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Sir Nigel Gresley - His work and what might have been

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by S.A.C. Martin, Dec 3, 2021.

  1. 30567

    30567 Part of the furniture Friend

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    First para. I agree. I think you have to put yourself in the position of the Board in the early 30s with the collapse of heavy industry to which the LNER was particularly exposed. What potential competitive advantage did they have in the regulatory environment (rate control, common carrier etc) they were operating under? Arguably express passenger was their best option. The stuff about image and design comes in there. At the least the Board had a CME who could respond to the vision.

    Second para--- is there a good well-rounded account of Bulleid on the SR? Or are we looking to Simon or Tom to provide one?

    Third para---- wasn't the situation on the GER hamstrung by the civil engineering where again the capital constraints bit? The B12 rebuilds and B17s have to be seen in that context. And arguably the B1s made a good contribution there before the Brits turned up. Secondary and local passenger---not a hugely promising source of profit in LNER territory?

    Fourth para--- what's the prevailing wisdom? I'm guessing there were three C20 giants of steam--- Churchward, Gresley and Stanier in alphabetical order. Then there are the others. Some of course never had the opportunity, some came to the top too late.
     
  2. 5944

    5944 Part of the furniture

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    True, but where else used bogie wagons to increase the amount of load carried, rather than to cope with the size of the load? Tunstead, Stonebridge and Tyne Dock hoppers, not much else. Thousands of wagons with a wheelbase of no more than 10', running with oil or grease axleboxes, and only handbrakes.

    It was very much a chicken and egg situation; infrastructure not upgraded so no need to improve rolling stock, and no need to improve rolling stock as the infrastructure wasn't there to cope with anything else.
     
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  3. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    upload_2021-12-6_12-8-31.png

    With thanks to Ian McCabe for the inspirational picture. The book now exists in an early draft form, following on from the Thompson book in overall format and structure. I am collating photographs, data and more - and will do my best to keep you appraised as it develops.

    Regarding a Bulleid book, I am also working on a treatment, but it is not as developed as the Gresley book is.
     
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  4. Kylchap

    Kylchap Member

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    Agreed. Also, when all has been said and done, 20th Century loco development was a long footnote to Churchward.
     
  5. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    In fairness to Robinson he, like many of his contemporaries in the pre-LNER companies, was close to retirement and he understood that the new CME would have to be a younger man with the time necessary to meld the individual companies into one unit whilst also able to both update the workshops practices and the locomotive fleets. IIRC Gresley was the youngest of the candidates but the LNER Board accepted the advise of the senior CME in offering the post to Gresley who gave 18 years service before dying in harness.
     
  6. gwralatea

    gwralatea Member

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    Oh yes, not doubting for a second that Robinson was not the man for the job, just wondering (as first choice) how things might have worked out if he had said yes, possibly with HNG as his deputy.
     
  7. Johnb

    Johnb Resident of Nat Pres

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    Only on the Great Western that never moved on, when extra power was needed they just dropped a bigger boiler on a Churchward chassis. Other railways learnt much from Chapelon and contemporary American practice. Bulleid managed to design the most efficient boiler ever produced in this country that owed very little to Churchward. It’s impressive when you see a MN with 13, mostly heavy Pullmans behind the tender, having to be held back to 75mph or as last Thursday romping up Gomshall Bank with that lot and 80tons of diesel loco on the drawbar.
     
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  8. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    You could add the 40 ton LSWR ballast hoppers, which were very successful (and I think essentially the prototypes for a very long series of ballast hopper wagons built for decades afterwards).

    The LBSCR built a solitary bogie perishables van; and the LSWR built a solitary general purpose bogie open waggon. Neither was replicated. In the case of the LSWR bogie open, Mike King's wagon book suggests it was not repeated partly because of a propensity to derail, and partly because few users were geared up to use its capacity efficiently.

    Tom
     
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  9. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Stanier? Really? ;)

    Tom
     
  10. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Given Robinson's age at grouping (66), possibly a situation more analogous to that experienced on the LMS, which isn't to say it may have been preferable. Given the overriding issue of LNER finances, I doubt, even had that gentleman remained in post until retirement aged 75, in 1931, it would've made much difference to Gresley's thinking (assuming HNG didn't decamp in consequence). Recall too that Robinson's forays into larger machines weren't his most successful.

