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Edward Thompson: Wartime C.M.E. Discussion 2012 - 2020

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

  1. sir gilbert claughton

    sir gilbert claughton Member

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    Wiki says Poland came into being in 1025.
    how is that our fault?

    The establishment of the Polish state can be traced back to A.D. 966, when Mieszko I,[12] ruler of the realm coextensive with the territory of present-day Poland, converted to Christianity. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025, and in 1569 it cemented its longstanding political association with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by signing the Union of Lublin. This union formed the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest (about 1 million km2) and most populous countries of 16th and 17th century Europe, with a uniquely liberal political system[13][14] which adopted Europe's first written national constitution, the Constitution of 3 May 1791.

    More than a century after the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, Poland regained its independence in 1918 with the Treaty of Versailles. In September 1939, World War II started with the invasion of Poland by Germany, followed by the Soviet Union invading Poland in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. More than six million Poles died in the war.[15][16] After World War II, the Polish People's Republic was established as a satellite state under Soviet influence.[17] In the aftermath of the Revolutions of 1989, most notably through the emergence of the Solidarity movement, Poland reestablished itself as a democratic republic
     
  2. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    On the power question, and electrification: the electric sets provided for the Brighton line electrification as long ago as 1933 had 3,600hp for a 12 coach set. 4 years later, the Portsmouth sets had "only" 2,700hp for a twelve coach set despite more significant gradients, somewhat to the disappointment of Alfred Raworth. That was all well pre-war, at a time when the principle SR express engines could sustain perhaps 1,500 hp or so.

    Tom
     
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  3. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    Doubtful as it known that Gresley went to Germany to study the Flying Hamburger diesel train set. Whilst impressed by the 2-car trainset Gresley felt that the costs of both build and maintenance - remembering that diesel traction was not expected to share stabling with steam traction - was too much for a cash-strapped company and made the case that development of the Pacific fleet (i.e. upgrading the A3 to an A4 with stream-lining as one of the improvements) would be both a cheaper way of improving performance and of having the power to haul heavier train consists at higher average speeds.

    Whilst I normally find Fiennes objective IMHO this criticism is wrong as it does not relate Gresley's (and the LNER Board's) policies to the economic conditions of the day. Even the electrification policies were subject to this constraint; the removal of the Shildon electrification was because steam traction was shown to be a cheaper option than the renewal of electrification infrastructure whilst the beginning of the GCR Woodhead and GER suburban schemes arose from the availability of Government funding - at the time !

    The main success of Gresley's Pacifics was to provide the LNER with a stud of high-powered Pacific locomotives that both met current requirements and still provided room for further improvement should the need arise. WWII put an end to that era - and it was left to Thomson to meet the change caused by the changed economic conditions of the war and post-war era until Nationalisation in 1948.

    It had been noted earlier that Thomson had retired before Nationalisation but IIRC the Government of the day had declared Nationalisation of the railways to be a post-war priority hence after VE day the railway companies were on notice that a unified state railway would be the future. In such climates it is understandable that little development or long term planning was undertaken considering that the new CME would have specific ideas that might - or might not - conflict with any such schemes and even these would be subject to the financial resources made available by the Government.
     
  4. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    A further consideration was that the UK Governments used the nationalised industries to enforce wage control leading to the strikes of the early 1950s as those in nationalised industries found increasing difficulty in making ends meet. In such conditions with cheap power supplies and cheap wage rates, the cheapest option would always be the continuing of existing practices. In many ways this also led to the powerful message echoed by Harold Wilson with his White heat of technology that brought the Labour Party to power in the early 1960s. but whilst this gives a political background to many decisions affecting railway policies it is tangential to the basic question raised by SACM - what challenges faced Thomson after Gresley's death and was his solutions favourable to Gresley's memory and work rather than a wholesale destruction of them.
     
  5. Gwenllian2001

    Gwenllian2001 New Member

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  6. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Put aside the fact it was Edward Thompson in charge.

