Paxman – Probably the Finest Diesel Engines on Rails

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The firm of Davey Paxman, then Ruston Paxman, and in its final guise of GEC Diesels Ltd was established in 1865, in Colchester, Essex.  Their original product line included agricultural machinery, steam boilers, portable steam engines, and stationary engines, with a wide range of applications in mind.

It was not until just before the First World War that they took an interest in the possibility of ‘oil engines’, with some of the early designs arranged horizontally, just like the company’s steam designs.  From around 1925 they began designing and building engines in the more conventional, vertical layout.

Paxman engined LMS No.1831 copy

What was to prove revolutionary in diesel traction’s use of quick-running engines, allied to innovative mechanical and ovcerall design. This view shows the very first diesel locomotive on British railways, built by the LMS, with its Paxman engine, on what was essentially a steam engine chassis.      Photo; Lens of Sutton

Only 5 years later, in 1930, as the LMS railway began its experiments with diesel rail traction, and the first diesel engine was installed in LMS prototype shunter No. 1831.  The engine was a 6-cylinder machine, developing 412hp at 750rpm, and designated type 6XVS.   The railway company constructed the mechanical portion of the locomotive, based around the frames of a steam engine, and other details, whilst the Paxman engine was the first rail traction diesel engine, installed in the first diesel locomotive on the standard gauge, for a major British railway company.

However, Paxman’s global reputation was based around quick-running ‘vee’ form diesel engines, and it began to make inroads in this area from around 1932, and with that step they were wholly successful, be it marine, stationary or rail traction.  Davey Paxman’s fortunes were assured.

The Second World War provided a pivotal platform for the technology,  and the Paxman 12TP engine – originally designed for a special assignment – was used in the British Landing Craft, and of course played a key part in the D-Day landings.  From that event 75 years ago, more than 4,000 Paxman 12TP engines were used in every assault operation carried out by Allied Forces in Europe.  This same engine design was refined for wider commercial use in the 1950s, including rail traction, and re-designated type RPH.

12RPH

The early 1950s saw the introduction of the YH range, direct fuel injection, and 4-valve cylinder heads.  The refinements of these designs, with ease of maintenance, provided an ideal platform for railway locomotives, with many examples used in branch line, shuntin, and in later develoipments for main line operations.  The quick-running 4-stroke diesel had certainly come of age.  By the end of the decade, a further development of these engines appeared in the shape of the “Ventura” range.

Paxman images 8 copyThe latest design was developed to meet the requirements set by British Railways, building on the design and construction of the RPL and YH engines, incorporating advanced engineering features, and competing with the best European builders were offering.  In fact, these engines were built under licence by Breda for Italian State Railways’ Class 343 locomotives, whilst further east in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), “Ventura” engines were fitted to a fleet of diesel hydraulic locomotives for shunter/trip and main line duties.

Paxman images 3 copyOn British Railways, the first of these new engines were fitted and trialled in one of the Western Region’s Swindon built “Warship” Class diesel-hydraulic locos – No. D830 ‘Majestic.  The “Ventura” engines were also retro-fitted to 20 of the North British Bo-Bo diesel-electrics, developing 1,350-hp at 1,500 rev/min engines, following the disappointing service experience with the locomotives’ original power units.  

D6123 from Paxman booklet

One of the NBL built Type 2 engines after refitting with Paxman engines proved much more successful.

Another order from British Railways, was for power unist for the last diesel-hydraulic type used on the Western Region – the Class 14 0-6-0 – together with 6-cylinder versions for the Southern Region’s “Electro-Diesels”.

Class 14 – The last Main Line Diesel Hydraulics

The experience with the “Ventura” design also provided background for the next step in the development of the Paxman range.  Paxmans’ working with British Railways and the MOD (Royal Navy), a new range of high-speed diesels, in the shape of the “Valenta” series were created.  These new engines were the same size and shape as the “Ventura”, but although of the same bore and stroke, gave 40% – 50% more horsepower.  

