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Leaders.....

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by Luke Bridges, Dec 30, 2019.

  1. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Those locos couldn’t actually have met that specification. No existing tank engine would have made the 60 mile range for water / 120 miles for coal with those loads on those gradients; and I doubt either a class 4 tank or a large prairie would cope with 256 tons to Okehampton etc (mile after mile of 1 in 80 or steeper climbing); nor for that matter 450 tons at 60mph from Brookwood to Waterloo.

    The loco that could meet that specification was, ironically, a Bulleid light Pacific, but nothing much smaller.

    What’s less clear to me is how the traffic manager drew up that specification: I’m not entirely sure whether he drew up a very tall order in the hope that Bulleid couldn’t meet it; or whether he essentially put his name to a specification that Bulleid himself presented as his target performance.

    Tom
     
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  2. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    How did the 57xx's & Standard 3MT's do on the Waterloo ECS's?
     
  3. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    What is the longest water range of any UK tank loco? I was told that 30 miles on a Standard 4 was 'optimistic'
     
  4. Richard Roper

    Richard Roper Member

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    I bow to your superior knowledge on Southern matters Tom - I've only just started reading Robertson's book, and my knowledge of the Leader is pretty sketchy anyway.
    It will be an interesting insight into the whys and wherefores of its inception and ultimate failure, hopefully by the time I finish the book, I may have gleaned a little more in the way of knowledge about it, although I think it will always remain somewhat of an enigma (or should that be aberration?!)

    Richard.
     
  5. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I haven’t read Robertson’s book, so I don’t know what line it takes. H.A.V.Bulleid’s book does contain a lot of interesting information about the design genesis, including the various Q1 and Light Pacific derivatives that were explored. I seem to recall a 4-6-4T based on a Light Pacific, which would have been a nice “might have been”.

    With regard the Leader though, I think too often discussion fixates on the technology (and failings thereof) with too little regard on the management processes behind the scenes. Why did it get commissioned, against what specification, and why did the project get as far as it did without getting stopped are interesting questions. You could probably ask similar about the Paget locomotive, “Fury” etc, but they don’t seem to generate the same level of interest - or opprobrium. At least in the case of “Fury”, it was a fairly simple process to be able to extract some value from the investment by means of rebuilding in conventional form. Leader was essentially 100% sunk when it was scrapped.

    Tom
     
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  6. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    At least three different tank classes habitually ran the fifty miles from London to Brighton non stop in 1 hour. Comments of the "a 4MT will never do it" kind sound a bit like a prototype version of big chufferitis to me.
     
  7. LesterBrown

    LesterBrown Member

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    The difference between the Leader and other radical experiments was that construction of five of them was well underway before the first one was finished.
     
  8. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Indeed - but it is why I think the management processes around the project are of as much, or more, interest as the technology, but receive far less focus.

    Tom
     
  9. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    A strategy to be repeated more than once in the ensuing years...
     
  10. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    I suggest that rather like the 1955 Modernisation Plan, the 'Leader' -indeed the railways in general exemplified the failures of the British Political and Managerial class
     
  11. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I won't argue with the general point (though think you exempt the unionised workforce from their fair share of culpability), but struggle with that argument for "Leader". The design was an experiment and prototype which, if it had worked out of the box, would have needed proving. Building a small fleet to test in traffic was entirely reasonable, and much praised when BR did this with some of the Modernisation Plan diesels (and later, with the class 91 electrics).

    Ultimately, the problem with "Leader" was that a number of ideas that looked good on the drawing board didn't work in the metal, as designed. My take on the project is that, had Bulleid had the humility to step back on some of the "new" elements of the design, there was something genuinely interesting and different there, which could have been a valuable evolution in steam design.

    He didn't have that humility, and the period was not one in which speculative investment could be afforded by the railway, so the window of opportunity closed and the project was cancelled. History therefore records it (correctly) as a failure but, I still feel, a tad harshly.

    In the light of what followed, though, perhaps the more important failure was that of Riddles to recognise that steam's days were numbered and that diesel would be an essential part of the mix. The cost of 5 Leaders (not all even nearly finished) pales into insignificance beside that lost opportunity.
     
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  12. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    Neither will I .... nor the last paragraph, though I'd note that, as evidenced by initial forays into 25kV OHLE, the finer points of electric operations hadn't really been thought through either. How much time and money was wasted planning and constructing infrastructure which proved utterly unnecessary with the very different operating patterns of AC electric traction?