    Why should any CME be favourable to Gresley's memory if, as I have shown previously with the Cox report, the facts show that the status quo was NOT working?

    And how can you possibly describe them as a "wholesale destruction of them [Gresley's solutions]" when less than thirty Gresley locomotives were rebuilt, and he continued to build V2s and O2s in great numbers - and look to maintain most of the Gresley fleet for the LNER.

    This is the biggest problem with this whole debate. Anyone coming from the neutral or Thompson side of the debate has to wade through a "with respect to Gresley's memory".

    I love Sir Nigel Gresley and his work passionately, but any new person taking on a CME role - let alone in wartime! - has absolutely no duty to blindly follow that which went before.

    Why is this logic only applied to Edward Thompson, and not to Stanier? Or to Maunsell? Or to literally every other single CME in the land!

    It was 1941. Gresley had passed away. Britain was in the throes of the blitz. Supplies were low, rationing high, the LNER's work force reduced by nearly two thirds for the war effort (most from cleaning, maintenance, all non essential services), trains disrupted by bombing...

    I honestly don't understand why it is so difficult to contemplate that Edward Thompson was his own man, with his own ideas, genuinely trying to make the best of what was a pretty poor situation all round.

    Even if he had wanted to make his mark by making locomotives that were intrinsically better than Gresley's, how in god's name does one do that in THAT kind of situation with so many restrictions on his job? The board initially refused any changes, the war department were refusing to allow materials for new building, it was almost entirely make do and mend.

    I frankly find it astonishing that Thompson actually managed to get anything on the board, anything rebuilt and anything built. Lord knows, this is a man who had already fought in one world war and found himself in the middle of another and in a very difficult situation.

    Gresley's memory? I would have thought any CME in the LNER role, let alone Thompson, would have had (with the greatest of respect) not a lot of thought for it with everything else going on.

    And that above is just the loco-centric view. He was CME! He had the major works, carriage & wagons, work for the war department and a great deal else he had to deal with. He somehow found time to sell his Fiat (patriotism reigning where his car allegiances were concerned), suffered the bombing of his house in Doncaster (moving his suits into his office and sleeping there - at 60 years old!), volunteering for fire watch duty and many more besides.

    Sorry if this comes across a bit ranty - but I utterly despair. So much is made of the "with respect to Gresley's memory" and I just don't believe that any man, whether Thompson or not, would have had that as first priority when taking over as LNER CME.
     
  7. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I think you are unfair to Fiennes. He doesn’t say the decision was wrong in its own terms, but that the effect was unfortunate when viewed in retrospect. The same might be said of Fiennes’ own success in getting the Deltics approved, and the impact that had on deferring the need for electrification.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  8. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    YO! Moderator! I want to report Tom for bringing this thread back on topic! :Rage:
     
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  9. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Someone will have to explain to me why having diesel alongside steam wasn’t an issue in Germany in the 1930s but was in the UK.

    Regarding nationalisation. It seems to me from the policy documents I’ve read from about 1942 onwards (by this point in time it is assumed the war will be won) and are written with a view on what the postwar world will look like there is an almost default assumption of mass nationalisation and the continuation of state planning. My reading of this is that policy makers during WW2 attribute the rise of Fascism and Nazism to the failures of the free market, ie the Great Depression and austerity in the aftermath. It seems to me to be unlikely that high officials in the various UK railway companies could have been unaware of the direction of the political winds of the period.

    So to cut a long story short - planning for the post war begins quite early in government, while obviously the pressures and demands for the here and now that dominated, a lot of thought was being given to the future. Perhaps, sensing the way things were going the likes of hawksworth, Thompson, peppercorn, ivatt, etc understood that they were just the interregnum.

    Edit
    Re- Thompson taking over in 1941. Hawksworth also took over in 41, Fairburn acting cme in 42. Only Bulleid didn’t take over during the war
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2018
  10. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I absolutely and firmly believe that Thompson believed he was only a stop gap, but not for nationalisation - he was 60 years old when he took over, the LNER enforced a strict retirement policy of 65, the world war was 2 years old with no end in sight.

