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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. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    There is an argument, though, that if one element of a design copes with adverse conditions much less well than the rest of the machine then that can be said to indicate a design weakness. The counter argument is that *something* has to be the first to fail unless the original design was hopelessly over engineered.
     
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  2. mdewell

    mdewell New Member

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    and we all know how easily the 'facts' can change on NP. :D
     
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  3. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Wow! So we have gone from "Thompson chose that loco as a snub to Gresley" to "A devoted Gresley fan in the works chose a notable loco because he was certain that the rebuild would be unsuccessful and therefore would discredit Thompson in the eyes of future enthusiasts".

    How about "a loco was required. A loco was selected"? Why does there have to be some great plot to explain the actions, when a simple process of getting on with the job explains things with much less supension of belief required?

    Tom
     
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  4. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    ...and people wonder why I’m writing the book!
     
  5. Sheff

    Sheff Well-Known Member

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    I'm not disputing the war-time measures Simon, but somewhere above, and in many other places, it is alleged that the 2:1 gear was inferior to separate sets of gear, which I totally disagree with from a practical point of view. Yes the valve events might be fractionally less accurate, but in real world terms this is of no significance. The number of moving parts is far less, and the ease of maintenance is far superior. This being the case I would have continued its use for new builds after the war, with suitable training at the sheds if this were a problem.
     
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  6. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I’ve never alleged that the gear was inferior, to be fair.

    My view (which still stands) is that there’s nothing inherently wrong with 2:1 gear provided it has sufficient maintenance.

    My point (which has developed over time) is that we have sufficient evidence to show the 2:1 engines were struggling in WW2. We are trying to rationalise why. Which is proving a multi factored, complex and interesting discussion in fairness.

    I would however disagree on the valve events point. The more time I spend with ‘28 the more I appreciate the inequality of the 2:1 gear and why three sets onto one axle was probably the best setup we got in this country re Pacifics.
     
  7. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    And as has been said many times, G A Musgrave selected 4470. Dick Hardy confirmed this on several occasions.

    I personally think the GN story has been twisted in several ways by a few select writers to suit a party line, but hey...can of worms!
     
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  8. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    But isn't there an argument that if you need suitable training at the sheds and a special maintenance schedule then the ease of maintenance isn't superior?
     
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  9. Eightpot

    Eightpot Member

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    Is it really so difficult to get across the point that there are eight grease nipples that need attending to in front of the cylinders and reasonably accessible, compared with a greater number that require oiling between the frames that are only accessible from a pit?
     
  10. Hermod

    Hermod New Member

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    Best reason for three cylinders is lack of hammerblow when doing more than 5-6 rev per second..
    Number of parts is not important but total mass of moving elements is.
    At speed conjugation is bad.
    As someone said that if You have to serve mid crank bearing it will be no big deal to lube a Walscharts as well.
    It somehow boils down to that Gresley wanted to drive the mid driver set and thus being forced to use conjugation for space considerations.
    Bulleid followed and made wilder things.
    Most other multicylinder locomotives in England drove frontset partly or fully.
     
  11. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    Apologies if you failed to realise that my Machiavellian thought was said partly tongue in cheek; as Simon has noted the choice was made by Musgrave and - since no-one thought to ask his rationale - the best assumption to be made is that either (a) it was pure co-incidence or (b) 4470 was the next locomotive in the line-up to receive attention. No great plot BUT indicates Simon's problem in sifting facts from rumour hence I await the publication of the book with interest.
     
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  12. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    So if the difficulty is separating fact from rumour, why needlessly speculate about the motivation of an unknown person for which there is precisely no factual basis at all?

    Surely you of all people as a journalist must realise the importance of checking sources and verifying facts?

    Tom
     
  13. MellishR

    MellishR Well-Known Member Friend

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    Isn't Fred speculating that there was no particular motivation ― the same as Simon has argued?
     
  14. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    Well that depends. I think we have to be wary of over simplification.
    If one the one hand its, I dunno,

    lets say fifteen oiling points between the frames that you've got to go between anyway, using the same oilcan you already have,
    as opposed to
    going back to the stores, getting the special grease gun, filling it up, going back to the locomotive, greasing the 8 nipples, then taking the grease gun back to the stores

    which do you think is more likely to be skipped?
     
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  15. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    Now I stress that I don't know enough about the LNER maintenance routine to draw any conclusions.

