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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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    I think there's a point to be made here that simplifying locomotive maintenance by the very nature of reducing the number of cylinders and oiling points indicates a thinking which says there was likely not going to be the manpower or at the very least, the level of decent manpower post war as pre-war.

    Bulleid did - as Tom has pointed out in this thread - much the same thing albeit by encasing the valve gear in an oil bath in the Bulleid Pacifics and putting on a slab sided casing for cleaning, effectively.

    Thompson and Bulleid saw the same problems and approached them differently in terms of their solutions. That's engineering.
     
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  2. huochemi

    huochemi Member Friend

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    Hi Simon, "I hear you" as an urbane lawyer would say.;) I will take it as a compliment that you replied at such length. Heaven knows how long your reply would have been had the post had a pro-Gresley bias! As I said, I think the issue of Thompson's motivation for action or inaction on this point (of selecting Great Northern) is irrelevant to an appraisal of his work in general (or for that matter, as you seem to be coupling the two together, in the capability of the "rebuilt" loco). To try and forestall critics summarising your work in terms of your rebuttal of his posited petty behaviour arising out of an antipathy towards Gresley, if I may be impertinent enough to suggest, you might consider relegating the issue to an appendix.

    To impose further on your time (and I apologise if I have missed this), I would be interested to know what ET's response to the loco availability issue was in terms of actions that would be/were effective in a shorter term than the lengthy timescales inherent in rebuilds or new locos?
     
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  3. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Just to say that I have not forgot this question, though I am trying to put together my own thoughts on this. It's a very complicated answer to what is a relatively simple question. I suppose it starts with "it depends"...! Answer coming soon. My apologies for the tardy reply.
     
  4. huochemi

    huochemi Member Friend

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    No worries. I have a few more pics by the way.
     
  5. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Just to give everyone a heads up - I did a podcast recently for the Railway Mania channel on Edward Thompson.

    Listen below - and please feel free to leave feedback.

     
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  6. jnc

    jnc Member

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    As usual, you're the master of the evidence!

    One thing I did notice, though. You make a point of how the tales of them looking for an alternative to Thompson wouldn't have been possible since he was appointed at the first board meeting after Gresley's death, leaving no time for a search. However... Gresley had been quite ill for some months, and that, plus his age, had to have turned minds to 'what do we do next' before his death. So if any alternatives were considered, perhaps it was during that period? I'm not saying they did enquire, mind; just that the timing of the board meeting is not, I don't think, quite the 'killer' argument you portray it as.

    Noel
     
  7. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Hi Noel,

    A fair point, which is why the board meeting notes I have collated and read at length, go back to 1937 and up to the last meeting in 1948.

    Best wishes

    Simon
     
  8. MellishR

    MellishR Well-Known Member Friend

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  9. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Hi Mellish - can’t see a post here? Have I missed something? (My apologies)

    Getting some feedback on this now via usual channels. Enjoying the back and forth.

    The question of how much the board minutes were used to spare Thompson’s blushes has been made.

    If they were, and we assume some consistency of this throughout Gresley’s reign too, then the manner in which the chairman of the board was robust in his questioning of the CME role and its demands should then be overlooked.

    In short, I don’t think there’s much evidence to suggest that the LNER board sought to spare any of their CMEs blushes. Rather that they were clearly much trusted men who were able to speak their mind and receive the same in kind.

    It was a close knit board and I am struck in particular by some pieces where the depth of feeling was quite clear, in particular the at times almost monthly obituaries during WW2 due mostly in part to enemy action.
     
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  10. MellishR

    MellishR Well-Known Member Friend

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    Sorry, the website seemed to be playing silly Bs yesterday. Repeated attempts sometimes got me a garbled version of the page I wanted, but when I tried to post a reply the QUOTE part worked but it wouldn't accept any input from my keyboard. After my blank post appeared I tried editing it, but still couldn't type anything.

    What I was going to say was further to jnc's suggestion that the LNER Board might have started looking for a new CME when it became apparent that Gresley could not continue for long. How plausible is it that they might have made tentative informal approaches to one or two possible individuals without putting anything in the Board minutes?
     
  11. ross

    ross Member

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    ET's salary was agreed at £4000pa + £500pa for overseeing war work. Munitions workers were "well paid" at £7-£9 per week.
    A new build pacific would cost around £8000 (iirc)
    So by today's standard, the CME's role was roughly 3/4-1 million a year-about right for an important job in a big company.
    1. You pay that sort of money to get someone competent and capable.
    2. You choose carefully who you appoint.
    3. You trust them to get on with the job.
    Whilst there may have been off the record discussion about who HNG's successor might be, I cannot believe formal approaches would have been made, and rebuffed, without them being minuted.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2019
  12. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    Not having read the minutes, I can't be sure, but I find it less surprising that discussions over even as senior an appointment as that would leave only a partial trace in the minutes.
     