    On the Southern, Urie likewise eschewed the CME position, in favour of Maunsell.
     
  11. gwralatea

    gwralatea Member

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    Depends which - the 9P weren't up to much, but the 8K were there until the end of steam.
     
  12. gwralatea

    gwralatea Member

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    Quite right, swap him for Hawksworth...
     
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  13. class8mikado

    class8mikado Well-Known Member

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    In this country Perhaps...
     
  14. toplight

    toplight Well-Known Member

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    The GWR was famously in favour of standardisation to try and reduce costs so this probably held them back somewhat in terms of new design for coaches and locos.

    Gresley was more in favour of new ideas and I am sure I read somewhere he had said " To Standardise is to stagnate" . As for Bulleid, he was was ex LNER and similarly in favour of new ideas, but too much so. When you think his Pacifics all had to be totally rebuilt soon after construction which means the initial design was not great. Then there was his Leader and Turf burner also a waste of time.

    Probably Stanier was the best of the bunch, incorporating new ideas, standardisation but at the same time not being too radical and building a fleet of locos that did the job.
     
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  15. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I think we become tribal at our peril.

    There's no doubt in mind that the GWR was the most organised of the big four in terms of its unified engineering facilities, spares and maintenance management, and rolling stock/availability issues. I feel strongly that there is little doubt the GWR probably saved massively by minimising the number of locomotive classes and their development, and restricting their fleet to what was necessary to run the services reliably.

    What will really cement that view is likely a financial comparison of the Big Four in terms of their locomotive fleets by no. of classes and no. of boiler types, and costs of purchasing/keeping spares against mileages/availability. On the LNER, my observation is that they are the one extreme of a great many classes and boiler types, and the GWR is the opposite extreme. The big costs on the LNER locomotive wise was boilers and spares across the sheer number of classes. The economies of scales that could have been done had the LNER had 19 types instead of 170 ish are daunting to think about.

    Is it better to standardise or to experiment? As ever, the truth is probably not one or the other but a balance, likely closer to standardisation with some experimentation.
     
  16. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Resident of Nat Pres

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    In what way did it 'hold them back', they had a fleet of locomotives that were fairly standard and whilst harking back to Churchward were up to the job in hand, being developed over time as traffic requirements evolved but within the standardisation parameters, people seem to forget time and time again that the responsibilities of the board of a railway and their staff is to provide a return to their shareholders, which is dependent on providing a service for their customers, not to evolve mechanical engineering for the sake of it or the whims of interested parties c.100 years later.

    Likewise re Bulleid coming up with a boiler that owed very little to Churchward, he would be a pretty shoddy engineer if he didn't considering he was designing c. 30 years after Churchward had done most of his work. Its like the regular argument on here that say 71000 is 'better' than a king, it bloody should be, it benefited from 30 odd years of development, its like being surprised that say a 2000 Mondeo is more advanced than a 1970 Cortina!
     
  17. Johnb

    Johnb Resident of Nat Pres

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    The GW had the distinct advantage of not being an amalgamation of major constituents with differing outlooks and management styles
     
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  18. gwralatea

    gwralatea Member

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    at that time yes, though it also benefitted from the internal Wolverhampton-Swindon tension being long in the past, and the 'year zero' reset of the end of Broad Gauge (though IMO the effect of the latter can be easily exaggerated)
     
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  19. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Posit: Your choice is a 2000 Mondeo, a 1970 Cortina or an even older 1964 GT40

    Thee be cautioned that anything along the lines of "..... well, with the missus, three kids and a dog" will be called out as total BS! ;)
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2021
  20. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    It "held the GWR back" through the slow conservatism of GWR design practice over a sustained period. Development was within relatively narrow parameters, and all about marginal improvements of what was already present. That worked brilliantly for 30-40 years, but the cumulative effect was that the GWR had stopped being at the cutting edge, and instead become fairly conservative and, dare I say it, inward looking. It's noticeable that "not invented here", found around British railway practice in so many ways, seems particularly associated with the GWR.

    As a thought experiment, can you imagine a Churchward character finding favour at Swindon in the 1930s?

    The good fortune of the LNER was that when they lost Gresley, they didn't stagnate into just tweaking the old formula, but instead were blessed with CMEs who continued to develop in line with evolving practice. For that, Gresley deserves credit for not squeezing out front rank engineers like Thompson and Peppercorn, but harnessing them as they developed.
     
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