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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. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    The trials and tribulations of using the Internet as a Resource Centre perchance ? :Googleit:
     
  2. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Book 3?
     
  3. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I was recently asked what evidence I had that the rebuilt P2s were any good.

    Here's a short section from what forms a memorandum to the LNER's Emergency Board and what forms a larger report on the P2 rebuildings in the book.

    The LNER availability figures I have obtained and we have analysed in this thread previously prove beyond reasonable doubt that the availability of the A2/2 Thane of Fife was, in context of war and the availability of other locomotives elsewhere, was much better than was expected.

    In 1946 - Thompson's last year of office - Thane of Fife had 93% availability and was the single most reliable locomotive of the Pacific arrangement that the LNER had in that year.

    I have seen it written elsewhere on the internet and certainly in magazines that "Thompson massaged the figures" for the purposes of the emergency. I have since checked who wrote these reports and can be in no doubt that Thompson had nothing to do with it. The reports on availability came direct from the region responsible for the locomotives concerned.

    The biggest trend where Thompson is concerned is that many of the commentators believe him to be some sort of sinister, politicising, almost "Thick of it" caricature that effectively lies to get what he wants - which to many is almost Shakespearean levels of villainy that doesn't hold up to scrutiny when you contextualise his decision making based on the LNER's own records and statistics.

    So the question remains: why? Why are the A2/2s held up as representations of Thompson's bad decision making? They were rebuilt between 1942 and 1943, and remained in traffic until 1960. Thompson was CME for five years between 1941 and 1946 and had left office with the prototype A2/2 achieving exactly what he had set out to do - achieve high availability in a large mixed traffic Pacific.

    One could argue absolutely fairly that with the standard designs coming into traffic in greater numbers and the basic principles of those designs being fairly robust, Thompson had more or less done exactly as he had set out to do and the LNER was left with better availability of locomotives on the whole than when he became CME.

    (With the caveat that I am working on looking at the overall availability of the LNER fleet for the war years by way of showing this comparison. I may be able to give a full availability % stat for the entire fleet per year in the future).

    From my point of view it looks increasingly like the ball was dropped after Thompson left office. The A2/2s went down the pecking order as the A2/1s and A2/3s and Peppercorn A2s came online - the original issues with the split frames and unique boilers began to make problems for this small class in the early 1950s, and by the time the decision to fit Peppercorn boilers was made, there had been a few years of lower availability.

    Yet - and this is perhaps key - the Thompson Pacifics that had high availability during the war were also in the works more frequently than their Gresley compatriots. How do we break that down? Is the more complicated nature of having 2:1 gear instead of having independent valve gears changing the length of time in works? Where the P2s were originally concerned, the cylinders were cast in a monobloc and the rebuilds had three separately cast and fitted sets that could be removed in situe without lifting the boiler. There's a litany of other details, of course, that might add to that.

    I can only speculate, but it would appear that you could argue there was a trade off where availability was concerned. The Thompson Pacifics on the whole were probably in works more often than their Gresley counterparts. But if they were actually available more during the year - then which is better? A locomotive that is available for less of the year - but might notionally have better performance day to day - or a locomotive of average performance, available on average about 10 to 12% more per year?

    It's an interesting debate to have and one I'd welcome thoughts on.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2018
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  4. MarkinDurham

    MarkinDurham Member

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    Hello Simon. All interesting details there. Thank you :)

    Costs enter into the equation here - higher availibility is a good thing, but then trips to/from Works, fuel used on these trips, Works costs etc are not good. It's an interesting puzzle.

    Mark
     
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  5. 30567

    30567 Part of the furniture Friend

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    Hi Simon. You know almost infinitely more about this than I do.

    I think it's best to take the lines which are most strongly supported by your evidence.