    However fascinating I find the project from a personal viewpoint, I'm not defending the substantial expenditure on the white elephant which was 'Leader', merely pointing out it wasn't the only yawning chasm down which public money was being poured in the post-war rush to rehabilitate and modernise.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2020
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  13. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I think the AC (and Woodhead...) electrification suffered from a failure to imagine a more efficient system; a failing that lasted a good long while (I recall a dock siding at Berwick being electrified "just in case" as part of the ECML electrification). As for yawning chasms, I would agree there were many and deeper, with Leader just a rounding error in the list.
     
  14. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Bristol Brabazon anyone? Sqillions invested in a slow, noisy piston-engined airliner that would be able to exploit primitive airfields in far-flung parts of the Empire, while said countries were building two mile long concrete runways as fast as possible so they could buy nice 707 and DC8 jets from Mr Boeing and Mr McDonnellDouglas that could take twice the passengers at twice the speed and half the cost ...

    Tom
     
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  15. M Palmer

    M Palmer New Member

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    ^ Not entirely fair on the Brabazon. I don't think the Boeing Dash 80 was a gleam in anyone's eye when the Brabazon was conceived. A massive number of aero projects were fatally long in gestation in the 1949-59 period and Boeing seriously lucked out on a number of factors such as (but not limited to) Operation Paperclip's input re the B-47, the DH Comet pressurisation/fatigue saga and the massive government bung that was the KC-135. Obsolete when she first flew the Brabazon was but gloriously so! Apologies for the off-topic!

    Back to the Leaders, I've often felt that a derivative of the Maunsell W could have had a serious go at replacing the M7, the Sevenoaks/2-6-4T issue not withstanding.
     
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  16. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Yes, fair comment re: the Brabazon.

    Re: a 2-6-4T based on the W: there is also the Metropolitan Railway K class; essentially those two are 2-6-4T variants of the Maunsell N1 and N moguls respectively. They would have made good replacements for M7s in the West Country and for the Waterloo ECS work. Neither of them could have managed the range / speed requirements laid out in the traffic requirement, but that comes back to the question of how real that requirement was in any case, particularly given that for the long-distance work west of Exeter, the N class mogul and Light Pacific tender engines were working fine, even allowing for turning at each end. Large (60 or 70 foot) turntables had been installed at Padstow, Ilfracombe etc by the Southern Railway precisely for the need to turn large tender engines. The capacity restriction was really on the long sections of single line, not the time taken to turn engines. Tank engines were useful for the Waterloo ECS traffic, but in practice a BR standard 3MT latterly worked OK, so hard to see that either the nominal power or range characteristics of the Leader was needed in that use case.

    Tom

    e
     
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  17. M Palmer

    M Palmer New Member

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    I'm afraid I have a complete failing for those coupled-Centauri!

    I hoped the W's third cylinder would add a bit of performance compared to a 2-cylinder machine (no denigration to the K intended) but as you say it would fall short on the range requirement anyway. I think you've hit the crux on the head when you ask how real was the requirement when Moguls and Light Pacifics were available. The Leader just strikes me as Bulleid shoehorning a pet design into the M7 replacement role whether it fits or not.

    Tangential but does anyone know if poor Hartland Point received a Lemaître exhaust under that chimney?
     
  18. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    Not that we've not been round this loop several (dozen) times before, but ......

    However one views what actually emerged from Brighton Works, the stated aims behind the Leader concept made perfect sense. In view of events over the following decades, perhaps they still do.

    Don't forget, OVSB's view was that the SR (other than a few financially unimportant lines) could be operated with but four classes of steam locos, with considerable financial savings.

    The use of domestically available coal, at a point in time when oil imports (unavoidably depleting our national dollar reserves) adversely affected the balance of payments was a recognised government policy at the time.

    Intentions regarding reduced preparation and disposal times may have caused friction with the unions (though probably rather less than roasting firemen alive!), but were a real issue.

    The simple fact is that the labour component of railway operating costs (indeed, those of any industry) had spiralled since the pre-WWI glory days..

    As it transpired, Leader's problems vastly outweighed any potential benefit, but although perhaps obvious with hindsight, I've yet to hear from Bulleid's detractors precisely how they'd have addressed the very real issues facing the postwar railways.
     
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  19. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Fair challenge but, in that context, you have to ask why if labour cost was a concern, Leader was designed to be manually fired.
     
  20. Cartman

    Cartman Member

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    I think it incorporated too many untried ideas in one go, sleeve valves, for example, they had been tried before on the Paget Loco on the Midland, which wasn't a success, together with the complicated valve gear. Offsetting the boiler caused weight problems and separating the driver and fireman wasn't a good idea.

    Maybe with normal valve gear, it might have worked better. The Irish development was slightly better, that did do a few freight turns.

    Another departure from normal designs which failed was the Guy Wulfrunian bus, which attempted to combine a front engine, rear drive with a layout suitable for one man operation
     

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