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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. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Active Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    With this argument you could do just about anything then...build anything you want because 'if' Gresley had lived longer and 'if' he had decided to do it he 'might' have made something like this.....

    Sorry but that logic is flawed for me. I can see the reason for incorporating minor detail changes but you can make the case for these on their own merits within the context of building a loco decades after the original and using some more modern technology - without justifying it on the basis that it 'could' have happened, perhaps, maybe.
     
  2. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    I agree. 'If' WW2 hadn't happened the LNER was going to electrify the ECML, I believe.
     
  3. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Re: New Build P2

    Not flawed at all IMHO. In his tenure as CME of both GNR and LNER he made changes to his designs and was always prepared to experiment. No reason to believe that the P2s would have been treated any differently.
     
  4. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    There was also a post-war Board proposal to investigate diesel traction with an intial order for 25 2000 hp locomotives that was halted by the Nationalisation of 1948. The GWR Gas Turbine project was followed through by the BTC on takeover and one wonders whether the proposed diesel project would have also been followed through had the LNER Board authorised it.
     
  5. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie Part of the furniture

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    I've always wondered what CMEs of the past would say looking at our movement. Whilst I imagine they would be somewhat gratified and enchanted by our desire to preserve their works, a niggling thought always occur that as modern forward thinking men of their time they would be somewhat perturbed to see so much effort on the past, and may be more excited by HS2 than, say, the preserved GCR.
     
  6. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    I'm not sure I agree. The V4's development is key. It retained Gresley features which were going to be difficult to reconcile with, with a country heading for severe austerity and wartime maintenance conditions. He kept the conjugated valve gear and went for an all steel boiler with thermic syphons. This was something Bulleid would later play around with on the Southern, but you can understand the logic behind the B1 as the V4's replacement, in many respects.

    So he was unable to overcome the one weakness of his three cylindered locomotives (which if maintenance was up to scratch, assuredly wasn't a weakness - but it wasn't in the second world war, and the conjugated valve gear became a problem which Thompson and Peppercorn would dispense with in new locomotive designs).

    I just think the "track spreader" idea of the P2s is blown out of proportion. They had a long wheelbase which on a route with extreme curvature, caused problems with bearings and to the permanent way. A lot of the "evidence" is apocryphal, with Nock, Cecil J. Allen and the rest of the timekeepers all questioning the logic behind Thompson's reasons for rebuilding.

    I honestly feel the problems of the P2's wheelbase are in all likelihood overstated and overplayed - and whilst my sympathy and understanding might lie with the Thompson position of austerity in wartime conditions, I can't say I understand Thompson's reasons for rebuilding when they might have proven less heavy on coal and more reliable on routes out of King's Cross.

    I also can't understand the logic behind saying a new build P2 with roller bearings, caprotti valve gear, and a better designed pony truck would still have problems on a national network where the permanent way is being made smoother in the curves, not tighter, to improve point to point times.

    It's for that reason that I can't see the point of almost over-engineering a bissel truck in, when you have the modified pony truck of a V2 still extant; easily measured up as Green Arrow still exists, and proven to work better than that on the original P2s.

    So I think a P2 in the vein of Tornado's build (where modifications are limited to roller bearings, streamlined passages in the boiler, 250lb pressure, cylinder sizes and the overall height change) might end up being perfectly suited to the modern mainline. I would certainly get the wallet out to see that one day...
     
  7. The Black Hat

    The Black Hat Active Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    WWII??? If WWI hadnt happened the NER would have had their part of the ECML electrified... never mind what might have happened some 25 odd years later...
     
  8. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    Good point well made! The idea of apple green Swiss style 'Leccies speeding up and down the line to Berwick is genuinely appealing.
     
  9. The Black Hat

    The Black Hat Active Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    Thanks. While I might be obviously known and love supporting the North Eastern Railway, and its subsequent role in LNER and BR, the notion of Thompson being more in tune with that kind of practice is to be honest, very overstated. So to is the usually trotted idea of war maintenance, Gresley's legacy, or some wild and wonderful theory concocted by those loving conspriacy theorists, the fact remains that these all soley focus on the railway aspects of the issue and as usual when railway topics are discussed, are blinkered by the truer version of events and the wider implications.

