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Was the GWR really so conservative?

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18 minutes ago, Aire Head said:

 

The comment was made in the context of Locomotive design with reference to how the Midland dominance in that department certainly hindered the LMS in terms of modernisation aswell.

 

The midland was certainly very progressive in certain respects - the abolition of 2nd class, introduction of pullmans and running more frequent services.

 

Locomotive design certainly was conservative.

 

You conflate several periods there.

 

Your first statement is highly contentious but has been discussed sufficiently often to require no repetition here. 

 

Your second point refers to Sir James Allport's innovations in the 1870s, a period when the Midland was determined to pull the rug out from under its rivals' feet on long-distance passenger business, hand-in-hand with the opening of the lines to Lancashire, London, and Scotland.

 

Your third point is manifestly false at all periods. A few examples:

Firebox brick arch - Kirtley came up with the simple and enduring solution to the problem of building a steam locomotive that could use coal rather than coke effectively;

Continuous brakes - the Midland was an early adopter from the mid 1870s, initially Westinghouse then in due course the automatic vacuum brake;

Steam sanding - enabling the 1880s renaissance of the single-wheeler express passenger engine: with the technology of the day, faster and more economical than a coupled engine;

Piston valves - S.W. Johnson was an early adopter, with the 115 Class 4-2-2s of 1896, following the work of his friend W.M. Smith;

Compounding - S.W. Johnson adopted W.M. Smith's system; as modified by Deeley, producing the only truly successful and widespread application of compounding in Britain;

Superheating - once the value of superheating had been established (c. 1910-12) Derby used it where it could be most effective - the 483 Class rebuilds and the Big Goods (Class 4) engines.

There was plenty of innovation in the Derby drawing office in the 20th century, though some conservatism too - plenty of very interesting designs worked out, many of which fell foul of the load limits imposed by the Civil Engineer (infrastructure constraints). The Standard 4P 2-6-4T is ample evidence.

Edited by Compound2632

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40 minutes ago, Compound2632 said:

 

You conflate several periods there.

 

Your first statement is highly contentious but has been discussed sufficiently often to require no repetition here. 

 

Your second point refers to Sir James Allport's innovations in the 1870s, a period when the Midland was determined to pull the rug out from under its rivals' feet on long-distance passenger business, hand-in-hand with the opening of the lines to Lancashire, London, and Scotland.

 

Your third point is manifestly false at all periods. A few examples:

Firebox brick arch - Kirtley came up with the simple and enduring solution to the problem of building a steam locomotive that could use coal rather than coke effectively;

Continuous brakes - the Midland was an early adopter from the mid 1870s, initially Westinghouse then in due course the automatic vacuum brake;

Steam sanding - enabling the 1880s renaissance of the single-wheeler express passenger engine: with the technology of the day, faster and more economical than a coupled engine;

Piston valves - S.W. Johnson was an early adopter, with the 115 Class 4-2-2s of 1896, following the work of his friend W.M. Smith;

Compounding - S.W. Johnson adopted W.M. Smith's system; as modified by Deeley, producing the only truly successful and widespread application of compounding in Britain;

Superheating - once the value of superheating had been established (c. 1910-12) Derby used it where it could be most effective - the 483 Class rebuilds and the Big Goods (Class 4) engines.

There was plenty of innovation in the Derby drawing office in the 20th century, though some conservatism too - plenty of very interesting designs worked out, many of which fell foul of the load limits imposed by the Civil Engineer (infrastructure constraints). The Standard 4P 2-6-4T is ample evidence.

 

Well that shows me! :vava_mini:

 

I consider myself thoroughly schooled sir! :protest:

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4 minutes ago, Compound2632 said:

@Aire Head, please don't take that personally. I am simply trying to rescue you from the meshes of popular mythology.

 

Haha no not personally at all. Frankly'd rather be saved!

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2 hours ago, Legend said:

I've always thought of the GWR as being more cohesive than conservative .  Green locos with clear familly resemblance, Choc and Cream coaches etc .  But this was the company that gave us Autocoaches for branchlines, trying to reduce costs long before Beeching . And along similar lines  they had the most succesful diesel railcars , Art Deco styling .  Didn't they also have a plan to electrify their main line . Vaguely remember that from an article in a Railway World Annual . So not sure I'd agree with conservative .

They might of had a plan to electrify, but what exactly did they achieve, exactly nothing so hardly counts!