Paxman Valenta cutaway for HST

The heart of high-speed, the Paxman Valenta engine. Powerful and efficient too – a good combination for rail traction use.

It was these engines that were fitted to the HST, IC125, high speed trains that provided the mainstay for British Rail’s express passenger services for more than 45 years.  Some are of course still in service today.

HST in Sonning Cutting

On the Western Region, the HST sets – or IC125s were the mainstay of high-speed services. This is a typical view of 253003 running through Sonning Cutting between Reading and London Paddington. Photo; British Rail

The prototype HST was fitted with a 12 -cyl. Valenta 12 RP200L, charge-air cooled engine developing 2,250 bhp (UIC) at 1,500 rev/min.  Announced in 1970, the production sets would consist of a pair of power cars equipped with these powerful diesels at eaither end of a 7-car formation of Mark III coaches, which included two catering vehicles.  British Rail’s plan was to order 150 of these trains over a 5-year period, which it was suggested could be extended to 10 years up to 1985, starting in 1975.  They were set to work on both the London to Cardiff and London to Newcastle routes.

Paxman Prototype HST

This diagram shows the compact layout of the prototype HST power car. The buffers were of course not used on the production series.

In their HST guise, Paxman’s “Valenta” engines were definitely at the top of the tree.  They achieved no less than three world speed records.  The first was on 12th June 1973, when the prototype reached a speed of 143.2 mph between Northallerton and Thirsk on the East Coast main line.  The second, 22 years later, when on 27th September 1985 the Tyne-Tees Pullman, with Paxman power ran from Newcastle to London King’s Cross (268 miles) in under 2 hours 20 minutes, achieving a start to stop average speed of 115.4 mph.  Finally, just two years later in 1987, with power cars 43102 and 43104, the world speed record for diesel traction was broken again.  Over a measured mile between York and Northallerton, a speed of 148 mph was recorded, with peaks at just under 150 mph.

HST set leaving Edinburgh - January 1994 - RPB

Still on active service in the 1990s, 43113 is seen here running through the approaches to Edinburgh Waverley, but westbound through Prines Street Gardens.   (c) RPBradley

The longevity of their success suggests that Paxman high-speed diesels were probably the finest diesel power plant designed and operated on rail.

Further reading:

 

http://www.paxmanhistory.org.uk/paxeng34.htm

 

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Ocean Mails at 100 mph

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The magic three figures of 100 mph have held, and in some cases still do hold respect in so far as speed is concerned. Around the turn of the century, perhaps this was nowhere more apparent than on the railways. Competition for traffic between the railways had always been keen, none more so perhaps than
the intense rivalry initiated between the East. and West Coast routes to Scotland. In this, the principal combatants, the London & North Western and Great Northern Railways vied with each other to claim the honours in the days of the railways’ “Race To The North” in the l890’s. Yet despite some formidable feats of haulage and speed; none more so than that of the diminutive Locomotive, “Hardwicke”, not once was the three-figure barrier broken.

The LNWR had already had the experience of its rivalry with the East Coast companies under its belt, when later, a similar “event” took place in the South of England between the London & South Western and Great Western railway
 companies. This time, the competition was for the much-coveted carriage of the West of England traffic, and the Transatlantic Mails.The Great Western was in this case the underdog, having much leeway to make up on other railway companies following its enforced abandonment of the broad gauge in 1892, it being a relative newcomer to the design and operation of standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock at speed.

At the turn of the century, competition between the LSWR and the GWR was rapidly growing in intensity and although the GWR had the longer of the two routes between Paddington and Exeter (The LSWR route between Waterloo and Exeter was some 23miles shorter), the LSWR competition was hampered between that city and Plymouth, by having to use through running powers over the GWR branch line to that place.

