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Edward Thompson: Wartime C.M.E. Discussion 2012 - 2021

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

  1. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member Friend

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    I’ll assume you’re not suggesting Cox’s and Cook’s accounts, simply because of their high status, should always be accepted without question. Therefore how should a good historian test their allegation of a Machiavellian campaign?
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2021
  2. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    An unbiased writer might concisely describe the Cox report as "independent verification".
     
  3. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    Is too much interpretation being put on the phrase "Machiavellian campaign" that Cox used - perhaps in misunderstanding Thompson's actions in seeking outside experience ? In modern times I relate the discussion of Gresley v Thompson as analogous to petrol v diesel for cars for which there are proponents for both fuels. Asking a proponent of one fuel to consider the alternative will obviously require a well researched argument to do so.

    Thus with Thompson. He was asking a Board with almost 20 years experience of Gresley ideas to consider changing locomotive policy from conjugated valve gears to separate drive Walschaerts hence he needed a well researched argument to justify that decision. In that regard he was sufficiently open minded to ask a qualified engineer from another railway (Cox / Stanier) to make an independent research and report to obviate any claim that he was simply anti-Gresley. The fact that Cox may have picked up the anti-Gresley vibe during his investigation and put that idea in his report says more about his skewing the report rather than Thompson simply displaying any anti-Gresley feeling IMHO.

    Whilst Cox provided the expert opinion that Thompson needed, I feel Cox's repeating of any anti-Gresley feeling that he encountered is a slur that has become a weed in the garden of history that has flowered to the point that it is difficult to remove. I only hope that Simon's treatise can do that to correct a slur on both Cox for his poor judgement re Gresley v Thompson and Thompson's subsequent courses of action.
     
  4. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Did he though? I mightn't have been following this closely enough but the impression I got was that Cox's "backing up" of the anti-Gresley campaign came much later than his report. Is there a risk that in the passing of time, Cox, Cook etc. allowed themselves to get swept up in an emerging, popular narrative that Thompson was anti-Gresley and re-interpreted their own past experiences to fit that narrative? At the time commissioning Cox to write that report was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but there he is, years later, reading this emerging story about how much Thompson hated Gresley from other sources, and Cox thinks back and sees a new angle to his involvement; "OMG I was recruited as cover for Thompson's campaign, it all makes sense!" (I paraphrase a little :) )
     
  5. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Which is a good thing.

    If we accept that as the meaning that was intended, I am struggling to see the evidence in Cox that supports that characterisation of Thompson's approach.

    I think we run into a problem here in trying to explain the causes of the hostility to Thompson - the lack of evidence to justify claims.

    We know that there is hostility to Thompson as Cox etc demonstrate. There is plenty of evidence to justify this claim.

    Why? Harder to tell and there I think we run the risk of making the same mistakes as others. In other words the danger of over-reading. You could read the first sentence of the Cox quote as potential evidence. Clearly there is an attempt to render Thompson as 'other' by the accoutrements of class. It is used to signify that Thompson is not like us. This is a hard sell as Gresley was of course went to Marlborough. As mentioned Thompson, like Fairburn went through universities - while Cox did not. You could read it as intellectual inferiority or evidence of anti-intellectualism - those who have practical experience vs those who have theoretical knowledge? Again, a really hard sell and I think there is a danger of reading too much and overstating reasons without a sound basis in fact.

