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Sir Nigel Gresley - The L.N.E.R.’s First C.M.E.

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

  1. Cosmo Bonsor

    Cosmo Bonsor Member

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    I do.
    That wasn't one.
    Not helpful to the topic, or indeed civil.
     
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  2. Miff

    Miff Part of the furniture Friend

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    In that case it is surely about time for a new thread- will it be as big a ‘hit’ as this one?
     
  3. 30567

    30567 Part of the furniture Friend

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    Simon

    A few bees rattling around in my bonnet here.

    I think it would be good to adopt quite a broad canvas--- how different were the locomotive strategies of the big four, how does the LNER strategy stand up, what was Gresley's role in that? Here's a high level sketch to be knocked down.

    Express passenger--- the search for speed and carrying capacity drove the need for power. The technical responses of the GWR,LMS and LNER engineers differed but the direction of travel was essentially similar. Castles replaced Stars, Scots replaced PoWs and Claughtons, Gresleys replaced Atlantics etc etc. A business case could be made for upgrading and cascading. The diagram you were discussing with @Jamessquared fits there.

    Unfitted freight locos, 0-6-0s and up. These machines had an economic life of up to 80 years. ( Think Aspinall, Barton-Wright, Johnson, Adams, Holmes etc) Few technical developments happened. No business case could be made for new build especially when railways were strapped for capital. So the job was just to keep the show on the road and replace the oldest ones (J39s come to mind).

    In between, 2-6-0s, 4-4-0s, 4-6-0s , mixed traffic. This is the really interesting area where strategies differed. The LMS went through the generations quite quickly. The LNER, SR and GW made them last a long time, 40-60 years. So in the context of Gresley, we have the K2,K3,D49 and B17 plus the B12 rebuilds. What's the assessment of these types? Was there a case for more of them? Or more B16s? Or is the answer simply that the capital crunch and market conditions did not permit?

    I realise there are more categories than that, suburban tanks, N2s etc to be discussed.

    I hope your idea for a book on Bulleid is on the back burner, not consigned to the scrapyard of great ideas.

    Peter
     
  4. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Given that the 'book of this thread' is now out it does occur to me that a good idea would be to start a different thread with a more specific focus rather than this informative but too wide ranging discussion.

    That's someone else's call but it's looking that way to me.
     
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  5. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    With regards to the V4 - if we assume that it is Gresley's answer to the Hall/Black 5/S15. Isn't the surprising feature how late the LNER introduced it - the S15 was 1920, the Hall 1928, the Black 5 1934, the V4 is 1941. That strikes me as a railway behind the curve and takes me back to the point about whether it should have been the focus of design work earlier - rather than say express engines or 184 engines with the same RA as a King? ie the 4-6-0 of 1925 as a missed opportunity for the LNER to resolve a key traffic issue.

    Wouldn't life expectancy of rolling stock the one factor most subject to external factors? For example you have to replace rolling stock rapidly in the 1870s-1900s as train weights increase and the network expands, unless you are the Midland, you can't keep your 2-4-0 or singles hauling increasingly heavy expresses or suburban services, but you can send some of your relatively new engines to work the branchlines that were still being built/acquired. So you need new locos to haul heavier trains causing rapid replacement of the fleet, (shorter lives) but you then have small fleets of relatively new engines cascaded to new lines.

    Whereas, post 1900, you have less/no more expansion of the network, wider sustained economic issues impacting on the railways but also key industries that supplied them. Socio-economic changes such as the 8 hour day, so while labour is still cheap costs are rising. Less available resources mean replacement of rolling stock continues but at a slower rate, so life expectancy grows, less cascading so the locos that had been relatively new when cascaded in plod on, their age increasing.

    In times of limited funds rolling stock has to last longer because you don't have the money to replace them as you would have done in a boom period. In other words policy is more greatly influenced by outside affairs than any other. ie in a counter factual world - say the oil crisis had hit in 1958 not 1973 would dieselisation have been delayed/abandoned/limited leading to the BR stds having longer lives, or alternative, if the 1980-1990s had had governments which were more pro-rail would we have seen earlier replacement of the HSTs, BR(S) rolling stock etc.

