Interlude, British Railway History !

In between my main unpaid job of attacking corporate sales lines and global corruption I try to keep my twin British Railway History facebook page & British Railway History ( Steam & Diesel ) group up to date !

Francis William Webb
By Gordon Pye on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 at 21:30

Back in the 1870s Francis William Webb was an excellent steam locomotive engineer, having been trained by and followed in the footsteps of John Ramsbottom, the man who invented the piston ring. He introduced some really good designs like the express 2-4-0 Precedent ( Jumbo ) class, of which ” Hardwicke ” survives in the NRM today. He also introduce a cheap goods locomotive with patent cast iron wheels ( 17 inch coal engine four foot five inch wheels ), with an 0-6-2 tank engine version, for mixed traffic his ” Cauliflower ” 18 inch cylinders and five foot two wheels. All the ” goods ” designs lasted until after the second world war, Hardwicke was preserved due to it achieving 67 Mph average between Crewe and Carlisle in the great race to the North. A coal tank also survives in preservation.

However, in the 1880s Webb got it into his head that if you could use the steam twice in a ” Compound ” you could theoretically save coal, so he produced the ” Experiment ” class. It had two relatively small outside high pressure cylinders with a massive single low pressure cylinder between the frames. They were not really a success as they would not run at speed due to the exhaust from the high pressure cylinder being restricted when the synchronized valve gear was notched up. They were technically a 2-4-0, but the driving wheels were not coupled, Webb affected to discern that this allowed for free running but examination of the design reveals that there was not space for coupling rods to pass the Joy valve gear on the outside cylinder which drove the rear axle. ( low pressure drove the front driving wheels ).

The next design the 2-2-2 ” Teutonic ” had a far larger boiler, and the inside valve gear was a slip eccentric so that the low pressure cylinder was always in full gear allowing a freer exhaust. They were considered a success but one could only manage 64 Mph from Euston to Crewe in the race to the north. There were also potential problems setting off after an engine had backed onto the train, the slip eccentric was in reverse so in theory when one set of driving wheels could slip forward with the other slipping backward.

By this time the operating department were beginning to question the economy of the new compounds, so Webb organized a test where one 2 cylinder simple 0-8-0 large goods engine was run alongside another boiler identical 3 cylinder compound 0-8-0 up from Crewe towards Stafford. One man decided just how much coal was shoveled into each firebox so the test was obviously rigged to favor the compound and not scientific at all. It was claimed that the compound saved 5% on coal, perhaps insufficient reward for complicating anything.

The next step was the 2-2-2-2 Greater Britain class, which having trailing wheels slipped very easily, they also had a pointless intermediate combustion chamber in the long boiler. Webb painted one white and sent it for exhibition in the USA, I believe it actually pulled trains over there but suspect that the Yanks were less than impressed. Webb also built 10 John Hick class 2-2-2-2’s with smaller wheels for north of Crewe which were also totally useless.

By the late 1890s the operating department were getting desperate for a locomotive capable of handling the increasingly heavy traffic. They frequently had to resort to double heading but there were just about enough ” Jumbo’s ” about. Webb’s answer was a four cylinder compound 4-4-0, yet despite earlier experience the high and low pressure valve gear was synchronized. The result was totally useless but it was not until 1903 that the staff plucked up enough courage to compel Webb to resign, then after Moon ( Webb’s best mate ) the general manager had also gone. Webb also produced a four cylinder mixed traffic 4-6-0, of which it was said reached its low maximum speed by the time the train had exited the platform. Just for a second getting back to the recycling aspect it was said that said 4-6-0’s used the driving wheels from withdrawn 1860’s Ramsbottom DX 0-6-0’s.

Whale the new CME rushed out a 4-4-0 the ” Precursor ” class based on the ” Cauliflower ” which managed to do the job, a 4-6-0 with slightly smaller wheels for north of Crewe was also introduced. Crew works had to work flat out to replace all the Webb follies but by 1910 all the new Whale designs were rendered obsolete with the advent of superheating.

