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What if nationalisation had happened earlier?




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#1 Allegheny1600

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 17:24

Following on from the "What if nationalisation had never happened" thread and due to my interest in European railways, what does anyone think our railways might have looked if our railways had been nationalised in 1923 - instead of the 'big four' being created, there would have been just the 'big one' railway company. I believe this did nearly happen?
There certainly were precedents for this, Germany nationalised it's railways in the early twenties, France in 1938 - I believe that some countries railways were always nationalised - where due to geographic/geological or demographic reasons, the railways could only be built by the state.
I take my cue here from Germany where "Standard" locomotives were introduced after a while of building more of the best of the previous administrations locomotives (much the same as BR later did!) but of course, the Germans had time to make sure their 'standards' really worked well and later, developed them and later still, produced the 'new build' classes (after WW2).
From my (admittedly limited) knowledge of German, I believe 'Wagner' was the principal loco designer being succeded by 'Witte' later on (perhaps on DB).
Who would we have had as chief loco designer?
Would Gresley have beaten Fowler? (assuming top men from what were 'their' respective groups)
Based upon his (already proven) designs, I would say so - by a long shot!
But what about the chief designers from our other railways?
How would an earlier generation of locos fared in a 1923 loco exchange?
.
I hope this isn't a step too far - I just love exploring alternative scenarios!
Cheers all,
John E.
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#2 D605Eagle

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 18:18

Interesting thought. I imagine that various regions would have continued to build what they already had been doing, after all most railways at the time were trying to introduce standardisation to a degree. i expect that alot of trial would have taken place to see what was best and what worked best for different areas and we would have seen teh equivalent of the BR standards in the 30s but I'd expect they would have been very different. Who would have had the top job? well thats a good question! Robinson was initially muted for the LNER post, but defered to Gresley because of his age (IIRC!) There certainly plenty of excellent CMEs to choose from.
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#3 relaxinghobby

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 19:28

I can remember reading about a loco design committee set up during the First World War, they had thought about a standard range of locomotives and rolling stock for a Nationalised British Railways to take over during and after WW1. A bit like the USAR? range of standard locos over in the USA which came out at the same time.

I think there was a page of weight diagrams for these 1918 Standard Classes in the Oakwood Press book about the SECR/Southern Railway N class 2-6-0s, which was to have been one of the new standards. The SECR 2-6-0s were cutting edge designs at the time. I no longer have a copy of this book though so can't check.

I seem to remember a plan for a 2-6-0, 2-8-0 and a big 4-6-0. I can't remember if there where any small branch line types or if the engines were inside or outside cylinder, round top firebox etc. They may just have just been a selection of locos from the private loco manufacturers of the time, such as North British Locomotives who were already producing advanced modern designs for overseas railways.

Edited by relaxinghobby, 28 February 2012 - 19:33 .

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#4 pete_mcfarlane

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 19:32

I thought the 1923 Grouping was done as an alternative to Nationalisation? It was a typical bodged solution - halfway between the unrestrained competition of the pre-group railways and the single state owned railway company.

The Woolwich N Class Moguls were built as a proposed standard class, so that answers one question about the future direction of loco policy. Maunsell 2-6-0s everywhere.

Of course, you could always merge the railways in to a single private company rather than nationalise them, as happened in the Irish Free State with it's dull as dishwater Great Southern Railways. Or a nationalised version of the big four.
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#5 Karhedron

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 19:51

There certainly plenty of excellent CMEs to choose from.

I wonder how Collett would have faired? Whilst certainly not a visionary, he was an expert at standardisation. Indeed in the early 20s I think that the GWR were leaders of the pack in terms of standard designs.

I suspect that the winner would have depended on exactly what the political agenda of the nationalised railway would have been.
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#6 6959

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 20:26

I wonder how Collett would have faired? Whilst certainly not a visionary, he was an expert at standardisation. Indeed in the early 20s I think that the GWR were leaders of the pack in terms of standard designs.

