson the man isn’t the enigma he’s purported to be. He’s just a man, with an opinion, trying to do his job in a very bloody war. Like pretty much everyone else.

    No time for nostalgia, no time for tact. Very little time and plenty to do.
     
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  18. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Like Cox and Stanier...?
     
  19. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    That's some assertion given that they operated in quite different environments and thus had quite different priorities and remits.
     
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  20. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    They didn't influence him. He simply used their report to justify what he was going to do anyway.
     

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