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Alternative history steam 1980

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by Bikermike, Jul 1, 2022.

  1. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    Apologies, I can never remember which way round they go.
    I certainly feel the same about Hawksworth (unless he had the strength of character and support to do a reverse-Stanier).

    Bulleid will depend on how the pacifics work out. If they had been built as intended amd teething problems sorted out, would that have cancelled out Leader? One wonders if the Southern Board would have sanctioned 5 if they thought they would need to live with the consequences...
     
  2. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    And I suspect that all would have pursued non-steam options with increasing pace, given that all were already dipping their toes in the water by 1948 as things were. In this counter-factual world, I think the GWR would have looked at the next Churchward level leap forward, taking the best practice from elsewhere and finding a way to make it a new benchmark. I've already suggested that Woodhead would have created a pattern for the LNER to follow, and I suspect the Southern might have done similar as finite capital would have forced them to look at obtaining the best value from their fleet.

    I think the big difference would have been that Riddles wouldn't have had his step up with nationalisation, and the constraints that led to the BR Standards would have been much weaker. So, yes there would have been incremental improvement, but I very much doubt we'd have had the likes of the Britannias or 9Fs - experience from elsewhere would have brought forward the use of larger diesels and electrics.
     
  3. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    Woodhead as a precedent is interesting. As an electrified island to avoid using steam through tight tunnels, it represents a dead end IMO. Would private companies had the resources and vision to commit to the big mainline electrifications?
     
  4. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    The Southern did …

    Tom
     
  5. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    Well, the LSWR did, and the southern carried on. I agree it was a big programme, but I think the basic concept was already there. Compared to suddenly going "right, we're going to electrify from London to Glasgow", it was more of an incremental step?
     
  6. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I think you underestimate the importance of Woodhead as originally conceived - which was intended as the first stage of a rolling programme of electrification. But due to the delays of WWII, the technology behind high tension AC electrification had become viable, meaning that BR then adopted the AC system that's now standard. Without that split, I don't find it hard to imagine the wires having extended beyond Reddish to *say) Fiddlers Ferry.

    That island lasted nearly 30 years, because the EM1s could do what no steam or diesels could, and shift loaded coal trains at acceptable speeds up Worsborough Bank, and then across the Woodhead route. If the only issue was the old tunnels, they could have been replaced without electrification.

    The question of capital is interesting, but in this counter-factual world, we would still have had low unemployment and rising living standards during the 1950s - meaning that railways would have been under pressure anyway to shift from labour intensive to capital intensive operation. A successful Woodhead electrification, opened a decade earlier, would have provided a significant pattern for the Big 4 to follow, borrowing (possibly from government, as with Woodhead) to make the cashflow manageable. And with each extension of an electrification, shorter journey times and no constraint on locomotive range would have supported further development, as the efficiency gains started to fund themselves.

    That's why I believe in a different world, especially of DC electrification, the wires would have gone up not for the long haul routes, but to take the pilots and bankers off the tougher routes - so Shap/Beattock before the south WCML, or Taunton to Penzance (plus branches...) before Brunel's billiard table.
     
  7. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    I think its pretty safe to say that Hawksworth would have been succeeded by Cook, and we know a good bit about Cook - basically a safe pair of hands who would concentrate on reliability and incremental development. That would be coupled with Ell's work on draughting and front end design. So its pretty clear that steam locomotive design in a 1950s GWR would be more of the same but considerably refined.
    We also have the GWR publication of 1947: 'Next Station', which gives some idea of post war thinking. Its unfortunate that two of the major developments in motive power it trumpeted turned out to be dead ends - oil firing and gas turbines. It notes the success of Diesel railcars, but no immediate expansion of the fleet was planned. It also notes the orders for diesel electric shunters and states more are to follow. The GWR document places a considerable emphasis on passenger comfort and cleanliness. Of course that's a bit of a "Mandy Rice-Davies" statement: I worked in the IT industry and I've never seen a public policy document that says they are going to be anything but "customer focussed, responsive etc" even when the actual plans were for anything but, but nevertheless its worth being aware of, especially with the terrible reputation BR had by the 60s for filth and customer last. The other thing from that volume is that the GWR saw itself as being innovative were innovation was required, hence railcars and gas turbines.

    Well the nice thing about incremental steps is that they require less capital up front and make a return on that capital sooner. Its hard to criticise Southern strategy before the war.
     
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  8. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Was the outside valve gear of the 15xx merely a freakish aberration?
     
  9. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Not quite sure I quite follow your question - yes, what happened post war was incremental, but only because the big vision was already there, dating from before the First World War (for suburban electrification) and before the second (for mainline).

