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Edward Thompson: Wartime C.M.E. Discussion

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

  1. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Please stop - we are not seriously going to start debating the compatibility between two hypothetical classes? :rolleyes:
     
  2. andrewshimmin

    andrewshimmin Well-Known Member

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    Sorry if someone has already said this ( can't face reading pages and pages covering the same ground), but I remember one of the O S Nock books covers this and includes an actual interview with Mr Thompson.
    However, a few point which I think are not disputed:
    1. Gresley designs, especially the valve gear, began to struggle under wartime conditions
    2. Thompson tried to solve these problems, and largely suceeded on those criteria
    3. Aesthetics were not his strongpoint
    4. It would have been more tactful to rebuild a.different A10
    5. His locos had decent service lives for the end of steam era
    6. They didn't need major modifications, unlike the work of some our greatest CMEs (Stainier low superheat locos, Bulleid pacifics, indeed the original Gresley.A1s)
    7. Some of us like the Thompson pacifics in a quirky kind of way
    8. The Gresley A1/A3 is still the greatest looker of them all...
    9. Thompson was a decent engineer and not the most evil man of the early 1940s in Europe...
     
  3. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Can I say that a number of people seem to be dancing on the head of a pin over this one and it could be argued that this thread has run its course. The last point is as good a summary as I've seen - it stays true to the title of the thread - although no doubt someone may want to argue that point. Do please continue to debate if you wish but thread fatigue is looming I suggest and extra server space will be chargeable to SACM. :)
     
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  4. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I think that's a sign for me to stop...!
     
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  5. David Bigcheeseplant

    David Bigcheeseplant New Member

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    I wonder what a A4 would have looked like if they were rebuilt by Thompson
     
  6. 242A1

    242A1 Well-Known Member

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    With respect to point 1.
    An important factor to bear in mind is the place where Gresley designs were largely built. The LNE never had much money but employed good people (in the main) to get the best out of what they had. Doncaster works was not viewed as the very best of places to build locomotives. No slight on the staff, just the equipment available to them. It should also be remembered that some Gresley engines were 20 years old and more when the war broke out. The valve gear issue is irrelevant in that the history of the bearings fitted to the conjugated aspect is quite complicated (it isn't much better for the rest of the gear ) but it is the notion that the conjugated gear is fundamentally flawed that is the main point of interest. The gear works, like just about any other mechanism if you fail to lubricate it it it will cease to be satisfactory. If the LNE had maintained ball and roller bearings throughout the gear fed by Menno cups there would not have been a problem.

    With respect to point 2.
    Gresley did not believe in standardisation for the sake of it. This aspect of his policy is frequently criticised and misunderstood. In truth there was a wide range of components, for example the 18.5" x 26" cylinder set to be found on a range of locomotives. Though a range of options was developed the company did not have the money to invest in a wide range and more importantly large number of new designs with the aim of eliminating the pre grouping designs. Gresley has been applauded for not making moves too rapidly to undermine the identity and character of the pre grouping companies. He didn't have the resources to, and wouldn't have done so anyway. He understood the value of people being onside so to speak. A new unified company was going to take time to create.
    So, what exactly were the problems that ET dealt with or try to solve?
    Did the problems actually exist as ET perceived them? Needed to perceive them?

    With respect to point 4.
    Yes, he should have rebuilt an alternative locomotive. You could argue that he suffered from LMS (little man syndrome), represented all that is undesirable in management. It should be noted that for the best in management it should be made more dangerous to acquiesce than to disagree. Too many errors, catastrophic ones at that, have been made because the lower ranks have not been allowed to voice their concerns and opinions. The individual at the top does not always know best, or act for the best. From what we read of ET his peculiar unevenness of temper should ring alarm bells. Sadly his idea of tact was from the "brick through the window" school. I cannot help but wonder what it was that he experienced in his life that produced such a strange character.

    With respect to point 6.
    The standard of performance required of locomotives post war was seldom great by world standards. We didn't produce locomotives that were capable of these feats. Equally Gresley designed locomotives needed very little doing to them post war. HNG already had improved exhaust systems in hand, Ken Cook's work on better overhaul standards saw to the rest. But we never required 40ihp per ton.