I suspect that the winner would have depended on exactly what the political agenda of the nationalised railway would have been.


When I was involved with various proposals to British Standards and ISO, it soon became apparent that the best design is not always chosen. Vested interest can be dominant especially if patents are involved because if standardisation goes the wrong way it can put a company at a disadvantage and even put it out of business. I assume the same would apply in this instance. Add to that the fact that large committees design camels.
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#7 Mike J

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 20:43

When I was involved with various proposals to British Standards and ISO, it soon became apparent that the best design is not always chosen. Vested interest can be dominant especially if patents are involved because if standardisation goes the wrong way it can put a company at a disadvantage and even put it out of business. I assume the same would apply in this instance. Add to that the fact that large committees design camels.


Agreed, we would probably have stumbled through standardised stagnation, with no Gresley, Stanier or Bullied brilliance being allowed to flourish. Who would have emerged from the pack, capable of innovation while toeing the government line, and where would dieselisation and electric traction have fitted in. This raises more questions the more I think about it. Time for some reflection and considered response rather than my initial knee jerk reaction!
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#8 asmay2002

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 22:16

I can remember reading about a loco design committee set up during the First World War, they had thought about a standard range of locomotives and rolling stock for a Nationalised British Railways to take over during and after WW1. A bit like the USAR? range of standard locos over in the USA which came out at the same time.


They were the ARLE standard designs which would almost certainly have been built for a nationalised system.
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#9 The Stationmaster

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 22:31

Nationalisation was very seriously considered for the 1921 act (which led to the Grouping) but was in the end rejected as much on political grounds as any other). Locos to some extent as already noted above - probably with the Maunsell 2-6-0 being turned out in large numbers. The interesting ones would have been the heavy freight design where there would have been a potential battleground unless Regional interests were allowed to prevail.

And if the latter had been the case I suspect the GWR 'Castle' would have become more widespread as a later 'standard' design with perhaps the SR 'Schools' as the standard 'heavy' 4-4-0 and maybe a 2 cylinder stripped down version of it as a lighter design of 4-4-0. The Gresley pacific, with a good bit of Swindon input might have become the 'heavy express' standard type until Stanier emerged to head a central design bureau resulting in a new pacific design (or two?), and a new range of other standard designs although the 2-6-0 would be as likely an updated Maunsell design as anything else.

Mean while Bulleid, his design genius recognised as potentially having future use, would have headed the experimental section resulting in some interesting designs which might have become post-war production types after simplification for mass production by a Riddles led design office.

The standard 0-6-0 shunting and branch etc loco would probably have been a GW design as it would have won on sheer weight of numbers alone and it would be succeeded for branch work by a lightweight 2-6-2T.

Sorry if some of it sounds familiar but I think there's some logic in their as well.
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#10 Old Gringo

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 23:55

Although I like Mike's approach best regarding what might have happened had the railways become one system in 1923, the facts might have sent the unified railway's locomotive design in a different direction.

Here's a brief review of the history;

The question of “Nationalisation” cropped up at regular intervals in Government between 1844 and 1947 (the main years of political discussion being - 1867, 1894, 1897, 1908, 1919, 1931, 1937, 1945). Eventually and for almost half a century, the British public had a national railway network. However, although it lasted twice as long as the “Big Four” as a complete entity, the system’s role was reduced in importance, capacity and route mileage, by great changes in post-war U.K. economics and society, poor strategic decisions, weak management and constant political interference.

At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the Government (under powers conferred upon them by the Regulation of Forces Act, 1871) took possession of the whole of the undertakings of the British railway companies, under the direction of the Railway Executive Committee, set up for the purpose of working the railways as one system for wartime service.

The REC was responsible for working the railways until the latter part of 1919. The responsibility rested with the President of the Board of Trade, but he delegated his duties to Herbert Walker (G.M. of the LSWR).