    If your question is whether any of the other three would have gone for mainline electrification essentially from (within their own railway) scratch, I think alternative traction would have been inevitable (lots of factors drove decrease in steam - clean air act, labour shortages etc). Whether it would have been electric or diesel I don't know.

    On the labour question: does anyone have any data as to which caused a greater reduction: changeover of traction away from steam, or changeover of signalling away from having a manned signal box every few miles? The latter question always seems to get ignored when people talk about labour requirements of the railways, but the number of signalmen employed in a traditional set up must have been huge. The SR electrified but in other ways, didn't significantly change the infrastructure of the Victorian Railway: you have third rail running through stations that still have separate goods yards and dock sidings for loading horse boxes and the like, still each with its own signal box. Of course, there was some simplification of termini allowed by having double-ended trains - no more carriage shunting and locos going off for servicing - but the transformational impact of the modernisation of signalling feels to me to be under-appreciated relative to the obvious factors of modernising traction.

    Tom
     
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  10. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I always understood the key issue with labour in the 1950s and 60s not to be raw numbers, but the willingness of people to do the heavy, dirty, anti-social hours work associated with steam operation - hence in part the run down appearance of much of BR steam.
     
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  11. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    My point was not to slate the Southern, but twofold on the same axis.
    1) the Southern electrification wasn't "big bang" like the WCML, it was just "more of the same".
    2) by the same token, it wasn't the Southern that (metaphorically) sat up one day and said "lets do something completely new for traction" it was the LSWR (and the LBSC, but we don't talk about that...).

    If you look at, eg the South Island NZ electrification of Otira tunnel, it carried on as an island of electrification over a difficult grade and tunnel, but was eventually dieselised rather than the electrification being extended
     
  12. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    How much of that was due to a generation who fought a war being less inclined to be treated like dirt while.their fellow citizens either rationalised or applauded the entitled quasi-feudal "logic' of their betters. Peasants, know your place!
     
  13. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    As I wasn’t there, it’s hard to comment! But from what I’ve read, I get the impression that there were simply better alternatives available, especially for school leavers.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  14. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    How much as a direct result of WWII? It's an awful truth that certainly 20th century conflicts led to major innovation. A comment on the vile, skewed priorities of humanity perhaps, but undeniable for all that.
     
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  15. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Yes, I wasn't only thinking about labour availability, but also the cost impact of all those staff! I guess the point is we often concentrate on the traction, but the transformation away from the Victorian railway led to increased mechanisation and decreased labour in many fields: p/way maintenance; loading of freight; ticketing; signalling etc.

    Tom
     
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  16. MellishR

    MellishR Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    How much did Hawksworth change, and were the changes improvements? He "modified" the Hall design for new construction by doing away with one of the Churchward features, the extension frames hanging off the cylinder block. He dabbled with a 2-cylinder loco of equivalent power to a Castle, with yet another new non-standard size of driving wheels, but Castles (which were simply slight enlargements of a Churchward design) continued to be built after the last Counties (and the double chimneys to improve a few of the Castles came later). And he introduced some completely new kinds of pannier tank.
     
  17. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    Like the outside valve gear on the railcars and the VOR locomotives it was a response to a requirement. The 15s were intended for routine servicing away from shed facilities.

    It was really a dead end, since the diesel electric 0-6-0s turned out to be a better solution for 24 hour shunters, and the 94s a better solution for traffic work. But if diesel electric shunters had proved to be no more useful than gas turbines then the 15s would have been useful.
     
  18. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Agreed, but it's only in the context of the engine sheds that I've heard it mentioned as a critical factor driving change in how things were done.
    Possibly, though I note that the full employment and consequent strains on industry took till after the main period of reconstruction to materialise. Take WWII out of the equation, and I suspect much of the innovation would have happened, given developments elsewhere, earlier than it did, meaning that a surviving Big 4 would have been under pressure to get away from their traditional craft labour model 5-10 years earlier than proved the case.
     
  19. 242A1

    242A1 Well-Known Member

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    Given what we have assumed so far perhaps the designers in the UK might have taken on board more from Continental and US practice. We have some idea as to where the journey might take us. There were many well proven ideas to take advantage of in the 1940s but who would be able to understand them and make use of the same?

    It is difficult to see much progress being made unless funding were to be made available for significant civil engineering improvements.

    On the subject of designers; J F Harrison did not retire until 1966.
     
  20. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    The higher superheat versions of the standard boilers were designed on his watch (maybe with the exception of the King one). But its hard to spot detail changes which may be just as important as top trumps ones.
     

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