    With respect to point 9.
    He needed his own post earlier in life to prove this. Sadly for him this was not to be. This cannot have helped his character development. He must have been feeling the ticking of the clock. It can make for strange creatures. Impossible not to feel sorry for him in a way.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
  7. Sheff

    Sheff Resident of Nat Pres

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    I really do get a bit brassed off (yes ok, should have used rollers ;) ) with all the 2:1 gear critics. There's basically nothing wrong with it if you lubricate it, and there's a darn sight less to lubricate than any conventional between- frames gear. If you were an engineman or fitter, what would you rather regularly oil round and maintain - a Gresley 3 cyl or an LNER Thom/Pep 3 cyl; LMS 3 cyl; Southern Nelson or GWR anything?
     
  8. Sir Nigel Gresley

    Sir Nigel Gresley Member

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    I am under the impression that 62768 "The Morpeth" was deliberately "rough-shunted" at Starbeck, in order to have it sidelined. As Sheff says, the oiling-up of a 3-cyl loco, especially one with rotary valve gear, must be considerably easier than what was in effect a GCR D11 "Director" with a Darlington boiler.
     
  9. huochemi

    huochemi Part of the furniture

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    As the thread has resurrected, can I ask for clarification on the comment on divided drive? Wasn't a certain French 4-8-4 three cylinders and divided drive?
     
  10. andrewshimmin

    andrewshimmin Well-Known Member

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    In theory, what you say is correct (on paper).
    In practice, in the war years and later, the conjugated valve gear became unreliable and difficult to maintain.
    It does also lead to some bizarre valve events due to dynamic effects.
    This is the experience not just on the LNER, but in other places where it was used(e.g. Aus)
     
  11. Martin Perry

    Martin Perry Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator Friend

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    But not, seemingly, the experience where non-conjugated valve gear was installed between the frames.
     
  12. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    It's not just a question of lubrication though -it's also a question of what lubricant. Peter Townend recounts in East Coast Pacifics at Work as to the suffering of the A4s during the war as the original, specially formulated lubricant for their conjugated gear wasn't available - and with less maintenance staff available, maintenance itself of a lower standard and more infrequent, and a worse type of lubricant available, the A4s ran hot more often during and post war than pre-war.

    It has never, for me anyway, been a question that the conjugated valve gear wasn't a perfectly acceptable solution to the problem of a 3-cylinder locomotive, nor has it ever been in doubt that, looked after properly, it works perfectly well and is capable of high performance. Traffic demands and maintenance regimes changed during the war and Thompson was following the general trends on other railways at the time as well, therefore the conjugated valve gear was in the firing line and therefore dropped.

    I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting that Thompson - like Stanier - was not right to make all small and medium sized locomotives two cylinder simple affairs that were easier to repair and maintain? Gresley arguably went too far in his application of the conjugated valve gear in his smaller sized locomotives. The V4s were excellent machines but more expensive to build than a B1 - which had the same route availability and were simpler to build in addition to being cheaper. The B1s are not recalled as being as good as a V4 but that wasn't the point of them - the exchange trials in 1948 showed the B1s up as being capable of similar performances to the Hall and Black Five.

    There's also no doubt that Thompson was correct in his engineering ethos for the 3-cylinder Pacific - Peppercorn's tenure produced two locomotive classes with all the same ingredients of the earlier Thompson machines but arranged differently, and it worked better because of it particularly at the front end.

    That is quite a claim! Do you have any evidence for that? I have two sources which state its regular driver found it a very good machine, if properly looked after. The LNER encyclopaedia has a version of those events on the page for the D49s and D class.

    Do I detect that you are using that incident as evidence that the locomotive was no good, however? Because deliberately damaging an asset of the railway is a very serious offence - and if it was just that it was a Thompson design, and was different, is that really justification for what is in effect vandalism?
     
  13. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    I absolutely take that point and agree with it. It wasn't just a case of the valve gear, however, as I state above manpower and the type of lubricant available was an increasing problem.

    The problems clearly did exist. The LNER had an ageing fleet of pre-grouping locomotives that were small (relatively) in number to each class. In the same way that Stanier removed a great number of pre-grouping machines of various wheelbases from traffic when he introduced his Black Five, the LNER were able to introduce 400+ B1s which did the work of various 2-4-0s, 4-4-0s, 4-6-0s and 4-4-2s some of which were over thirty years old (and some as high as fifty five years old) and were increasingly difficult to maintain. Throw in the usual wartime problems and you have a motive power time bomb.

    Gresley had not at any time addressed this increasing problem of age and reliability and there is absolutely no argument - I would have thought - that Thompson didn't look to make the best of what were principally well built locomotives originally, by retaining as much as possible but utilising whatever standard LNER parts were available. This is why we have the classes O4/8 and O1 which are rightly remembered as being useful additions to the LNER and the Eastern region - so useful in fact that the Eastern Region of British Railways built more of them as and when the original Robinson boilers and valve gear became life expired on members of that class.

