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Edward Thompson: Both sides of the story

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by S.A.C. Martin, May 2, 2012.

  1. Guest

    Guest Part of the furniture Account Suspended

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    Re: New Build P2

    One really does wonder what people with the outlook of Maunsell Man and Muztrem get out of this or any hobby. Perhaps they get their jollies from the successful outcome of an Excel spreadsheet and not from the finer aspects of human life, as some of us do!

    To me what's most important in railways is such as the roar of an A4 at full chat, the pleasure of a real restaurant car, dawn over Rannoch, mist over Lindisfarne, or sunset anywhere with steam in shot - or some of the other pleasurable experiences of life, that you don't get in mummy's spare room. I don't get orgasmic over engineering at all.

    The destruction of the Euston Arch still stirs emotion and comment, why should not a pointed decision such as this? And as for the LNER having no soul. Which company created the York museum, celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the S & D and had the vision to lead the railways into the aesthetics of the art nouveau world with the A4s and the Coronation, which the GWR and LMS had to follow if they were to keep up to date?

    No - the LNER was not simply a shareholder led activity. Perhaps that's why its my preferred grouping company.
     
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  2. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    I wonder if it is a case that we expect more of the Thompson Pacifics than they were actually designed for. Much is made of how poor the A2/2 and A2/1 classes are, but the A2/3 derived from those is held in rather more high opinion, from that I gather of the books I have read. The A2/3 naturally produced the Peppercorn A2. Same ingredients, 6ft 2in Pacific with three separate sets of valve gear, but "perfected".

    The A1/1 was not a perfect locomotive by any means; but based on the evidence available, a 6ft 8in Pacific with three sets of walschaerts valve gear, produced the Peppercorn A1, based on the A1/1 but with a reversion to the proportions of the Gresley Pacifics.

    I think in that respect, the Thompson Pacifics could be considered "successful" if we accept that which they were designed for - a higher level of standardization between locomotive classes, and removing certain flaws in Gresley's designs - ultimately as prototypes, proved the theory for certain components to produce what I (personally) consider the height of Pacific locomotive design in this country.
     
  3. Maunsell man

    Maunsell man Well-Known Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    Outlook? spreadsheet? What has Microsoft Office got to do with railway preservation. Because I don't agree with everything must be preserved, or think that arguing about a long dead persons personal viewpoint that nobody actually knows is really worthwhile does not mean that I don't get anything from this hobby.

    TBH I spent 17 odd years working on a preserved railway nearly every weekend getting filthy and in the end I just bored with the obsessive behaviour and verbal diarrhoea of some people in railway preservation. For some it is the substitute of life, substitute of having a partner and everything to live for. I'm not in that category. Arguing over some finitely small point from the past is is mildly amusing for half an hour but when the insults and dummies start to fly you have to wonder what is going on with the person who is making the noise. Hence this is the basic reason I am now involved in road steam. More family friendly, more diverse and providing you don't propose converting a roller to a showman's fairly relaxed!
     
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  4. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    I'm not sure you can say that whilst previously saying ET hoped to assure his place in the annals of the LNER by rebuilding 4470. It should also be noted that the rebuild of 4470 occured in 1946 when victory was won and ET was producing what was intended to be a set of standard locos for the future.

    I think ET felt that his preferrence for three sets of gears and equal length rods was inherently superior, and he intended to improve 4470 both as an end in itself as a prototype for his new standard - and perhaps to assure his place in history.

    In itself that is not an unreasonable aim but if, as seems to be the case, he was asked to use another A1 for the rebuild (and there were still about 6 available), his refusal seems to be a matter of personal preference rather than an engineering necessity - and that is probably what condemns him in the eyes of Gresley supporters. They might have forgiven him if the result of his rebuild had looked as good as an A3 and performed better than a comparable (kylchap) A3, but unfortunately he failed, at least partly, on both counts.
     