It would appear that especially automotive engineering is in a similar position to Webb in the 1890s. My 2006 1000cc Kia is no better in fuel consumption or performance than my ” tweaked ” 1989 1000cc Metro, admittedly running on leaded petrol. Perhaps the greatest unnecessary modern polluter is air conditioning, out in Aussie in 1987-88 it was said that you needed a 1600 Toyota Corolla with air conditioning to get the same performance as a 1300 without it.

Don’t have AC on my Kia, no point in this country and all that complete bullshit they put out about driving with the window down causing a significant increase in fuel consumption doesn’t stand scrutiny. The whole vehicle aerodynamics quasi-religion is complete bollocks, in the late 1970s we were told to ignore it as negligible in any motion calculation.

A 1980s OU programme I watched several times outlined that all you need to do for aerodynamic stability is to round the corners off on a square van. My practical experience tends to bear this out, my Seddon Atki 400 with 265L RR Eagle and 13 foot 7 inch tautliner was a good education. It seemed to take you ages to accelerate upwards from 50, then at about 57 it was just like falling through an invisible wall and you were soon doing close to 70. Just like the OU programme said, a vehicle will build up its own streamlining as speed increases.

The above statement would appear to prove my and others practical experience that when the 56 Mph EU speed limiters were introduced for trucks fuel consumption actually went up in many cases. Fuel consumption of 38 tonne cement tankers running from Clitheroe to Coatbridge ( return empty ) went up from 9 Mpg to only 7 Mpg. Of course other factors than air resistance come into play like the now inability to store momentum running at hills, but apart from the Lune gorge at Lancaster little opportunity for this exists on the road north loaded.

In truth today’s high tech HGV’s are no more efficient than those of the 1980s, cost a fortune to manufacture and maintain and probably have a higher total carbon footprint per mile run overall. It must be time to get back to basic ” cheap ” vehicles using proven technology. Likewise trains, even a 1958 2000 hp English Electric Class 40 would pull an express eight coach train at 1 Mpg, no modern DMU can match that and the result is that passengers are crammed into 3 cars like sardines.

Of course if the politicians ( particularly the Tories in the 1950s ) had taken the advice of the engineers all our ” main ” railways would all be electrified by now. R.A. Riddles first CME of British Railways resigned in 1951 after warning the politicians that if they went down the diesel route they would never be able to afford mass electrification. Its just a pity we went down the 25 Kv AC route ( to save money for fewer substations and on lighter wire ), 1500V Dc could have offered benefits like simple regenerative braking.

It would appear that we are in a similar position to what Webb was in 1900, perhaps time to break open the eco-fascist driven political quasi-religion and reveal it for what it actually is. Some commentators point to the probability that Webb was suffering from some type of mental illness in his later years. Webb was 70 when forced to resign and only lived three years in retirement at Bournemouth until he died in 1906.

Why Train Fares are so Expensive !
By Gordon Pye on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 at 21:51

I could go back to the turn of the 20th century and the impact of the First World War to trace railway history from an engineering aspect. However, perhaps a convenient point to start would be Nationalization ( first proposed at the grouping in 1923) which had nothing to do with politics. The simple fact was that the railway companies owed a fortune on government sponsored low interest loans. Said loans had been taken out in the 1920’s and 30’s It was just like Railtrack 2000, in 1927 a local train derailed just outside my local station, the track simply disintegrated under the locomotive. Money was spent on new track and rolling stock ( of which my particular interest is locomotives ) and by 1939 the UK had probably the best railway in the world.

The railways contracted to provide war transport at a fixed price, when the government had to pay up the country was totally bankrupt. The thing was that the railway companies owed the government a similar amount and as neither could afford to pay each other nationalization was the only sensible answer.

