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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. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    After trawling this thread from the OP, I've found it .... not on this thread!
    Steam Traction>Riddles Quote>Post #18 by @8126
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2018
  2. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    Found and read it.
    Thank You
     
  3. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Lightweight materials (which were not in great supply) were used to bring the overall weight of the V4 down. Commendable in terms of "go anywhere" but changes would have had to have been made to the production variants.

    I did not. You brought the P2 into it.

    I am pointing out that Thompson wasn't trying to build a locomotive to be better than a P2, he was designing a mixed traffic Pacific for a very different set of traffic requirements (and he was ultimately proved right in this).

    The comparison of the A2/3 to the Merchant Navy locomotives is entirely fair. The A2/3 had three sets of valve gear, 6ft 2in wheels and an excellent steam circuits.

    The Merchant Navy locomotives, extremely experimental in the valve gear and cladding departments, were then rebuilt en masse to have three sets of valve gear, retained their 6ft 2in wheels and their excellent steam circuit, together with a more conventional outline.

    One can point to the fact that the Thompson A2/3 was built contemporaneously to the original Merchant Navy and can also point out that the rebuilt Merchant Navy class more than resembles the setup that Thompson had already achieved.

    I love the Bulleid classes, but where Thompson was not given free reign to entirely develop new locomotives from scratch, he standardised as best he could and made locomotives that were conservative, absolutely, but did the jobs asked of them (something you have said - they did their jobs!)

    When all's said and done, is the measure of a locomotive not how well it did its everyday jobs?
     
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  4. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    Thank You for offering to send me a copy but I was guided to post 644,so please do not be bothered.
     
  5. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    Thank You.
    B12s sounds like LNWR Experiments with more humane cabs.
    Riddles liked Experiments/Prince of Wales locomotives.
    Is there a GA drawing of a B12 somewhere?
     
  6. andrewshimmin

    andrewshimmin Active Member

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    To save Mr Martin the trouble, this is all rather off piste:
    The V2 was a much bigger and heavier machine than the B1, intended for quite different duties (fast parcels and freight initially). The V4 was clearly Gresley's intended design (or prototype of a design) of a medium power go-anywhere loco for general mixed traffic duties: the very duties the B1 carried out admirably (I like a B1, although you'll never convince me the were as good as a Black 5).
    Also, Simon didn't compare the rebuilding of the MNs with the rebuilding of the P2s. He noted that Bulleid remains generally lauded as a genius, even though the main design for which he was responsible was so beset by problems that those who had to run them decided within a decade that a drastic and expensive rebuild was essential. Meanwhile Thompson's A2 Pacifics did their intended job perfectly satisfactorily until the end of steam with no modification, were further improved by his successor with only minor tweaks to the layout, and he also produced some other excellent designs such as the B1 and O1 which gave the LNER useful, flexible and reliable machines at modest initial cost. Nevertheless he is generally pilloried as useless... It is the comparison between the designers' reputations, rather than between the rebuildings, which Simon was noting.
    Oh, and you certainly wouldn't have made any friends moving the P2s onto the ECML in wartime - what they did not need at that time were six highly non-standard and problem-prone machines, however powerful. They were having enough trouble with their existing three-cylinder fleet at that point in time.
     
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  7. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    So here you are comparing the A2/3 with the unrebuilt MN
    Still the unrebuilt MN?

    and now you refer to the rebuilt MN

    I took the bold part to refer to rebuilding a series of locomotives - eg the P2, which whilst not pacifics could otherwise be described as you describe the unrebuilt MN in the first paragraph. If you actually meant he had built a loco which was the equivalent of the rebuilt MN but which gets less praise then I misunderstood you, but still fail to see the relevance of the unrebuilt MN. Again I would question that the rebuilt MN is "praised to high heaven" although compared to the criticism of the faults of the unrebuilt version it might seem that way.
     