The competition for this traffic had its effect on the locomotive department and brought about the development of new designs for express passenger engines. On the LSWR, William Bridges Adams passenger Loco, designs must rank amongst the most graceful of all typical British 4-4-0 types. William Dean at Swindon would not see the GWRleft with second best however, despite his advancing years and the doubts being cast on his abilities and the rising stature of Churchward. Dean’s latest passenger designs were excellent machines themselves, a very attractive 7ft Sins single driver type.  
In the late 1890’s however, Dugald Drummond as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LSWR, in succession to Adams, introduced the T9 class 4-4-0, and by 1900 had assisted that company in gaining the upper hand in the competition for the West of England traffic; the improved timings of the LSWR services obviously
 increased their patronage. The GWR however were not to be outdone, and the reduction in mileage of the Western’s route to Exeter by construction of the cut-off lines, improved the balance in that company’s favour. Following which, with the introduction of 4-4-0 designs of the “Atbara” and ever famous ”City’ class, the seal was about to be set on the GWR’s prestigious West of England services.


3293 was the 2nd of the class and named after the GWR’s Chairman at the time.  Built in 1897, and used in common with Atbara and Duke class locos on the Ocean Mails runs.   (c) Historical MRS

The greatest degree of competition occurred on the working of the Ocean Liner Specials between Plymouth and London, and despite its initial handicap of 23 extra miles on the Paddington route, the GWR was not prepared to concede to the position of runner up. The competition between the two companies actually arose from the extremely fast Atlantic crossings made by the German owned Holland-Amerika line vessels. Crossing between New York and Plymouth, the Holland-Amerika line ships took away the Blue Riband from the British Cunard White Star line, whose crossings were made from and to Liverpool, whence the Transatlantic traffic was traditionally carried via the London & North Western Railway to London. Not unnaturally the potential traffic of the Holland-Amerika Line was attractive to both the GWR and LSWR, consequently both companies were anxious to improve their facilities at the Plymouth terminus in order to 
obtain this highly prized Transatlantic traffic. The GWR gave its Millbay Station a ‘facelift’, whilst the South Western built a special station for the ocean traffic at Stonehouse Pool. That the competition between the two companies was fierce, would possibly be something of an understatement, and in 1900 began to reach its climax. In that year, two rival Holland-Amerika ships raced each other across the Atlantic, the passengers and mails from the winner, the SS “Deutschland”, were conveyed from Plymouth to Paddington, a distance of 246.7 miles, in 4hrs 40mins, with two intermediate stops. An average speed of just over 52mph start to stop, may not seem particularly fast today, but over that distance at that time the fastest journey time was booked as 5hrs 5mins, an average speed of 48 mph, hence that particular run was a noteworthy 
achievement.

A dispute between the two companies over this traffic resulted
 ultimately in an agreement that from each transatlantic crossing, the LSWR would carry the passengers and the GWR the mails. In so far as the GWR was concerned, it had little, if any, of non-stop running and on the Plymouth route, rather surprisingly; its first attempt was made whilst conveying H.M. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra! The ‘Atbara’ class engine used on the train put up an average speed of over 55mph between Paddington and Exeter, and without the usual requirement of a pilot engine running 15mins in advance of the Royal Train! The GWR’s experiment with non-stop running at ‘high speed’ was
 consolidated in 1903, with a second and even more spectacular performance, once again with the Royal Train!

Though not precisely the Royal Train, it was the advance portion of the up “Cornishman”, carrying the Prince and Princess of Wales (Later, H.M. King George V and Queen Mary). The engine was one of the new taper boiler ”City’ class 4-4-0’s; No.3433, “City of Bath”.  The train was booked non-stop from Paddington to Plymouth and covered the distance of 246 miles in 3hrs 53 ½ mins, giving the very high average start to stop speed of 63 ½ mph.

During the course of the journey, some remarkably high intermediate average speeds were recorded, such as the 73.4mph between Nailsea and Taunton on 
slightly unfavourable gradients. Actually, the average speed from Paddington to passing Exeter was just under 70mph (67.3,to be precise). The sustained high speed running to pass Exeter in 2hrs 52imins necessary with a 4-4-0 type, was indeed remarkable, and indicated the potential for free running and high speeds developed by the “City” class 4-4-0’s.