By the 1950’s things were looking up, ( non stop Kings Cross to Edinburg in six hours and a half ) Riddles the BR Chief Mechanical Engineer had introduced his excellent low maintenance standard steam locomotives and had plans to electrify all the more busy lines as money allowed. Steam locomotives were cheap to build, a Black Five cost about 16k, the equivalent electric cost 37k, but the equivalent LMS diesel electric cost 87k. Riddles warned the now Tory politicians that dieselization would cost so much that the railways would never be able to afford mass electrification. Of course the politicians took no notice and started ordering diesel multiple units ASAP, Riddles resigned in 1951, HG Ivatt former CME of the LMS and the man behind the design of the LMS diesels having gone in 1950. The SR also built a diesel electric which was later to form the basis for the very successful English Electric Type 4 BR Class 40, one of which is still fit for mainline running but many are preserved.

An interesting development was the 4-8-4 Fell Locomotive, which had four engines driving though differentials to achieve automatic gear change. Although teething troubles left it running as a 4-4-4-4 it ran in regular service until 1957 when its train heat boiler set on fire. Apparently it was quite good, running express trains through the Derbyshire peak district with long gradients either side of the summit. An old friend of mine was actually on one train hauled by it, he said it performed just as well as any good steam locomotive. No comparative costings survive to my knowledge, the politics pointed to diesel electric traction and wanted no obvious competitors.

With 1955 came the ” modernization plan “, perhaps more focused on winning the general election with the promise of jobs in marginal constituencies. It set off quite sensible, about 200 ” pilot scheme ” locomotives were ordered but the Western Region wanted German inspired diesel hydraulics ( to avoid having an electrical department despite the fact that electronics are required to control the system ). Manufacturers included English Electric, BR itself and Brush where Ivatt was a consultant engineer. North British built the Hydraulics with the equipment built under license from Germany. The engines were particularly unreliable, apparently NB had not been supplied with the ” limits and fits ” so just made them up perhaps down to the accuracy of their ancient worn out machine tools. They were all scrapped in the early 1960s, a diesel electric version of the Type 2 was also an early withdrawal.

The point was the brakes were taken off the ” pilot scheme ” and mass orders placed perhaps again to swing marginal seats like Loughborough ( Brush ). The original Brush Type 2 had Mirlees engines which started fracturing their crankcases, a slightly more powerful English Electric engine was fitted to the whole 250+ class in the 1960s, yet more unnecessary expense.

The thing was that that by 1962 they had cumatively ordered enough motive power to run the entire pre Beechin network. The Class 14 0-6-0 600 hp diesel hydraulic intended for great western branch lines had a very short life prior to purchase by private industry.

On the DMU order front the older low power units had been replaced with a half decent Rolls-Royce power unit. Even then they were probably no better than a Class 4 steam engine in overall performance. If my experience with road transport engines is anything to go by the AEC and Leyland powered units of the earlier DMU’s would have been less than reliable.

The advent of the diesel locomotive had negative effects on the then built up track. I am informed that in steam days the Stainforth ganger would walk to Ribblehead and be finished any work by lunch time. When the diesels appeared on the scene he was working endless overtime to keep the track safe for express speeds.

By the 1970s all the hydraulics and other ” non standard ” diesel electrics had been withdrawn, what remained were Class 20, 24, 25, 26, 27, 31, 33, 37, 40, 45, 47 and 55 Deltic. I deliberately omit class 50 because they were introduced in 1967 as a stop gap to Crewe-Glasgow electrification in 1974. I believe that there advanced electronics were troublesome, but that was English Electric problem as they were leased to BR. They were eventually rebuilt with conventional control gear, replacing the ” Western ” Class 52 diesel hydraulics.

Is it any wonder that despite selling millions of pounds worth of equipment for scrap the railways consistently failed to even break even due to servicing the 1bn LOAN taken out to fund the alleged money saving ” modernization plan ” The HST was a revolution, but is it worth the extra cost to get there that bit quicker. However the HST is a continuing success but one has to question the latest air operated doors for alleged easy disabled access. The safety fascists were paranoid about people opening the door and falling out, but to make the doors open inwards like the NSWGR XPT in Aussie was surely the cheaper option.