  5. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    Again, a fair point. But does being successful at proving the theory as a prototype make it mutually exclusive that he also chose Great Northern to be the rebuild?

    Although I think it should be noted - Great Northern didn't have all equal length connecting rods. The middle cylinder was not parallel with the outer cylinders like the Thompson A2s.
     
  6. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    I'm not quite sure what you mean with this. It might have mitigated his choice if he had been successful, but it might have been better on a prototype to have used a different loco.

    I think all Thompson's rebuilds had equal length rods. The middle cylinder was set well forward of the outer cylinders and it drove on the front driving axle, whilst the outer cylinders drove on the middle driving axles. Peppercorn reduced the A1 wheelbase by shortening the centre rod (though it's still a heavy b***er). Only Gresley locos had the three cylinders in a line (though the centre cylinder was at a steep angle) so they could all drive on the middle axle.
     
  7. Sheff

    Sheff Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    :focus: So we've completely given up on discussing the merits or otherwise of the P2s now have we?

    Hopefully one of the Mods will tidy all this Thompson stuff away to another tread PDQ - suggested title "Thompson - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly"
     
  8. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    Not really, there doesn't seem to be much to discuss at teh moment, unless someone in the know will provide actual news on the assessment process.

    If they do produce one, I hope it is as originally designed - if they have to start messing with the design of the frames and suspension arangements, just to get it on the road, they might as well go for a complete new design.
     
  9. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    Apologies Sheff - third time's the charm they say :tape:
     
  10. Oakfield

    Oakfield Guest

    Re: New Build P2


    Gresley is the Good, Thompson the bad and Thompson's pacific's the ugly!
     
  11. TenWheeler

    TenWheeler New Member Account Suspended

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    Re: New Build P2

    Now I'm beginning to understand why you're so keen to see the loco at Ongar destroyed.
     
  12. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    Re: New Build P2


    For the record, I love all those pleasures you list as much as you do. However, I recognise that the railway preservation movement has limited resources available to it; if we are to continue to preserve those pleasures we love so well, sometimes romanticism has to be tempered with realism.

    I've no problem with the occasional jibe about the relative merits of a particular railway company or engineer. I've watched a couple of Ron White's memorable Colour-Rail presentations and laughed at his anti-GWR jibes along with everyone else! But some people just take that far too seriously and, as Maunsell man says, it gives our hobby a bad image.

    As for engineering, I barely know a smokebox from a firebox. But I do take history seriously, and I believe there are far more interesting and meaningful railway historical debates to be had than Edward Thompson's motivation for rebuilding Great Northern.

    But what do I know? If everyone here is content to continue arguing about poor old Thompson until Judgement Day, fine. I'll leave you to it.
     
  13. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    But surely the point about discussing locomotive designers is to understand what were their influences from past designs and how did they look to that experience to design for the future ? In many cases steam locomotives were built for at least 20 years service, with some lasting well over 30 years although the accountants may have specified a life expectancy of 10 years and therefore steam locomotive designers were expected to look well into the future. Even Bulleid - a Gresley apprentice - realised this when he designed his Pacifics to be the SR Standard locomotive until the final elimination of steam by electric traction.

    The argument re Thomson and Peppercorn is - at one level - seen as a personal one becase of the combatants and their relationship to Gresley. Thomson was the son-in-law of Raven who expected to be the CME of the LNER following Robinson' retirement. As senior CME at the Grouping the post was offered to Robinson who declined because of his imminent retiral. In normal cases this would have seen the post offered to Raven who also was to retire in the mid 1920s and then Thompson would have been his natural successor. In the event when Robinson declined the position he also recommended Gresley noting that the younger man would give longer continuous service. By offering the post to Gresley both Raven, and consequently Thomson, were denied what they would have been expecting and IMHO generated the ill-will that Thomson is accused of showing to Gresley designs.

