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Francis Webb,good or bad?

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by Hermod, Mar 22, 2020.

  1. Hermod

    Hermod New Member

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    Francis Webb is an interesting person and while we are waiting for You Know What, a discussion can be fun.
    He was a talented dictator and to please our middle class,wellfare state way of thinking , Nock/Talbot paint a picture of LNWR being saved from disgrace by having Whale and Bowen Coke.
    Webb recognized around 1900 that the Jumbo,Teutonic Greater Brittain line was a dead end.
    In a short time Alfred the great and Bill Baileys were designed and built.
    Before he resigned Alfred Valve gear was changed to four Joys from having only two inside.
    The maybe superfluous/useless central bearing on crankshaft was unchanged.
    Whale takes over and his Precursor/King George class is nothing but a simplified Benbow
    Same story for Bill Baileys to Experiment/Prince of Wales transformation.
    Webb was behind LNWR locomotives to the bitter end.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020
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  2. andrewshimmin

    andrewshimmin Well-Known Member

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    I'm always up for defending Webb!
    The vast majority of his output was excellent locomotives, including the Jumbos, Cauliflowers, Radial tanks, Coal and Watford tanks, etc. These not only served the LNW with distinction, but many lasted essentially unmodified and with significant residual numbers through the whole LMS era (a rare feat, indicating a very sound design) and into the nationalised era. Of course they were all simples!
    Amongst the compounds, the numerous 0-8-0 of both four and three cylinder variety were good machines.
    The three cylinder non coupled compound express locos were, with hindsight, a bit bonkers, but the logic which got him there is hard to fault in its time, and they gave good performances in their day, even with their obvious flaws (starting in particular). Tales of their awfulness are mostly apocryphal.
    The four cylinder express machines were also good machines, especially in Benbow format.
    The zeal with which his compounds were swiftly excised after his retirement was not proportional to their worth, and it seems Whale and Trevithick had a grudge of some kind.
    I don't buy your point that the Precursors were simplified Alfreds, I think they were more like enlarged Jumbos. The Experiments were stretched Precursors, with little or no inheritance from the Bill Baileys that I can see.
    The Whale 0-8-0s were of course literally simplified compounds, in many cases by rebuilding. They seem to have been good in any of these formats.
    In the Webb era, LNW machines went like sewing machines and needed love and good handling.
    In the Whale/Bowen Cooke era they were cheaply built and mercilessly thrashed in service: I make no criticism, it was a perfectly valid philosophy of motive power and worked economically for the LNWR.
    Webb also deserves credit for the magnificent development of Crewe works itself.
    Under his successors it got into rather a pickle, meaning the rapid (and ideological?) withdrawal of his engines caused a worse motive power crisis than anything his compounds had done. It took until Beames in the mid 20s to turn it round.

    Sent from my Pixel 3a using Tapatalk
     
  3. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Perhaps it makes sense not to compare Webb to his successors but his contemporaries? Dean, Stirling(s), Drummond, Ivatt, Johnson, Stroudley/Billinton, Worsdell, etc

    Perhaps many designers continued with essentially the same designs as before and did not keep up with increasing demands for power, speed and safety. The likes of Webb and Drummond tried to respond but their experiments were unsuccessful? I mean it is hard to argue that Dean or Johnson left their lines in a healthy position when they retired in 1902/3 (same time as Webb having been in post for similar amounts of time).

    I also think there were worse personalities who were CMEs during this period.
     
  4. LesterBrown

    LesterBrown Member

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    Surely Dean left the GWR in a very healthy position. He had thoroughly modernised the works, encouraged his chief assistant in introducing modern design elements to the the designs based on his express locos introduced for the final conversion from the broad gauge. Swindon had established a reputation for generous bearing surfaces and accuracy in construction. The stage was set for Churchward to be able to introduce new designs for the new century.

    Certainly Dean made some spectacular mistakes too; using a smaller number of large diameter tubes on his early standardised boilers, unconventional ideas about bogie designs and continuing construction of his 3521 class main line passenger tanks when it must surely have become obvious that they were seriously defective in their riding. But overall he oversaw great changes in times of tight financial pressure with initially no requirement on the most important routes for any addition to the stock of express locos immediately followed by the need to build larger standard gauge express locos for the gauge conversion and, at last, a growth in passenger traffic.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020
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  5. Hermod

    Hermod New Member

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    Hello Andrew
    We totally disagree and this is OK in trying times.
    Steam locomotive history is not that important

    First Quote:

    ((I don't buy your point that the Precursors were simplified Alfreds, I think they were more like enlarged Jumbos.))