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11 minutes ago, kevinlms said:

They might of had a plan to electrify, but what exactly did they achieve, exactly nothing so hardly counts!

The LMS and LNER also achieved very little in electrification, basically Manchester-Altrincham plus small extensions to what they inherited.  The LNER might have achieved a lot more had WW2 not intervened, but as far as I'm aware the LMS didn't have any further ambitions in that direction.  It's an interesting question why the LNER's plans were revived afterwards but the GWR's came to nothing.  

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There was an excellent article (in Backtrack?) some years ago about the possible electrification (primarily 1500V d.c. overhead) of various bits of the WR as part of the '1955 modernisation plan'.

 

It was too ambitious and far too expensive.

 

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18 hours ago, Bernard Lamb said:

Why would you even think about electricity as a power source when you had an endless supply of very good cheap Welsh coal?

Bernard

Well, the NER also had a good supply of coal, but electrified the North Tyneside suburban loop in 1908, and Newport-Shildon, with overhead wires, before grouping—and had planned main-line electrification too, building a prototype loco, so Raven, at any rate, must have seen benefit in it (the suburban electrification was mainly to compete with local electric trams).

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18 hours ago, Nearholmer said:

KeithHC

 

what is your source for your statement about dividends?

 

I ask, because it doesn’t ring true, but I may be suffering from false memory syndrome.

 

Another thing to question, incidentally, is which of the big four was looked upon well enough as a business prospect to allow it to raise new capital after WW2.

 

The GWR wasn’t wholly conservative, and they had some good business plans in the late 1940s, but they certainly don’t seem to have been as nippy on their feet as was the SR under Walker, possibly because they were a primarily goods railway (check the figures), which was a sorely difficult market to be in, much worse than having a large lump of spreading suburbia to serve with passenger trains.

My understanding was that the SR was the most consistently profitable, returning regular dividends of around 5%; the GWR had some harder times but returned better dividends in its better years, up to around 7%; the LMS was very variable—and the LNER only awarded a dividend on its ordinary shares twice in the 25 years of its existence, and even then only 0.5%.

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While by no means an expert on GW coaching stock, I'm always amazed how unstandardised their mainline coaching stock seemed to be. I suppose you could argue that the standardisation was at the sub-coach level, i.e. standard sections that were used to build very small series of identical coaches,

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23 hours ago, wasabi said:

The best locomotives for the shareholders were not the ones with the most advanced superheaters but those that shifted the most tonnage at the lowest cost. 

 

Mmm, very similar to what Stamp said to Stanier when the latter was taken on as CME.

What many people forget is the GW was many years in advance, of all opposition, with it's publicity, and advertising department, it's skilled manipulation of the media was on par with many publicity outlets of today. 

Edited by bike2steam
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1 hour ago, Edwin_m said:

The LMS and LNER also achieved very little in electrification, basically Manchester-Altrincham plus small extensions to what they inherited.  The LNER might have achieved a lot more had WW2 not intervened, but as far as I'm aware the LMS didn't have any further ambitions in that direction.  It's an interesting question why the LNER's plans were revived afterwards but the GWR's came to nothing.  

The LMS inherited a fair amount of suburban electrification, in Merseyside and the Euston to Watford line. (Manchester - Bury, too?). Which meant that they didn't then need to electrify those lines.

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There were various ambitious pre-grouping schemes for main line electrification, such as the North Eastern's York-Newcastle and the Midland's Derby-Manchester, that weren't proceeded with for various reasons, principally the poor economic conditions after the Great War.

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9 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

Steam sanding - enabling the 1880s renaissance of the single-wheeler express passenger engine: with the technology of the day, faster and more economical than a coupled engine;

Actually I'd describe the reversion to single wheel drive made possible by steam sanding, which is an American import like most successful innovations on railways in the UK, is a classic example of conservative thinking and design.  Singles appeared on the Midland, GN, NERm and GW (we'll leave the Caledonian exhibition loco out of the loop for now) because the 'modern' express passenger loco of those days was almost universally a 4-4-0 with inside cylinders.  But it was hampered in top speed because the ability of the boiler to raise steam was constrained by a firebox that had to sit between the driving axles; it could get up to 60 or so but struggled after that unless things were very much in it's favour.