    The sort of thing that needs to be considered is what exactly needed to be done, whether there were any checks done of things like brake gear while between the frames, all these things add up. There were non-technical things too: who was allowed to do what - don't forget in those days there could be strict rules about who could do what task based on union agreements - which tasks were piece work (so no money saving for the company by reducing the time taken), all sorts of complications that may be very hard to find out about. For instance I know that on the GWR loco preparation was a piece work task with two rates, for large engines and small engines. So saving 5 minutes on the preparation time of a new class would save the company precisely nothing unless they were prepared to complicate the accounting with more different rates and fight with the unions over getting an agreement. Don't underestimate the latter: again on the GWR the introduction of Hawksworth coaches was delayed for months because two different unions were arguing over who's members should be allowed to do a particular task.
     
  16. huochemi

    huochemi Member Friend

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    Without commenting on the particular contribution, checking sources and verifying facts does involve some subjective judgement on the part of the historian. Here is the offending paragraph in Locos of the LNER Part 2A:
    part 2a.jpg

    IMHO, the Locos of the LNER series is sans pareil in terms of this type of history. It has its faults: it is a bit train-spotter-ish, the images are unimaginative, there are very few shots or drawings of relevant detail, mainly standard roster shots often produced too small to see the detail referred to in the caption etc, and there is what seems to be, the occasional mistake. There was a large editorial team including a few well-known names, which one might have thought would tend to restrict off the wall opinions. Now even if we assume that there was a strong pro-Gresley and anti-Thompson bias amongst the team, it seems that the quoted paragraph was based on information from the chief draughtsman, a source which perhaps not unreasonably was considered to be reliable. However, with their access to material, it should have been possible to investigate at least part of this i.e. that Great Northern was top of the overhaul queue (assuming that the "mechanical grounds" goes to this point), and I think the Locos of the LNER team would have been better to stay off the ropes, and phrase this in terms of "there were suggestions..." or similar, without being dogmatic or lending their reputation to this claim.

    Simon, has I think provided reasonable evidence that ET did not go looking for Great Northern, and that it happened to be ready for overhaul at that time, as one might expect. (he has not persuaded me that ET could do nothing about the choice (assuming the thought even crossed ET's mind), although the whole incident seems a bit of a peccadillo at worst, and rather deflects from a proper analysis of ET's work).
     
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  17. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    I do think that, if you consider the chapters in Part 2A as a whole, that volume seems to have a relatively strong Anti-Thompson tone in its writing that I have not noticed in other parts. Bear in mind that the whole series of books took something approaching 30 years to write, so it's impressive it is as consistent a work as it is
     
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  18. bluetrain

    bluetrain New Member

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    Thank-you for a most interesting post. Mr Martin and other LNER fans should like your Danish 3-cylinder 4-6-0s and 2-8-0s. Remove the pointed smoke-box doors and they would look very similar to certain LNER engines.

    There seems to be very little in English railway literature about the Henschel conjugated valve gear. I have never seen a diagram or full description. A biography of Nigel Gresley by FAS Brown identifies it as being fitted to the first locomotive known to have had conjugated gear - an experimental 3-cylinder variant of the Prussian T14 2-8-2 tank tested on Berlin suburban services in 1913. Mr ES Cox, commenting on the use of the Henschel gear on the Prussian G12 3-cylinder 2-10-0 introduced in 1917, wrote that:

    "The inside valve on all of these engines was driven by a system of cross-shafting, deriving its initial motion from the two outside Walschaert gears, and arranged with vertical arms in two to one proportion which was a different way of arriving at the same effect that Gresley (or rather Holcroft) achieved subsequently in England by a system of levers working horizontally. It can be said at this point that this conjugated gear did not prove ultimately satisfactory, the curse of all such motions being that small wear or distortion at individual pins was capable of producing an altogether disproportionate error in events at the inside valve itself. Its use was not therefore continued for any new designs after 1918."

    I have been looking at photographs of G12 (later DR Class 58) engines that survive in preservation, to see if they still carry the conjugated gear. I think most of them do - the sign is the extra rod extending backwards from the piston valve spindle. The exceptions are the engines rebuilt post-war in East Germany to Class 58.30 where the conjugated gear appears to have been replaced by a a drive from an additional external crank.

    A curious post-script is that, years after the Henschel gear stopped being used for new engines in its native Germany, it was adopted in 1941 for a single locomotive in Australia - the Victorian Railways Class H 3-cylinder 4-8-4.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_Railways_H_class

    An earlier post in this thread by huochemi includes a photo that shows some of the valve gear detail on a model:

    https://www.national-preservation.c...scussion-2012-2019.35938/page-42#post-1087797

    This H-class engine still exists as a static museum exhibit. The Victorian Railways also had some 4-6-2s with Gresley valve gear. VR may have been the only railway company to have used two different forms of conjugated valve gear. I think that Edward Thompson may have been horrified if anyone had suggested that he should try a second type of conjugated gear!
     