    Put yourself in his shoes when he took over the LNER as CME in April 1941. How long do you realistically have to make a difference? 5 years maximum. There is a war on which takes absolute priority. If Britain loses, it all comes to naught anyway. If Britain wins, then having a plan in place to survive the war and build new is necessary.

    And that is what Thompson did.

    "I have much to do, gentlemen, and little time to do it".

    At his very first board meeting. Prophetic, and absolutely true. But not in the context most normally take it as.
     
  11. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    To go off piste, and to return to electrification and dieselisation I wonder what would have happened to the development of British railways if Fairburn had not died so suddenly.
     
  12. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    C'mon Simon .... crack a smile. Not only have you got ET being discussed, with a fervour usually reserved for the eternal livery debate, but quite a few of us are way better informed on a very intriguing portion of LNER history and several of us will have have developed our own opinions (evidently not all the same way!) rather than than merely parroting some line or other which may, or may not have originally been expressed with either full(er) facts or the historical context of the period taken into sufficient account. Taking the dimmest of views, it's at the very least an "away score draw"!

    I feel I've a better handle on the basics of the financial and engineering constraints under which the whole nation was labouring (both in addition to and as a result of the war), the likely factors leading Thompson to take some of the decisions he did (plus identifying a few he didn't!) and an appreciation of his attention to the steam circuit though in all honesty, I expect to remain unconvinced regarding the gentleman's aesthetic design prowess!

    Mr Thompson's work has gone up somewhat in my estimation, though personality wise, he still seems far removed from what Italians would describe as 'simpatico'. As an afficionado of the GNRI and Southern (both UK - especially the offshore bit - and 'Great' over the water), it pains me to say so, but I still reckon George Jackson Churchward was head and shoulders the greatest locomotive engineer any of our railway companies or manufacturers ever produced, with William Stroudley (for services to standardisation and safety as much as for his superb locos) well ahead of all others since Stephenson.
     
  13. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    That is an easy one to explain.

    There is a body of opinion out there that simply does not want to consider the possibility that a change of circumstances at the time necessitated a rethink of what had gone before and what was then running around on LNER metals. You then get into questions about what needed to be done and indeed whether anything needed to be done. The latter will be the unswerving view of some folk.

    Viewed dispassionately, it all seems quite logical to me. There was nothing 'personal' going on just a different and quite challenging brief for the new man at the helm regulator. Things had to be done in a hurry and I'm sure mistakes were made alongside good decisions.

    Trying to reconcile and provide answers for all the questions raised on here just won't happen. Neither will everyone be persuaded about the man.
     
  14. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    Martin - my apologies for causing your rant at Post §1966 but, as an Haymarket man, I accept that Gresley has a reputation that has been developed over many writings and especially since one of his designs still holds the World record for steam speed; that does not, however, demean the value of Thomson's contribution to the LNER fleet in the post-Gresley era. I look forward to seeing your treatise but I hope you won't presume that "respect for Gresley means lack of respect for Thomson". As I constantly point out in my responses each CME has to be seen in the context of what his Board will allow and what the company can afford; the continued development of GWR motive power by a number of CMEs, with each incumbent improving on the work of his predecessor to take regard regard of the latest developments, compares with the Gresley policy of "engines for the job" but neither option is THE best - only the option preferred by the Board responsible for making the final decision. In some respects Thomson is an enigma given his short period of time in post and this contrasts with other CMEs with lengthier periods in post hence making comparison difficult thus increasing the value of your treatise in correcting the balance.
     
  15. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    It’s okay Fred - and my apologies for getting a bit ranty earlier - your clarification is very much appreciated.
     
  16. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    I took Fred's reference to "wholesale destruction" in post 1964 as encapsulating a commonly held view, not as suggesting that it was an accurate view.
     