  8. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    The B1 is somewhere between the two.
    Nope, he was specifically referring to the locomotives themselves - see my last post.
    It is said the problems were due to the road, so removing the locos to a straighter road might have well at least reduced them in addition to putting the locos closer to the main works should they need attention. The could also have worked more efficiently on the longer runs. A few more sets of conjugated gear would hardly have broken the maintenance systems and the extra power would most certainly have been welcome in reducing the load on the pacifics.
     
  9. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Let me be absolutely clear (if I haven't been already).

    The rebuilt Bulleid Pacifics (the Merchant Navy locomotives) are praised by a number of commentators and by their supporters. They are in my view also, excellent machines.

    Their original building by Bulleid was contemporary with Thompson's A2/3 class. A class which has the same ingredients as the then rebuilt Bulleid Pacifics.

    So Thompson's design - which was in itself a good locomotive design (and lasted unmodified largely to the end of steam on the LNER) is castigated (unfairly I might add) whereas the rebuilt Bulleid design - echoing Thompson's work a decade earlier - is not.

    I made no reference to the P2s and you have brought that point up as a bit of whataboutery, I am afraid.
     
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  10. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    To speak of the locomotives is to speak of the designers, quite frankly, so whilst I did not specify Thompson or Bulleid's reputation, one can I hope see the unfairness in the perceived reputations of the designers if one creates a locomotive class reliable and powerful enough to do its job, and the other creates a performance capable machine which is rebuilt heavily within ten years of its build date, to a specification very similar to the former designers!

    I do not believe the reputation for track spreading was in any way the problem. The issue was the broken crank axles. I cannot find any other locomotive class on the LNER that had five crank axles fail in so short a period of time.

    We accept they [the crank axles] are under-engineered when we look to the new build P2 (of which, for clarity, I am a founder member and supporter) but somehow this is lost where Thompson is concerned as CME looking at six non identical locomotives in a class with an increasingly poor reputation - not one Thompson has made - one which they have made for themselves.

    On any other locomotive class, for any other designer, would crank axle failure not ring a few alarm bells? Would five crank axle failures not ring many alarm bells?

    I am afraid that the conjugated valve gear problem was much greater than is otherwise perceived, mostly due to the propaganda (and it is propaganda) put out by the loudest of the Gresley acolytes.

    ES Cox's reports give statistics for the year 1941 which piqued my interest and allowed me to examine further the issues. When I give my lecture next week, I will be giving some approximate stats for the first time based on Cox's report and they make for interesting reading.

    You speak as if the works on the LNER simply had the capacity to make a few new sets of conjugated valve gear, where around half of every LNER major works was given up to making munitions, tanks, aircraft components and other supplies for the war effort. You make it seem as if they had the materials to hand to make everything new too and that maintenance simply wasn't an issue, when both materials were in short supply and so were men, women and the specialist lubricants, knowledge and similar to deal with such a situation.

    Edward Thompson took over as CME in April 1941. This country was at war. It is a situation and context that is continuously and repeatedly ignored. You speak as if Thompson had the same experiences and situation available to Gresley as CME when the reverse is true.
     
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  11. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    Opinions differ about the legitimacy of Thompson's rebuilding of the P2s into A2/2s. Opinions are mostly unfavourable about the legitimacy of Thompson's rebuilding of Great Northern. But has much been said against the A2/3s that were built new?
     
  12. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    The 1928 order appears on this list (a very useful website, this one).
    http://www.beyerpeacock.co.uk/loco list/List of Beyer Peacock Locomotives.html

    The archive database of MOSI (Manchester) contains lists of those drawings which were rescued from Gorton Works when Beyer Peacock closed down, but since their website was revamped last year, I can no longer find it .... or anything much else, for that matter. Ho-hum. That's progress for you.
     
  13. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    And I question why this is. Take Edward Thompson out of the equation. Put in A.N. Other, CME.

    You have a locomotive class that is powerful, but has broken five crank axles in a very short space of time. It is wasteful on fuel due to its utilisation, it is suffering overheating bearings and axle boxes (whether or not this is the wheelbase is up for debate - I believe the pony truck was to blame, as the P2 Trust does.

    What do YOU do, if you are the CME of the LNER with six non identical locomotives with a poor reputation such as the P2s had?