In summer 1981 a friend and I spent the entire week on BR doing an all line rail rover for £80, only coming home for a bath on Tuesday. Slept on the overnight trains, often Mk1 corridor stock where you could lie flat across three seats. The whole week went like clockwork, never missed a train until we read the time table wrong, yet managed to substitute the agenda easily. The railways looked in good fettle, even freight was doing relatively OK. Things were little changed in 1985 when I did a Freedom of Scotland pass, which was to prove the template for a three month Austrail Pass nov 1987-feb 1988. The suburban system around Sydney was excellent, only £10 a week for an area the size of Lancashire. I can’t help speculating that the fact that they were still using 1925 designed electric stock on some services, the bulk of trains were 1960’s double deck EMU stock allowed the low fares.

Three foot six guage rush hour suburban trains at Perth used 1920’s mainline stock during the rush hour hauled by 1950 English Electric loco’s. Likewise Brisbane, but 1960s steel stock, the five foot threeAdelaide system was fairly run down 1950 DMU’s only but dirt cheap, ( not included in Austrail pass ) Melbourne suburban was pretty impressive. It was a pain having to book long distance journeys in advance.

Freight Interlude

Even though in 1981 there were no tachgraphs at the time, the EU 8 hour driving hours wrecked freight transport efficiency. Industry in central Scotland was decimated when the tachographs eventually came in, mostly due to Dumfries & Galloway police rigidly enforcing the 40 Mph HGV speed limit on the A74. Srathclyde had a spell at it also but could see the damage to the economy, didn’t help rail freight either. Now there were lots of empty wagons in central Scotland who couldn’t get home for a load the next day so spend the rest of your day loading one to take back. Stuff like spuds and whiskey, basically anything not in a particular rush and you could use traditional railway stock. The yard of the garage where I worked backed onto the Blackburn-Hellifield line so you couldn’t miss what was going on. The trains just got shorter and shorter, Scotch wagons were also taking stuff back in the other direction. The final nail in the coffin was the APT and the need to take the catch points out of the WCML so all partially fitted trains were withdrawn.

The result was even more wagon’s on the road and everyone had to buy new more powerful equipment, then they did it again in 1985, new 38 tonne weight limit when they should have gone straight to 44 tonne and allow a ” full ” 40 foot ISO container to be handled by road. The only problem is that much of the current road freight is low density stuff like Stobart’s empty beer cans to Worcester and full cans back to Carlisle, which could make such traffic more ” eco friendly ” ( fuel efficient ) by road.

Perhaps the future is a network of road / rail container interchange depots, with regular trains running between the extremes stopping of on route to interchange traffic. For instance if you had a consignment of goods ( container ) from the south west for destinations in the north east you would intersect the train at somewhere near Preston and deliver ( perhaps several drops ) to as far as Newcastle the next day. Reciprocal from the east coast route, arrange things to make the best use of both rail and road transport. For instance a road vehicle sent from Preston could collect goods to go by rail from a north east depot as part of a working day. It just needs clever organization, computers are not really up to it yet if rail ticketing software is anything to go by.

On the passenger side they introduced the four wheel Pacer DMU’s yet four wheel coaching stock was abandoned by the late Victorians. Their ” bucking bronco ” ride could be described as exciting if not frightening. The Sprinter’s are underpowered, only the same engine as a typical late 1980’s 38 ton artic yet weigh almost 50 tons. With hindsight the sensible thing to have done would have been to convert and refurbish redundant Mk1 and Mk2 coaching stock for push-pull working and use refurbished withdrawn freight locos as motive power. They do it in the United States, and even Network Rail now have push pull test train sets hauled by class 31 and 37 locomotives. Once again the politically correct disabled access argument comes in to muddy the waters, but once upon a time station staff would pick you up and carry you on if at all infirm.

By the 1990s neglect of the track infrastructure made privatisation the easy political option, but was done in the most inefficient of ways, everybody had to expensively lease everything from the Banks and their stock market parasites. It would appear that the whole object of the exercise was once again false economic growth and we all know what happened with Railtrack.

