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Sir Nigel Gresley - The L.N.E.R.’s First C.M.E.

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by S.A.C. Martin, Dec 3, 2021.

  1. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    Well, consider that the CMEs job is to run a locomotive department, not design locomotives. Arguably Stanier inherited the most dysfunctional of the big 4 locomotive departments, and put together a very effective team.
     
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  2. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    The boiler on a Bulleid pacific was a superheated, Belpaire firebox, taper boiler, so it did have a certain amount in common with Churchward! OK, it also had differences (wide firebox, steel firebox, thermic syphons) but those are developmental, not tearing up the script and starting again.

    Tom
     
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  3. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I haven't studied the financials, but my sense is that the real saving in the "GWR way" was high and consistent mileage between overhauls. "Consistent" is important because it assists planning. "High" is important because a lot of the tasks in a an overhaul (i.e. the disassembly / reassembly) have to be done regardless of what work you do in between - so the more miles you get, the more your cost per mile drops. High mileage between overhauls also gives you higher availability, and therefore less non remunerative stock, which lowers your cost of capital. (i.e. having 100 locos with 80 in traffic is a lot better than needing 120 locos to ensure 80 in traffic).

    It's fashionable to berate Collett as something of a dullard, but he drove towards those kinds of efficiency gains.

    You chopped off the smiley :) But I do think that given the respective hands they were dealt, Maunsell played his better than Stanier, and I would rate him higher amongst twentieth century CMEs - that includes effective team building. The one thing he had as an advantage was a smaller empire to manage which probably allowed tighter control.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2021
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  4. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    We can add in that the number of rail workers who joined the forces was around 180,000 which would obviously include workshop staff as well from all levels. FWIW the 180,000 according to Hamilton was around 1/3 of the total workforce and 1/2 of the workforce of military age.

    The LNER was not blessed with alternatives.

    Robinson 66
    Raven 63
    Hill 60
    Chalmers ?
    Heywood 45
    Gresley 46

    Were there any viable alternatives to Gresley working beneath Robinson, Raven or Hill? Gresley had a track record as GNR CME.

    Outside of the LNER precursors I am not sure who could have been recruited.

    So I think it is a bit of a no brainer to appoint Gresley considering that anyone else would have been an interregnum. The LMS has something of a revolving door for the first decade of its existence and its problems are well known. If it had gone down the path of Robinson for five years, followed by Raven for five years and then Gresley I am not sure the company would have been in a stronger position financially or in terms of its loco fleet.
     
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  5. pete2hogs

    pete2hogs Member

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    The crux of the matter is really Gresley's health, and to a lesser extent the loss of Bullied to the Southern. Had he been fully fit it's likely the LNER board, with their complete faith in Gresley, would have kept him on at least until the end of the war.

    The V4 was intended for use on the whole system in places where the V2's couldn't go. And, in fact places where the B1's couldn't go either. The B1 was intended as a replacement for a very large number of obsolete locos as part of a standardisation plan.

    Whether materials shortages would have curtailed production - yes, likely. But would Peppercorn have designed a B1 if he took over direct from Gresley? I strongly doubt it. Any more than Bullied would have.

    In any case Nationalisation happened and the future of LNER design became irrelevant.

    As an afterthought - if WW2 had not happened - and hence no Nationalisation - by 1950 would the LNER still be investing in steam development anyway, or would it have been spreading the 1500vDC electrification?
     
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  6. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Nat Pres stalwart

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    So what about being at the cutting edge and so what about being conservative, the objective as a commercial company answerable to its shareholders was purely to run trains and make a profit, would be interesting to compare the dividends of the big 4 from 23-48 as that would probably be a good (admittedly pretty blunt) guide as to who was doing well and who was being held back?

    As for your thought experiment, probably not, because that was not what they needed nor apparently wanted, they needed someone who was a production engineer, efficient and well organised, who they got in Collett who despite his apparent shortcomings seems to have been the right man art the right time and without the ego that appears to have affected other enginers to design innovation for their own benefit or for the sake of it), as Churchward was in 1902?
     
  7. Jimc

    Jimc Part of the furniture

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    Trouble is its very easy to get hung up on what I call enthusiast top trumps. The alleged stagnation of GWR policy post Churchward seems to come down to non adoption of outside valve gear, which saves no money when locomotive preparation is a union agreed piece work task, and late adoption of high superheat, which provides a coal saving, but increased expense in oil consumption and overhaul. The GWR/WR team seems to have been acknowledged the most advanced in front end design and also in detailed engineering. I'm not sure that any of the big 4 come across particularly well in terms of innovation in design.

    Yes, the Merchant Navy boiler is effective at producing steam, but my understanding was it scored rather poorly in fuel consumption. Durrant claims that the jets on the leMaitre on the MNS were too small, resulting in too much back pressure, but plenty of blast, giving loads of steam, but using loads of coal to produce it.
     
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  8. pete2hogs

    pete2hogs Member

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    I don't think anyone can disagree that the best run motive power department (including all aspects , fixed plant as well) was the GWR. But it did have some advantages not least the clear management structure, the more manageable size of the system than the LMS and LNER, and the relative prosperity of the company. Collett was not the strongest CME by any means - elsewhere he might have been a bad one - but the organisation was strong enough to not merely survive but continue to prosper under him.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2021
  9. MellishR

    MellishR Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Maunsell had the advantage of being there immediately from Grouping, whereas the LMS faffed about for a while before recruiting Stanier.
     