    In short, the P2s' reputation preceded them. I do not believe anyone going in as CME would have allowed the P2s to continue either unmodified - or at all.

    Based mostly on a perception that is entirely incorrect (that Thompson selected Great Northern specifically to be rebuilt - which he did not).

    Nope. Not if you read the reports by the people who actually used them. Peter Townend's accounts of the A2/3s are probably the most balanced. Like any locomotive, they have their flaws. But they were very capable, very reliable machines which proved their worth on everything to fast freight, expresses, and heavy bulk cement trains (as their designer intended - designed and built with the intention of being "mixed traffic").
     
  14. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    You weren't clear before - now you are. I've explained where I got the idea of the P2, but sadly that isnt enough to prevent you insulting me.

    If there's one set of Thompson Pacifics that isnt castigated it's the A2/3. They had faults, but most commentators consider they had enough merits to stand on their own.

    The rebuilt MN and WC were an attempt to make a silk purse out of a sows ear and largely suceeded. They did make the best of a superb boiler.
    Bulleid has plenty of detractors - I think you ignore the criticism of the other CMEs and concentrate on the praise when you compare reputations. They all had foibles, they all produced a few less than brilliant designs. Bulleid himself was endlessly inventive without considering (or maybe even even seeing) the practical problems with his designs.

    I wasn't refering to the effect of the loco on the road, but the effect of the road on the loco. Do you not think it's possible the crank axles suffered from the sinuosity and heavy gradients of the Aberdeen road? There are othes who think this may be the case. So removing the locos to the ECML might well have alleviated the problem to at least some extent. It might even have allowed time to beef up the axles - assuming Thompson didn't have other plans for the locos.
    The LNER didn't need to make new conjugated gear just replace the bearings, a far easier process. Of course if Thompson had insisted the gear was maintained better and ash wasn't shovelled all over the bearings, even that wouldn't have been necessary. I suspect the additional resources to prevent the problem would have been minscule in relation to the loss of resources due to the failures - and in wartime isn't the quick cheap and effective fix the essential action?

    I went back and read that report again and the following pages of discussion. I wonder how many of your audience will also have read those pages.

    and to refer to the post above this - Whether or not Thompson specifically chose Great Nothern for rebuild, it seem extremely likely that he did have the power to chose another loco when asked to. He was the CME of one of the big four and made sure others knew it, not some poor sap trapped in the workings of a massive bureaucracy, so if he refused to change the loco it was a concious decision in the face of requests from staff. Perhaps that just shows what he thought of his staff...
     
  15. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    I think the bearings were probably the nub of the matter under wartime conditions. Specialist grades of metals were in short supply across the board (witness the enforced selection of chain drive in lieu of geared shafts on Bulleid's MN's), with pretty much 100% of such materials - unsurprisingly - committed to war production.
     
  16. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    Assuming you mean conjugated valve gear bearings, they last just fine if greased regularly and not covered in ash. Certainly replacing them in wartime isn't so easy when ball bearings are all needed for war equipment, but then it makes maintaining them all the more important.
     
  17. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    I actually meant any high grade specialist material, all of which were in short supply 'for the duration' and indeed, for the 10 years after cessation of hostities. To underscore this, consider the use of steel fireboxes by Bulleid and Riddles and (in the fifties) the steel shortages which delayed or outright kyboshed much of BR's 'standard' construction programme.

    During WWII, one of the key bombing targets for Allied air raids was the ball bearing production plant at Schweinfurt. A small, but critical portion of the nazi war effort was (at great cost in lives on both sides) seriously crippled, with considerable knock-on effects on Axis war (and general engineering) production.
    https://www.thoughtco.com/world-war-ii-schweinfurt-regensburg-raid-2360539


    In these days of (reasonably) assured supplies, it's hard for those of us who don't recall those days to realise just how awful the aftermath of a major conflict remains (note choice of tense), long after the killing stops. The 'little local difficulty' over acceptable grades of copper for fireboxes a couple of years ago was a mere blip by comparison, yet witness the problems which that caused across our beloved heritage sector.
     
