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Edward Thompson: Wartime C.M.E. Discussion 2012 - 2019

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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    I have demonstrated that factually there were issues, through presenting evidence showing this, in this thread. Start around page 70 I think and keep going if you’d like to start with the publication I made of the cox report.
     
  2. 69530

    69530 New Member

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    Sorry Simon I did not make myself clear surely yhere were no LNER locos with three sets of Walshaerts gear requiring the crews to go between the frames to lubricate.
    Sorry Simon I did not make myself clear surely yhere were no LNER locos with three sets of Walshaerts gear requiring the crews to go between the frames to lubricate.
     
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  3. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    That is true - but although the principle was similar on most of them, greasing around the 2:1 gear was necessary and often missed, particularly where you have classes like the D49s and B17s where the setup isn’t quite the same as on the Pacifics.

    It is easier to tell someone to go oil around two sets of valve gear on shed or oil up three identical sets (with one between the frames, accepted) than to explain the 2:1 gear and what needs to be done to someone who was inexperienced.

    And that at the end of the day is the crucial thing. We hear so much about the performances and not nearly enough about what was actually happening in the shed at the start and at the end of the working day.
     
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  4. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    That puzzles me. There were also umpteen different implementations of inside stephenson, some with cylinders outside, some with cylinders inside... quite probably from several different design offices with different design practices. In all that why did the conjugated gear stand out as presenting a special challenge?
     
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  5. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    A difference in approach to preventative maintenance, in my opinion, coupled with all the different factors. The LNER never had the most money of the big four either and it took a lot of physical damage as a result of the war.

    At the end of the day I’m not saying conjugated valve gear design is the main issue. But we can’t ignore direct evidence from the LNER in favour of a “Thompson wanted to destroy all things Gresley” approach.
     
  6. huochemi

    huochemi Member Friend

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    Jim raises a good point and I think you may need to dig a bit deeper to explore exactly what was causing the problem with the conjugated gear (assuming that was the, or one of the, problem(s)). Are there any clues in Cox' report? Is the issue that the gear needs more maintenance in any circumstances than conventional individual gears, such as frequent bearing replacement, which is was just not getting (which is a more potent argument than the immediate difficulties caused by the war in view of the timescales)? Missed oiling points, dirt, poor quality lubricants etc could impact any loco. If the LMS could keep Princesses going with four sets of valve gear, two of which are internal, it does seem odd that the LNER struggled with two and half sets.

    I am not sure I understand your last sentence. Are you saying that ET's desire to replace the conjugated gear was the main focus of internal criticism, therefore you need to focus on this, even if in reality it was not the biggest issue?
     
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  7. Sheff

    Sheff Well-Known Member

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    From a practical construction, maintenance and operating perspective, if I were responsible for commissioning a new mainline 3 cyl steam locomotive I would do my level best to ensure it had the minimum of gubbins between the frames. I wouldn't hesitate to specify 2:1 gear as the cheapest solution (the longevity of the A4s alone support this), or at a greater capital cost, rotary gear giving higher efficiency and (theoretically) even lower maintenance and prep time, .
     
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  8. bluetrain

    bluetrain New Member

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    I do not think that there were any British 3-cylinder engines that had the valve-gear layout that you describe on some German and Danish engines. Some of the American Union Pacific 4-12-2s were converted to a similar arrangement, but the majority of the class kept their Gresley-type conjugated gear.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4-12-2

    There was at least one group of British inside-cylinder locomotives that were given outside valve gear. The LMS thus equipped five of its "Prince of Wales" class 4-6-0s in 1923/24. See attachment.
     

    Attached Files:

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  9. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    The problem here - as I think we are identifying - is that we are trying to rationalise why exactly the Gresley fleet suffered more - at least disproportionately - to the rest of the LNER fleet in terms of availability, despite having nominally the same conditions.

    The Cox Report gives a number of answers for this including, as you say, the bearing replacement issue.

    What I am postulating - and you are free to agree or disagree with this - is that it is easier to instruct someone to oil around a set of valve gears that are identical in setup, even if in different locations on the engine, than it is to tell a layman to grease up all the required points on the 2:1 gear. It's not the main factor: it is a potential factor nevertheless.

    The whole situation during world war two added up to a very difficult time for the largest Gresley machines - which isn't just the Pacifics, though they and the mikados get the main focus - it also includes the V2s and his variety of 2-8-0s.

    If you look at the whole thing in the round, look at all of the evidence, do you see Thompson as:
    • trying to rid the LNER of Gresley because he hated Gresley (as has been reported) and that the problems didn't exist
    OR
    • Thompson was working in genuinely difficult circumstances where the problems were real and made some tough decisions
    That's the thing - what we're trying to do here (or perhaps - I am?) is rationalise why the availability figures and the Cox Report portray such a negative situation where the Gresley locomotives are concerned.

    I don't believe it is fully a design issue, I think it's circumstances. It's a number of factors that come together to make one group of steam locomotives more unreliable than others, specifically in that time frame. Which explains why they were more reliable pre and post war. Manpower, training, availability of materials. More straightforward locomotives proved more robust.