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  10. bluetrain

    bluetrain Member

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    Some might argue that the biggest impact on 20th Century locomotive development came from Wilhelm Schmidt, with his development of the fire-tube superheater.
     
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  11. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    But for Leader's sleeve valves, a bigger impact may have come from Cecil Paget .... as in "Let's ensure we never do that again". :)
     
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  12. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I largely agree, but there's a trade-off where I suspect the GWR ended up with the balance too far tilted towards eking out existing designs, focusing on efficiency within the existing model, and not enough towards deeper change. I'm an incrementalist, but as an approach it has limits.
     
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  13. bluetrain

    bluetrain Member

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    The Highland had 173 locos on its books at Grouping, but only 150 were taken into LMS stock and allocated LMS numbers. The remaining 23 "twilight zone" engines were mostly stored unserviceble, but a few continued in service on light duties for the first months of the LMS.

    Returning to the NBR, at Grouping it had 1074 locos on its books, of which no fewer than 200 were on the "duplicate list" (re-numbered above 1000). It appears to have been NBR practice to transfer over-age engines to the duplicate list, even if no replacements had yet been ordered. In respect of the NBR Board holding back from new orders in the run-up to Grouping, the"official" reason was "in order not to prejudice the immediate production of Group Standard designs". The LNER had a mass clear-out in the mid 1920s of the oldest NBR engines (mostly Wheatley & Drummond 0-6-0s from the 1860s & 1870s), after which things settled down and remaining NBR engines typically gave long service for the rest of the steam era.

    While I cannot claim to have done any deep analysis, there do seem to be differences at Grouping in the average age of the LNER constituent fleets. There were a lot of very old engines in NBR stock and quite a few (1870s vintage) on the NER. I don't think there were as many early relics in the LNER Southern Area, but the reasons differ:

    GNR - Ivatt had instituted "big engine " and "scrap and build" policies, continued by Gresley in his GNR period, that saw the early demise of Stirling's passenger and mixed traffic locos - all gone by the 1920s.

    GCR - the fleet had expanded massively at the time of the London Extension, so the average age was low.

    GER - after its 1862 formation, the GER had 6 loco superintendents in its first 25 years, who produced a wide variety of different designs. The 22-year long reign of James Holden then brought stability, with large-scale building of standard designs and the gradual elimination of the previous hotch-potch. By Grouping, the GER had almost no locos pre-1880.

    That brings us to some important issues for Gresley when he took the helm at the LNER - what was the quality of the loco fleets that he had inherited (and of course, what was the quality of the workshops)? "Quality" is obviously not wholly dependent on age, but it does seem difficult to compare across the LNER constituents. For the LMS and SR, we have valuable insider accounts from Cox, Holcroft and others, but I don't recall anything similar for the LNER in the Gresley period. It would be interesting to know what assessments Gresley may have provided to the LNER Board, also whether information was being systematically recorded for running costs, maintenance and overhaul costs, availability, etc.
     
  14. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Resident of Nat Pres

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    A valid point give that the post-WWII LNER Board had considered ordering 25 LMS-type diesel locomotives as an interim until electrification schemes could be initiated. The post-Grouping problems of the LNER were simply amplified by Nationalisation when a further layer of competing interests was introduced to the management within the railways and a further level (from the BTC) outside it. Whilst the LMS might have succeeded in the engineering posts IIRC the LNER succeeded in the management posts hence I wonder if Simon will be reflecting the management contribution to both Gresley and the post-Gresley eras ?
     
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  15. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    It's only page 6 and you've bl**dy gone and done it already! ;)

    Tom
     
  16. 5944

    5944 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Is mentioning the Leader the NP equivalent of Godwin's law?
     
  17. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Yep!
     
  18. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Third rule of Nat Pres: All threads eventually discuss The Leader.

    There's also @LMS2968's postulate ("You can ask the question in myriad ways, but they all come back to different ways of asking 'which is your favourite loco'"). And the new build paradox: ("Why do all threads about new builds end up discussing the 2P?").

    Plus of course the rule most people are too scared to mention: all rules are suspended west of Taunton ...

    Tom
     
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  19. Sheff

    Sheff Resident of Nat Pres

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    I’d just like to say how much I’m enjoying this thread. That’s all.

    ….. apart from once more supporting Gresley’s use of conjugated gear. I can see little or no justification for sticking valve gear between the frames from an operating perspective.

    So
    GWR - nil points
    LMS - multi cylinder locos - well you got there in the end
    SR - nice try Oli
    LNER - spot on. Nothing really fundamentally wrong with the gear, just needed proper maintenance. Why that didn’t happen I just don’t understand, it’s not complicated. Maybe it they could have made the centre bits easier to get at, but it’s only a flap to lift up, isn’t it? (I honestly don’t know, but I have crawled around under the A1 plenty ). The longevity of the A4s alone proves my point I’d say.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  20. Eightpot

    Eightpot Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Not forgetting the crank axles that only lasted 6000 miles before fracturing, the firebrick lined firebox that the bricks fell out of, 30 tons of over-weight to be dealt with, etc., etc..
     

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