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  19. Hermod

    Hermod New Member

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    A Danish class H freigth locomotive.
    First two built by Borsig 1923,ten by Frichs 1926 and further six 1941.
    Same valve gear from 1923 to scrapping in the sixties after an awful lot of tonmiles.

    https://www.jernbanen.dk/Fotos/Damp/DSB_H789_1926.jpg
     
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  20. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Warning: essay follows.

    I have um'd and ah'd over the course of the last day as to whether to respond to this post directly, and whether if doing so would show myself up as having bias.

    I must confess that it has been difficult over the last three to four years to remain fully impartial when writing the book and writing in this thread. As much as I would like to say I am impartial, I am not: I have come to care about Edward Thompson's reputation implicitly and in several ways, I have felt it my duty to correct certain "facts" where the evidence shows something to the contrary.

    We have covered the Great Northern story several times in this thread. If you have the patience to go back to page 1 and read back through to the present day you will see new evidence, new claims, and different points of view are abundant. My own views developed a lot since the early days.

    I no longer believe anything that has been said about the Great Northern build, outside of what Dick Hardy reported, the LNER’s own internal briefs and reports on the engine, and its availability figures and total mileage reported in several locations.

    These are the bare facts:

    • The sole A1/1 was the highest mileage Thompson Pacific by the end of its career.
    • It was a single locomotive that tended to get moved around shed to shed – much like the W1 (as the LNER operated a policy of focusing groups of the same classes of engines to depots, to help standardise somewhat on keeping spares and required manpower, including knowledgeable crews).
    • It was in works more often than a Gresley or Peppercorn Pacific.
    • Its overall availability was better than most of the Gresley A3s, matching closely the A4 Pacifics with which its design is most intrinsically linked.

    • The A1/1 was effectively a double chimney Gresley A4 Pacific with a Thompson front end cylinder/valve gear arrangement. Unlike the other Thompson Pacifics, the middle connecting rod was not the same length as the outside pair.
    • It had a low rate of adhesion – but this rate of adhesion (around 0.37) was like the Bulleid Pacifics and the other Thompson Pacifics. All Pacifics tend to have a low rate of adhesion in some respects, and all Pacifics can and do wheelslip. Great Northern is very well known for one specific incident, which happened during a time in its life when a different regulator type was in use (GCR pull out type) and this is likely to have contributed in some ways to that incident).

    • Great Northern’s cab design was originally different, with a level floor (pre-shadowing the Standard Pacific cabs in several ways) but was converted to be similar to the other Gresley and Thompson Pacifics early on in its career.
    That’s about it really. All other things are anecdotal and most of what is written is either highly dismissive, but without facts or figures.

    The question “did Thompson choose Great Northern or not” is simply answered as “no, he did not”.

    G.A. Musgrave selected the locomotive. It was in works, it was the oldest Pacific, the “rebuild” took apart an older locomotive, splitting it for spares, and reused the bare minimum of parts to enable a new locomotive to be built for comparison and further development (which ultimately did not come to pass).

    Teddy Windle was the chief draughtsman. There are variations of the story with regards him remonstrating with Thompson. None of them are entirely consistent to one another. The big issue is whether you believe the CME could have turned around to the works – already dismantling and rebuilding the locomotive – and told them to stop the work.

    CMEs, the chain of command, Doncaster Works and the general railway world don’t work in the way that many LNER writers describe it. This much is abundantly true if you look at the emergency board notes.

    The CME puts out a spec. His team of designers put together a design from his specification. He approves the drawings. A request is put out for a locomotive to be nominated for the rebuild. The locomotive superintendent shops a locomotive, it goes into works and those tasked with making the new locomotive start work almost immediately.

    Put simply, the drawing office don’t have a direct line to the Works in the way people seem to think they did. By the time news would have reached Windle or Thompson, the die is cast.

    There are photographs of Great Northern being built and it is particularly interesting how quickly it went together from the dismantling.

    Most of the locomotive – which wasn’t exactly original from the 1922 build in any event – went into the pool of spares and were used on other locomotives (frames, boiler, cab). Items that were reused were the driving wheel centres, parts of the cartazzi setup (but not all as Great Northern’s setup was unique amongst the LNER Pacifics) and the tender frames and wheelsets.

