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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. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    That's very kind of you to say Julian, thank you, sincerely.
     
  2. huochemi

    huochemi Well-Known Member Friend

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    Never heard of a Roeantelope.:cool:
     
  3. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Member

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    I agree entirely.

    I ended up recently going to a lecture on violence (as you do) and one of the things that is interesting is that motives for an action are often ascribed by or to the person after the event. I wonder if some of that is what has happened with Thompson.

    I was once told 'if you rely only on the documents you'll go wrong because people lie in documents all the time' (this from someone who had read his secret police file in which the people were informing on him lied regularly to the secret police).

    It is a very difficult task to unpack someone like Thompson, so I take my hat off to Simon.
     
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  4. andrewshimmin

    andrewshimmin Active Member

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    Hippotragus equinus? Very handsome, too. And probably very tasty.
    Fair cop, I'd never noticed the couple of Cervids amongst the B1 Bovines
    I'm referring to the animal names, BTW, not the directors :)
     
  5. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member Friend

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    That is no doubt true when you’re investigating violent or other crimes but, I suspect, outright lies are far less likely to be found in the LNER engineering records and reminiscences. Nevertheless whenever one person writes down what another person said or did there is still plenty of room for mistakes, misunderstanding and misinterpretation. History Today :)
     
  6. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Unlikely in the engineering records.

    Reminiscences, on the other hand...
     
  7. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member Friend

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    I’d be interested to know if you’ve found any actual lies (not merely things that are wrong) by the contemporary sources about Thompson and Gresley. I’d ask you myself but, regrettably, I can’t come tonight. Good luck!
     
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  8. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Member

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    My boss’ father in law was an engineer in said country with the secret police. At one point in time the dictator decided he wanted a specific bridge because he’d seen a similar bridge. An engineer pointed out that such a bridge was impossible in engineering terms. The dictator sacked the engineer on the spot and demanded his engineers produce the bridge. How get out of this - so what they did was this, they set up an exhibition about bridges focussed on a suitable design, they took the dictator around the exhibition which prompted him to ask why all the bridges were of this design and was this the best design for the bridge they required. (In other words, the design for the bridge had to be ‘chosen’ by the dictator).

    This is oral history, from the engineer to my boss to me, to you. The engineering records won’t tell this story.
     
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  9. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member Friend

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    As soon as somebody writes it down, and maybe you’re the first but I don’t know, it becomes part of the documented history.

    My point really is the LNER’s engineering department, even in the 1940s, was neither a hotbed of crime nor infiltrated by the secret police.
     
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  10. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I have I’m afraid. But calling them out is one for the book.
     
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  11. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Member

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    Agreed. Although working under one of the Drummonds doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs.

    My point was more that there are often things that are left out of the documents. For example the documents may say that the dictator chose bridge x and then changed his mind and chose bridge y. The story of how he came to change his mind wasn’t recorded. This happened to be an example I aware of. I also know from my own work with contemporaries in time with this period who when asked about whether they wrote anything down they replied ‘no, we met, had coffee, talked, made our decisions and went off’. (To caveat this - they had a subconscious aversion to literacy for reasons too tedious to explain)

    And to caveat the story about the bridge - I am telling this story third hand, i’ve abridged the story, my boss told me the story, he was told the story by his father in law, things may have changed in the retelling and so on and so forth. I have to rely on my memory of the story, my boss on his memory, his father in law on his memory.

    I wonder how many decisions were actually communicated orally without any documentation, there was a comment about how Urie used to walk around the works inspecting things and changing things. It is this oral process that gets lost and is almost impossible to recover.
     
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  12. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    Believe me, such tactics are equally essential when dealing with management and elected representatives in democracies...
     
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  13. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who attended the lecture last night.

    Thankfully no tomatoes or pitchforks present!

    I hope it was of interest to all, if there’s anyone who would like the slides or Cox report do let me know.
     
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  14. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    I attended and enjoyed it. Some of it Simon had already said on here, but there was plenty more, and we're promised more still in the book.

    One thing that surprised me was that the "rebuild" of Great Northern kept hardly any of the original. In other words it was a brand new loco, but a rebuild on paper to avoid the need for Ministry approval. If I have grasped the story correctly, Great Northern was chosen by the Running Superintendent to go into the works for overhaul and someone decided that the best thing to do with it was to strip it down for parts to repair other locos. Maybe giving the new loco the same name (but new nameplates, straight instead of curved) was necessary to maintain the fiction that it was a rebuild or maybe Thompson specifically wished to retain the name. Simon pointed out that the new loco had the name Great Northern, it had "NE" on its tender, and it was painted in GE livery, thus indicating some allegiance to all three of the pre-grouping railways that Thompson had worked on.
     
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  15. pete2hogs

    pete2hogs Member

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    I wasn't able to attend the lecture but I have been mulling the actual Thompson designs in my mind and I think the score is something like this.