    I think my point is that loco policy in terms of build new/replace/rebuild/maintain a holding pattern is perhaps the area where the 'necessity' driver is going to be driven by things other than an 'ideal' life expectancy or even quality of design but whether you have to do something to maintain the service and whether there is the money to do the things you would like to do.

    Additional added point - on loco life expectancy this is where a bigger comparison would be useful not just Britain but other European states, North America, South Africa etc etc @Hermod has already pointed towards examples from Germany. It'd be a large N quant study because that is the only way you could get a snapshot across time and space. It would I think put the LNER, it's precursors and successors in context.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2021
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  6. sir gilbert claughton

    sir gilbert claughton Well-Known Member

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    i have always thought Gresley's obsession with 3 cyls and big engines cost the LNER dear in terms of build, servicing.maintenance costs .money it didn't have .

    he had the answer staring him in the face - a 2 cyl version of Raven's S3 to build on the example of Uries' 1913/1920 4-6-0.

    he could have run the LNER with 70 class A1 , 400? 2 cyl 4 -6-0 version of the S3, , an outside cyl B12 ,100 Royal Scots , the GC 2-8-0., and a wodge of Pom Poms . - all of which lasted until the end of steam .- all of which were in existence by 1927.
     
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  7. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I kind of agree, but it would be nice to see data about renewals.

    On the one hand, you have the actual on the ground data: how many locos (of different capabilities) did the company have each year, what was the average age of the fleet over time etc. Then on the other side, you have two things: firstly, how did their accountancy work? What was the renewal budget/ How much flexibility did they have to renew smaller locos with (possibly fewer) larger ones - such as the GWR renewing 43xx 2-6-0s with larger, heavier Grange 4-6-0s, and a "betterment" calculation in the financial model. And secondly, what were the traffic demands - which for the LNER was probably heavily driven by the strength or weakness of the coal and iron ore industries on the mineral side; and competition (real or perceived) from air travel on the long-distance passenger side; and developing trams / buses / suburbanisation on the suburban passenger side.

    What would be nice would be to see the relationship: for example, if you have lots of elderly locos, is that because the financial picture is constraining your ability to replace, or because the demand is not there, or what?

    Tom
     
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  8. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    With regard to the last point - isn't there a tipping point at which your old locos can not meet demand so you suffer financially meaning that you can not then afford to replace? Is it a cause of financial issues or a symptom, or both? That is where you would need to do the deep dive on a specific case which may itself ebb and flow across time.

    I am starting to think that Gresley is the Kanye West of loco designers, good early stuff but later stuff a bit hit and miss with a tendency to bark up the wrong tree. (Collett is clearly Maroon 5 or Coldplay - producing the same song with a different name again and again and again, while Stanier is Oasis, ok but mostly ripped off ;) and Bulleid is Miles Davies or Peter Brötzmann, amazingly innovative but sometimes you wonder what they were on at the time).
     
  9. MellishR

    MellishR Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    The question being considered was not what Gresley should have done but what he would have done if he had lived a few more years and WW2 hadn't happened. It's hypothetical, but surely a valid question for consideration. It seems plausible that there would have been a lot more V4s.
    It seems also valid to consider the pros and cons of such a fleet of V4s versus the equally hypothetical LNER 2-cylinder Class 5MT introduced around, say, 1930 or the actual fleet of B1s that came along later.
    Why was Gresley so enamoured of three cylinders, even for smallish locos? In principle, splitting the forces over three sets of motion rather than two should reduce the stresses, though in practice that didn't work out so well on the middle big-ends and crank axles.
     
  10. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    There is also the post-Gresley events to consider in the context of how the Gresley designs were modified by Thompson, Peppercorn and Cook to improve maintenance / performance and including the later adoption of Kylchap double chimney with its associated modifications and (the final triumph / error ?) of the German-style smoke deflectors. There is also the considered development of Gresley principles that led to the design of 71000 Duke of Gloucester by an LNER premium apprentice to Gresley and its construction at Crewe - where Gresley started his railway career and finally closed the circle of Gresley and his life of engineering; an ironic twist of fate methinks !
     