I have never believed the alleged passenger statistics claiming that train journeys increased. I suspect most of the alleged gain is in double counting of passengers using more than one company to complete their journey. Now many split their journey to save money, how does that reflect on passenger journeys. Crammed into a three car DMU like sardines when in the 1980’s the same service would have been loco hauled with up to 10 coaches ?

The result of consistent political mismanagement of our railways since the 1950’s means that many people can no longer afford the essential democratic activity of being able to just walk on to a long distance train. We must not let the politicians continue to interfere, new ( imported, stock market parasites change money ) trains ordered to replace the HST’s when there is no true need yet. Its up to groups like Cfbt to prevent the HST’s being scrapped and instead used on services like Edinburgh / Glasgow – Birmingham currently covered by sardine can latest DMU’s. There must be enough coaching stock stored around the country to provide push pull sets ( up to 8 coaches proven ) perhaps utilizing loco’s currently in preservation as motive power and replace the remaining Pacer’s and cover overcrowded rush hour trains.

The future needs to be targeted investment, make do and mend, only then can fares come down in real terms. Perhaps a modern equivalent of the Fell Locomotive needs to be investigated, no expensive copper and heavy duty electronics. Railways need to get back to the basic first principle of a simple locomotive hauling cheap to build rolling stock. At least Network Rail are doing a good job replacing the worn out track, but all their debts need to be written off. With the track sorted expanding freight could help subsidise passenger services like it did pre war.

Living on the old North East Lancashire & Yorkshire cross border line my main interest was always the London Midland & Scottish railway and its constituents.

Coal Tank Anecdotes
By Gordon Pye on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 at 21:21

It just crossed my mind the other day about the various information written about the Webb Coal Tanks in publications like the Railway Magazine and other books. Unlike the Webb compounds, Webb’s earlier simple engines were generally quite good and lasted into the 1950s by which time could have been theoretically almost 70 years old. The coal tank itself was a development of Webb’s 17 inch coal engine and fitted with 4ft 5 and a half inch cast iron driving wheels.

The wheels themselves were due to the revolution of centrifugal casting techniques developed by Webb at Crewe. Far cheaper than the then traditional wrought iron built up wheels, which were retained for larger diameters until steel casting was perfected. The Coal Tanks were not originally fitted with power brakes, Webb considered that reversing the engine was sufficient to stop. In any case Webb was not very bright on brakes, especially the Webb chain brake for entire trains. The guard was expected to correctly interpret a whistle signal from the driver and then put tension on a chain which ran the entire length of the train and brake application was assisted by running trough pulleys worked by the wheels. It was a brilliant idea for getting something for nothing and I believe that pre WW2 Rolls-Royce cars used a similar system to provide servo brake assistance, the faster you were moving the greater the braking force. The only trouble was that if the chain broke the entire train lost its brakes and therefore it did no meet the Board of Trade requirement for an automatic brake which came on if the train was divided.

As a result the Coal Tanks were fitted with Vacuum brakes, in the original design the brake cylinder was located horizontal under the footplate with a chain over a pulley to translate the motion to vertical. The trouble was that the pulley seized up and left the brakes less than efficient. Later some were modified with a direct vertical brake cylinder, and these were often the first to be withdrawn for scrap as they got used more than the indirect version. The overall result of the brake situation was often that the Coal Tanks were used on local passenger trains, goods trains being entrusted to larger driving wheel diameter Webb 2-4-2 alleged passenger tanks which had a strong steam brake. Most LNWR locomotives right up to the grouping were handicapped by the fact that they only had vacuum brakes and could not stop fast unless they were coupled to a train.

On the whole the Coal tanks would appear to have been fairly reliable by Victorian standards, it was alleged that the trailing coupled axle boxes were a particular problem due to the lubrication arrangements. The brass pipes feeding the boxes were vulnerable to being bashed shut by the coupled wheels floating around sharp corners. I believe Swansea LMS shed modified the lubrication without telling the main works, when due for repair they were sent to Crewe and returned as modified with no questions asked. A solitary Coal Tank has survived into preservation, I once rode behind her on the KWVR back in the 1980s but I don’t know her current location.

