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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. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    You only have to look at the problems that generally beset Stanier's locomotives when they first went into service yet no one ever levels much criticism at him for all the problems. on the subject of leaking tanks, the Stanier all welded tender tanks were a significant source of leakage problems, only overcome when they resorted to part riveting.
    A design engineer at Hunslet once said to me that, whenever they introduce a new design of loco, it usually takes about five years to iron out all the snags that develop in it and make it reasonably reliable. I think that is pretty near the truth when it comes to loco design, generally.
     
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  2. Eightpot

    Eightpot Well-Known Member Friend

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    In line with the above, it took Rolls-Royce six years to get their first axial turbo-jet engine, the Avon, into a reliable enough one to be used in passenger aircraft.
     
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  3. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    Or alternatively E & NE region management took the L1s away from Neasden because it was becoming a LM shed. There's always more than one way to interpret things.
     
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  4. bluetrain

    bluetrain Member

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    The L1 extra weight was not "spread across all the axles" but more heavily loaded on the coupled axles.

    L1: Overall 89t 9c, adhesion 58t 19t, axle-load 20t 0c.

    BR 80XXX: Overall 86t 13c, adhesion 53t 1c, axle-load 17t 19c.

    In the case of the L1, high adhesion weight may have been judged necessary to support the engine's very high tractive effort (due to combination of high boiler pressure, large cylinders and small wheels).

    There was precedent on the LNER for tank engines with very large water capacity. The ex-GCR Class L3 2-6-4T and S1/1 0-8-4T carried 3000 gallons - I think that was the highest of any British tank engines other than the Garratts.

    The weight figures above are taken from RCTS. The axle-box issues are discussed in the RCTS account, which describes several attempts to improve matters. Finally, from 1954, "it was arranged to fit manganese steel liners between the coupled wheel axleboxes and horn guides ...... It was found that this stopped heated bearings and the connecting and coupling rods had longer lives." However, this apparently successful modification was only applied to 10 engines, as the ER diesel and electric programmes would soon render the L1s surplus.

    Regarding the overall performance of the L1s, the RCTS booklet comments "The class was capable of very fine work until their axleboxes became worn" and "They were more than masters of their work, but the incidence of hot boxes and motion trouble was very high. This caused great difficulty at Neasden, where at that time (late 1940s) there was an acute staff shortage". So a picture of a design that performed well overall but had significant issues. The class was stated to "put in a good mileage between heavy repairs, usually around 70,000 miles."
     
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  5. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    The Neasden issues are overplayed, put simply. Look at the dates...
     
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  6. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    I probably simplified things by saying ‘Neasden got rid. .....’ which was in response to the previous posts which suggested alternative reasons. It is a fact that sheds had no direct control over their allocation and this was under regional control. It was also fairly normal for regions to prefer their ‘own’ classes, hence the trend to ex LMS and BR standard locos. This happened at many sheds that crossed the regional boundaries under reorganisations.
     
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  7. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    This thread is a fascinating read. For the most part the contributions are based on what people know as a result of what they have read and maybe what has been handed down over time. Almost nothing is first hand from the people who know. And then there are the official records that I believe only one person on here has examined in detail.

    My difficulty with all this comment and counter comment is simple. Those people of the time will have done their research, reached conclusions and written about it. I've no idea how thorough their work was but they are all 'household names'. When you get to that level of recognition it is easy for people to take the next step and assume that "they said it so it must be true". But actually I don't believe that and never have. All you can say is that it's more likely to be true if person X said it, but no more.

    Isn't history littered with commentary of the time that has slipped into folklore with no evidence? Provided that people end up doing what they do on the basis of their track record, skills and insights there's a good chance they will do a good job in the context of when they are employed. So I put Gresley and Thompson as people of equal 'worth'. That in itself is controversial but it's probably all you can say when viewed from a distance, I think.
     
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  8. 30567

    30567 Part of the furniture Friend

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    I think what is also true is that if you write a memoir, you are going to write about memorable things. Imagine doing it yourself, what comes to mind? Moments of achievement, excellence, disaster, 'I couldn't believe he did that' type moments, not average humdrum. So, to take just one example, Terry Essery devotes a chapter to a run from Saltley to Carlisle where the mechanical stoker on the 9F gets blocked and he virtually kills himself hand firing the beast.

    Harvey gives a picture of events at one particular time in 1949 with a combination of circumstances associated with those events. It's a still photo, or a series of stills over a few months taken by a knowledgeable professional witness. Let's face it, if there hadn't been operating problems at Neasden, he would never have been sent there to sort it out. Then there are other photos from other witnesses at different dates. Now we are going to have some new evidence from Simon ; excellent, let's see what that brings to the party. Beavor says that once the problems with the L1s got sorted, he was getting 7,000 miles a month out of them at Neasden. Is that hyperbole or does Simon's evidence support that? And so on.

