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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. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I think that's a very loco centric view though, in particular it ignores electrification (where there was a single strategy). It's a bit like saying "there was an abnormally high death rate amongst young men between 1939 and 1945" without discussing the war. Taken in isolation, the loco policy was really one of "managed decline"; given the very different circumstances on the Eastern, central and western sections, not to mention very different loading gauges, there wasn't a lot of scope for widespread loco standardisation (à la Swindon); in the circumstances, the loco policy was pretty rational. Over time, infrastructure improvements gradually allowed locos to travel off their "home" section which, together with the decreasing numbers of locos needed as passenger trains changed to electric traction allowed rationalisation of the loco fleet to a degree, but not the wholesale rationalisation of elsewhere.

    On the question of strife, the SR does seem to have been remarkably free from the damaging politics seen elsewhere; and the company as a whole seemed to build a distinctively "Southern" esprit de corps very quickly, rather than retaining very strong pre-grouping identity. To a very large degree, the credit for that must lie with HA Walker, in my opinion the pre-eminent railway manager of the twentieth century.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
  2. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    That's a little unfair surely ? The GWR suffered little problem as it remained with most of its pre-Grouping area plus some small indecent lines whilst the LNER simply concentrated routes already being worked over. AIUI the LNER problem was that the smaller companies (GCR, NBR, NER) elected not to build new locos to replenish locos suffering from the workload caused by WWI but decided to let such decisions and effort become the responsibility of the new LNER - and its new CME. A potential conflict was in the NER's development of electric traction but Gresley allowed Raven to continue with his work - even to the extent of letting Raven become the LNER ambassador for future schemes. Sadly the financial position forced not only the suspension of such schemes but the reversion of the Newport - Shildon to steam traction when the infrastructure became due for renewal. That piece of history - however - is tangential to the consideration of Thompson and his contribution to the LNER locomotive fleet.
     
  3. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    The only indecent line I know of is the Epping and Ongar following that notorious film. :)
     
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  4. ross

    ross Member

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    Well I did start out by claiming a good deal of ignorance, and I don't know much about the Southern. I like the phrase "esprit de corps". The Southern seems to have been a very good, efficient, prosperous and effective company, but without the "we are simply the Best" arrogant pride that characterises some organisations. I wasn't meaning locomotive policy(but had completely ignored the electrification thing), rather that it wasn't a case of the LSWR taking over the other 3 companies in a "hostile new management" regime
     
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  5. bluetrain

    bluetrain New Member

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    I think the records show that there was a fair amount of new locomotive construction by the LNER constituent companies in the years after WW1. Surprisingly, even the Great Eastern, not a wealthy company, had a relatively modern fleet, although due to weight and turntable restrictions it had not been able to introduce such large and heavy locomotives as found elsewhere.

    The situation was different on the North British, where there seemed to have been under-investment for some time and many very old engines, some dating from the Wheatley period (1867-74) urgently required replacement. Gresley arranged for 100 extra engines to go to the NB section in 1924-25 - 76 transfers from the GN, GC & NE sections, plus 24 new-build of GCR D11-class, followed of course by ROD 2-8-0s as they were purchased from the government [info from RCTS].
     
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  6. LesterBrown

    LesterBrown Member

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    Leaving aside the accusations of indecency against the Taff Vale, Cambrian etc. the NER is supposed to be smaller than what exactly?
     
  7. Cartman

    Cartman Member

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    Yes, I've always thought that the Southern was quite a well run, well managed outfit. I actually think that out of the big four, it would have carried on quite easily on its own and if nationalisation had not happened
     
  8. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    I seem to recall reading somewhere that Southern and GW managements were 'up for' opposing nationalisation, but as neither the LMS nor LNER were in any financial state to continue (certainly without the levels of financial support which wouldn't be forthcoming at the time), the whole idea was stillborn.
     
  9. Cartman

    Cartman Member

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    Yes I’ve heard that too. The Western might have been able to tough it out too, but the other two were in trouble and needed the bail out
     
  10. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Thank you for this post. Looking at the Emergency Board minutes I feel that the retention of the name was given some importance - but quite far into the re-design and rebuild.

    I find it interesting that people will accept that the LNER board chose the names for specific locomotives including SNG and AH Peppercorn but will point the finger at Thompson for Great Northern. No consistency in understanding or approach.

    On a side note, Thompson didn't like naming locomotives - the board overruled his suggestion of "Utility" for the prototype B1, picking Springbok instead. Quite glad that they did!

    I don't know of any company in the last hundred years whereby the man at the top has complete overall control and responsibility for absolutely every detail and job within a company.

    Do you believe that Gresley and Thompson had authority to change timetables? To affect the training of staff at stations?

    I think fundamentally most railway writers and enthusiasts have completely misunderstood, sometimes naively, sometimes deliberately, what the Chief Mechanical Engineer role is and what the CME can actually do.

    The CME role was about putting in place policy. It was about organising teams and setting templates for the railway's different engineering departments to follow. Individual sheds, individual works and regions came under the responsibility of different people.