    In fairness, it didn't always work - the sole B3/3 was remembered as a handsome locomotive but flawed by its ageing GCR components, and thus was, together with its brethren, withdrawn by the increasing numbers of B1s being introduced into traffic.

    Have you read Peter Grafton's book? There is much background information on Thompson's life and much of it makes certain known "facts" about his character fall into place and make sense. Thompson was definitely difficult to get on with - of that there is no doubt - but he was making big changes to the locomotive policy and it is clear that many of those aggrieved by him were content to carry on as per Gresley's ideas. Can you honestly blame him for wanting to develop his own direction? He was CME - it was his job to.

    Stanier did the same at the LMS in bringing his own design team, and successive CMEs at the GWR did the same with their staff. It's absolutely no different to any department in any company where big transitions are taking place to bring like minded people to work alongside you. So why is Thompson vilified for doing what is pretty much a standard requirement for business?

    If we accept he was right in many of his engineering views and that he was also following specific engineering trends of the time, then we must also accept that he was doing his job and doing it his way. There's absolutely nothing wrong in that: it was his job to.

    "I have much to do, gentlemen, and little time in which to do it". This comment, or similar ones, are attributed to Thompson on his first day in office at the LNER. The pressures of being CME pre-war were completely different to those during and post-war.

    Gone were the luxurious expresses, gone was the elegance and the money with which to develop all manner of unusual prototypes; in its place was a long and bloody war, with fuel and materials shortages, loss of skilled labour, pressure from the government to change traffic demands and to meet the requirements of a country fighting a war. Thompson's locomotive policy was based on utilising what he had rather than what he wanted which - like any locomotive engineer - was to build all new locomotives. I challenge he did a better job than other CMEs in this respect by being respectful to his position and to his railway, and his country in the manner he proceeded with his standardisation scheme.

    And yes, perhaps he felt the ticking clock in addition to all of the pressures above. Was that at the forefront of his mind? Who knows. All I know is that the immediate and pressing need to provide adequate rolling stock in a world war must been an incredible burden and would have been on any man. The LNER was not like the GWR or LMS - both railways which had recognised the flaws in their traffic demands pre-war (and in the GWR's case, probably pre-grouping!) and had looked to provide outright, standard replacements for the ageing locomotive fleets they had inherited. Whether you think Gresley was right or wrong not to tackle this problem pre-war, Thompson was absolutely right to look to tackle this during, and post-war.
     
  14. Lplus

    Lplus Well-Known Member

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    The conjugated valve gear was originally designed to be grease lubricated by the shed fitters. Once wartime maintenance standards fell the gear didn't get properly greased and often developed a lot of slack. The slack caused uneven valve events and rough running. It rarely failed completely. The gear was changed to plain bearings which could be oiled daily by the driver to improve the reliability. After the war the greased roller/needle bearings were returned to use and the gear was as reliable as before the war. The Gresley A4s were used on the non stop trains to Edinburgh until the Deltics were available to take over and the A3s were capable of deputising if necessary. So, no, it was not unrelaible after the war.


    The special lubricant was for the A4 middle big ends, for use on the pre war high speed trains. The conjugated gear lubrication was as described above.
    Thompson's ethos of divided drive and three sets of gear was just as good on the road as Gresley's layout, as was shown by Peppercorn, though I would paraphrase P Townend from Top Shed pp 150 - 152 -

    The conjugated gear is not present any special problems. A failure on the road of a component on the road was virtually unknown, the record of the A4's is exceeded by no other class. The middle eccentric occasionally did cause serious failures. The oiling of the middle eccentric was difficult and occasionally it got missed or the cork wasn't inserted properly. There was a distinct advantage in eliminating this feature(the middle eccentric)

    P Townend used all the pacifics at Top shed, if he doesn't know what he is talking about who the h*** does?

    Thompson's problem was the layout he developed with the P2 out of necessity was then perpetuated to the A1/1 and the new build A2/3 - particularly the equal length connecting rods. Without the restrictions caused by them, he could have developed the Peppercorn A1 before Peppercorn.
    If it was any good, it would have been perpetuated.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
  15. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    Wasn't the issue with the Gresley gear not so much failure of the conjugated valve gear itself but the consequences of excessive play on an already somewhat fragile centre big end?
     
  16. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Can't disagree with any of that and I thank you for the further detail on the conjugated valve gear. Most useful. The A1/1, however, did not have equal length connecting rods but the A2/3 did, given as it was that it was the A2/2 rebuild almost through and through, with full length deflectors and a flat ended cab instead of the small deflectors and V shaped cab.