    A lot is said about the mindsets of both Gresley and Thompson. While most hate Thompson for his rebuilds spouting rehearsed rhetoric that any preacher on a Sunday would want his flock to memorise and subsequently repeat, the fact remains that he did this for some reasons that have been stated. Firstly this has been down to Gresleys initial engines. The P2s were not entirely succesful. Yes they looked great in both original and reconstructed A4 style format, but for a company wanting to make money and cut on waste these engines were costing profit. Rebuild was given as the means to attempt to do something about them, and for the most part they became fairly reliable afterwards if neglected thanks to the widely adopted view that they were inferior. Following from a master at his work is never easy, Gresley was fine at producing engines that could haul expresses and grab headlines. His A3 and A4 were fantastic examples of what steam power could produce, but the time for steam was already waining. Raven had seen the future 20 years before Mallards record breaking run and the NER had plans and finance almost ready to build electric power on the ECML from Berwick to York. Gresley knew of this and the cash strapped LNER could only do what it could. But if Gresley was the visionary many think he was he surely should have followed up this work that the NER already had pioneered, research AND tested succesfully. He failed to do this, and instead played it safe with steam technology. The A4 was basically an A3, and some of his other designs, the J39 for example were not entirely successful enough to replace the engines they had been built to do so, even if they stemmed from the Darlington drawing office more than Doncaster. The P2s had already become a class of many different unique locomotives and thus the first non-standard casualties casued by low numbers rather than a deliberate attempt to remove them. By introducing them to similar parts and classes the engines could be quicker to repair, maintain and be running more. Thus earning money. The LNER was there to make money, and not run a preservation business.

    Thompson for his part loved Standardisation, but you can go to far with principles. His ideas were indeed sound, but practice isnt always easy to adopt from theory. The conspiracy theorists would sumise that the rebuild of Great Northern was deliberate. I dont think it was particularly so. At the time steam technology was standard rather than in danger. Views of the past looked to Classics at University rather than the preservation of what was around. Even City of Truro was kept because the Eastern Region musuem asked for it. The Western region would have scrapped it in all likelihood. The National collection is full of engines that they could preserve from what was left. Few of the original pre-grouping engines predating the 1890s are around. It wasnt concieved as being neccesary to keep engines of any kind, or any other area or item. No WWI Dreadnought is left from the same period, and even into post WWII railways became the forerunner of preservation. Yes some protested about Great Northern's selection but this might have been just as much to avoid controversy as to cause it. He was never the easiest man to work with or for, and the designs where his skill and experience from areas of the NER and GER come to the fore can be seen by his work with coaches, the L1, and B1. Thompsons remit was to reduce costs, get greater efficiency, with a war and nationalisation looming, rather than Gresley being able to selectively persue big projects and tinker with the small classes he developed for specific tasks, which became a costly practice.

    A lot of the Gresley v Thompson debate is academic, and blown out of proportion by the recycled, adopted and enhanced views used to support either side. Its become as legendary as the work the two men made and I dont doubt that actually they both had a healthy respect for each others work as engineers even if they might have differred in views. Its been enthusiasts that become as emotive to take up the interest of the debate and prove once and for all their side is right and a lot of what is said has been said before, and just rehearsed and repeated. This is not the only issue where such mindless devotion to script is the achiillies heel of the enthusiast; the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, Beechings Review, Privisation all get similar treatment and following for the simple reason they have become cult status in railway enthusiast history and NOT that of the engines, companies and engineers themselves.
     
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  10. Oakfield

    Oakfield Guest

    Re: New Build P2

    I was going to plow through this contribution and correct many of the erroneous statements contained therein. However as I then discovered that this would include a rebuttal of virtually the whole piece I have decided against. Historical interpretation of facts is one thing. Making up a whole argument to coincide with your views is another. The LNER for one example abandoned the NER electrification at board level as there was not the capital available to the company to develop it. It was nothing to do with Gresley not having the vision.

    Add to this the numerous spelling and punctuation errors and I really cannot take this piece seriously.
     
  11. Guest

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    Gresley was well embarked on electrifying the GC pre WWII not the ECML. That the first fifty miles or so was subsequently completed by the BTC, trumpeted as the first electric main line, and now sixty years later is pushing up daisies, is a whole other thesis on how Britain's railways are a product of prejudice and cock up!