    You have a small class of 2-8-2s which didn't work very well (McKillop etc) on the route they were designed for for reasons which can be discussed. Whether they should really have been transferred en bloc as 2-8-2s to Grantham or York can be discussed but arguably not if they were problematic on the tight curves in the KX area. So the decision was made. This in a wartime situation when every loco counted. Rebuilt as Pacifics, they worked better.

    Naturally they were overtaken in the pecking order by the Peppercorn locos and the new lease of life given to the A3s and A4s. But that's not a signal of failure---they got a decade out of them before the A1s all came through and were useful on secondary work after that right up until the diesel era (I remember Thane on parcels trains out of KX).

    But anyway, why should Thompson's professional reputation depend significantly on a rebuild of five locos? It shouldn't. It should depend on his whole career, the contributions he made in the Gresley era, the quality of his most important designs ( presumably the B1 and L1 plus the A2s from 07 up to 24) and his legacy to Peppercorn and his stud of Pacifics. How did the B1s compare with the Black Fives, the L1s with the Stanier and Fairburn 2-6-4s and so on? That's a better test.

    I suppose what sort of bloke he was, always cracking jokes, tremendously diplomatic, kind to children and animals etc, why is he a figure of controversy, could he have avoided the pitfalls with a bit of thought, all that does deserve some attention. It strikes me that one memo saying 'I think we'll do Solario instead' would have saved him a lot of posthumous bother. But anyway the acid tests are 'What did he do and was it any good?'

    Peter
     
  6. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    This seems to be parallel with modern traction equipment hence Thomson can be judged on principles which may give a better picture overall. In modern parlance (taking the Class 185 DMU as an example) the operators wanted 56 4-car sets that allowed for 5 being "unavailable" but 51 being available to meet traffic requirements. The decision to (a) reduce the order to 51 sets and (b) restrict to 3-car sets because the SRA refused to sanction finance for meant the provision of trainsets / seats was less than the market demand required.

    Translate this to the Thomson era and you have a fleet of 6 locomotives being operated under stringent finances (aka strict SRA availability of funds) but when compared on availability a different picture arises. If one assumes an A2 visit is 5 days per visit and the A1 / 3 is 9 days per visit but the A2 makes 8 visits per year whilst the A1 / 3 only needs 3 visits per year this gives :

    for the A2 6 Pacifics x 5 visits x 5 days = 150 days
    for the A1/3 Pacifics 6 Pacifics x 3 visits x 9 days = 162 days.

    Whilst this appears to show the A2 has an advantage in terms of days lost it also begs the question of "down time" at the shed where a locomotive is failed but the failure can be dealt with at the depot hence may not be immediately apparent if looking at MPC (miles per casualty) figures. I believe this is a figure you identified earlier thus suggests the 2 figures need to be combined to identify the number of days each locomotive group (of 6) was available for use.

    An important difference between the Thomson LNER era and todays Network Rail era is that the LNER wanted to spend but couldn't whilst today's NR neither wants to spend and won't.
     
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  7. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    It will be possible to compare B1 and Black Five from BR test reports.I have often felt the urge but I cannot find the class five report on web.
    It could be very interesting so please give me a link.
    Mr Cox mentions that A4s (three B1 cylinders more or less) were lowest consumption during interchange trials and that B1s performed better than Black Fives.
    I have enjoyed the Cox sermons many times.He is not very laudatory on other peoples locomotives so this is very high praise.
    From memory he only speaks kindly of Royal Scots,no pacifics and the Hungarian 424 4-8-0s.
     
  8. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    Aaaaaah - but which version ?
     
  9. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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  10. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    That's kind Peter, but I know only a small amount and the rest is evidenced by records. Where possible I have referred to other sources together with contextualising Thompson's reign.

    I agree - but I do also want to balance that with sources which may disagree with me. Others can make their own minds up.

    Totally agree - but again, and emphasis on "this is not the story that has been told by LNER historians" - Thompson had no say in choosing Great Northern. This was decided by G.A. Musgrave. Thompson had no hand in the choice, only the potential design details of the new Pacific.