    BTW - while reading about Cox, I noted that when Stanier arrived at the LMS:

    "Stanier had problems with the extremely able Chief Draughtsman, Herbert Chambers, who was "an excellent and experienced designer, noted for his heroic and successful effort in coordinating (against time) the design work between Derby Loco Drawing Office and the North British Locomotive Co. on the Royal Scot, but a dyed-in-the-wool Midland man. He argued with Stanier about all those innovations which he could not readily accept. At one point during these difficult weeks, rather lonely among Midland doubts, Stanier tried to get S.O. Ell from the G.W.R. to come as an Assistant on experimental work; but Collett refused to release him. A good Chief and a good Assistant both know that a nice balance between querying orders and blindly following them is essential, but Stanier and Chambers were unable to find this balance with Chambers as Chief Draughtsman. Stanier, therefore, switched him to be Technical Assistant at Euston and appointed Tom Coleman to be Chief Draughtsman in charge of both Derby and Crewe Loco Drawing Offices, resident at Derby. Coleman came from Horwich; where the air was distinctly less parochial, and had previously worked with H. G. Ivatt at Stoke. He was a hard worker and shared Stanier's dislike of frills. Stanier got along excellently with him, considered him eminently sound and practical rather than theoretical, ready to incorporate all the new ideas, and not too ready to query points differing from previous practice. Chambers may incidentally have done quite a bit of softening-up: Derby had some first-class design techniques and these did not always require modification by what was sometimes rudely referred to as "Wiltshire wisdom." " (H.V.S.Bulleid 'Masters of Steam' on Steamindex)

    Why cite this here - just to indicate that Thompson was not the first incomer to clash with those already in place. The other point is that I suspect that if Chambers had written a biography and talked about his time with Stanier compared to Fowler it might not be so complimentary. Would a narrative of Stanier hating Fowler have emerged? Or paradoxically, the critique of Fowler (ironically by Cox and other) serves to validate Stanier's decision in the clash and that getting rid of the old guard was a good thing.


    I would summarise it thus:

    "There was clear hostility to Thompson, as evidenced by the writings of his contemporaries, however, evidence for explaining why there was hostility is scant."

    Since we are on the issue of punch ups with E.S.Cox I note the following comment from E.L.Diamond to a paper Cox had given suggesting that:

    'broad overall statistics cloaking a multitude of variables can be just as misleading as technical data based on isolated trials' :)
     
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  6. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    You can also add that Thompson clearly did abandon a central piece of Gresley's policy. Gresley, as Holcroft tells us, had decided to build all three cylinder classes, even for smaller locomotives when there were not gauge restrictions forcing multiple cylinders. Thompson clearly reversed that policy and in that sense did seek to eliminate Gresley's policy. Perhaps we look too much at the Pacifics, where there was an excellent case for multiple cylinders, and not enough at the rest of the fleet? Maybe, too, we look too much at locomotive design and not enough at the rest of the work of the CME's department. Organisation, reporting, shopping policy rolling stock... all areas where changes may have been made.

    Machiavellian is an interesting word in that it contains a great deal of emotion but less precise meaning. Machiavelli would be greatly amused by that I think. What we can't know is precisely what Cox understood the word to mean. It could be said to mean that rather than take Gresley's policies head on, Thompson sought to make his changes quietly and subtly. To my mind what Machiavelli has to say is that its better for a leader to be competent and immoral, than moral and incompetent. Whether that's how Cox understood things is another matter.

    And if you strip away all the emotive language, admittedly one of the striking aspects of the whole affair, what you are left with is that Thompson instituted a major course change in LNER locomotive policy, which is undeniable, and that there were significant numbers of people who were unhappy about it, which is unsurprising.
     
  7. Cartman

    Cartman Member

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    Interesting point about the use of three cylinders. Understandable in the case of the front line types like the Pacific types and the V2, but was it essential for secondary duty types like the B17, D49, K3 etc?
     
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  8. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    Cox,Machiavelli and Thompson.
    Cox made the conjugation damnation 1942 and was almost hired by Thomson 1944.
    Locomotive Panorama volume one page 153.
    Strange.
     
  9. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    With two cylinders there was no need for Gressley patent conjugation.On the other hand he did not use the main benefit of three-cylinders that revolutions per second can be much higher because the conjugation would then be in trouble.
    My Hero Raven used threecylinders and five feet eigth drivers on the S3 instead of two cylinders and six feet two drivers on S2
    Conjugation was a blind alley
     
  10. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    With six sets of eccentrics all inside the frames on a Raven three cylinder loco, you wouldn’t want to be the person oiling around that lot.
     