Notes on Stanier Boilers
By Gordon Pye on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 at 21:42

I’m pretty bored tonight and as I had unzipped the memories I might just as well write about it. I was originally going on about the original Jubilee’s not being as good as a Patriot ( baby Scot ) when they were introduced, the main problem was the lack of superheat but with 225lb boiler pressure you soon loose performance percentage in comparison to a baby Scot with only 200lb and a bigger volume boiler. The key is that a higher pressure boiler weighs more in full steam and therefore has to be smaller to get the said axle weights, likewise only smaller cylinders needed so when you loose max pressure performance soon falls short. A crab only had 180lb pressure and the crews liked them because they were less prone to slipping or at least you could control it easier, anyway the Jub was soon rectified with extra super-heat and a proper dome and were eventually equal to a baby Scot.

Most of Stanier’s boiler development was tried out on 6202 the turbo-motive, culminating in the Princess Coronation class ( duchess ), Ivatt was the brains behind it all, Stanier was off gallivanting around India most of the time, just set out the basic guidelines and let Crewe get on with it not forgetting ES Cox in the drawing office. Even Black Five boilers were modified in later orders, in fact there are three black five boilers, original domeless, dome and top feed together and on Ivatt engines top feed on front boiler ring. some of the Ivatt experiments had the rear coupled wheelbase increased 6 inches to cope with the roller bearings.

Its just a pity that the chance to preserve Ivatt duchess ” Sir William Stanier FRS ” which someone had the money to buy from a scrapyard at Wigan. The snag was that BR told the scrap company that they would not give them any future contracts if they sold 6256 into preservation. Its a real pity because like its mate City of Salford it was built after the war with roller bearings throughout and delta cast steel trailing truck under rocking grate and hopper ashpan, self cleaning smokebox. Its said that a woman could push one along on level track the rolling resistance was so low, Duke of Gloucester only got built because the conventionally rebuilt turbomotive ” Princess Anne ” got wrote off at Harrow & Wealdstone.

It would appear that the Scot would suffice for most services and with the Ivatt designed 2A boiler ( originally for Jubilee’s ) the scot and rebuilt patriot could cover most services. The problem was that the original Scot boiler suffered badly from leaks in its built up smoke-box ( designed entirely by North British, Fowler had no idea about steam loco’s and was trained as a gas engineer ).

The Patriot boiler was originally designed in the early 20s to improve the LNWR Claughton ( having sorted the hammer blow effect question out with the civil engineer ) but likewise suffered from its built up smoke-box, in actual fact an empty parallel boiler patriot weighed more than a pb Scot, but then the Scot had a 250lb boiler.

I could sit here unzipping stuff all night which may explain my love for steam locomotive engineering, got addicted by reading Brian Hairesnape books when I was still a teenager, then got hooked and into serious stuff by WA Tuplin, but the best book more recently was west coast 4-6-0s by C P Atkins !

Notes on Fairburn Tanks
By Gordon Pye on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 at 21:20

This is an exercise in un zipping my memory from over ten years ago now at least. The Fairburn Tank is interesting because it was a one-off by its attributed designer, not a competent cutting edge steam loco designer but an expert electrical engineer. I suspect that the design was given to Ivatt to sort out, the major constraint being a boiler pressure of only 200lb/ sq in, low even by late 1930s standard.

Fairburn could just have pushed the button and ordered more Stanier Class 4 tanks, but their Midland inspired 8ft + 8ft 6 inch coupled wheelbase was allegedly too long for many curves in the Glasgow suburban area in particular. Glasgow was in most need of a replacement for ageing Caley 0-4-4 tanks well past their sell by date, but also to provide a better service to the travelling public as part of the overall LMS modernisation plan. Similarly, ex L&Y 2-4-2 tanks were becoming increasingly difficult to maintain due to poor ( although not at the time of building ) design, again the Fairburn tanks were a modernising / improvement solution.

