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Edward Thompson: Wartime C.M.E. Discussion 2012 - 2021

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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    Interesting, I need to look into this further.
     
  2. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I entirely disagree. I don't believe it is hyperbole and I think you can prove that Thompson was right in his approach (even if the outcomes of his approach were shown to be flawed in themselves).

    I say that because for many years the thinking behind Thompson was that he was petty, vindictive, nasty. I think on the subject of "was he right to follow a different path" regarding locomotive policy, both the Cox report and the availability figures do much to prove Thompson right.

    There are also other letters and notes I will be quoting from and I think will do much to prove it wasn't just an anti-Gresley line - there were genuine problems, genuine solutions sought and a genuine man trying to do his best in what was a pretty horrific wartime situation. That's what is provable - with caveat - "beyond reasonable doubt".
     
  3. pete2hogs

    pete2hogs Member

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    Depends what you mean by 'problematic' . I've never heard of the B17's being problematic when properly maintained, after the initial frame troubles were overcome. They weren't Royal Scots, but they provided B1 levels of performance way before the B1's came along. The L1 was an effective design, somewhat hampered by being 'mixed traffic' - it could have been better as a dedicated suburban engine. But Peppercorn didn't see a need to do more than minor modifications before ordering another batch.

    Were all these designs the 'Best Possible?' No. But nor were anyone else's. Look at the innumerable revisions to the design of the Black 5. Thompson would have been against too many incremental modifications as the number of modifications issued by Gresley for some of his designs, while representing constant detail improvement, caused chaos in the workshops.

    And anyway 'best possible' depends on 'to whom'. Maunsell on the Southern tinkered with the Urie designs because he thought they should be more efficient - on the other hand it appears the ex LSWR drivers and workshop staff preferred the originals as being more robust and less temperamental, if far from exciting.
     
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  4. Forestpines

    Forestpines Part of the furniture

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    Somewhat more, I suspect, was spent on electrification. The LNER started four major electrification projects in the 1930s, after all.
     
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  5. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    Very hard to prove that: no-one gets to find out what would have happened. But if you can demonstrate that Thompson's key policy decisions were a reasonable response to the circumstances he found himself in, and how different the issues he was faced with were to those Gresley was working to pre war then I think you'll have made a significant contribution to the literature. I don't think you should be too concerned about attempting to convince died in the wool Thompson haters. You'll risk coming over like those academic papers which start off trashing the opposition...
     
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  6. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I agree - there's point in trying to sell it like that. I think a reasonable individual looking at the evidence will make their own minds up.
     
  7. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    To play devil’s advocate - we acknowledge that Thompson faced local issues that were LNER specific (the valve gear issue etc) and global issues (WW2, labour, fuel and material shortages) that were beyond his control and these explain some of the choices he made.

    But, is it not the case that every in coming CME inherits an in-tray of local problems (ie Stanier on taking over at the LMS and the effects of Anderson) and global issues outside of their control that limit what they can do. Ie War, Economic crisis of the 1930s, competition from roads, govt policy, regional loyalties etc etc).

    Were Thompson’s challenges greater than those facing Fairburn, Bulleid or Hawksworth or even CMEs of an earlier era like Hughes, Urie or Fowler?

    Thompson might have been dealt a tough hand, but I think every incoming CME ever would say the same. To say that he had a worse hand than others seems like special pleading. I think what you have to show is that Thompson’s responses were him doing what he thought was best as a solution to local issues in the face of a wider set of circumstances that were beyond his control.

    To go back to loco availability- how do those LNER numbers compare with other companies? Are they worse of better? Perhaps comparing, even briefly might bolster your argument a little bit by situating it in a wider context and so then the reader can get a sense of the scale of the problem.
     