    No one person ever has overall responsibility for everything within a company.

    The more I read the board minutes, the more I realise how restricted the CME role actually is in terms of the finer details. There's a very good argument that can be made that Gresley, Thompson's and Peppercorn's successes/failures with locomotives are more down to the individuals who were entrusted with the finer details of their broad criteria for new designs.

    Anyone who legitimately believes Edward Thompson selected 4470 for rebuilding is wrong and fundamentally doing him a disservice.
     
  11. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Musgrave was the Southern areas locomotive superintendent. A role that has been little written about, not widely known, or understood IMO.

    Individual sheds would submit locomotives for shopping and the locomotive superintendents would approve this.

    The CME would order a rebuilding for a prototype, and the superintendent would look at the locomotives available and approve one for rebuilding.

    That is how the LNER worked, and that is what happened with 4470.

    Dick Hardy originally brought this to light and the national archives have shed more light on this for me.
     
  12. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    The K5 is an interesting loco. It was built as a comparison to the K4 rebuild, K1 (later K1/1).

    Thompson wanted a go anywhere 2-6-0. The K5 was a reasonable locomotive and it also had a reasonable working life. It ultimately was a very involved rebuild (new frames, wheels, cylinders, valve gear and boiler in fact) so no more K3s were rebuilt. However, the boiler designed for it - diagram 96A (from memory) - was built in several batches and fitted to K3s as and when their boilers were life expired. So not the complete failure or loss that others would claim.

    Ultimately the K4 rebuild proved a better locomotive overall during testing and Peppercorn continued that development with his K1 (using the single bar valve gear of the L1 plus cutaway running plate).

    No.206, the lone K5, was scrapped in the 60s. Not a bad return on the investment for rebuilding.
     
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  13. Muzza

    Muzza New Member

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    No, but I didn’t even come close to suggesting they did. However as CME, locomotives did come under his remit.

    Simon, it may be increasing frustration on your part, but I have seen the tone of your posts on this thread (long it may be) change from polite and respectful for the most part to increasingly strident to anyone who may offer an alternative opinion.

    I know you have been on a journey of discovery and you have opened many eyes. But in the same way that you discount the previously popular view of ET, not everyone will agree with every point you make.

    I wish you well in the publication of the book.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
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  14. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I apologise if you feel my response to you was strident. It wasn’t intended to be.

    I thought long and hard about how I framed that response and I felt the best way to approach it was to frame a few questions and talk about how it actually worked.

    It certainly wasn’t meant to be rude: more informative. I will try to be less “strident”.

    I will say this - I have had a lot of things thrown at me on this thread, including “liar” and worse.

    I don’t think it’s entirely fair to state I have gone from polite and respectful to strident. I have always tried to remain polite in my responses.

    Perhaps the difference is, that I am more willing to fight my corner with facts and I am less tolerant of going over old ground.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
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  15. 30567

    30567 Part of the furniture Friend

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    There's truth in that. A couple of comments though.

    It's often said that the railways operated on the military command model. There are numerous examples within that structure of intervention from above, sometimes completely inappropriate, sometimes crucial.

    Let's try a thought experiment

    ET 'Are we ready to go ahead with the rebuild?'

    Musgrave ' Yes sir. It's all ready at the Plant and the next one off the cab rank is 4470, going in next Wed.'

    ET Option one ---- 'Fine, keep me posted'

    Option two ----- '4470 hang on a sec are you trying to get me crucified on Nat Pres? Can't you find another one? Or at least swap the plates?'

    Looking forward to the chapter on ET's personal style and diplomatic skills with interest!

    I expect lots of us have seen what happens when mere mortals have to succeed legends in their time, especially when circumstances have changed in the meantime. Not easy.
     
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  16. Cartman

    Cartman Member

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    David Moyes following Alex Ferguson springs to mind
     
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  17. 30567

    30567 Part of the furniture Friend

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    Funny that, I nearly wrote McGuinness and Busby!
     
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  18. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Oh Thompson was difficult, for sure. He had been in the military during WW1 (and present at a number of particularly grim battles) and it is a matter of record that he was quick to react. If you take it all in the round, and look at what was being said about him, I feel you see a man quick to anger, quick to calm, normally rational on many things but a difficult so and so when putting his own ideas forward.

    He was on the side of reducing maintenance and simplifying manufacturing. He spent a lot of time on the shop floor throughout his career and likely this had an affect on his behaviour.

    Gresley was also difficult in a number of ways - it is clear that he and Thompson argued on a number of occasions - but they were both strong personalities, with opinions, and were engineers. I would be amazed if people didn't generally disagree, and sometimes strongly, with each other when in such roles.
     
  19. Cartman

    Cartman Member

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    I believe Webb was difficult too. I read somewhere once that he took a dislike to a drawing of a part that someone in the drawing office had done and he ripped it up, threw the bits on the floor, then went round, stamping his foot on each one in turn!
     
  20. Cartman

    Cartman Member

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    Moyes and McGuinness were both disasters though, maybe Big Ron or Tommy Doc who were moderately successful are better analogies to Thompson!
     
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