    It is interesting to consider that when Thomson became CME his designs were reported to have returned to Raven / NER practice yet within a short time he was retired and replaced by Peppercorn who reverted to Gresley practice and produced in the A1 what would have the start of a new standard regime. Given the reputation which the Peppercorn A1s engendered it is a pity that Nationalisation brought such experience to a halt; or did it ?

    There are some interesting arguments that whilst 71000 was built at Crewe by LMS men it was designed to Gresley's LNER principles; this would be a nice completion of the circle given that Gresley started out as a Crewe Apprentice.

    So what does this have to do with the P2 ? Many designers were sufficiently enamoured of the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement that they called for its adoption for the wheel arrangement for the new Standard heavy freight locomotive but Riddles' war experiences within the Ministry of Supply had brought him into contact with German 2-10-0 designs. These appealed even more and having designed some for the MoS for war service he adopted 2-10-0 for the freight design. There is a large body of opinion that feels that a 2-8-2 design still has a main line potential and therefore recreating the P2, albeit updating it with design improvements identified since the first build in the 1930s, has sufficient appeal for people to want to put their ands in their pockets to stump up the finance.

    There is a question of whether Peppercorn might have designed a 2-8-2 as part of his "standard" fleet but the Nationalisation in 1948 caused many designs to be dropped as CMEs considered the needs of the new BR and what part they would be playing in it. Therefore the P2 / 2-8-2 design is one which is a case of "what might have been" and if enough people are willing to fund it - why not ?

    The WSR has already completed a similar project with the conversion of 2-6-2T 5193 to 2-6-0 9351 - a project considered by Swindon but never allowed off the drawing board for various reasons. But who is to say that 9351 does not continue the Swindon tradition and has made a "what might have been" build into a real locomotive; who is to say that an improved P2 would not attain the Gresley excellence and prove the validity of his basic principles ?
     
  14. Maunsell man

    Maunsell man Well-Known Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    I thought you promised everyone you were leaving? What is that eyesore to do with discussing the merits of Edward Thompson's motives?

    So what is the understanding of my motives in general then? Do I want to see the loco at Ongar destroyed? err no but I recognise its value in the UK is basically zero AS IT DOESN'T FIT ON THE TRACKS DOES IT. THEREFORE IT DOESNT HAVE ANYWHERE TO RUN. THEREFORE IT ISNT OF ANY USE HERE. If it isn't of any use, has nowhere to run and nobody wants it and doesn't fit any kind of contextual display in this country and isn't wanted in Finland it is basically going to rot away. Best all round to release its residual material value and put the money and space to some better use. Cash is king - dispose of non-core assets in order to maximise liquidity. First thing they teach you at Accountancy school...

    Don't tell me - you are a fully paid up member of the PS Ryde preservation society as well...
     
  15. std tank

    std tank Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    Gresley was a Horwich apprentice, not Crewe.
     
  16. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Re: New Build P2

    He was an apprentice at Crewe before moving to Horwich.
     
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  17. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    Although in fairness, Bulleid did much around with a whole host of new designs and ideas in his final years with the SR. The Marsh atlantics with sleeve valves, testbeds for Leader and similar.

    I simply don't take the argument about Raven & Thompson as holding any water. He - Thompson - was with the GNR from the 1910s, worked tirelessly for the LNER in many different roles over twenty years before becoming CME - and his time at Stratford must have had some influence on his overall engineering ethos, because he did essentially the same as James Holden did with his GER designs; in wanting to standardize heavily on boiler types (B12, B1, O1, B17 and B2 sharing similar or identical boilers), valve gear components (B2, B1, O1, then look at what was being done with the lone D Class, and the Q1 class), and similar to keep costs down. This is in contrast to Raven's overall locomotive policy with the NER, actually.