    B1 - highly successful, comparable with the best on other railways (Black 5, Hall, N/U on southern)
    K1 - Successful;, went into production under Peppercorn with scarcely any modification. Fulfilled a specific need on the LNER that previously was filled by very powerful but high maintenance 0-6-0's.
    O1 - Successful, again comparable with equivalents on other railways, didn't go into production but certainly could / probably would have done if nationalisation not happened.
    L1 - Successful when fresh out of shops, poor maintenance record due to being unnecessarily powerful for its main duties - maintenance problems could have been cured but by 1955 when problems were isolated interest in steam already waning. (Remember most of the class didn't come in to service until 1950)

    Note that the above 4 classes probably cover 80%+ of all main line duties and there was a stud of V2's and Pacifics that were going to stay in service to cover many of the other requirements.

    Q1 - OK but not really needed because Thompson soon started to trial diesel shunters (for which he seems to get very little credit)
    K5 - a mistake, not repeated
    B2 / B3 - not worthwhile, standard B1 could cover their duties
    Pacifics - successful performance, but did not achieve design aim of reduced maintenance. Their direct descendants, the 5 A1's with roller bearings, did achieve the goal.
    D - Big mistake, but again not repeated.
    J11/3 - OK but not really worthwhile. As with the D was really fiddling with outdated design principles - inside cylinder designs obsolete for new construction in postwar period. Would have been better building new K1's or the smaller 2-6-0 design that was on the boards at the end of the LNER.

    And we should add the B12, D16 and D20 rebuilds, all successful in pre-war conditions.

    Leaving aside the personality issues, I would suggest that this overall is a creditable record, indeed better than some other CME's that are well regarded.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2018
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  16. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Totally agree, hopefully this is beyond disagreement.

    Agree.

    He in fact gets no credit which is not unsurprising given what has been written about him the last fifty years.

    I would challenge that. When compared to the Gresley K3s and when used in isolation, it proved a good design as a prototype. However the LNER only needed one standard 2-6-0 and the K1/1 proved a better locomotive overall.

    B2 yes, B3/3 is interesting as JF Harrison thought highly of it (was a surprise to me too). It was felt to be a good locomotive, powerful, smooth running, hampered by its GCR components including axleboxes. Outlasted the originals but only just by virtue of being broken up for spares under Peppercorn.

    It’s an interesting discussion - in isolation (and with more time) I’d happily discuss this. I think it’s true in some respects and wrong in others.

    Was it a mistake?

    The LNERs biggest issue in WW2 was locomotive availability in 1941. Their locomotive availability amongst the three cylinder fleet was six times worse than a similar number of LMS three cylinder locos.

    The Morpeth was a unique D49/2 with its own type of Lentz valve gear. It was out of service due to a fault in its valve gear and no spares were available. A spare director cylinder block was available. The boiler, chassis and tender were fine.

    Do you:

    A) leave it alone
    B) use the director cylinder block to get another locomotive back into service?

    I’ve felt from the moment I started researching the D class that it wasn’t intended for a full rebuilding of the D49 class, but was a happy coincidence for Thompson, following the instructions of the cox report.

    An ordinary locomotive that wasn’t exceptional was put into service and worked trains. When all is said and done, it hauled revenue earning trains in wartime.

    Is building an average inside cylinder 4-4-0 a failure or is getting a locomotive that would have sat out unused into service a win?

    On this I partially agree. We have to remember that J11/3 was intended to have a round topped boiler to swap out its belpaire one (like many of Thompson’s rebuilds) - in the event, simply changing the engines to piston valves and raising the boiler produced modest improvements.

    And on that note, I agree entirely. Thompson’s poor reputation is undeserved. When you look at the context of what he was and wasn’t allowed to (heavily restricted by the LNER and War Office) his record and what he managed is actually quite remarkable.
     
  17. pete2hogs

    pete2hogs Member

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    Thanks for the detailed reply. It had not occurred to me that the 'D' might have been a one-off expedient.

    My overall conclusion is that, had Nationalisation not happened, Peppercorn and the LNER would have had a perfectly good set of standard designs - many of them using the same boiler and cylinders. These would have carried them on until overtaken by dieselisation / electrification which would have inevitably followed by the 60's / 70's at the latest. They would have been as good or nearly as good as anything on other railways but with their round top boilers probably cheaper to maintain .

    Further, given the successful experiment with roller bearings no doubt they would have spread to more of the fleet as well.
     
  18. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Part of the furniture

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    Would the LNER have done anything without nationalisation? Weren't they bankrupt?
     
  19. pete2hogs

    pete2hogs Member

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    No. They'd hardly have ordered 50-odd Pacifics and loads of B1's and L1's if they were broke.

    Nationalistation (same as grouping) was essentially undertaken to save the Government the cost of paying compensation to the railways for their use in the wars.

    The post-WW2 allegations against the railways were political expedients to justify the action taken and buy off the shareholders. Who, after all, would be quite happy to take the money, if they had all tried to sell their shares in the event of the government failing to supply an adequate recompense the market would have tanked.
     
  20. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    Government funding for specific projects did exist in Big4 days. My understanding was that the LNER was always teetering on the edge of bankruptcy from Day One in any event. Is anyone aware of which factors dragged finances down so drastically? I'm presuming the core issues lay with one or more of the larger pre-group constituents?
     

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