    Obviously for the B1s it is going to be even more difficult to bring the picture together because they were so widely spread and undertook such varied work. Also there is probably more written about the GE fleet than the others. And I presume it is not easy to make the obvious comparisons with the Black 5s, Standard 5s and Halls.
     
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  9. std tank

    std tank Member

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    Interesting to note that on January 1st 1957 there were 12 Fairburn 2-6-4 tanks allocated to Neasden together with 20 L1s. It appears that it was a mixed allocation before the regional change in 1958.
    Also the RCTS green book volume 9A is a good read about the L1s, especially pages 20 and 21. In 1954 10 of the Neasden L1s had manganese steel liners fitted to their axleboxes and horn guides and the removal of the wedges. This improved the reliability of the locos and reduced maintainence on the motion.
     
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  10. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    'Nothing much happened' is not going to make for a very exciting memoir. A normal run, or a normal day is not going to garner much attention. There will be a natural focus on the problems and difficulties. A Dorothy Parker style quote about something is always going to garner attention.

    The point about the GE is very valid and we can also point out that there are other examples such as the S&D which has far more written about it than perhaps other lines. The weight of historiography being on certain issues is not unique to railways - witness all the books about WW1 and WW2 in contrast to the rest of the C20, and of course the many blank spots in historiography - normally about uncomfortable topics that have people shuffling around and looking at their feet (such as say the history of fascism in Britain). You aren't going to see a 6 part Dan Snow 'British Fascists' on TV anytime soon. A history of a shed where things just pottered along as normal, locos came in ran their allocation, went to the works as normal, staff came and went and there were no crises are not going to attract much attention.

    As others have said railway historiography is heavily weighted to the grouping period, heavily weighted towards passenger locos and performance is defined by how fast or how much something could pull, and it tends place the CME at the heart of everything. Someone who swims against the tide and writes a history of railways in the same way in which Fernand Braudel wrote about the Mediterranean isn't going to get very far.

    Just as Gresley had no control over the impact that the Great Depression would have on the LNER's finances, Thompson had no control over the impact of WW2 and its aftermath. The reality is that every railway official operated within structural conditions beyond their control, whether it is someone working during the long depression of the 1870s-90s, WW1 and the austerity period, post WW2 austerity, under Marples, the oil crisis and de-industrialisation, etc etc, labour tensions etc etc. Each a different set of challenges that limited what it was possible to do. It is a card game where every player is also left a hand by the previous player. The hand left to the next player can be a good or a bad hand. To change the analogy my point is more that it isn't that a CME comes in and has a blank canvas where they can paint what they like with the colours they like.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2021
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  11. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    Mmm.
    I think you could argue that Gresley left his successor a LNER that was very innovative on design, but perhaps not that great on detail engineering for reliability.
    And that Collett left his successor a GWR that was not very innovative on design, but very good on detail engineering.
    That suggests that Riddles' decision to move a senior GWR engineering manager to be CME of E and NE regions was a smart one.
    An interesting study might be LNER/NE & E time between overhauls, mileage run etc from say 1930 through 1960, to see if there were changes, and maybe compare that with the other regions. Its a ferociously large study though and with a decidedly limited audience, I wouldn't like to take it on.
     
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  12. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I need to be careful here because, fundamentally, I don't believe Bill Harvey's recollection to be wholly accurate. There is a significant issue with dates and numbers, and the number of Thompson L1s affected by issues.

    The evidence I have doesn't quite support that. In fact the L1s were getting significantly better than 7000 miles a month, it looks like. It looks more like a specific batch of Thompson L1s suffered more badly than the rest of the production batches.

    Actually it has been easier with the B1s as two examples survive, and there is more interest in record keeping for that class. Some of the things I have dug up (for a subsequent book I think - too much to put into the Thompson book) show how good the class was for both the LNER and then British Railways. I make no bones about it: the B1 is the locomotive the LNER had always needed and quite frankly was the crowning achievement of Thompson's design team. 410 examples working all over the country with impressive mileages and availability. The icing on the cake for the Thompson and Peppercorn designs, in my opinion, is their excellent availability and mileages.

    I think you could make reasonable comparisons of the B1 to those locomotives.
     