    That is not strictly speaking true. It was a prototype and did adequate though not outstanding work. Not all prototypes are successful, not all are perpetuated, but many go on to lead decent working lives (I cite the turbo motive, before rebuilding, as one such example).

    Thompson had rebuilt the D49 in question to provide an test sample of a standard D class 4-4-0 in his standardisation plans. He dropped the 4-4-0 idea altogether and concentrated on other wheelbases (4-6-0 and 2-6-0 and 2-6-4T). In this - again - he was right to do so. The 4-4-0 was an outdated wheel arrangement and it is noticeable that the BR standard designs echo the same wheelbases that he made his definitive list of standard LNER designs.

    The Morpeth until its accident had worked satisfactorily and if it had not it would not have been continued with in service - notably the only one of Thompson's one offs which did not see the 1950s was the B3/3, and surprisingly JF Harrison gives a positive account of this rebuild despite its short life span.
     
  17. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    As has been said earlier, the LNER did not have the money to make the wholesale changes to its motive power fleet that was carried out by the LMS and the GWR - the latter was aided in that by being virtually unchanged by the Grouping save for the absorption of a number of relatively minor railways. Gresley made good use of the LNER's constituent companies' locos and even perpetuated some pre grouping designs. Had the LNER been awash with money there is little doubt that pre grouping locos would have been replaced earlier by Gresley designs. The fact however that a number of pre grouping designs - especially the NER J27 and Q6 classes - saw out the steam era shows that their replacement was probably not a priority. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
     
  18. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Are you sure? If the con rods were not of equal length, why was the middle cylinder so much further forward and the wheelbase subsequently much longer on the A1/1 than was the case with the Peppercorn A1?
    From what I've read Thompson put much faith in equal length con rods on all of his three cylinder locos.

    Some quotes about his designs :
    "The Thompson Pacifics were ultimately more maintenance intensive overall than the Gresley engines."
    "Thompson's L1 2-6-4T was another unsuccessful design. They were powerful machines that should have been well-suited to their duties but their 5 ft 2 inch wheels were too small for the fast outer suburban services and they quickly knocked themselves apart. The axle boxes suffered, water tanks split, oil pipes broke off, and crossheads wore rapidly" Friends of mine both fired and drove them and hated them.
    "the K1/1 was a particularly unpopular engine, its name Macailan Mor was not a good choice for the locality in which it worked, and after having its 3 cylinders replaced with 2, its performance endeared it even less to the local Scottish crews."
    "Shortly before Thompson's retirement the LNER was short of express passenger locomotives so Thompson initiated plans for a new Pacific design, which he intended to be based on the rebuilt Great Northern. However the LNER design office, having received reports of Great Northern's performance in service, continually delayed designing the locomotive until Thompson had retired. Even then Thompson laid down a strict set of guidelines for the new locos. The new class was finally designed under Thompson's successor Arthur Peppercorn, who disregarded almost all of Thompson's guidelines."
    The B1 remains arguably his greatest success but even they can be rough riders.
     
  19. Martin Perry

    Martin Perry Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator Friend

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    And as been pointed out elsewhere; they were hardly a quantum leap in performance over the LSWR S15, GW Hall, LMS 5MT which had been around for donkeys years.
     
  20. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I'm curious about this. I realise that in this country, most engines built by other railways for similar services had larger wheels (for example, 5'9" on the Fowler / Stanier / Fairburn 2-6-4Ts; 5'8" on the BR standard 80xxx tanks; 5'8" on the GWR 61xx etc). But, in another context, New Zealand Railways successfully ran trains into the high 70s mph using Ja and Ka class locos with 4'6" driving wheels. 9Fs were known to run well at up to about 90mph with 5ft wheels. And a 5'2" loco running at, say, 60mph (typical of fast suburban work) is only doing the same wheel rpm as a Bulleid pacific at about 71mph or a Gresley A4 at 75mph - hardly excessive. So it doesn't seem to me that a loco with 5'2" wheels should be excessively taxed running at up to about 60 or 70mph.

    In other words, it doesn't seem to me that the small driving wheels are necessarily a reason why such a loco should have been unsuccessful. Could it have been some other possibly less fundamental fault: for example, either they were poorly balanced, or maybe simply related to poor wartime build quality? If so, their poor reputation can't be solely ascribed to their design - or designer. I wonder if instead a loco that had faults unrelated to the fundamental design has acquired a poor reputation because of who designed it?

    Tom
     

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