Fairburn tanks are a big engine compared to a standard 4, which has to have a smaller boiler due to the higher pressure. I can’t remember the grate area but it must have been 25 sqft, the boiler resembles that on a BR Standard 4 4-6-0 but then they all come from the same Ivatt / E S Cox family tree.

Reading between the lines it would appear that Fairburn himself was not popular with the LMS steam design team. One thing which particularly Ivatt detested was the ” wooden engine ” a full size wood model of the new to be ascribed to Ivatt 2-6-0 built in order that the crews could familiarise with the new engine. Everything was carved down to the last detail including things like chains, the first thing Ivatt did when he took office was to have it broken up and burnt.

What Killed Scottish Manufacturing Industry and the Traditional BR Goods Train ?
By Gordon Pye on Wednesday, 12 October 2011 at 21:27

As a teenager during the mid 1970s I got friendly with the drivers and owner of a small local haulage contractor. During the school holidays I would ride ” shotgun ” all over the north of the UK as far as central Scotland. I got a job there as an apprentice HGV fitter, then after passing the motor vehicle technicians exams at tech went HGV driving myself.

Back in the 1970s the company I worked for did all the main transport for Serfco at Darwen. Their main job was recycling cast iron borings from the heavy engineering industry, customers included British Leyland Coventry engine plant, Vickers at Barrow and a few places up in central Scotland. That’s how I got right into the heart of Ravenscraig steel works, the cast iron borings were heated and pressed into ” piglets ” about the size of an egg.

The old UK driving hours regulations allowed 10 hours driving per day, spread over 12 and a half hours total time. It was therefore practical to get to the Forth-Clyde belt and back in the day from Manchester. Most of the Lancashire-Scotch traffic came home empty unless you had a quick easy back load handy, or would pick something up down country in the case of tippers.

Even though there were no tachographs at the time, the introduction of the EU 8 hour driving hours destroyed UK road transport efficiency. The new EU log books were easy to fiddle as you need not state your destination, however, in 1981 the tachographs were introduced. Industry in central Scotland was decimated when the tachographs eventually came in, mostly due to Dumfries & Galloway police paranoidly enforcing the 40 Mph HGV speed limit on the A74. Srathclyde had a spell at it also but could see the damage to the economy, it didn’t help rail freight either. Manchester-Glasgow road freight became impractical on a daily basis, costs increased not least because you had to pay the driver expenses for a night out.

Now there were lots of empty wagons in central Scotland who couldn’t get home for a load the next day so spent the rest of your day loading one to take back. Products like spuds and whiskey, basically anything not in a particular rush and you could use traditional railway stock. The yard of the haulage garage where I worked backed onto the Blackburn-Hellifield line so you couldn’t miss what was going on. The trains just got shorter and shorter, Scotch wagons were also taking stuff back in the other direction. The final nail in the coffin was the APT and the need to take the catch points out of the WCML so all partially brake fitted trains were withdrawn.

The result was even more wagon’s on the road and everyone had to buy new more powerful equipment, then they did it again in 1985, new 38 tonne weight limit when they should have gone straight to 44 tonne and allow a ” full ” 40 foot ISO container to be handled by road at either end of a rail journey.

Cheap transport is vital to the sustainability of the economy of any nation, yet politicians would appear to have been blind to this basic economic fact. Ken Clarke’s Road Fuel Tax Escalator decimated manufacturing industry everywhere except perhaps the south east. At least fuel duty was not increased in the recent ” emergency budget ” but further rises in the Labour pipeline were not withdrawn. Will the politicians ever learn ?

Hope Valley Electrification
By Gordon Pye on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 19:42

It has been announced that the Hope Valley line between Manchester and Sheffield is to be electrified. an alleged infrastructure improvement but with hindsight we could probably have done it cheaper back in the 1980s. The obvious thing to do would have been to convert the former GC Woodhead line from 1500V DC to 25kv AC, apparently most of the insulators on the line were already standard 25kv anyway. The major hurdle of course was the connection at Sheffield onto the former Midland line for which all traffic had to reverse and run round, a friend and I once took the opportunity to travel on Sunday diversions just prior to its closure.