    Then there's Great Northern herself - outshopped in GER prussian blue livery with red lining, and pretty much THE example of Thompson's brand of standardization. Using already existing, and proven, designed components. A4 boiler and A4 forward frame. V2 valve gear components. Front end based on the erstwhile reliable but not oustanding A2/2 and A2/1 locomotives. Austere lines utilising the proven kylchap arrangement which Gresley pioneered.

    The locomotive itself I would argue sums up everything that Thompson had been developing up to that point, and perhaps was - in his mind - the ultimate development of his ideas.

    Not to mention - when exactly did he become Raven's son in law? What links to the NER did he have prior to becoming CME? There's no evidence to suggest they were close when he married Raven's daughter in any event.

    It's a train of thought which has become the traditional story which I find has little basis in fact or hearsay.

    I challenge that Thompson - who at Stratford would have been able to see and experience much of the GER - was in reality a GER man. He had first hand experience of James and Stephen Holden designs, and how much compatibility there was between them. D14s, D15s, and D16s sharing chassis components, and in the case of the belpaire boiler examples, sharing boiler types with 0-6-0s of GER origin (J17).

    Absolutely, and I agree that an express Mikado - which provides superior adhesion and, you would hope, superior point to point performance than the Pacifics, would be perfect for mainline railtours in the modern day.

    Most definitely, why not? If the A1 Trust produces a project outline which I think will succeed, like many covenators to Tornado I suspect I will dip into my pockets to provide a P2 for future generations.

    I do take that point and think it's a fair argument.

    But I would ask - are these "improvements" wholly necessary? Roller bearings, improved sideplay and a better front pony truck, on a national network where the idea is to remove sharp curvature and decrease point to point times for faster trains, might result in something closer to the Gresley ideals and overall design ethos while at the same time producing a locomotive with real historical value. It won't then stray too far from the principles and intentions of its original designer.

    That's where Tornado is a veritable success - designed to run in the present day, but wholly indicative of the original design's capabilities.
     
  18. TenWheeler

    TenWheeler New Member Account Suspended

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    Re: New Build P2

    Well, it is kinda amusing to see someone posting a load of stuff about how tired they are of railway preservation and how they've moved to a better place off rail - e.g. "I just bored with the obsessive behaviour and verbal diarrhoea of some people in railway preservation" - yet still regularly post strongly worded comments, and then top it off with one like that. Classic!

    Maybe you don't have any sense of irony.


     
  19. daveannjon

    daveannjon Active Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    I think the argument over Gresley/Thompson will go on and on amongst enthusiasts, but what we think doesn't matter very much really. Here's what a very well respected railwayman Richard Hardy of Stewarts Lane and Stratford renown had to say about Thompson, from Life on the Old Railways:

    "As well as stories of firemen and drivers Richard remembered incidents from all areas of steam-working, including a fascinating meeting early in his career with chief mechanical engineer Edward Thompson.

    'I had been interviewed by Mr Thompson when I left school and he had taken an interest in my progress. Early in 1942, in the dark at Wakefield, he spotted me getting off an engine and asked me what I was doing so late on a Saturday. The fact that I was learning to fire pleased him greatly, even though it was highly unofficial! When the train for Doncaster ran in, he beckoned me to follow, sat me down in a compartment and then told me about his plans for building new locomotives: the B1, the L1, his Pacifics, rebuilt K1s, B17s and, of course, the splendid 04 rebuild, to become the even better 01. Not all his engines were to be perfect, but most were splendid jobs. He aimed to reduce the number of classes, to ease the lot of the running sheds by simplification and standardisation and, given the appalling wartime shortages of material, his short reign of five-and-a-half years was memorable. 'That night at Doncaster when he bade me goodnight he lifted his hat to me, a scruffy eighteen-year-old.

    Whereas some will always denigrate Thompson and his work, I shall never forget him: he sent me to Leslie parker, and he knew he was sending me to the most outstanding manager of young men on the LNER. And for that I shall always be grateful."

    Dave
     
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  20. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    I must get that book - thank you Dave for sharing that story. :)
     

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