    RE LMS vs LNER on locos - I think there were completely different cultures of maintenance on the two railways and that's born out by a lot of Thompson's investigations internally into what was eventually reorganizations of the major locomotive works. Certainly the Cox report indicates a bit of this as it gives an indication of the sheer disparity in failures between LNER and LMS 3 cylinder locomotives.

    I think there is something in that, yes. It is the decision Thompson is most criticised for and often to an extent that questions his ability. My point is that the evidence is pointing towards there being real problems, with a number of factors causing them, and Thompson responding to these problems with his own solutions.

    But I can find no internal criticism of Thompson's standardisation plans directly within the LNER board. There is some praise for the approach to the choice of two cylinders for all small and medium sized locomotives as it was reducing some overhead costs, and leading to withdrawal of some of the worst availability pre-grouping locomotives. The reports on Thane of Fife after rebuilding are all positive.

    The overall tone of the emergency board notes is a group of people trying to muddle through things day to day, trying to spend as little money as possible and simplify things as much as possible, as the full situation was complex and had multiple different factors making it difficult.
     
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  10. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Re 2:1 gear: see above.

    Re rotary gear: because we're in the middle of a war where the rotary valve gear machines were struggling for spares (so much so that one D49 became the D Class loco for precisely this reason).

    One thing missed is that plan for the Gresley fleet was to retain most of them completely unmodified. It was an emphasis placed on all new locomotive designs being two cylinder and three cylinder with three sets in the largest locos only in Thompson's plans. The longevity of the Gresley Pacifics happened precisely because Thompson had no intention of scrapping them but supplementing them with his own designs.

    In that respect, the 6 P2s, A1/1 and four A2/1s blur the lines a bit. The focus on the P2 rebuilds and Great Northern when there were 410 B1s built and no A3s or A4s or V2s scrapped under Thompson seems incredibly OTT. Particularly in context of the language used against Thompson - "set out to destroy all things Gresley".
     
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  11. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I'm wondering if there is a point you are missing here which is whose responsibility that level of preparation was. I don't know the answer in the specific LNER case, but generally you can distinguish between things the driver (or P&D crew) did, generally as part of the daily preparation; and things shed staff did, typically to a mileage or time schedule.

    So "grease up all the required points in the 2:1 gear" - generally oiling up would be the driver's responsibility, but drivers don't generally use grease: that becomes the responsibility of the shed fitter. So the difference between, say, a Thompson and a Gresley pacific would be that the driver would oil up three sets of motion on the Thompson, but he would oil two sets of motion on the Gresley and, assuming it is grease lubricated, the shed fitter would do the combination gear to a pre-defined schedule.

    I don't know if that necessarily invalidates your argument exactly, but if your argument is about the difficulties of getting a relatively untrained person to prep a loco, you'd need to establish whose responsibility it actually was and then determine that the LNER lost skills in those trades.

    The other point that strikes me: was there evidence that the LNER lost people skilled in loco preparation? There's more to it than just oiling the requisite points; a lot of observation that comes only with experience. But equally, most top link drivers at that time were in their 50s or older, and unlikely to be taken away for more vital war work. So was the LNER really facing a shortage of people to prep engines that meant it had to be done by less experienced staff? If so, who was driving the trains? You mention up thread the loss of 60,000 "trained maintenance staff" - do you have evidence as to what grades they were doing? Certainly many railwaymen were in protected occupations, so I wonder if that number is more representative of unskilled and semi-skilled labour rather than skilled: goods clerks, porters, shunters and the like were probably more replaceable than shed fitters and drivers. (My grandmother was one of many women who worked on the railways during the war to release male workers to the armed forces, but it was in a goods yard loading and sheeting wagons, which I suspect is rather easier to teach in a hurry than preparing locos).

    (Another example of the fitter vs driver part of loco prep: on the original (first ten) Bulleid Merchant Navies, the reverser was in an incredibly restricted space under the boiler (it later moved). Steam reversers are generally reliable, but you do have to ensure the locking cylinder is full of oil with no air bubbles. That job was done by shed fitters rather than drivers, but tended to be skipped on the early Merchant Navies because of the poor access; that I believe is one of the main reasons why the class got a reputation for not being able to be reliably notched up, that is frequently ascribed to the valve gear but was more likely due to air in the reverser locking cylinders).

    Tom
     
  12. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    What I like about you Tom is that you’re always pushing to get better answers out of me.

    Much to pause for thought on there. I will respond fully when I have answers (I don’t feel I have answers to those questions right this moment).

    Sincerely - thank you.
     
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  13. Eightpot

    Eightpot Well-Known Member

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    Just a small part of your Post 3120, Simon. Homing in on oil I would question the supply of it being of a lower grade during the war than before. The likes of oil etc. are normally supplied to anyone according to an agreed specification. Taking superheated steam oil as one example, it has to stand up to the temperatures involved, if it doesn't it is no use at all if it causes increased cylinder bore, piston and rings, valve rings and liner wear. Overall, more often, and more time out of service under repair.

