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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. Richard Roper

    Richard Roper Well-Known Member

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    I have wondered that too. Pepp's marriage to Dorothy must have caused quite a stir due to their considerable age difference.

    Richard.
     
  2. bluetrain

    bluetrain Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for drawing attention to this interesting paper. Some of its comments on locomotive policy are certainly controversial and have already drawn comments from other forum members. Gresley may not have been as devoted as others to the cause of standardisation, but surely classes such as A3, V2, K3 & J39 were LNER standard types?

    If Simon Martin proceeds with a book on Gresley, then there will be a very wide spectrum of issues to consider over his 30 years as a CME of the GNR & LNER. Plus a number of options on what should be the prime focus. Enthusiasts will emphasize Gresley's role as designer and technical innovator. But the focus of the LNER Board will have been on Gresley as leader and administrator of his department.
     
  3. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    I don't profess to be an expert but wasn't Staniers 'direction of travel' on the LMS to a great extent driven by Stamp, the business expert?
     
  4. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    As a part-time enthusiast I am not sufficiently qualified to comment expertly on the details of LNER locomotive development but as a lifetime iconoclast I applaud @S.A.C. Martin 's reconsideration of the Gresley, Thompson and Peppercorn period. It won't, of course, make any difference to my prejudiced 1950s memories of the old GN line through North London to the Cross.
     
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  5. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Nor should it, I hope! Not my intention certainly.

    I am appreciative of all of the feedback from everyone that has been coming in. I feel that I have tried very hard to reduce the defensiveness of earlier drafts, but a few comments have come in saying the manuscript still feels a tad defensive, for which I apologise.

    In my Epilogue section, you will get a sense of the frustration I feel when I am looking over the primary evidence. So much of the Thompson story is apocryphal - even now I have seen elsewhere stories of a "Scottish revolt" at the rebuilding of the P2s, which seems completely at odds with every piece of primary evidence we have regarding the A2/2s rebuilding and running. The only thing I will plea for is a reminder that we should be focusing on the primary evidence and analysing it accordingly.

    One particular thing - there are some repeated paragraphs on pages 132 and 133. My apologies for this - they were caught very late in the day and after printing had started. This will be changed for all future versions.
     
  6. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    They were numerically the largest of his classes, so yes they could be the "standard" Gresley classes.

    There's a book that has come out recently, self published, that put forward the view that Gresley was not particularly good as an administrator. Having read it, I think there's merit in exploring the idea if one also remembers that Gresley was very innovative in his solutions for the LNER, and that what might have worked there might not necessarily have worked elsewhere. I think a lot of examination of the primary evidence is required first before committing to a view, but I feel strongly that Gresley as a designer represented one of Britain's innovators.
     
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  7. std tank

    std tank Member

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    Aye, he learned how to do it at Crewe and Horwich.
     
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  8. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    Given Gresley's presence under both Webb at Crewe and Aspinall at Horwich then Ivatt at Doncaster it would be interesting - surely - to identify what these positions influenced Gresley in his GNR and later LNER activities both as administrator and designer - specifically how much delegation did he undertake. This might also reflect on the leeway given to Thompson and therefore a factor in the working / personal relationship between Gresley and Thompson.
     
  9. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    To play devil's advocate. Isn't there something of a paradox here - the focus on an individual when the problems are structural?

    A couple of things strike me - the commonality of the problems - each of the big four faced the same issues - the need to modernise and standardise the fleet. At the same time, they are all operating in the same financially constrained times - post-WW1 financial situation, great depression, threat from road transport.

    Just thinking aloud, but it seems to me that despite the well known issues in the LMS in the Crewe-Derby dispute and the dominance of the old Midland in terms of policy and design, when it comes to the LNER, it has it worse - whereas the LMS was really two significant English companies (MR, LNWR) and a significant Scottish company (CR), the LNER is four significant English companies (GNR, GE, GCR, NE) and a significant Scottish companies (NBR). Did that result in a company with strong centrifugal tendencies, more duplication and less standardisation (not just of locomotives but whole management and operational systems)?

    So two things come to mind - are the financial problems of the LNER that so constrain them ones that predate grouping, in which case, grouping is a plaster on a stab wound. Or alternatively, is grouping mismanaged so that grouping fails to tackle the financial state.

    I'd suggest that Gresley and Thompson are only able to act in the environment in which they find themselves and that is the result of longer term processes - I mean the GER was still opening light railways to nowhere before WW1, and then we wonder why the LNER has no money.