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  11. pete2hogs

    pete2hogs Member

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    I think you'll find it was a deliberate decision at board level to liven up the company's image. At which it most certainly succeeded.
     
  12. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    It’s going to be heresy to some on here but the more I think about Gresley the more I think that he was not a good loco engineer. True, he had a success with the A4’s and the V2’s but many of his other loco designs were mediocre. His insistence on three cylinders when two (or four) are mechanically superior is one example; his decisions to restrict his Pacific’s to 65% valve travel to stop enginemen from thrashing them is another and just illustrates even more his ignorance of what happens in a cylinder; something only rectified after his death. He may have taken steps to improve his A1 Pacific’s after being shown the way by the GWR but he did nothing to improve his poor middle big end design, other than to fit stink bombs to lessen the damage when the inevitable happened. Similarly, his adherence to conjugated valve gear when it’s faults were well known was not the mark of a good engineer.
    Having criticised his loco engineering, he did have his moments of genius. The corridor tender was one and the Bugatti style front end streamlining did produce real savings in horsepower.
    FWIW, I’m not really a fan of Thompson’s locos, either. Or at least, the B1’s but that’s for the other thread.

    edited 'cos I couldn't spell Gresley!
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2021
  13. Cartman

    Cartman Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I've never quite got why everything had to have 3 cylinders, where two would do, on secondary and freight types like O2s, D49s, B17s etc.
     
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  14. pete2hogs

    pete2hogs Member

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    He believed it would reduce wear and tear, have less impact on the track than certainly a 2 cylinder design, and produce a smoother riding engine. There is some truth in all of those points.

    He did use two cylinders, and his original proposal for the J38/J39 was an outside cylinder (2 cyl) mogul based on a small wheeled K2, but the board vetoed in on cost.
     
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  15. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Everything did not have to have three cylinders. Granted his later designs had three cylinders but his K1, K2, N2 and O1 were all two cylinder and he continued to build pre grouping two cylinder locos.
     
  16. bluetrain

    bluetrain Well-Known Member

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    There have already been a number of interesting comments on this new thread. Perhaps I can add a few thoughts into the mix. Apologies if these seem a bit random & unstructured.

    Gresley was a CME for an exceptional length of time from 1911-41, so there will be a lot of material to consider. To my mind, a particularly significant period is the early years of Grouping, when Gresley had to co-ordinate and establish his authority over the mechanical engineering departments of several previously separate railways. He seems to have achieved this without the open factional infighting that characterised the LMS. That must surely have involved a high degree of administrative/ political/ diplomatic skill. One possible advantage over the LMS is that Gresley did not have to face a rival power base such as that run by James Anderson as head of the LMS Motive Power Department. I believe that function on the LNER was devolved to 3 Area heads. Also, whereas a "Midlandisation" policy was heavily pursued on the LMS in the 1920s, Gresley did not pursue any "GN knows best" policy on the LNER. On the contrary, he had high enough regard for some GE & GC loco designs to place new orders for several years as well as acquiring 273 extra ROD 2-8-0s. He also ordered NE design coaches for the GE section.
    Did Gresley consciously hold back from pushing GN standards in order to reduce the potential for alienating people as seen on the LMS? Or was he entirely guided by technical and financial considerations here?

    The LNER loco fleet stayed almost exactly the same size through the 1920s. New builds look to have been a little below replacement rate (if one expects an average life of 35-40 years), but Simon's spreadsheets will no doubt probe this in depth. After 1930, new build numbers collapse and the LNER loco fleet shrinks substantially, with many (particularly older 4-4-0s & 0-6-0s) apparently scrapped without replacement.