  17. JohnElliott

    JohnElliott New Member

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    I like the mental image of the LNER's flagship expresses being provided by 6-PULs tearing up the ECML at 100mph (with streamlined Bugatti cabs, of course). Not sure what the ride would have been like, though...
     
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  18. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    "Interesting" would probably cover it! ;)
     
  19. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I will happily take an away score draw. As a Charlton fan, they are few and far between these days...!

    I accept the aesthetic prowess is going to be down to the individual. I find his work brutally utilitarian but retaining some of the LNER flair. I - personally - love Great Northern's uncompromising brutish raked deflectors and square fronted cab, for example. The cylinder placement is entirely like the GWR and LMS locomotives of similar design ethos and as such does not overly bother me, but it does bother others.


    It would not be unfair to say that Thompson was something of an enigma, largely to the men he worked with at peer level or around that. But to the junior staff, apprentices and the women in the work force, "simpatico" seems to be entirely fair to describe him.

    Thompson interests me because contained within his life is great tragedy, personal loss, likely PTSD, and set against what were some remarkable achievements on the LNER together with some also ran decisions as well. His locomotive designs have been over-emphasised as poor, or worse, and not least by the pro-Gresley brigade, and that is where his overall reputation has suffered disproportionately to the supposed crimes he committed.

    I would not dare call him a hero - but he is an extraordinarily human individual and that is by far more interesting than a stereotypical hero/villain complex that other writers attribute to the Gresley-Thompson situation.

    Case in point: Gresley's wife passed away in the 30s and he was a semi-regular visitor to the Thompsons' home. When Guen Thompson (nee Raven) died in 1938, the two most senior engineers on the LNER were both widowers and both were finding this part of their lives particularly difficult. They coped differently.

    Some of Gresley's decisions - the V4 comes to mind - were at odds with the LNER's wartime situation. There is no shame in this, he was not at his best and one feels sad that one of our greatest railway engineers should have suffered so in his twilight years. Gresley surrounded himself with close and extended family - Thompson did not have children, and had few friends. His situation was loneliness in comparison to Gresley. Dorothy Mather (Peppercorn's widow) felt Thompson took up far too much of Peppercorn's time - which I sympathise with. But I don't believe it was out of spite. Reading through and looking at the situation in the round, it sounds and looks like loneliness.

    I find it hard to disagree with that, though any CME is a product of circumstances of the time and his own ability. For my part, Thompson's ability has been questioned but the circumstances of his appointment and subsequent tenure very rarely, if ever, taken into account fully.
     
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  20. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    The aesthetic issue is one that will not be altered. British locomotives have always been better styled than those anywhere else To me the foreigners, with a very few exceptions, look like an industrial pressure vessel, fitted with bits of scaffold tube, with wheels chucked on here and there. It is as if only in Britain did anyone think locomotives should look attractive. But of all the British locomotive designers in his era, Gresley was the master- and his A1's and A3's are simply beautiful.

    Other British pacific locomotives are impressive, imposing, handsome, well balanced, boxy and ”interesting”, stylish, purposeful, you name it, but for the A1 and A3, the word is beautiful. HNG had such an eye for design , every angle is right, every curve, it all comes together in a whole that is simply ...beautiful. Look at that curve in the running board just above the expansion link-it just adds something (that the step on Peppercorn's A1, a very handsome locomotive, doesn't), a litheness, a sense of grace, that is hard to explain in words but one just recognises. They didn't need anything added for the sake of style or taken away, they were just right.

    The LNER might have been skint, but it had style.

    That was what Thompson followed, and he followed it with Great Northern.

    I think I was 6 when I first saw a picture of the rebuilt Great Northern. It scared me. I could not believe the LNER could have created such a monstrosity. Forty years on, it still scares me. Its so ugly.

    And just to be clear, I'd choose Caerphilly Castle over Flying Scotsman any day.....
     
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