    He is likely to have had a heated discussion with Windle about the choice - but he was neither interested in the choice nor was it his decision to make. I feel he was guilty of a lack of tact; equally the fact that 4470 emerged with the name restored is, likely, down to a reluctant back tracking on his part where justifying the rebuild to the war dept and emergency board was concerned.

    Otherwise, completely agree with you. It should be about the work he did, the designs he left, and the full context of his time as CME. What is surprising me is that the evidence I have shows that when he left the LNER, class A2/2 was doing rather well. When he was no longer CME, and the engines started to fail, who was nominally responsible?

    If that sounds like passing the buck, I think it has to be thought of in these terms: Gresley was in charge 1923-1941. His decisions and work are his own. Thompson inherits the job. 1941-1946, 5 years. Peppercorn is in charge 1946-48, 2 years. British Rail takes over and the performance of the A2/2s, particularly where availability is concerned, declines. But this is years after Thompson has retired and likely after he has died. How much of that is down to his design decisions, or is down to the maintenance regime and general disregard for the class, it seems?

    Colonel HCB Rogers was scathing of the A2/2s and in fact all Thompson Pacifics in his book, Thompson and & Peppercorn, describing the former as being as poor as the big GSWR Baltic tanks. Yet the stats I have show the story was nowhere near anything like that.

    This book has informed a few generations of railway enthusiasts. Was he fair?

    Just throwing it out there - I'd say categorically "no".

    I won't comment RE Network Rail Fred (as I am a Network Rail employee) but I agree with the crux of your post regarding the more complicated debate to be had about availability and time in works. It is a good one to have and arguably there isn't a clear cut answer.

    However if I may point out that the stats I have do give those down time figures Fred. Here's a reminder:

    upload_2018-12-18_13-42-6.png

    "WHL" is the whole line average for an entire class. You can see the number of days off for repair and compare Thompson and Gresley classes directly. In 1946, the North Eastern A2 is Thane of Fife, for reference. (93% availability).
     
  11. 30567

    30567 Part of the furniture Friend

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    I just think that is what tends to happen to small non-standard classes. I don't know my history well enough but the big passenger locos of Hughes, Raven, maybe Robinson come to mind as possible comparators. By the early 50s they had 50 new A1s and around 30 new A2s. So they got cascaded. My proposition is --- natural process, no great cause for surprise.

    Re the point about judging Thompson by the A2/2s, I'm probably agreeing with you here but I've never heard it said that Maunsell should be judged by the quality of the N15Xs. That particular story would warrant at most a chapter in a book-- we've got some 4-6-4s here which are redundant in their current form, what shall we do with them? The big chapters with Maunsell would be the Arthurs, the Schools, the 4-4-0 rebuilds, the 2-6-0s, the Qs, the coaching stock etc etc. Proposition--- with Thompson its the B1s, L1s...…………..
     
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  12. sir gilbert claughton

    sir gilbert claughton Member

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    B12-D16-B2-K1-K5-O1
     
  13. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    What did Thompson do with the B12?
     
  14. sir gilbert claughton

    sir gilbert claughton Member

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    he was the guvnor at Stratford . he rebuilt them with HNG s blessing . Sir Nigel was CME so his name went on it
     
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  15. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Thompson and his assistant at Stratford, AE English, did an astonishing amount of work to create the prototype B12/3 and D16/3. Gresley had no input other than sign off, but he did approve of the changes.

    There is an anecdote about Gresley's thoughts on the B12/3 project that I found in one of the railway magazines. If it is true, it would be a rather unfortunate reflection on Gresley - but in Bulleid's autobiography, there is a further anecdote that confirms Gresley's gruff manner to his assistant. Both anecdotes are, however, subject to speculation.