    If LNER finances had allowed, would Gresley have followed a "scrap and build" policy such as followed by GWR & LMS? We can only speculate, but it should be noted that in his early GNR years, Gresley had continued the "scrap and build" policy initiated by Ivatt to replace Stirling GNR engines with new larger ones. All of Stirling's passenger engines (tender & tank) had been withdrawn by 1927.
    On the subject of 4-6-0s, @Hermod has drawn attention to the Prussian P8 of 1906, one of the world's most numerous and successful classes. British railway companies had also introduced early 4-6-0s that covered a range of express, mixed traffic and freight duties. The first in the LNER fleet were those from the NE and GC that became LNER Classes B13 and B5:

    https://www.lner.info/locos/B/b13.php
    https://www.lner.info/locos/B/b5.php

    Unfortunately, these engines, in common with some other early British 4-6-0s, suffered from defective designs of firebox that easily clogged with ash and limited their steaming and power generation. Churchward and Urie were among those who solved this problem. Some railways and some engineers favoured the alternative of a 2-6-2. I recall seeing (Backtrack magazine?) a GNR drawing from about 1910 for a fast freight 2-6-2 using the Ivatt Atlantic boiler. Gresley's V4 of 1941 had been gestating for a long time!

    Although Gresley's locomotive policies (as constrained by LNER weak finances) were markedly different from GWR & LMS, I have the impression that those policies were not so far removed from those followed in Continental Europe. Locomotive numbers on the Continent were skewed by the huge numbers of heavy freight engines built in both World Wars. In peacetime, electrification made major progress in some areas, so the need for new steam build was limited, as on the SR in the 1930s. Elsewhere in Europe, the main concentration seems to have been on large new engines (4-6-2s & 2-8-2s), with older engines cascaded onto secondary duties - which is much like the LNER was doing.

    On the technical front, Gresley's conjugated valve gear was a peculiarity, although taken up by some overseas railways for a few years in the late 1920s. Outside of Britain, 3-cylinder propulsion was usually reserved was large high-powered engines, and not extended down into the medium power range as in some of Gresley's designs. Although one might note that French enthusiasm for 4-cyliner compounds sometimes also extended down into medium-size engines.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2021
  17. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    I'm fairly sure I've seen it said that revised big ends were attempted in Gresley's time, but that they didn't solve the problem.

    ISTR that in Locomotive adventure, probably vol1, Holcroft relates his discussions with Gresley and that Gresley said that he would be developing only 3cyl types now that Holcroft had shown him a way to improve conjugated gear. I also STR Holcroft saying there had been letters in the Engineer about the initial 2-8-0 design which could be worth looking into.
     
  18. toplight

    toplight Well-Known Member

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    Many of Gresleys designs were built with particular routes or areas in mind. P2s for Edinburgh to Aberdeen, K4 for the west highland line etc. I understand the V4s were developed for use in East Anglia where they needed a powerful but lightweight engine, essentially a scaled down v2 able to fit on the small ex GER turntables so it was more tailor made for a specific area. Would more have been built had Gresley not suddenly died ? I would have thought so. The first two were effectively prototypes to no doubt evaluate the design and find any issues before deciding whether to build more.

    As for the Thompson B1 I would be say that was more Thompson wanting to be his own man and design a more general purpose LNER version of the Black five intended to be used anywhere, not specifically East Anglia like the V4.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2021
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  19. martin1656

    martin1656 Nat Pres stalwart Friend

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    Many of Greleys designs, , or ones that are attributed to him, clearly are based on earlier designs for instance, the first LNER Pacific's clearly are based on an design by his predecessor, HA Ivatt The NE A1, for instance, now that begs the question, did Gresley play a leading role in the design, and once he took over the office, so his name was attached , to designs he may have already been working on under Ivatt ?
     
  20. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I’m not so sure whether there would have been large numbers of V4s had Gresley survived.

    He was nearly 65 when he died: had he remained healthy, he would likely have only had another few years in the role before retiring naturally. Those years would have been the war years, when materials were scarce - would he have had the priority for the special steels in the V4 boiler in competition with more urgent war industries? How many B1s did Thompson manage to build by 1945? Only ten, I believe. I find it hard to imagine that Gresley could have built more V4s in the same period.

    Moreover, he would have been faced with exactly the same issues that Thompson faced, of poor availability and skilled staff taken away by the war effort. So in management terms, they would have been the urgent priorities, not scaling up to series design of a new and somewhat experimental loco that still needed the bugs to be worked out.

    I think the counter-factual had Gresley survived would most likely have been no Thompson, with Peppercorn taking over direct about 1945, probably with the loco fleet at low availability and without the basis of design work that led to hundreds of B1s built post war.

    Tom
     
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