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  18. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely, which is why spending a small amount of cash/manpower on maintenance is so important to reduce the greater losses through breakdown/repair - and fixing specific faults is better than completely rebuilding loco classes... That said the B1 was a good idea well executed, for the time, given that it replaced locos which were really getting too old to even maintain.
     
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  19. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    And how would you describe your insistence that the P2 is involved in a point I never mentioned it in?

    But in my research that is not the case. They are continuously lumped into the same "useless" category by a number of commentators. It is interesting how much the A2/3 and A2/1 - both decent classes for different reasons - are largely discarded by LNER commentators.

    I agree.

    Maybe I should be clearer in this (and I apologise if I have not been previously). The rebuilt locomotives of Bulleid are praiseworthy, the Thompson A2/3 is overlooked and castigated.

    Don't get me wrong: I admire Bulleid and his work at the LNER and Southern Railway is fascinating.

    No, because I have read the P2 Trust's report into their investigation and I am convinced by their argument that it was the design having to take on stresses they had not anticipated with the additional adhesion of the Mikado layout.

    I would love to hear that conversation. "So there's these locomotives we have - they've broken five crank axles up here, we don't know what the cause is exactly, but it might be the wheelbase on the curves. Anyway would you like them because your lines are straighter?"

    The idea they would have been removed to the ECML seems absurd to me. I think there's a good argument to suggest that the P2s might have been seen as dangerous. They were certainly not seen as good locomotives. Amazing potential (and that's why I have monetarily supported building one), but let's call a spade a spade. Five crank axle breaks in a few years?

    We are lucky that the P2 Trust is about to give us the data and better understanding - but they have access to materials, archives, 3D drawings and computer modelling - none of which Gresley or Thompson had access to.

    Who, in the middle of WW2, with materials scarce, and work capacity squeezed massively, has time to devote to fixing locomotives for which the issues surrounding them were not fully understood? Rebuilding as Pacifics was a drastic decision but (in my view) looks reasonable set against what was going on. They reused as much as they could and used standard Gresley parts to make up the rest. They made workable units - and they never suffered another crank axle breakage in service.

    But Cox's report stated quite clearly:

    So if you have a report on the failures of a type of valve gear and your independent advisor (which, contrary to some of the conspiracy theories put out in this thread at times, WAS independent of Thompson) states you shouldn't be using it, what would you do?

    Thompson was CME.

    There was a mechanical engineer at every major locomotive works on the LNER working under him.

    At every shed there was a foreman, with maintenance teams (much depleted by men leaving for the war effort).

    You have a lack of resources - man power - and issues with the gear generally. I cannot imagine Thompson (or anyone) saying to the heads of their locomotive works and at the sheds "maintain the gear better and don't shovel ash over the bearings". There's no evidence he did in any way, shape or form - you've pretty much made that up.

    Of course everyone wanted the gear to be maintained better. But wartime conditions precluded that. There was also - particularly for the A4s unfortunately - a lack of the specialist lubricants that had been available pre-war for the gear.

    Then you have the maintenance teams - whoever was available, ranging from women and young boys and girls - helping for the war effort. They don't have the specialist knowledge or skills necessarily - what do you do if you are the shed foreman? You make do with what you have.

    Perhaps you could point where any of the railways (let alone the LNER) could find sufficient manpower to deal with the conjugated valve gear properly in light of its issues underlined by Cox in his report. This was not a situation unique to the LNER and yet every other major railway seemed to be handling their lack of manpower in a way the LNER could not.

    I will offer at the end of my lecture some printed copies, or my email address so they can have an e-copy and make their own minds up.

    I have checked this with people who were there at the time, and they have confirmed that once Musgrave had selected 4470, it was already in works for rebuilding and being dismantled when Teddy Windle is reputed to have remonstrated with Thompson over the locomotive choice.

    Thompson did not have the authority to change the selection in any event, and the locomotive was already in works being stripped.

    I have responded above. Peter Townend once said "CMEs do not consider enthusiasts but technical facts".