Whilst under State control, several operating committees were created and (following his election to the President of the Institute of Locomotive Engineers in 1916) Richard Maunsell was appointed CME of the Railway Executive Committee. Throughout the war, the CME’s of all the major companies met regularly to discuss war production and R.O.D. requirements and home railway motive power problems.

Following the Armistice and upon the passing of the Ministry of Transport Act (1919), the Minister of Transport (a brand new position) took control of railways, roads, tramways, docks, etc. and retained it until 15th August 1921.

Part of the brief given to the new minister (Eric Geddes – ex NER G.M.) was to “assess the railway problem” (and Nationalisation, although this was not publicised). However, in the intervening two years, the policy of State ownership (if ever seriously contemplated) was abandoned and the Amalgamation of the Railway companies – eventually into the Big Four – was included in the Railways Act of 1921 – effective January 1st 1923.

Sir Eric Geddes (1875-1937, who I believe having seen the advantages created by the wartime co-operation had worked energetically towards a unified network) relinquished the job of Minister of Transport in 1922 and took the position of Chairman of Dunlop Rubber Co. Then, two years later, he became Chairman of Imperial Airways, helping to develop British airlines as a world-wide brand!!

During the war, Richard Maunsell (1868-1944) also became Chairman of the Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers, which under the direction of the REC was involved in the subject of British Standard Designs – connected with the behind the scenes discussions regarding the possible Nationalisation of the railways and connected with the inter-company workings.

As chairman, Maunsell was charged with the task of producing these standard designs, which made economic sense for a National network. Hughes, Fowler, Gresley and Churchward were all leading figures in the A.R.L.E. and were involved in the discussions regarding the standard types – and several designs were drafted.

Holcroft included two drawings on page 89, “Locomotive Adventure”, Ian Allan, 1962 and in both the Maunsell/Hughes “style” is apparent. The New Ministry of Transport eager to press forward apparently “short-circuited” matters and settled upon producing a batch of the N-Class 2-6-0s at Woolwich Arsenal. The N was very close to the ARLE 2-6-0, a general purpose locomotive, top-fed taper-boiler, two outside cylinders supplied with superheated steam through long-lap piston valves, driven by outside walschaerts valve-gear. Basically, a simple U.S.A designed 2-6-0, very similar to a GWR 43XX, but even better. Hughes went on to build his own version of the ARLE 2-6-0, the “Crabs”, which became the LMSR operating division’s most useful engine, until Stanier’s Black Fives arrived on the scene.

Had the railways been Nationalised in 1923, with Herbert Walker in the top job, I’d like to bet that Maunsell would have got the CME’s job and built the ARLE designs, with Fowler, Gresley, Hughes and Collett as his regional assistants.

Maybe the WCML section might have got those 'Castles' instead of 'Royal Scots' and then again, maybe the route would have been electrified before the Second World War ?

All the best, John.

Edited by Old Gringo, 01 March 2012 - 21:52 .

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#11 Pacific231G

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 00:48

I'm tempted to compare with France which "nationalised" its railways in 1938 when SNCF was set up but that was different because the routes that made up the national rail network had been laid down centrally by the government almost from the start with the railway companies given concessions to build and operate the actual railway itself. (Technically the state owned the route and was responsible for building the infrastructure below the ballast)
After the end of steam, standardisation of diesel motive power seems to have been greater in the USA than in Great Britain between the BR regions. In France and America there was also a lot of near standardisation of rolling stock even under separate railway companies. France had its OCEM carriages and wagons designed by a joint committee and the USA had Pullman. There were also far more French loco types built for more than one of the big five companies. If Britain's railways had been unified instead of being grouped in 1923 I wonder whether such a monopoly would have its own equipment or would have been required to obtain tenders from the various manufacturers who presumably would have wanted to focus on more standardised models. I've never quite understood why British companies were so keen to design and build their own locos and carriages in house rather than ordering more off the peg from the product ranges of private manufacturers such as North British.
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#12 Old Gringo

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 09:17

As David points out in post 11, the main routes of the French railways were planned by the Government from the outset, basically on a template of lines radiating from the State capital, Paris.