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  11. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    Not more difficult than inside two-cylinder locomotives of wich there were quite some.
     
  12. jnc

    jnc Part of the furniture

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    Goodness! After that, I expected to read about how Thompson had a crypt with an organ in it, which he used to play on while hatching his diabolical schemes for world domination.

    That is indeed question #1, but close behind is 'why'? Alas, everyone involved is now gone, so we can't ask them directly; instead have to sort through the minimal tea leaves that are left in the historical record, on this point.

    Which makes it all the more unfortunate that this meme is only being questioned now; had it actually been discussed back then, they could have been queried directly as to what the origin of it all was.

    Noel
     
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  13. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    There's a delightful photo (in Maycock and Silsbury's superb history of the IWCR) of the lower two thirds of a driver oiling round the motion on the original W8 (an ex-IWCR BP 2-4-0T) at Ventnor West, with a memorable comment in the accompanying caption "This loco was never named, although it's drivers may have had a few suggestions"
     
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  14. Eightpot

    Eightpot Well-Known Member Friend

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    Thinking along the lines that while the 2 : 1 gear appears to have worked satisfactorily in Gresley's time but not in Thompson's, I've done a bit of researching. Looking at the General Arrangement drawings for the A3s and A4s, all pin joints in this valve gear including the links to the valve rods are specified to be fitted with roller bearings. The V2 drawing shows that they only had roller bearings fitted in the pivots for the 2 : 1 lever and the equal lever. The bearings were specified as being in some parts ones supplied by Ransome & Marles, others by Hoffman.

    I have read somewhere that because of WW2 the use of ball bearings for use on the eccentric rod to return crank connection had to revert to plain (bronze bush?) bearings as ball and roller bearings were required for more vital wartime applications elsewhere. Were such substitutions made to the 2 : 1 gear? If so, while ball and roller bearings can be pre-packed with grease lubricant replenished only at intervals, on the other hand plain bush substitutes would need daily attention. With the necessary initial clearances combined with a lack of the necessary attention, wear would be inevitable.

    Could this be the explanation as to why these problems occurred during Thompson's time, but are are not referred to pre-war, or again later in the 1950s with things reverting to normal, in Peter Townend's time at Kings Cross where the 2 : 1 gear was the least of his worries
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2021
  15. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Interesting point from @Eightpot. Certainly, Bulleid's wartime output was affected by shortages of (US made) components.
     
  16. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    Three cylinders give you better balancing without much hammer blow. One way to take advantage of that is to use smaller driving wheels, but that path seems to have been little followed in Britain, though perhaps more in other countries. So why did Gresley favour three cylinders even on smallish locos? Even-ness of TE might seem theoretically desirable, but how much does it really matter? Against that, a three-cylinder loco can have more trouble starting a heavy train than an equivalent two-cylinder loco.
     
  17. RLinkinS

    RLinkinS Member

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    We had to import bearings from Sweden in WW2 to meet essential requirements. Some were flown by using Mosquitoes and some were shipped using fast motor boats

    Sent from my SM-A105FN using Tapatalk
     
  18. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    With the railways so important to the war effort and the numbers of bearings involved being relatively small it would be surprising if no-one made the case for continued supply.
     
  19. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    When it came to all UK imports needing to run the gauntlet of the Austrian Corporal's lot, with commercial non-stop transatlantic flights still in the future, the overwhelming bulk came by sea, so the theory vs practise issue wasn't what it may seem from a purely modern perspective.

    Sweden might've been resutely neutral, but even in the run up to Pearl Harbour, US industrial production was becoming increasingly war orientated. Arms was as profitable a business then as now.
     
  20. Allegheny

    Allegheny Member

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    Conjugated valve gear is a very simple arrangement for a three cylinder engine, provided it can be maintained to work correctly. Have there been any issues with it in the preservation era?
     

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