    I do think it is significant that there are no new LNER designs introduced 1931-34

    At the same time, did Gresley make errors, not in his designs per se, but in terms of his choice of where to concentrate his efforts. We laud Gresley for his express passenger designs, but... where is a go anywhere mixed traffic loco - something can compare to Black Five, Hall etc. Where is the development of suburban tank locomotives (and where we can see clear continuity on the LMS and GWR) - considering the amount of commuter traffic out of Kings X and Liverpool street surely. A4s, streamlining etc were nice but were they really necessary?

    Ks and Js certainly compare well with the efforts of the LMS, GWR and SR on the 2-6-0 and 0-6-0 front. Again, though, considering the preponderance of archaic 0-6-0s on the LNER system, surely this should have been an area that ought to have been more of a focus - I mean still building J39s in 1941? That the LNER was so reliant on WDs post WW2 says something about a failure to provide adequate designs earlier.

    1925 - U1, P1 (+112 N7s)
    1926 - J38, J39
    1927 - D49
    1928 - A3, B17 (plus 10 B12s)
    1929 - W1
    1930 - V1
    1931 -
    1932 -
    1933 -
    1934 - P2
    1935 - A4
    1936 - V2
    1937 - K4
    1938 -
    1939 - V3
    1940 -
    1941 - V4

    (To add in the pre-grouping designs that carried over)
    1911 - O4
    1920 - K3, N2
    1921 - O2
    1922 - A1

    Accepting the financial limitations that Gresley was operating in after the Great Depression - Perhaps the A4s and the streamliners tend to obscure the paucity of Gresley's work post 1928 - only the V2, A4 and K4 can be said to be a success and further more, do those designs really contribute to improving the profitability of the LNER in the way in which a standardised go anywhere work from Scotland to East Anglia MT locomotive would have done, or a design to replace the antediluvian 0-6-0s on the system?
     
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  10. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Gourvish made the point that the cost of a Heavy General were nearly as much as building a new loco so a 'scrap and build' policy may not have been as expensive as thought, the GWR for example replaced many of its second line loco's between the wars
     
  11. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I wonder if you are being a bit harsh on the LNER in comparison to other companies. To take a few points:

    "We laud Gresley for his express passenger designs, but... where is a go anywhere mixed traffic loco - something can compare to Black Five, Hall etc."​

    Wasn't that the role that the V2 filled? Of which hundreds were built.

    "Ks and Js certainly compare well with the efforts of the LMS, GWR and SR on the 2-6-0 and 0-6-0 front. Again, though, considering the preponderance of archaic 0-6-0s on the LNER system, surely this should have been an area that ought to have been more of a focus - I mean still building J39s in 1941?"​

    And the SR was building the Q class in 1938/9 and the Q1 in 1942; the GWR was building the 2251 class as late as 1948, including right through the war; the LMS was building 4Fs as late as 1941. In that light building J39s in 1941 hardly seems anomalous.

    I don't know much about the LNER design process, but on the SR, when the Qs were under consideration, thought was given to building more 2-6-0s instead, but the 0-6-0 won on cost grounds.

    "That the LNER was so reliant on WDs post WW2 says something about a failure to provide adequate designs earlier."
    Or maybe the radically different wartime conditions caused an almost overnight change in the traffic patterns that urgently required new locos? (i.e. increased traffic from mines working flat out to keep up with the war effort). The LNER disproportionately served areas of heavy industry and minerals (iron ore, coal, steel production) in a war that was marked by industrialisation. So not very surprising if they should find themselves needing to replace locos worn out by the rigours of the war -and @S.A.C. Martin has also frequently made the point about the decline in maintenance standards caused by losing large numbers of skilled staff.

    Tom
     
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  12. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    If I were going to look for the causes of the economic challenges of the post Grouping railways, I’d tend to look at core traffics rather than locomotive policy or branch line opening policies.

    While either - let alone both - of those could compound existing problems, the damage of a fundamental problem with demand for the core traffic means that such a business is starting with a bad case of malnutrition before any other factors are considered.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  13. torgormaig

    torgormaig Part of the furniture Friend

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    I'm interested that you regard the K4 as a success. A specialist class of six locomotives, they just about managed the job they were designed for but had two significant failings. One they were found to be fickle steamers when given the heavy work asked of them at times. Two, while they could work comfortable within the limited speeds permitted on the West Highland itself, they could not easily run at the pace required east of Craigendoran to keep up with the flow of suburban traffic. The later V4s showed more promise but circumstances prevented their full potential to be properly assessed against the K4. It will be noted that on the West Highland the pre-existing K2s out lasted the K4 by some margin.