Unfortunately, being the pioneers of the steam-powered railway brought a whole new spectrum of opportunities and problems to the U.K. To begin with each railway company was seen as a separate business and the work of the pioneer strategists, like William James (surveys) and Thomas Gray (railway pamphlets between 1820-1825), was studied and then speculated upon.

The fragmented approach to building the U.K. system (linking our established towns and industrial centres), although initially controlled to some degree by the Stephenson design cartel, meant that each new business often decided to keep everything "in house". This insular approach meant that many early railways began building their own brand of locomotives, a process that continued throughout the history of the company and at some works even after Nationalisation!

Perhaps had the Government taken control sooner, or the network been unified earlier, more railway workshops would have been quickly relegated to repairs and maintenance and the design work concentrated on a few major centres. A process that happened during the "Big Four" period and latterly under British Railways, but by then it was too late. But then, we wouldn't have had all those colourful individuals building all those eccentric, but basically similar inside cylindered, 0-6-0s and 4-4-0s, etc, etc. An absolutely wonderful selection of steam locomotives for us to model in the 21st century!

Again it's interesting to speculate.

Edited by Old Gringo, 01 March 2012 - 21:58 .

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#13 Talltim

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 09:53

Add to that the fact that large committees design camels.


Like these? ;-) http://en.wikipedia....e:Camelback.jpg

#14 pete_mcfarlane

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 10:35

Of course the standardisation of motive power could have seriously backfired, and the nationalised system would still be using underpowered inside cylinder Midland 0-6-0 tender engines in the year 2012.

#15 The Stationmaster

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 10:48

Of course the standardisation of motive power could have seriously backfired, and the nationalised system would still be using underpowered inside cylinder Midland 0-6-0 tender engines in the year 2012.

:nono: :no: :triniti:

#16 Allegheny1600

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 12:11

Of course the standardisation of motive power could have seriously backfired, and the nationalised system would still be using underpowered inside cylinder Midland 0-6-0 tender engines in the year 2012.

No, no, no, no, no, no,....................

#17 34theletterbetweenB&D

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 16:16

John's (Old Gringo) thinking about the extension of the ARLE as a natural jumping off point for development under a nationalised system post WWI is probably the most realistic.

Now, the railway would still likely have behaved in their paternalistic 'buggins turn' line of promotion among the CME candidates, so who does that favour? Gresley, and here's why. Collett is barely in the chair at the GWR, and anyway is a works specialist and not a designer; Fowler, Gresley, Maunsell, and Robinson are longest in service as CME's on their respective lines with major achievements to their credit. Robinson bows out (if he thought the LNER job too large...) Fowler is a materials specialist principally and well known for saying that he never designed a loco in his life, Maunsell is an engineering administrator par excellence who got his design work done by Clayton and Holcroft.

You could hardly wish for a better team of talents: Maunsell administration securing all the funding required and developing policy, Gresley the outstanding designer, Fowler working on materials improvements, Collett organising the works for maximum produiction efficiency and in service robustness. There was only one good 'big engine' platform in hand, so it's Gresley pacifics for everyone. The Southern doesn't have to wait for Bulleid to get good steam power, and the early troubles of the LMS in particular are eliminated. By 1935 there's a fully streamlined mechanically stoked 4-8-4 in service running London to Scotland services in 5 hours...
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#18 Old Gringo

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 19:44

It’s a nice idea 34, but I doubt Gresley would have got the top job.

Nigel Gresley (born 1876) at 47 years old in 1923 was the junior man; a rising star granted, but, he had just got lucky because John Robinson (1856-1943) at 67, declined the LNER job and Sir Vincent Raven (1858–1934), the more forward looking man regarding motive power developments, had stepped out of the picture.