The final development of William Dean’s 4-4-0s for the high-speed West of England service was the “City” class, and this engine “City of Truro” was (depending on your railway loyalty perhaps) the first steam type to exceed 100mph.
 
By Hugh Llewelyn – 3717Uploaded by Oxyman, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24390196

This level of high speed running by the GWR evidenced by these two runs, obviously led to even more intense competition with the South Western company. Some extremely fast runs were made with increasing regularity on both routes, and culminated in the first authenticated run made at 100mph. It should however be pointed out that despite the more or less general acceptance of that achievement, doubts as to both the reliability of the witnesses and feasibility of the locomotives of the day to achieve such a maximum have continued to be expressed, almost since the details were first published. Some of this doubt possibly resulted from the almost daily reports of incredible speeds achieved in the USA with 4-4-0 types, many of which claimed speeds of 120 and 130mph and more! Of course such speeds were impossible with the machinery of that time, but the unreliability of such reports probably influenced the partisan feelings of those who doubted the achievement of the GWR on May 9th 1904.

The record run of this particular Ocean Mails special from Plymouth to Paddington was carried out with two engines, that section from Plymouth, Millbay Crossing to Pylle Hill Junction, Bristol by the ”City” class 4-4-0 No. 3440,”City of Truro”, and from there a “Dean”, 7ft 8ins ‘Single’, No.3065,
 “Duke of Connaught”, hauled the train the remaining 118.7 miles to Paddington
in 1hr 39 3/4 mins. Though it was the performance of “City of Truro” over the adverse section to Bristol which received the honours, the performance of the Dean ‘Single’ was unquestionably spectacular. Perhaps even more so in view of Chunchward’s far sighted locomotive design policy was bearing fruit in the shape of some extremely powerful 4-cylinder 4-6-0 types, not to mention the solitary pacific, “The Great Bear”.  “City of Truro” took the special from Millbay
 Crossing to Exeter, almost all of this route against the grade, a distance of
 52.9 miles in 58mins, a very creditable performance.

There then followed the
 most remarkable section of the run, from Exeter to Pylle Hill Junction, where the 74.9 miles were covered in a time of 64 ¼ mins. On this section of the run a claim was made by a well-known train performance recorder of the day, C. J. Rous-Marten, for a maximum speed of 102.3mph, reached on the descent of the Wellington Bank.  Rous-Marten, who took details of the run, it has always been insisted, was required by the authoriti.es not to disclose details for fear of alarming the public. His records were however subsequently made public, but it appears that full details had already been disclosed of the run, the day following, in the Western Daily Mercury, and replete with a further claim for a speed of 100mph achieved between Whiteball Summit and Taunton.

Whatever the reasons for publishing or not publishing such details, it is now generally accepted that the three figure barrier was broken with this train, on the run referred to.
  The mails special was also followed on that occasion by a passenger special, in competition with a South Western special from Plymouth, Stonehouse Pool to Waterloo.  The GWR train made the run from Plymouth to Paddington in 264 mins, just 32mins slower than its record-breaking predecessor, and with a decidedly heavier train.


Not carrying the “Ocean Mails” anymore, but the legacy of the competition between the GWR and LSWR for this prestigious traffic lasted into British Railways days in the 1950s and 60s.  Here, the down ‘Cornish Riviera Express’ is entering Exeter St David’s behind typical motive power – a “King” class 4-6-0.
 
By Ben Brooksbank, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15556548

As a result of these spectacular high-speed runs, emanating from the competition for traffic with the LSWR, the Great Western instituted regular non- stop services between Paddington and Plymouth on July 1st 1904.  This entirely new express service was booked to cover the distance, via the Bristol avoiding lines, in 4hrs 25mins; ultimately it became known as the “Cornish Riviera Express” – Which of course it has been known as ever since.