    Peter
     
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  14. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    Given the different track standards and major traffic flows across the constituents of the LNER at grouping, I cannot see the need for a Black 5, Hall equivalent. As to the commuter traffic, the N2s and N7s handled it quite satisfactorily until replaced by MUs in the 50s.
     
  15. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I did say playing devils advocate :)

    @35B Surely it is a chicken and egg - locomotive policy enables you to get and maintain core traffic. If X and or Y are key sources of revenue and you don't have the locos to move X and Y then you have a problem.

    @torgormaig I am happy to consider the K4 a less than stellar success - which again makes Gresley's successful designs after 1928 the A4 and V2. Shocking when you consider where the LMS, etc were at. And did the LNER really need the A4?

    @Jamessquared - I think the fact that the LMS was building 4Fs (with all their flaws) and the GWR 2251s shows that all the companies were still heading down a dead-end in terms of locomotive design. At least the Q and Q1 were new designs. Just because everyone is doing it doesn't make it a good idea.

    The V2s were introduced after the Black 5 and Hall and in fewer numbers - considering the size of the LNER you'd have expected more. A gap that Thompson had to fill with 410 B1s. That suggests that there was certainly a need for 4-6-0 go anywhere design.

    Shifts in demands during WW2 leading to a worn out fleet - a situation made worse by the failure to innovate/develop locomotives for freight traffic in the interwar period? If your most modern freight loco is a 0-6-0 design from 1926, and the largest a 2-8-0 from 1921, I'd suggest that you are asking for trouble.

    @Enterprise - I would contend that there is no development of the N2/N7. Unlike the LMS and GWR where there is almost continual incremental development of their tank engines and the SR is electrifying the LNER seems to be standing still when it comes to its commuter traffic.

    Accepting that loco policy is constrained by the financial situation the question then becomes how much of this is because the LNER board mismanaged the company making a difficult financial situation worse, how much of this is because the new company was constrained because of poor management of the constituent parts of the company pre-grouping.

    In other words, did Gresley/the board play their hand badly, or were they dealt a bad hand which they then played badly. (You can play a bad hand well to minimise the damage, or you can play a bad hand badly and make things worse)
     
  16. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Just on the point made to me, my suggestion (referencing @Jamessquared) is that the core traffic was in trouble regardless of locomotive policy, and that the effect of this was to undermine the cashflow into the company that gave them the ability to invest across the network.
     
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  17. 30567

    30567 Part of the furniture Friend

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    @Monkey Magic I would start from economic history and structural factors. From a base in the late 1920s, what happened to key traffic categories and revenue on the LNER vis a vis the others? I'm pretty sure they were dealt a bad hand both absolutely and relatively by the Depression.

    Gresley/the board. Sometimes I wonder if people think the CME was almost autonomous strategically. I'd like to see more focus on what Whitelaw, Matthews, Wedgwood, Newton etc were saying, doing and authorising.

    The '23 grouping. The LNER constituents were relatively complementary, three of them being end on. The LNWR, Midland and in its area the L and Y had been fundamentally competitive. I think that makes the digestion problem more difficult.
     
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  18. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Stewart Joy in 'The Train that Ran Away' points out how badly the railways in general were managed in terms of understanding costs.

    The GWR in the 1920's ever realised what they were losing on Branch Lines but didnt take action.

    I suggest that Thompson seems to have hit several nails on the head.

    BUT there was the huge fleet of obsolete 4-4-0's which were not replaced until the B1 came along.
     
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  19. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I would strongly suggest that the emergence of the Thompson B1 to the total number built of 410 is probably an indication that the LNER did need a Black Five or Hall prior to that class' entry into traffic in the 1940s. The B1 had the best route clearance of a locomotive its size across the LNER, bar the two examples of class V4. It replaced a huge range of pre-grouping locos. Some form of standard 4-6-0 was found on every other railway other than the LNER. Does that suggest the LNER got it right, or did they?

    This is partially true - they were supplemented by Gresley V3s and Thompson L1s, after all.
     
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  20. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    What could they have done though? It was not necessarily easy to close a branch line, often requiring an act of parliament. Cheaper motive power required reliable diesel engines, not really available in the 1920s, but by the 1930s the GWR was introducing diesel railcars. And then you have signalling costs - all that manpower in signal boxes. Replacing that didn't really get going in earnest until the 1960s and the development of reliable electronics to allow remote operation of multiple logical signal boxes from one location - but then you concentrate a big capital expense on the mainlines, not the branch lines, for obvious reasons.

    (A shout out here in signalling terms to the LSWR who had fully automated signals along their mainline to Salisbury before the First World War. But again, it was a mainline scheme, not a branchline one, with the intention of increasing mainline capacity, not decreasing branchline costs).

    Tom
     
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