    Here is where I think there is a misinterpretation of what happened. And this is entirely speculative on my part.

    Windle and Thompson remonstrate on Great Northern. By the time of this remonstration, Windle and Thompson will be aware that the building of the new locomotive has got to a stage whereby restoring the original engine is likely impossible.

    I contend that the argument is actually about losing the name “Great Northern”. All of Thompson’s Pacifics up to this point have started their lives nameless. Thompson was reluctant in naming locomotives, full stop. He was asked about a name for the B1s and – perhaps tritely – pumped for “Utility”. He was said to be disappointed when “Springbok” emerged.

    It is likely based on his past behaviour and ideas that 4470 might have emerged nameless. This takes a different slant on things. That really would be erasing a part of Gresley’s history.

    Hence Windle may have remonstrated with Thompson over this detail.

    Do we have proof for this? In fact, we have some evidence. The emergency board notes for the new A1/1 note that a locomotive was selected but no name given. There’s no fanfare, no identification of the locomotive’s history. It is just a rebuild of an existing locomotive in line with that suggested by the Cox Report.

    Great Northern emerges from the works with several surprising things.

    It is the first Thompson Pacific to emerge with a name from day one – it is in fact the only one so treated – the names of the A2/2s restored to them each after a period of testing and rebuilding – the A2/1s were named later, to match the A2/2s – the A2/3s get their names after periods of testing. Even no.500 Edward Thompson starts its life nameless and was named later to coincide with Thompson’s retirement at the behest of the LNER board, recognising his service for their company.

    It carries N E on the tender – despite the full LNER being applied from around the same time back onto locomotives after four years of austerity measures. It is also in a version of Great Eastern blue livery.

    It has full electric lighting plus foldable discs. New version of the standard eight-wheel tender. The best parts of the Gresley A4 setup (in Thompson’s eyes) which included much of the main frame design, boiler, and the double kylchap setup.

    We have a very brief report from Dick Hardy in his book “steam in the blood” on Great Northern’s unveiling. It was the last time he saw Edward Thompson, I recall.

    It’s an extraordinary amount of detail and care and attention put onto what was intended to be the LNER’s new A1 Pacific.

    Thompson was not a PR man. That much is made abundantly clear from his views on liveries and names! So why did Great Northern come out like this?

    Perhaps Windle convinced him of some nostalgia and feeling that was being felt around the works and drawing office. Dismay at losing the name, not rebuilding the locomotive.

    There was clear pride in the new locomotive and its building. No, it wasn’t perfect – it suffered similar issues that all Thompson Pacifics had – and of course its unique cab design should have been properly stayed.

    I look at the whole thing in the round, and I feel strongly that perhaps Thompson was convinced into taking the time to consider what it would do for morale if he carried on in the vein he had done previously.

    I don’t think he set out to “destroy Gresley” with the A1/1 design – equally I think he did not have the self-awareness to see how his actions could be perceived.

    Great Northern in her working life was used on a vast number of one-off trains and railtours, a fact well photographed but rarely mentioned by LNER writers. She received all the main liveries including express blue.

    New nameplates with the crests for the Great Northern Railway company were made up and fitted in the 1950s to match the Peppercorn A1s similarly named.

    I think over time the story around Great Northern has been twisted, blown out of proportion, and developed into a Thompson hates Gresley storyline which only suits the agenda of a select few who felt aggrieved at decisions Thompson had taken with them.

    The reality is probably a lot more straightforward: an engineer decided to rebuild an engine and the design was done in a time where nostalgia wasn’t at the forefront of his mind. Another man – his chief draughtsman – reminded him of the importance of this particular locomotive.

    Did Thompson relent? Did the works take it on themselves to paint the locomotive accordingly?

    I find it difficult to believe that anyone other than Thompson would have asked for the GER Prussian blue to be applied – he had a great love of the Great Eastern, particularly given his time at Stratford Works – he had also worked for the Great Northern and North Eastern Railway companies in his life.

    Whatever the truth of it, the rebuilt locomotive did good work, and worked up until 1960. A pretty good record for a one-off locomotive.

    When all’s said and done, we don’t have the physical evidence to claim one way or another.

    We know what is alleged against Thompson – that is written – it is up to the individual to look at the situation in the round, knowing better how things worked in terms of railway works and their drawing offices, and make a decision on what they think happened.

    For my part, I think it highly likely that losing the name Great Northern was a more likely and very real “erasure of Gresley’s history” than the idea that building a new 6ft 8in Pacific design, based on arguably Gresley’s best express locomotive work, and developing it further, is.
     
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