    The locomotive had been chosen, it was in works, its identity was largely irrelevant to those making the decisions. If Musgrave had no qualms about sending the oldest Gresley Pacific for rebuilding, why should Thompson? He had a railway to run.

    There appears to be some evidence that the identity of Great Northern was reinstated at Thompson's behest as a measure of restoring some faith in those who were put out by the decision. I am investigating this further and this will not feature in my lecture until I am sure of my facts.

    However, it is true that none of Thompson's other Pacifics or locomotives had been intended to have names at all (and many ran without names initially including the P2 rebuilds, A2/1s and A2/3s) - in fact, the B1s only wore names at the behest of the LNER board of directors (and Thompson disliked the name Springbok initially - he had wanted "Utility" for the prototype).

    Thompson was interested in maintenance, efficiency, problem solving.

    An unfair comment, given that almost everyone Peter Grafton interviewed for his book, and everyone I have spoken to or written to, has suggested that with a few exceptions (all seemingly within Gresley's old design team) Thompson was in fact very good to his staff, particularly younger staff (See Richard Hardy).

    He was also bureaucratic and had his way of doing things. Efficiency and expediency always being on his mind, he made alterations to the setup to improve things a manner he thought would give better results.

    Specific fault identified: conjugated valve gear. Specific fix - three sets of valve gear or only use two. Most of the locomotives rebuilt retained most of their major components, including the P2 rebuilds (which literally reused parts to the extent that the connecting rods were made all equal lengths!)

    But as I have already pointed out - manpower shortage, particularly in skilled maintenance staff necessitates simplifying designs at the build and maintaining stage.

    I think it would not be unfair to say that the Thompson B1 was an excellent design whose worth was clear right up until 1967 when the last was retired from service.

    Thompson did as Thompson had done throughout all of his career, more or less - identified good components (boiler, cylinders, wheels, blast pipes) and put things together to make a more efficient (or intended to be more efficient) machine. He was no innovator, he was not experimental: he was concerned with maintenance and costs and he did his best whether as mechanical engineer at Stratford, Darlington, Doncaster or as CME.
     
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  20. 8126

    8126 Member

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    As an illustration of the effect of steel shortages on the BR Standard building programme, 76017 is an interesting example. The frame plates are actually built up from multiple parts - the raised portions over the horn gaps are welded on. Evidently there was a shortage of sufficiently wide steel plate to profile the whole frame plate in one go.

    Going back a little and considering Big Four loco policy, I think it's fair to say that only the LMS really went for a massive standardisation programme between 1923 and the war (or perhaps two of them). The GWR already was standardised to all intents and purposes.

    The Southern could probably have afforded it, but chose to spend its capital on electrification. As a result, while Maunsell built a range of very solid classes which could have been the basis of a standard fleet like the previous two, in practice the standard classes only really added capability at the top of the fleet and in certain niche roles, allowing some of the most antiquated types to be replaced by cascading down slightly less antiquated types. Consider the secondary passenger interchange trials conducted on the SR, where various pre-grouping 4-4-0s (and one 0-4-2) were compared to determine which should be retained. Only post-war, when the pre-grouping classes were sufficiently out-dated to be more of a nuisance than a benefit, were they displaced by Light Pacifics and Standards (and associated cascading down of Urie/Maunsell 4-6-0s and 2-6-0s) and famously a lot of them stayed to near the bitter end.

    For different reasons (simple lack of capital), I think you could say LNER loco policy up to the war was similar to the SR. Gresley built new where new capability was needed, adopted pre-grouping classes where they'd do the job on a wider scale (I'm thinking of the Directors and the N7s in particular here, but the O4s count in a way just because they were available cheap in vast numbers) and introduced a range of types that arguably, if the money had been available, could have been the LNER standard classes.

    Economically, standardisation has undoubted benefits in the long run, but if the capital isn't available to introduce it, the only option is to continue as best as you can. To use a simple metaphor, the point at which patching the roof is no longer cost effective can be reached a long time before it actually exceeds the cost of replacement, but sometimes funds for replacement are only made available when the latter stage is reached and it's blatantly obvious something has to be done.
     
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