    In any event there was something of the clandestine about the B12/3, no.8579. Thompson and English carefully mocked up the valve gear in wood (Thompson's ability to make cabinets, tables, chairs coming in handy - he was in fact very much a hands on craftsman in this field!) and Thompson would turn the lever to operate the mechanism whilst English took down the valve events. All of the modifications that Thompson incorporated can be seen in pretty much all of the class rebuilds he had his hand in. Piston valves, round topped boilers and a decent blastpipe. His standard designs whilst CME echoed much of his work for Gresley previously.

    With the B12/3, the modifications to the valve gear, blastpipe, cab and fitting of the round topped, Sandringham inspired boiler, produced a very elegant inside cylindered 4-6-0 (arguably in my view the most beautiful inside cylinder 4-6-0 in the world).

    8579 was placed on test for a good few months and the reports went back to Gresley who approved for a wider rebuilding of the class. Not all B12s were rebuilt, of course, but a good many were and it was the B12/3 class that was employed on the cross-region ambulance trains during the second world war, a job they did reportedly master, given their low axle loading and decent turn of speed.

    One thing is clear from my research. Thompson doesn't get anywhere near enough credit for his work on the B12/3 or the D16/3 - and neither does his assistant, AE English. Something I hope to rectify somewhat. It is rather saddening to note that in a recent book by one David McIntosh, on LNER classes produced under Gresley (Gresley's Legacy), the modifications to the B12/3 are mentioned - but no mention of Thompson or English's involvement in the design work at Stratford.

    This is rather comparable to Stanier's name being applied to the Princess Coronation and Duchess classes but in reality the bulk of the design work and management actually was down to Tom Coleman at Derby.

    In my opinion, it is behaviour such as this by writers in railway history which sullies our reputation as enthusiasts of engineering. Were a more dispassionate, objective analysis made, Thompson, English and Coleman would be much more well known for their achievements (and Thompson's name would have cropped up more in that volume given his involvement in a number of other locomotives, including the prototype W1).

    It is also behaviour, sadly, indicative of the wider response to Thompson's work as CME.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018
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  16. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    My view is that Thompson should be judged on the 410 B1s that were built and his policy of standardising components and removing life expired locomotives from the pool available.

    His other locomotive designs you could have a reasonable debate over, but it is surely beyond argument that the Thompson B1 was a straightforward and well performing locomotive that effectively saved the LNER, post-war, being built in numbers and being a fairly rugged, go almost anywhere design.
     
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  17. Muzza

    Muzza New Member

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    Simon, I love the B12/3 as well (especially with the Norfolk sun shining on apple green livery), but IMHO the extended smokebox takes a few points off the beauty score. An original B12 looks better to me. No reflection on ET though.
     
  18. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I wouldn't dare disagree with that! I think that's a fair view (beauty is subjective). I like it myself as I think it adds to the overall bulk. I would however always prefer the round topped boiler to the belpaire.

    The best compromise for our thoughts is probably the round topped boilered B12/4 then...!
     
  19. huochemi

    huochemi Well-Known Member Friend

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    As an author, one becomes very critical of other's work, not only the content but also the production values such as presentation of the book, sizing of images and reproduction quality etc. I agree that a lot of railway/loco books are deeply disappointing as to their grasp of engineering matters or why something was done in a certain way, but clearly a lot of books are aimed at the enthusiast market, as this is what sells. Without knowing McIntosh' book, arguably this could be like Gospel exegesis, certain things were just not important to the relevant writer in terms of what his work set out to achieve and his target audience. As an example, Kenneth Cantlie (who was a bit of a self-publicist) is prominently associated with the Vulcan Foundry 4-8-4s for China, but Collingwood's (Collingwood was, or was to become, Vulcan's MD) paper to the ILocoE makes no mention of Cantlie or his role at all. Presumably in this case, Vulcans saw their client as the Chinese Ministry of Railways and saw no reason to lift that veil to refer to individuals.
     
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  20. sir gilbert claughton

    sir gilbert claughton Member

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    I agree . I tried to find a coloured S69 but failed , but this is nearly as good GER S69 7002_097.jpg
     

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