    Jumbos had Allen valve gear ,no center bearing much longer rigid wheelbase ect.
    Take an engineering drawing of Alfreds(there is one in Talbot) and remove the outside cylinders and You cannot se the difference to a Precursor

    Second Quote


    ((The Experiments)) had ((no inheritance from the Bill Baileys that I can see.))

    Lift the Bailey boiler 4 inch make it 4inch bigger diameter.Put one feet bigger drivers on and remove all that Webb compoundery .
    Operation succesfull but patient dead.

    According to Cox the late LNWR locomotives were sincere frame breakers.This would not have been the case if they had kept their outside cylinders.
     
  6. LMS2968

    LMS2968 Part of the furniture

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    Webb's main problem on the design front was a penchant for strict economy in both building and running, i.e. coal consumption. This led to his building locomotives only just capable of working the traffic at the time they were built on the basis that an engine working flat at was more efficient than a larger one worked lightly (there is some merit in this). The problem was that when the following year the Traffic people wanted to increase the loading or shorten the timetable, these engines could not cope, so a larger type then had to be designed. This came to a head about the turn of the century when corridor stock greatly increased the tare weight of coaches per passenger. By this time Webb had been there a long time and was both ill and unable to rise to this new challenge.

    His second problem was an ability to make powerful enemies. While Richard Moon was Chairman this wasn't an issue, but when he went it left Webb isolated but still a forceful character. This showed when the new General Manager, Frederick Harrison, arrived at Crewe to explain to Webb that in future he would be answerable to the GM and not directly to the Board. Harrison left very quickly, not to return until after Webb retired due to ill health, to explain this to the new CME, this time successfully. George Whale was the Traffic Superintendent and had to use Webb's too-small engines to work the trains, requiring much double heading leading to loco shortage, which gave him many, many problems. Neither of these men had any regard for Francis Webb, and following his death set out to vilify him, aided by Whale's assistant, Trevithick and the Locomotive Department's Bowen Cooke. The result was that the tremendous work that Frank Webb had done, his excellent simple engines and his Compounds, many of which were good machines in both three- and four-cylinder form, his many inventions, his work on organising and enlarging Crewe works, were ignored. His dictatorial attitude, probably no worse than other senior managers in the Victorian era, was emphasised.

    Whale's engines were enlargements of Webb's simple engines, and details were carried over to the end of the LNWR. The last such engines, built under LMS auspices, were the G2s and 0-8-4 tanks, which were pure Webb engines in almost every respect.
     
  7. Bill Drewett

    Bill Drewett Member

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    I find Dean intriguing because when his designs were good they were very good indeed, but when they were bad they were horrid (apologies to Longfellow). You've mentioned some, but not all of his disasters, but the bogie singles, the Dukes, and especially the standard goods and the Metros were really excellent. I'm not sure I can think of another engineer whose designs varied so dramatically in effectiveness.
     
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  8. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Dugald Drummond, particularly in his LSWR days would be a contender - if nicknames tell the story, then he designed the “Greyhounds” but also the “Gobblers” and “Turkeys”.

    But we diverge from Webb - someone I’d like to know more about.

    Tom
     
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  9. Bill Drewett

    Bill Drewett Member

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    I think this is right. The closest comparison with Webb is Drummond, because they both served as chief for such a long time, Drummond on several railways and Webb on just the one. They both compared well with their contemporaries early in their careers but couldn't keep up when a younger generation came along. For example Drummond's work for the North British was outstanding but his final work for the South Western was very poor. I think they both just stayed on too long.
     
  10. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    But equally there is another comparison, often forgotten about Drummond’s LSWR days if you just concentrate on his locos, which was creation of the modern Eastleigh works from a greenfield site without causing significant Loco availability problems for the LSWR - a close comparison with Webb’s development of Crewe to what I understand to be a high level of efficiency.

    Tom
     
  11. Bill Drewett

    Bill Drewett Member

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    That's very true. Today's engineering businesses tend to separate the design and manufacturing functions so that the challenge is often to get them to speak to each other (in my experience). It's easy to forget that locomotive superintendents in the pre-grouping companies oversaw both.
     