Like William Stanier (also born 1876), Gresley was not at the top of the shortlist in 1923 and there would be several men in the frame before him, as the Grouping took place; my man Richard Maunsell (1868-1944) at 55 would without doubt be the favourite and 58 year old, George Hughes (1865-1943), must be second favourite. Charles Collett (1871-1952), 52, with “The Godfather” Churchward’s backing would also have pulled more rank.

And remember, Gresley had not yet quite worked out the importance of long travel valves and was to learn the lesson a couple of years later when he watched a 'little' Western Castle make his big Pacifics look pretty tame.

But you’re right, there’s nobody else in the frame; Fowler (1870-1938) at 53, a good works manager, but not one to head up a design team for a set a modern locomotives, Urie (1854-1937) 69, took retirement in favour of Maunsell, Billinton (1882-1954) took early retirement in 1922, Beames (1875-1948) stood down in favour of Hughes, upon LNWR/LYR merger of 1922; Thompson (b1881), Bulleid (1882), Lemon (1884), Hawksworth (1884), Ivatt (1886), Fairburn (1887), Peppercorn (1889) were all still learning the trade. Riddles (1892), at 31 was assistant works manager at Crewe.

In the scenario of 1923, it’s also interesting to compare the statistics of all the general purpose locomotives available, or on the drawing boards in 1922, to see where each of the designers was going with their universal “national” ideas. An engine capable of doing most of the jobs required by the traffic department was already there, sketched out amongst the ARLE designs.

Unfortunately, it would take another 12 years before Stanier would rubber stamp the drawing of an engine that could satisfy the majority of demands from Bournemouth to Thurso and Swansea to Southend, or anywhere else on the national network, the absolute best, a “Black Five”.

All the best,

John.

Edited by Old Gringo, 01 March 2012 - 22:05 .

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#19 Mike J

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 22:38

So, on the locomotive front then, probably no development line ending in Black five, Princess, Duchess, A3, A4, A1, A2, B1, MN, BOB/WC, etc? Straight from ARLE to something eventually resembling the later standard types? When would diesel and electric come in?
We'd have missed out on so many wonderful locomotives. I wonder if the alternatives would have engendered the same passion as the big four products.
Just playing Devils advocate...over to more knowledgeable than me. ;)
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#20 Suzie

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 23:23

I think that the grouping just stopped the Midland/LNWR gradually taking over the whole network piece by piece. Interesting to speculate on what they would have taken over next on their way to being the national operator by default, LSWR perhaps?

#21 RJS1977

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 00:01

And of course a major impetus behind building the Duchesses and A4s would evaporate too - namely the desire to be faster than the "other lot". Not saying they wouldn't have been built, but would they have been designed to run as fast? Remember that pre-war most of the competition faced by long-distance rail services was still with each other, rather than road or air.
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#22 Allegheny1600

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 01:50

So, on the locomotive front then, probably no development line ending in Black five, Princess, Duchess, A3, A4, A1, A2, B1, MN, BOB/WC, etc? Straight from ARLE to something eventually resembling the later standard types? When would diesel and electric come in?
We'd have missed out on so many wonderful locomotives. I wonder if the alternatives would have engendered the same passion as the big four products.
Just playing Devils advocate...over to more knowledgeable than me. ;)