  13. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I suspect your equivalence of £4,500 per year as £3/4 - 1 million is a bit of an over-estimate.

    I realise that inflation comparisons over a long timescale is fraught with difficulty, but the Bank of England calculator gives £4,500 in 1942 as equivalent to about £210,000 today, which feels a bit more plausible. https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator

    An interesting point is that it represents a multiple of about 10 - 12 times the "well paid" salary of £7 - £9 per week: a more equitable distribution, I would suggest, than the current wide divergence between top salaries and those of average workers.

    Tom
     
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  14. jnc

    jnc Member

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    I take your meaning to be that there's nothing in the prior minutes on the subject?

    The thing is that it's the kind of thing that one suspects would likely have been handled in informal discussions, not in a way that would have shown up in the minutes; particularly while the previous occupant was still alive, but ailing - so as to spare his feelings in what had to have been a difficult period. At the same time, as I said, it's the kind of thing good management would have attended to, so lack of mention prior is almost a Holmesian 'dog that did not bark'.

    The thing is that it's the kind of thing that at this temporal remove it's going to be almost impossible to look into (failing a lucky find of a mention in a personal letter, or something like that). I think it's better to focus on the things where there are contemporary, written, primary sources (which are the gold standard for historians for good reasons), like the availability records, Cox report, etc.

    Noel
     
  15. 60525

    60525 New Member

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    much enjoyed the podcast Simon and looking forward to reading your book......
     
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  16. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    But as Simon might note - given the current "record of note" from the UK Ambassador to the USA - even these have to be looked at carefully in case bias (e.g. Gresley staff) might give a false impression of events. I believe this is part of the task of re-appraisal that Simon is hoping to have published at some point.
     
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  17. 35B

    35B Part of the furniture

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    I’m not sure about your example, or it’s relevance here. However, any good historian will always interrogate written sources not just for what is written but by whom and for what purpose.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  18. ross

    ross Member

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    I like your review of my fag packet arithmetic. I was reckoning that a series production pacific would represent about £1m in todays money, but it doesn't matter. Typical industrial wage was 80-105s per week, so £200-£212 per annum, but as you say, inflation comparisons are difficult.
    The point is this- most of us still see Thompson as an also ran, thanks to the unflattering reports of the last half century. Gresley Gresley Gresley. for thirty glorious years, then sadly he died, and suddenly Thompson emerges from the dark shadows where he'd been plotting how to destroy HNG's legacy.
    So we've been led to imagine the LNER board sitting around, heads in hands, saying "Gresley's dead, what the hell do we do?"
    Ask Stanier, get Bulleid back, have the GWR got anyone we can poach? Anything but Thompson.....

    Fact is, they had hitherto thought Thompson worth a third of a pacific per annum.
    They had not apparently requested Thompson's resignation, or sought to censure him in any way.
    He may have lacked some of HNG's panache, charm, whatever, but ET had a sound track record as a locomotive and rolling stock engineer/manager.
    It could be that ET's appointment was the proverbial "no brainer", hence no minuted discussion.
     
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  19. jma1009

    jma1009 Member

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    I don't know why Thompson's appointment is receiving so much attention of late. I suggest you all have a look at how Douglas Earle Marsh was appointed to the LBSCR whilst Robert Billinton was still in charge, but in failing health, and how Douglas Earle Marsh was superseded by Lawson Billinton in cloudy circumstances; Klaus Marx's book on Marsh provides much of the Board minutes and machinations behind the scenes.

    Another comparison is Churchward and Dean.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't Bulleid, now on the SR, approached to take over from Gresley as first choice?

    Cheers,

    Julian (I have yet to listen to Simon's youtube podcast contribution)
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2019
  20. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    It is my firm (but personal belief) that there was never any approach to Bulleid or anyone else, whether official or unofficial.

    Any official approaches for any potential candidates had to be recorded in the minutes.

    There are none on record whatsoever.

    In addition, any discussions of any of the executive tier or high level posts were discussed, including unofficial views and approaches.

    Unlike every other job, there’s never any mention for the CME role.

    Thompson and Peppercorn had shared Gresleys duties to the emergency board for over six months prior to Gresleys death.

    Thompson was the most senior engineer by far and had the most broad experience of running the railway.

    No brainer appointment. Gresley died, the funeral a week later, Thompson appointed at the next board meeting (though he was already acting in the role prior to his official appointment).

    I cover the appointment at length and you are welcome to listen and feedback your thoughts.
     
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