    The removal of 26000, Britain's first real main line electric loco, with its history of being loaned to the Dutch railways post WWII, from the National Collection and its subsequent destruction was a disgrace!
     
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  12. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie Part of the furniture

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    Yes, but as far as I am aware it was a trial run in the hope that the ECML would be done a few years afterward.
     
  13. The Black Hat

    The Black Hat Active Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    Isnt your statement that the LNER abandoned the NER electrification at board level just a limited view to support your idea. Gresley was in charge of a railway for near on 20 years. At no point did he not consider that electrification was the way forward? They could have done it if they chose to - but they didnt.

    There isnt many eroneous statements. Its merely getting away from the railway history and seeing a bigger picture. Attitudes at the time were vastly different to what they are now. But its okay, obviously saying this brings back everyone else to shoot you down for having a different and more vaired opinion.

    Thats okay, it was written on the quick reply bit and got a bit bigger than I expected. I did think your rebuttal could have been more polite and enlightened than mere arrogance and a condescending
    attitude. As a result, I didnt take yours too seriously either!
     
  14. Guest

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    Poor use of English there. The G C was no "trial run" It was a commercial scheme led by commercial imperatives. The Woodhead tunnel was becoming an impossibility with steam haulage and with the amount of traffic over the Trans Pennine route, electrification was desirable on several fronts.

    Undoubtedly, once proven, electrification would have spread, and no doubt 25kv would have followed - but that's all history now. What a bloody waste!
     
  15. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    The GE suburban electrification was another LNER scheme delayed by WW2. For Mr. Black Hat to say that Gresley lacked vision is arrant nonsense.
     
  16. The Black Hat

    The Black Hat Active Member

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    Ive never said that Gresley was not visionary. I have said that he sometimes doesnt display the visionary that people subsequently give him for his legacy. He is remembered for some brilliant work, the A3 and A4 being most obvious the K4 being another. Some of his other work was less successful and he often had small groups of engines for specific roles. Fine, if you support that then great. I love his work on the A4, and his work with coaching stock. He did indeed try to measure performance with a high standard of express travel, which lasted well up to the end of steam. However, if truely visionary then he could have seen a bigger picture with other forms of technology being used. I think Gresley saw this more than Thompson, and think Raven truely understood what was due to happen - but if you want visionary then Brunel is the engineer of choice.

    Ive not said that he wasnt great, just that what people spout afterwards is always recycled from someone elses view and subsequenly his visionary legacy owes as much to the hype of enthusiasts discussion and it being embelished than an honest reflection of his work. Fact is though - you can say that about any railwayman or engineer....
     
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  17. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie Part of the furniture

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    Fair point; it had a dual purpose then: as a means of improving and developing the service on the Woodhead route, and as a proving project for future electrification of more important (read: ECML) mainlines.

    I think we're agreed it's loss is a damned shame though!
     
  18. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Re: New Build P2


    What rubbish! The LNER had plans to electrify but not the money. When they finally decided to embark on the Woodhead and Shenfield projects - both stymied by WW2 - it was IIRC as a result of cheap government loans to fund capital projects on the railways. It was not a lack of vision on Gresley's part that held back electrification of the ECML, it was a lack of cash. The LNER was the poorest of the Big 4 and was particularly badly hit by the Great Depression and the effect that had on its freight revenues. In fact the Newport - Shildon line was de-electrified due to traffic levels falling so low that the maintenance of the OHL could no longer be justified.
     
  19. The Black Hat

    The Black Hat Active Member

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    Re: New Build P2

    I said in the sentence before that the LNER had no money and agree with what you say. Yes the company was cash strapped, but in light of what they did have, its a case of directing the finance and resources to that end. If they decided that passenger flows of steady volume justifited the electrification then they could pursue it but at a cost to something else. It need not have been all the ECML straight away, perhaps a chunk of the southern end, but they chose not to. The rest is academic...
     
  20. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Re: New Build P2

    I find it interesting that rather than actually rebuttal the piece, you choose instead to undermine it in a particularly unpleasant way. That doesn't help your side of the debate at all, to be honest.

    For the record, there's a few things I disagree, and agree with in that piece, but am interested to to see what in particular other people (other than the electrification) disagree with. I of course, would agree with the points regarding Great Northern, but what about the idea behind the P2s - a non standard class of misfits made standard?
     

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