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  8. paullad1984

    paullad1984 Member

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    The b1 at nymr has bronze axle boxes, there is a reference in John bates book the chronicle of phendre sidings to trying to repair them without disturbing the white metal lining but the bronze was porous and had collected oil which made repairs difficult
     
  9. 8126

    8126 Member

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    I think this makes some good points. To be more specific, I'd suggest that @S.A.C. Martin aims to make a good case for what Thompson did to improve the day-to-day availability of the existing classes on what I was tempted to call an "easy wins" basis, but will instead call targeted detail improvements. As an example elsewhere, you might take Stanier having the axleboxes redesigned and replaced on the parallel boiler Scots shortly after he took over. They were causing a reliability and availability problem with the class, because after a certain amount of use, simply re-metalling and refitting didn't rectify the deterioration. So although the Scots were later given the full treatment to bring them in line with later LMS thinking, there was a problem which could be rectified by a relatively small improvement right then.

    Urie is also a good example of how to deal with a troublesome legacy; nearly all the pre-4-6-0 Drummond classes were better, simpler engines by the end of Urie's tenure than they ever had been under Drummond, while for the most part keeping such costly items as running gear, cylinders and boiler shells unchanged. Nearly all the 4-6-0s were lined up for major rebuilding, but I'd find it hard to claim any Gresley design was remotely as bad as a Drummond 4-6-0 (except maybe the T14s, which survived relatively unmolested until BR days).
     
  10. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    BUT...Fairburn, Bullied, Hawksworth, Hughes, Urie, Fowler aren't reviled as spite-filled vandals intent on destroying the holy relics of mechanical art
     
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  11. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    duplicate post deleted
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2018
  12. jma1009

    jma1009 Well-Known Member

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    To connect with a few previous threads, when Collett retired in 1941, Hawksworth continued a policy pretty much as 'business as usual'; the GWR having an excellent well proven design base. No radical rebuilds of Churchward or Collett designs at all.

    I personally would consider what Collett did to The Great Bear as on a par with what Thompson did to 'Great Northern', and also on a par with Churchward scrapping the 'North Star' and 'Lord of the Isles'.

    In each case iconic locos were scrapped (I don't think very much of The Great Bear' 111 remained as the 'rebuilt Castle'), and clearly the rebuilt 'Great Northern' had very little left of the original Gresley loco.

    The ultimate question is why so much opprobrium is heaped upon Thompson when he did no more savagery to 'Great Northern' than Churchward and Collett did on other famous iconic locos, and why Churchward and Collett 'got away with it'.

    Cheers,

    Julian
     
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  13. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    I have read that Churchward tried very hard to get somebody, anybody to take North Star and Lord of the Isles, but no-one wanted them. The pressure for space at Swindon meant that finally some had to take the decision. Some say Stanier took the decision in Churchward's absence
     
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  14. Muzza

    Muzza New Member

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    Hi Simon,

    You've mentioned a number of times that the Stanier/Cox report was an independent report. I can't get over the feeling that the choice of investigators was made with a desired outcome in mind, given the locomotive & engineering policy of the LMS.
    I'm not saying that the wrong conclusions were reached, but imagine if instead, the task was given to the Southern and OVSB wrote the report.
     
  15. huochemi

    huochemi Well-Known Member Friend

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    Cox was also offered a job by Thompson which the LMS knocked on the head, but notwithstanding, he subscribes to the conventional views on Thompson e.g. "Machiavellian campaign he was conducting against all things Gresley", "[Pep] reversed a lot of his predecessors' high-handed actions". I suspect the popularity of such views was partly at least due to ET not being the sort of character people warmed to e.g.[Cox] :"Pep seemed to be loved by all".

    I guess what I am not clear on was the purpose of the Cox report. Was Thompson originally proposing to use this to justify expenditure on rebuilding all the Gresley Pacifics, or was this to support ditching the conjugated gear in new builds? If the latter, it is surprising that ET felt it necessary to get such a report, and if the former, for whatever reason, it was not used much in anger.
     