The obvious thing to do would have been to provide a new facing link onto the Midland line however difficult it may have been politically to demolish property. Likewise the line down Worsborough to Wath, which it was not rocket science to electrify further to Doncaster thus linking up with the ECML but perhaps fear of the gradient put the brakes on. The gradient down into Sheffield from Penistone is pretty fierce as well and had the intercity DMU down on its knees on our trip back and it is truly the case that the route was Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire, Money Sunk & Lost ?

And finally I couldn’t resist this pop at Gresley’s Flying Scotsmen during the media hype about its return to main line steam specials earlier this year !

Big Corporate Media Frenzy about the maiden voyage of the Flying Scotsman, but as usual extremely economical with the real truth since the East Lancashire Railway had to put an H G Ivatt modified Stanier Black 5 ( probably the engine which won WW2 on the Home Front ) bejind it to push it up the bank to Ramsbottom. The Scotsman has also been rebuilt to final BR specification with Kylchaps Double Chimney, which will need the provision of German Type Smoke Deflectors to prevent the driver’s view being obstructed and the possibility that he might miss a vital signal !

Nigel Gresley only got the job as Chief mechanical Engineer on the formation of the LNER in 1923 because Sir Vincent Raven of the North Eastern Railway was close to retirement and Gresley’s A1 Great Northern Railway ” ‘Pacific ” was far better than Raven’s attempt and a member of the class was subsequently exhibited at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, Standing directly beside the A1 ( Which originally had 180lb & High Degree Super-heating ) was an ( alleged designed by C B Collett ) Great Western Railway ) ” Castle Class ” ( which had 225lb BP but low degree super-heat ) which at the time had the highest Tractive Effort of any British Express Passenger Locomotive.

British Empire Exibition attending members of the general public were asking themselves ” How could it be that such a puny little thing like the Castle could be more powerful than Gresley’s veritable Whale in comparison “. Therefore interchange trials were arranged where the 4-6-0 Castle would work East Coast Main Line trains and Gresley’s 4-6-2 would work GWR Expresses. The Castle beat ” booked time ” easy, whereas Gresley’s Whale was almost always late ( and you were deemed late after 5 minutes unlike today’s exuberant 10 ! ), therefore Gresley quickly embarked on a revised design.

The original Gresley Pacific’s fatal flaw was its short travel valve gear, whereas the Castle had long travel valves ( which G J Churchward introduced to the UK after a trip to the US ), Gresley also increased the Boiler Pressure as far as he dare to ( eventually 220lb ) before it became immortal as the first steam locomotive to ” Officially ” reach 100 Mph.

The Gresley A3 Pacific’s major handicap was Gresley’s patent Two To One combination rocking lever whereby you could avoid separate valve gear for the insider cylinder on a Three Cylinder Engine thus avoiding the need for a pit for the driver to do the pre ” booked turn ” oiling, and it was not unknown for GWR engine-men to get trapped oiling the inside valve gear on a Castle and need assistance to escape, and perhaps on occasions leading to the late start of the train !

Furthermore, multiplication of wear in the Two to One linkage plus linear expansion of the piston valve rods when hot meant that the ” inside engine did more than its fair share of the work, which in turn overheated the inside Big End, and thence completely knackered it if the driver didn’t notice in quick time !

It was not unknown for A3’s to have to be replaced at short notice after the inside big end ran hot and be substituted by an old Large Boiler Two Cylinder 4-4-2 ” Atlantic as designed by H A Ivatt, the CME of the GNR prior to his assistant Gresley taking over in about 1911. World Record Breaking 126 MPH A4 Mallard was similarly afflicted after charging flat out down Stoke Bank between Grantham and Peterborough.

And as a final killer blow to Corporate-Nazi Engineering History Mythology, one of the streamlined German 4-6-4 ” Baltic ” Steam Loco’s Hitler used to Double Head his personal train achieved 124 Mph on a far more gentle downgrade than Stoke Bank for miles on end !


3 thoughts on “Interlude, British Railway History !

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