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Pandora and Her Sisters – EM2 Class Co-Co

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If there was ever a reason to refer to diesel and electric locos. as tin boxes on wheels, then surely this class was the ideal example. Mind you, the EM2s were only a development of’ their smaller, EM1 (Bo-Bo) brethren of 1950, which in turn were designed by the LNER even before nationalisation. This company had plans to electrify the former Great Central Railway route over the Pennines from Manchester to Sheffield, through the Woodhead Tunnel. But, delayed by WWII, amongst other things, the project was not completed untilthe1950s, under British Railways guidance.

Leading Dimensions

EM2 dimensions

EM1 No. 26054

The Bo-Bo predecessors of Pandora were based on a design from the LNER, before nationalisation. Here, 26054 “Pluto” is seen in BR days at Sheffield – complete with the early yellow warning panel. The original loco 26000, was built in 1941, and the remainder – 57 more – were intended for freight service over the electrified Wood Head route through the Pennines.      Photo” RPBradley Collection

The EM2’s were all built at Gorton in 1954, and were then the most powerful locomotives in operation anywhere on B.R. – I am ignoring the two gas turbine prototypes of course, since these were only experimental. The Class’ predecessors, the EM1s were 1868hp, and intended for mixed traffic duties, and although the Co-Co development could be seen on such workings, these seven locos. were primarily passenger types. Their ‘substantial’ construction was undoubtedly responsible for the low power/weight ratio, and this general heaviness in appearance is noticeable in any photograph.

RPB COLLECTION-181

Construction of the mechanical parts was carried out at Gorton, with Metropolitan-Vickers supplying the electrical equipment. The first locomotive, No. 27000, entered service in February 1954, working instructional and test trips between Wath and Wombwell Exchange, and Trafford Park to Wath. The catenary was finally energized over the Woodhead route from Manchester to Sheffield, including the opening of the new Woodhead Tunnel, by mid 1954.

Construction, basically, with these early electric locos., involved a superstructure divided into three compartments, with driving cabs at either end, separated by a control compartment containing resistances and other H.T. equipment, such as motor generators, traction motor blowers etc. A pantograph was mounted in the roof well at each end of the locomotive. Since, of course, only steam heating was provided on the available rolling stock an oil-fired boiler was fitted. The corridor running along one side of the locomotive, not only gave access between the driving cabs but, also to the separate high tension, and resistance compartments, through an interlocking door. The body was not designed as a load bearing structure, and consequently, a hefty underframe was provided, built up with rolled steel sections, and extensively cross braced to support the body and equipment. Buffing and drawgear was mounted on the underframe – not following the trend set by the S.R. diesels, in having these items attached to the bogie.

EM2 BR Weight Diagram_2

BR Weight Diagram of Class EM2

The bogies themselves were also quite heavily built structures, fabricated from steel sections, with a double bolster carried on two cast steel cross stays. The weight of the body was carried through spherical bearers and leaf springs supported by swing links from the bogie cross stays. The equalising beams were fitted inside the bogie frames, on top of the axle boxes, and in addition, of course a 415hp traction motor was hung from each axle, driving the wheels through spur gearing.

Electro-pneumatic control equipment was fitted, and was more or less conventional for d.c. traction, and indeed, similar arrangements are still used on most modern locomotives, including the latest designs. On the EM2, and other d.c. rolling stock, the traction motors are first arranged in series for starting, an intermediate stage of two parallel groups of three motors in series, and finally, three parallel groups of three motors in series for normal running.

Under running conditions, the traction motors were designed to act as generators 
- regenerative braking – through the Westinghouse supplied straight air, and
 air controlled vacuum brake for engine and train. Compressed air for the brakes from the Westinghouse compressor also operated the electro-pneumatic controls, sanding gear, and the “Pneuphonic” horns.