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  12. andrewshimmin

    andrewshimmin Well-Known Member

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    These are all good points well made.
    Actually, I think Webb did have a plan for more powerful locos to haul the heavier trains (his Alfreds/Benbows and 0-8-0s were up to the job) but the LNW needed thousands of locos, and the train weights increased so rapidly there weren't enough of the powerful locos.
    I also think it's sometimes difficult to work out what was Webb policy and what was Moon policy anyway.
    It's often said that the LNWR had to rely on double heading "too much" at the end of the Webb era, and looking at the locomotive fleet that makes sense.
    But I've never seen any contemporary data to show if this was actually exceptional.
    Photos are not an especially accurate record (you never know if double headed trains just got photographed a lot more because they were unusual). But there don't seem to be contemporary records or photos indicating many more double headed trains on the LNW than e.g. on the GWR or Midland or GNR at the same period - indeed the Midland double-headed quite happoly as a matter of policy to the end.
    Meanwhile the articles written *at the time* by people like Rous-Marten and Ahrons laud the performance of most of the Webb compound locos, as being comparable with the best of their contemporaries*, although the latter in particular points out all the flaws (theoretical and actual) of the non-coupled three-cylinder compounds.
    I think a factor often forgotten is that the LNW, given where it served, presumably had more, heavier trains than most other companies.

    There are some excellent articles on all of this tangled Webb (ha ha!) in e.g. Backtrack a couple of years back. I'll check the references.
     
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  13. andrewshimmin

    andrewshimmin Well-Known Member

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    Indeed - very happy to disagree - and this is exactly the sort of distraction we need at the moment!
    Your points about the similarities between locos are interesting. I have Talbot and will take a look!
    I meant really that Whale was seeking to create a loco he could sell to enginemen as an enlarged Jumbo, not as a simplified compound.
     
  14. 240P15

    240P15 Well-Known Member

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    I`m not a technical expert but Mr.Webb made at least a lot of interesting looking locomotives :) And all this variations is excactly what makes me completely absobed in the fantastic history of steam locomotives! :Happy:

    Knut
     
  15. Hermod

    Hermod New Member

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    CMEs at that time ordered men to drive their creations or go to hell.
    Whale,being human wanted to impress his bosses .
    A common way is to badmouth your predesesor,change some of his good work visibly and then claim originality.
    I think the Precursors were retrograde steps really.
    But looked very smart
    Their frame breaking has been mentioned,but in pre superheat times it was common that compounds were more than 15 sometimes 20% more frugal than simple on steady load and that was what . 4-4-0 were made for.
    A well proportioned 4 cylinder compound does not stress frames and crank bearings very much and they are nicer to track.
    Bridge stress commity found that Precursor driver axle load varied from 10 to 30 tons six times a second.
    Hammerblow.
    For those that can read german there is a very good describtion of the Prussian S7 test results on Pensylvanias Test rollers 1904 .
    Prussian S7 4-4-2 machinery was very alike the to Webb/Alfred and returned the best thermal efficiency up to that date.Of all locomotives tested.
    Die Lokomotive Wien 1909 page 218 to 238
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020
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  16. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    Surely just as true of a well laid out 3 or 4cyl "simple"?
     
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  17. Hermod

    Hermod New Member

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    Yes when we are talking four on a single shaft.Not those Great Western mechanical monstrosityes.They were balanced per shaft almost as bad as the Precursor but pistons of course were lower mass.
     
  18. LMS2968

    LMS2968 Part of the furniture

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    You certainly know how to make friends! I'd find a hide-out if I were you before the GWR fraternity get their fatwah organised!
     
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  19. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I suspect that there maybe a need to look at different aspects of Webb.

    • Webb the loco designer - in terms of innovation, meeting changing demands, and design philosophy
    • Webb the workshop manager - his work in shaping Crewe as a workshop
    • Webb the boss,
    • Webb the person.
    I wonder if with regard to Nock, some of it is to do with brakes. Nock worked for Westinghouse, so whether that influenced his view of designers and managers who were slow to accept the need for continuous brakes. Nock is dismissive of the chain brake.
     
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  20. LMS2968

    LMS2968 Part of the furniture

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    Nock is not among my favourite authors. His tendencyy to rate all engines with regard to how many minutes they could knock off the timetable or take fifteen coaches over Shap makes me doubtful of his judgement and opinions.
     
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