 

It had developed because of the need to pull heavier trains, but the designers were uncomfortable with high piston speeds and coupling rod bearing friction, and used 7' driving wheels to get these down, because they'd been schooled in the days of of 'Cornwall' and the B & E Pearson singles; big wheels go faster at slower revolutions.  7' was about the biggest they could get under a big enough boiler.  The locos worked but were not fast.

 

So, as soon as they become aware of steam sanding, they revert to their 1850s comfort zone; singles.  The locos looked lovely, and went fast, but only with limited loads.  You could make the firebox a lot wider and deeper over the trailing carrying wheel, but the loads were too small to be economically viable for long; from here on in until the 1930s the story is of increasing loads and bigger locos to cope with them.  The designers were always playing catchup, and were never on top of the demand for heavier trains at faster speeds, perhaps until DP1 was built and certainly not until 25kv electrification made it easier.  I remember thinking this reading a report in the late 70s of a Class 87 accelerating a 12 coach train from a check to 95mph up Shap.

Edited by The Johnster

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I didn't know about the American origin of steam sanding - do you have a reference? The system used on the Midland was developed by Francis Holt, the Works Manager at Derby. The first experiments used compressed air from the Westinghouse pump (in the early-mid 80s the Midland was still half-and-half a Westinghouse and vacuum line) but the Westinghouse people got wind of this and were outraged, fearing that this would compromise the effectiveness of the air brake. 

 

I understand the argument about bigger grate area; dislike of the large reciprocating mass and fear of the loads put on long coupling rods was also a factor, together with the stiffness introduced by inaccuracies in the coupling rod centres, given the manufacturing tolerances of the day. The same thinking helps explain F.W. Webb's 2-2-2-0 and 2-2-2-2 compounds - as late as 1897 Drummond experimented with uncoupled divided drive in his four-cylinder simple T7/E10 "double single" 4-2-2-0s. However, for each class of 4-2-2, Johnson built an equivalent 4-4-0 with the same boiler, progressing from 8'6" through 9'0" to 9'6" coupled wheelbase (the same wheelbase as Webb's Teutonic compounds, in fact).

 

So, I think in the case of the Midland singles, it was simply the freer-running of the uncoupled engine, together with a slight - 10% - reduction in piston speed that was the principle attraction. In this Johnson was certainly successful, since No. 117 was recorded by Charles Rous-Marten at 90 mph - the joint highest recorded speed in the 19th century and the highest with an ordinary service train.

Edited by Compound2632
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On 14 November 2019 at 16:03, D9020 Nimbus said:

The GWR was also the only railway not to have any electrification at Nationalisation—ATC was incompatible with electrified lines. The LNER and LMS were collaborating on the development of the Hudd system—which after further development became the standard AWS system.

GWR ATC is not incompatible with electrification as such, only fourth rail electrification, and the H&C was only fourth rail for compatibility with the Metropolitan.

 The GWR was, I understand, planning an inner suburban electrification but other events got in the war, either the depression or the war, I'm not sure which. It is partly why it's power station was out at Park Royal.

 

Jim

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9 hours ago, kevinlms said:

They might of had a plan to electrify, but what exactly did they achieve, exactly nothing so hardly counts!

 

The Semmens volumes referenced by Metropolitan H above suggest that the scheme was a ploy to get Welsh colliery owners to reduce the price of steam coal, which was in the end successful.

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2 hours ago, The Johnster said:

Actually I'd describe the reversion to single wheel drive made possible by steam sanding, which is an American import like most successful innovations on railways in the UK, is a classic example of conservative thinking and design.  Singles appeared on the Midland, GN, NERm and GW (we'll leave the Caledonian exhibition loco out of the loop for now) because the 'modern' express passenger loco of those days was almost universally a 4-4-0 with inside cylinders.  But it was hampered in top speed because the ability of the boiler to raise steam was constrained by a firebox that had to sit between the driving axles; it could get up to 60 or so but struggled after that unless things were very much in it's favour.

 

It had developed because of the need to pull heavier trains, but the designers were uncomfortable with high piston speeds and coupling rod bearing friction, and used 7' driving wheels to get these down, because they'd been schooled in the days of of 'Cornwall' and the B & E Pearson singles; big wheels go faster at slower revolutions.  7' was about the biggest they could get under a big enough boiler.  The locos worked but were not fast.