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  13. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    In terms of blank canvases. There is an interesting counter-factual game about what would have happened if at grouping the LNER had decided that Raven and electrification was the way forward, if Crewe or St Rollox had beaten Derby for control of LMS loco policy, or Billinton or Urie rather than Maunsell. (Not sure what the alternative to Churchward and Swindon was as an alternative power centre). Grouping I think is as near as a blank canvas as anyone came. The issue the railways faced in 1948 mean that I don't think it was quite such an opportunity to change direction. Perhaps the other moment is the modernisation plan.

    It is interesting how the narrative is shaped. Rather than be lauded for resolving the LNER's need for a 4-6-0, the focus is on less 'successful' designs. Gresley is not condemned for his failure to resolve this. No one for example considers Maunsell to be a bad designer for the issue the K tanks faced or the issues with the Lord Nelsons.

    Could you add an S15 to the 4-6-0 comparison - there you would also have an interesting point about developments over time - where does 22 years get you in 4-6-0 design?. Also, considering the variety of Black 5's which version do you want to compare? A Modified Hall might be a good comparison as they are designed around the same time.

    B1 vs older 4-6-0 - Black 5, Hall, S15
    B1 vs contemporaries - Modified Hall, Standard 5, post-1943 Black 5?
     
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  14. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    As one of the earlier 4-6-0s from a 'different school of design', I'd be extremely interested to learn how F.G.Smith's Highland 'River' (Caley 'Class938') compare. Only a 'class 4', in power terms, but they worked fairly demanding routes.
     
  15. 30567

    30567 Part of the furniture Friend

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    Yes I was wondering about that. Then you would want the B17s in the mix.

    Thing about the Southern is--- did they really have a genuine 5MT before the Standards? You chose S15, but could equally have chosen H15 or N15. All three classes between them probably covered the range of what the B1s were expected to do.
     
  16. bluetrain

    bluetrain Member

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    Railway history coverage is very uneven, with some railways and some periods covered better than others. For the Grouping period, we seem to lack insiders' accounts of Gresley-period LNER loco matters of the type that Holcroft, Cox and others provide for the GWR, SR & LMS during the pre-1939 era. So while we can read analyses of the different approaches of the LNWR/LYR/MR and how they fed into the situation that developed on the LMS, I don't think there is any equivalent comparison of GNR/GCR/GER/NER/NBR loco fleets and how they impacted on the LNER. What we can say is that Gresley made no attempt to impose GNR standards on everything. He seems to have been very successful in melding together his new empire, but that has not been the subject of much writing. The focus has instead been very much on Gresley's Pacific and other big-engine developments, with little on workshop practices, maintenance and the performance of the inherited pre-grouping engines that were still handling most LNER traffic.


    I read somewhere (ES Cox?) a suggestion that Stanier's single most valuable contribution to LMS was to import the Swindon design of axle-box, which reduced the incidence of hot boxes by something like 90% when compared with Crewe & Derby designs that had been the previous standards.
     
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  17. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    This can be done by analysing the BR test reports and then compare with the Prussian P8 of 1914.
    The V2 report must be very close to what a A4 can do
     
  18. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    Adrian Tester think it was a matter of using more expensive lube oil and bearing metal
    ISBN 9780957077904
     
  19. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    This is just me musing - but having written out a bit of an essay for something else, elsewhere, today, I find myself saying that we focus far too much on the individual classes and not the bigger picture, which was miles done, and traffic carried, and money made by the railway as a result. If I was being brutal - the Thompson Pacifics contributed a smaller amount of income than the Gresley and Peppercorn ones by virtue of being less numerous. Fact. They were also, by and large, better in maintenance and availability. Balance? Who knows?

    I look at the Thompson B1 and see what it actually physically did - which was effectively, if not actually, replace hundreds of pre-grouping locomotives whose day was done. By and large, if we conclude that the newer locomotives were better than those before, and that the overall constraints of workshops, spares, and similar, were made better by the introduction of new classes, then that's the real measure of the designer and his team.
     
  20. Johnb

    Johnb Resident of Nat Pres

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    I'm sorry but you can't just dismiss the recollections of one of the most respected engineers of his day because it doesn't fit your agenda. He was one of the people who had to work with these machines in the rough and tumble of normal operations so I would suggest that his experiences are worth more than a heap of test data and figures that are produced to show locos in the best possible light.
    I think there is a lot of sense in the analysis by E S Cox who was very critical of the way dieselisation was carried out in a frenzy without proper stage by stage development, resulting in a lot of duff designs and unsuitable types. He uses Thompson as an example; 'Thompson produced some dreadful locomotives in his obsession to do everything differently to his former master Gresley, whom he envied and feared.' Cox was the BR CME and a lot of comment from running sheds and works would have passed across his desk so, again his comments cannot just be dismissed. If Thompson Pacifics were better from a maintenance aspect, why were they among the first to be withdrawn?
     
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