  16. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Timeline:

    -Gresley dies in 1941. (This has been described as "suddenly" elsewhere - I personally refute this. It is quite clear Gresley has been unwell for some time when looking at the LNER board minutes where Gresley has been absent and has been represented by Thompson or Peppercorn over a period of several months).
    -Thompson takes over roughly two weeks after Gresley's death. (It is claimed there were other approaches. These approaches towards new heads of are normally recorded in the LNER board minutes. There are no such records for anyone other than Edward Thompson in 1941).
    -War Dept has imposed restrictions on building new locomotives of certain types.
    -LNER Emergency Board has imposed on Thompson when taking over that no new designs of any kind are required.
    -Thompson refutes this and states there are issues. Board plus chairman agree to an independent report to be convinced of the problems.
    -Report is asked for - Stanier requested. Cox deputises.
    -Evidence is collated for Stanier/Cox at Doncaster works. Includes availability figures, examples of work conjugated valve gear.
    -Cox complies evidence and writes report. Stanier reads, agrees, signs off on report.
    -Report is entirely internal. It makes recommendations that Thompson ultimately adopts. (It is not published until well after the second world war and was in fact only first available in print in one of Stanier's autobiography. It has never been seen in an LNER publication to date).
    -Report is read by Emergency Board and the Locomotive Committee (separately).
    -Emergency Board agree to a change in locomotive policy and Thompson is allowed to build the B1s plus other locomotive development.
    -There are still restrictions such as the reuse as much as possible of locomotive components and use of standard parts, together with limitations on foundry use and similar.

    Thoughts:

    -OVSB did not use conjugated gear and he moved away from virtually all aspects of Gresley's design he had been involved with on the Southern Railway. Evidence? Bulleid Pacifics.
    -The impartiality of Stanier and Cox is being called into question regarding the outcome of the report. I humbly suggest that the outcome Thompson wanted - to change locomotive policy - did not influence Cox or Stanier at all. They were engineers and the report is quite pointed in its criticism.
     
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  17. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    OVSB may not have used the derived motion - patent issues? - but it does not follow that he would have condemned it. Since he was not asked to provide a report, we’ll never know what he would have written. Whatever you think of Bulleid, he certainly didn’t go for simplicity in his Pacifics.
     
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  18. huochemi

    huochemi Well-Known Member Friend

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    Thank you. One imagines that ET was quite frustrated if he felt the board would not accept his / his departments appraisal without asking in the LMS. If the report was undertaken at the request of the board (which is rather implied from your above analysis) then one might say that ET was simply (and understandably) playing the board's game and the report apparently did its job. You say however that ET adopted the report's recommendations. Was there anything in there that ET had not already decided upon?
     
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  19. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    You are quite right to raise the issues of patent. Very good point. I do agree he did not go for simplicity. I would challenge not much of Bulleid's work particularly follows the LNER - bar his preference for a 2-8-2, of course.

    Thompson offered the idea of an independent report and the board accepted this suggestion.

    Interesting question. My personal view - without any evidence, merely a gut feeling - is that no, I don't believe there was anything he had not already decided on.

    I think Thompson's views were cemented on locomotive design and maintenance in the 1930s when working at Stratford and Darlington. Simplicity, ease of repair and maintenance, everyday use and high availability the top of the chain. That's pretty much what he was aiming at. Looking at his designs, and the multiple factors affecting him:

    -war dept restrictions
    -lner board restrictions
    -lack of skilled workers lost to war effort
    -lack of foundry capacity
    -materials shortages

    - to name but a few - one could say he was good to have produced anything at all, let alone a genuinely good workaday locomotive such as the B1.
     
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  20. huochemi

    huochemi Well-Known Member Friend

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    Thanks. So that puts the report rather more in context. As with a drunk and a lamp post, it was used more for support than illumination.;) IMHO, Thompson's decisions seem to have been largely rational, and the chatter about his personality and motives is just background noise. As the Chinese poet Li Bai put it, the monkeys are chattering from each bank as his boat sails serenely on.
     
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