 

So, as soon as they become aware of steam sanding, they revert to their 1850s comfort zone; singles.  The locos looked lovely, and went fast, but only with limited loads.  You could make the firebox a lot wider and deeper over the trailing carrying wheel, but the loads were too small to be economically viable for long; from here on in until the 1930s the story is of increasing loads and bigger locos to cope with them.  The designers were always playing catchup, and were never on top of the demand for heavier trains at faster speeds, perhaps until DP1 was built and certainly not until 25kv electrification made it easier.  I remember thinking this reading a report in the late 70s of a Class 87 accelerating a 12 coach train from a check to 95mph up Shap.

Every single was hampered not only by the ability of the boiler to raise steam, but more so by the inability of the short travel valve then in universal use to use the steam efficiently. That situation didn't improve until a few engineers, but most notably Churchward, set about designing efficient long travel long lap valve gears, with efficient valves and steam passages to go with them. 

Locomotive engineers are always liable to find themselves playing catch-up, simply because of financial constraints. No one will get any thanks for designing locomotives that are more costly than they need to be. The comparison with an 87 is a little spurious, as although they were designed intentionally for a continuous 5000hp, their short term ratings can be considerably higher than that.

 

Jim

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7 hours ago, Zomboid said:

The LMS inherited a fair amount of suburban electrification, in Merseyside and the Euston to Watford line. (Manchester - Bury, too?). Which meant that they didn't then need to electrify those lines.

It wasn't just Euston - Watford, but much of the North London as well.

 

Jim

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7 hours ago, bike2steam said:

 

Mmm, very similar to what Stamp said to Stanier when the latter was taken on as CME.

What many people forget is the GW was many years in advance, of all opposition, with it's publicity, and advertising department, it's skilled manipulation of the media was on par with many publicity outlets of today. 

What many GWR fans forget, is that they virtually continued from where they left off, by basically absorbing a few minor railways (OK I accept that south Welshmen don't like that description), but the major policies didn't vary.

 

In the other 3 groupings, they all had to deal with amalgamating considerably larger and quite different railways, each with their own methods of operating and their own railway workshops. It is not surprising that it took them, quite a few years to sort out the mess imposed on them.

 

In the case of the LMS, they elected early to build large numbers of ex-Midland designs, because the accountants determined that these designs were the cheapest to run and maintain. However on the other railways within the group, they were not that well liked, as considered rather small and fiddly to drive/fire, to get the best performance from them.

Indeed there were no new large 4-6-0s for the heaviest & most important trains on the WCML in particular. This lead to expensive double-heading and when a proposed acceleration of these services was made (to keep up with the LNER trains to Scotland), led to a panicked decision to buy the Royal Scots, because they had nothing in house to do so.

 

The LMS eventual solution was to employ Stanier and give him a free hand to design & build a new locomotive fleet, with about a dozen family members.

 

To round off, using current Premier League ideas of sacking managers, who don't perform instantly, should the LMS have sacked Stanier, over his initial problems with the Jubilees?

 

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The saga of the LMS before Stanier's arrival is really one of Midland vs LNWR, two different ways of running what we're in some respects different railways but with the whole situation dominated by the Midland's traffic department and their attitudes, including a belief that they knew better than their engineers. It's something that could have just easily happened on the Southern and the LNER, were it not for different dominating figures.

 

Jim

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8 hours ago, jim.snowdon said:

The saga of the LMS before Stanier's arrival is really one of Midland vs LNWR, two different ways of running what we're in some respects different railways but with the whole situation dominated by the Midland's traffic department and their attitudes, including a belief that they knew better than their engineers. It's something that could have just easily happened on the Southern and the LNER, were it not for different dominating figures.

 

Jim

 

Again, I think this traditional version of the story doesn't really stand up to detailed examination. I could compile a reading list, if you are interested.

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11 hours ago, kevinlms said:

led to a panicked decision to buy the Royal Scots, because they had nothing in house to do so.

You're forgetting that Fowler's team already had a compound Pacific well progressed on the drawing board.  Its probably a fair bet though, that like other early Pacifics, it wouldn't have been any more capable than a Castle.

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7 minutes ago, JimC said:

You're forgetting that Fowler's team already had a compound Pacific well progressed on the drawing board.  Its probably a fair bet though, that like other early Pacifics, it wouldn't have been any more capable than a Castle.

Exactly, so they ordered an untried locomotive class, the Royal Scots.

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3 minutes ago, kevinlms said:

Exactly, so they ordered an untried locomotive class, the Royal Scots.

After asking Swindon for Castle drawings and been refused.  

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