    For the A4s used on the 'Coronation' and other high-speed trains a special bearing oil was used (the name 'Jubilee Oil' comes to mind), but with the outbreak of war and the slackening of overall speeds, one could understand the use of this being dropped.

    Sentinel of Shrewsbury supplied suitable cylinder and crankcase oil to users of both road steam waggons and later locos and railcars from 1915. As far as I am aware it was supplied to them by a company local to them. If it was a lower grade due to wartime conditions it would have caused problems which Sentinel would soon have heard about, and been called upon to rectify quickly - after all, there was a war on and many steam waggons in daily use, particularly in Liverpool then.

    I have put this question of wartime oil specifications to the oil supplier concerned to see what they have to say.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
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  14. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I welcome that and I am grateful for the information.

    Let’s face it everyone - as the facts change, so must we. All avenues welcome.
     
  15. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    I wonder... Its documented (Cook) that early in the war the GWR had problems with boiler washouts because locomotives would spend weeks away from their home shed, and in a couple of cases boilers had to be swapped after a couple of months rather than the normal years. This was eventually resolved by an order that every locomotive with a number ending in 1 was to be washed out on the 1st, 11th, and 21st, (no matter where it was) ending in 2 on 2nd, 12th and 22nd, and so on. Is it possible there was an issue in the same sort of vein?
     
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  16. ross

    ross Member

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    4469? :)
     
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  17. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    :(

    Oh yeah.
     
  18. ross

    ross Member

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    Reflecting on Jimc's comment, it is hard to believe that someone didn't simply make a rule that locomotives with conjugated valve gear got the grease gun treatment every time they were lit up..." fight Adolf, grease a Gresley" signs in the sheds etc.
     
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  19. 8126

    8126 Member

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    I think it probably was. I know I keep citing Bill Harvey, but his book really is a mine of information on the issues of actually operating a steam fleet. Anyway, the main pivot of the 2:1 gear was a grease lubricated roller bearing, to be attended to by the shed staff. Apparently this was tending to be missed; one of Harvey and Spencer's post-war recommendations was that it should be replaced by a suitably large oil-lubricated plain bearing while manpower issues existed, because this put it back firmly in the driver's territory, and the driver would be the person on the shed with the greatest personal stake in ensuring that particular loco didn't fail on the road. This incidentally comes back to the 'dedicated crews against common user engines' argument beloved by the likes of Norman McKillop, but I digress....

    While drivers and skilled fitters may well have been reserved occupations, perhaps the sort of labourers who acted as fitters mates were less available, thus losing the extra pair of hands to help with assembly, disassembly and lifting heavy parts (and who knows, greasing bearings perhaps?), thus leading to a backlog of work.

    It being a roller bearing may also have led to some of the issues. Roller bearings are best suited to continuous rotation, repeated partial rotation back and forth is less ideal, hence the roller bearing return crank being a great success and roller bearing motion pins less so. It's not that it doesn't work, just you need specific designs and the advantages are less clear-cut. Also, although in one sense they are ideal for serviceability (you can press out the old bearing, press in a new one, away you go), if you can't get one they are absolutely not ideal for serviceability. A plain bearing could be re-metalled and re-machined at any works and probably the better equipped sheds, roller bearings would have been bought-in items and if they were needed for other things (or the production capacity was needed for other things) with a war on, tough luck.

    It is therefore entirely possible that in wartime a lot of the Gresley 3-cylinder engines were running with badly lubricated, knackered main pivot bearings in their 2:1 gear. Given the inherent characteristics of the gear, and the LNER big end of the time, this will not have been ideal.
     
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  20. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    In the context of maintenance I return to comments made in writings by Harry Knox of the history of Haymarket Depot in which he identifies one problem with the conjugated valve gear being the deposit of char on the levers whilst cleaning out the smokebox; Haymarket reduced this problem by servicing the gear at more frequent intervals than recommended by the CMEE. Whilst this was not the only problem and solution with the conjugated valve gear it directs attention at the maintenance which, during wartime conditions, would be less regular than required hence the increased number of problems. Given the situation I would presume that Thomson would be directed to deal with the symptoms (i.e. frequent breakdowns) rather than deal with the cause (lack of maintenance staff / increased traffic demands) which was simply identified as poor design. Again - given the wartime situation - it would be expedient to minimise any complications hence the move to the "standard" arrangement of 3 cylinders with independent valve gears hence Thomson's natural desire to produce locomotive designs with the minimum complications to enable (wartime) traffic demands to be met. In that context I accept that Thomson - as directed by the LNER Board - had little room to manoeuvre in his task as CMEE. As a Machiavellian thought - however - could it be that the choice of Great Northern for the first rebuild / conversion was made by a Gresley supporter who wished to discredit Thomson from the start of his tenure of office; I believe that the choice of locomotive was not made by - although accepted by - Thomson hence the possibility of an ulterior motive.
     

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