Just imagine....in some alternative universe, where nationalisation did take place in 1923 - they're probably speculating what locos they might have had if they'd had the 'big four'! Just observing that for a mere 25 years, British loco development was allowed to flourish rather well!
It looks now as though, if we had of had the 'big one' in '23 - we would have missed out on an awful lot! (hope that's not too rich, coming from the OP!)
It's certainly been extremely interesting to read what was considered for our railways, thanks to all who have contributed so far.
I wonder what colour schemes may have come out to adorn these 'standard' locos?
A neutral black perhaps, for freight & mixed traffic locos, a la 'black five' albeit on the Maunsell 2-6-0 'N' type?
A nice, bright blue perhaps for express passenger engines? (same as the experimental blue on early BR locos!).
For express passenger main-line stock how about the same blue but with a white window stripe? (shades of the B-P Nanking scheme!).
For commuter/suburban/local stock - something that doesn't need too much cleaning, quite different to 'main-line' stock, yet still looks good. How about Brunswick or 'Pullman' green - gold (yellow!) lettering looks great on this!
Cheers,
John E.
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#23 Old Gringo

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 09:22

And of course a major impetus behind building the Duchesses and A4s would evaporate too - namely the desire to be faster than the "other lot". Not saying they wouldn't have been built, but would they have been designed to run as fast? Remember that pre-war most of the competition faced by long-distance rail services was still with each other, rather than road or air.


An early version of a "national network", riding on the spirit engendered by the relief of surviving the war years might have produced a very different unified railway.

I think that there would still be regions, maybe seven or eight and, as happened with British Railways, they would still be competitive with each other. However, if each region was given "roughly" the same tools to do the job, the pride would be in getting the best from the new machines. Or, conversely, they would have been getting even more out of their old company's tools, therefore driving up the standards of the new range of products.

I would speculate that Herbert Walker would have attempted to introduce electrification to all London suburban lines as soon as possible. Maybe Raven would stayed in the loop and persuaded the new railway administration to consider testing main-line electric propulsion properly.

Maunsell's new enlarged team would whole-heartedly have set to the job and built 4-cylinder, wide firebox pacifics for all the main lines, decked out in delicious Caledonian blue. North Western lined blackberry black for the rest, including our new Black Fives!

Teak carriages for main lines? or blue and white ? All the top line expresses would get the silver grey livery used on the LNER streamliners.

Speeds would be pushed up, as we watched the streamline age appear in the U.S.A. and in Europe and Great Britain wouldn't want to be left behind. The railway would concentrate upon the real competition and possibly rationalise earlier, whilst steadily improving the services that matter to its survival. Something like a co-ordinated Beeching plan, but in the national interest and with the result of a lot less route reduction.

With the benefit of hindsight, there were so many possibilities available for an earlier "unified" U.K. network.

All the best,

John.

Edited by Old Gringo, 01 March 2012 - 22:11 .

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#24 asmay2002

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 09:26

And of course a major impetus behind building the Duchesses and A4s would evaporate too - namely the desire to be faster than the "other lot". Not saying they wouldn't have been built, but would they have been designed to run as fast? Remember that pre-war most of the competition faced by long-distance rail services was still with each other, rather than road or air.


I'm not sure that's the case. After all the Reichsbahn built some long lived standard designs as well as some very fast locos between the wars.
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#25 John M

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 10:06

I thought the 1923 Grouping was done as an alternative to Nationalisation? It was a typical bodged solution - halfway between the unrestrained competition of the pre-group railways and the single state owned railway company.

The Woolwich N Class Moguls were built as a proposed standard class, so that answers one question about the future direction of loco policy. Maunsell 2-6-0s everywhere.

Of course, you could always merge the railways in to a single private company rather than nationalise them, as happened in the Irish Free State with it's dull as dishwater Great Southern Railways. Or a nationalised version of the big four.



The dull as dishwater never :no:a very underrated railway the GSR seems to have thrived on adversity managing to unify and re-build a railway system following a civil war, and achieving a return for its shareholders despite The Great Depression worsened by Devs Economic War and the Emergency.

It think the most interesting question about a British amalgamation or early nationalisation is what Chairman could would have had the power and authority to force the various factions to work together?

Sir Richard Moon :O well the LNWR had Imperial tendencies and appropriated Brittania for its crest, a Webb Compound Pacific and rigid 12 wheelers anyone?

John

Edited by John M, 01 March 2012 - 20:59 .

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