Blerick_(ex-NS)_1501_-_Flickr_-_Rob_Dammers copy

On the weekend of 9 and 10 June 2018 in the Dutch town of Blerick, near Venlo, was a Multi Event where it was shown to the public.                                          Photo: By Rob Dammers – Blerick (ex-NS) 1501, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75589543

In operation, the locomotives were housed in the newly constructed depot at Reddish, and in company with the smaller EM1 Bo-Bo must have presented 
a considerable contrast to steam traction in the early days of the MSW electrification. The problem of declining cross country traffic, 25kV a.c., Beeching, et al, to say nothing of B.R.’s National Traction Plan, led to the sale of this small class to the Netherlands Railways (NS), in 1969.

Here, they remained in everyday use on inter-city services, as NS class ‘1500’. However, only six remained in use in the early 1980s, since 27005 was scrapped in 1969/70 to be used for spares, and due to traffic increases on the Dutch railways, many of the older loco. types, including the EM2’s had their working life extended. Overhauls and repairs put back their planned withdrawal until 1985/6, instead of 1981/ 2.

In BR days they were initially treated to a modified mixed traffic livery, as applied to steam locomotives. The modification in fact being the addition of a thin red line marking out the bodyside panels and cab front, with the lion and wheel emblem in the centre bodysides, and running numbers under each cab side window. Bogies and underframe were, naturally black. Later, steam loco. express passenger green was used, and the panelling was lined out in orange and black, with the 1956 style of lion and wheel crest, and nameplates attached to the bodysides. They were finally, before their sale, classified as ’77’ by the TOPS classification scheme, though of course, they did not last long enough to carry the TOPS running numbers, which first began to appear in 1972/3.

Allocations:

1954 (as new): 27000 – 27006, 9C Reddish
1964: 27000 – 27006, 9C Reddish

Class EM2 Co-Co – Names & Current Status:

EM2 status

Their healthy service life in the Netherlands, which, in the 1970s included passenger trains between Den Haag and Venlo, and freight services from Rotterdam Kijfhoek yard to Roosendaal, the arrival of new ‘1600’ class locos in the early 1980s brought that to a close. The first two of the six in service – ‘Pandora’ and ‘Aurora’ were scrapped in February 1985, and ‘Juno’ in October the following year.

No fewer than three of the class have been preserved as representatives of the early BR plans to electrify main lines on the 1,500V dc system. One of the class – ‘Diana’ – is preserved in the Netherlands, where it is still possible to run rail tours, whilst the other two are essentially static displays at the Midland Railway Centre and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. That said, the EM2 Locomotive Society rescued ‘Electra’ and restored it to working order, and it had a number of successful tours in the Netherlands, before its return to the UK, to its present home in Butterley.

Ariadne - ex 27001 at MOSI copy

“Ariadne” seen in October 2018 at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry, sporting her final colour scheme as used when in service with Netherlands Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen). Photo: Rodger Bradley

Links:

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2-Stroke Diesel Engines on BR

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Back in the 1950s, when British Railways was beginning work on the “Modernisation & Re-Equipment Programme” – effectively the changeover from steam to diesel and electric traction – the focus in the diesel world was mainly between high and medium speed engines.

On top of which, there was a practical argument to support hydraulic versus electric transmission technology – for main line use, mechanical transmission was never a serious contender.

Lens of Sutton - LMS 10000The first main line diesels had appeared in the very last days before nationalisation, and the choice of prime mover was shaped to a great extent by the experience of private industry, and English Electric in particular. The railway workshops had little or no experience in the field, and the better known steam locomotive builders had had some less than successful attempts to offer examples of the new diesel locomotives.

In Britain, the changeover from steam to electric traction became a very hit and miss affair during the 1950s and 1960s.  Orders for the rail industry, and especially the locomotive industries, was subordinate to the railway workshops – which in the ‘experimental’ years received the lion’s share of the work.  That said, the supply chain included companies like English Electric and Metropolitan Vickers, who had had considerable experience in non-steam traction, especially in export orders.

GEC TRaction Photo SP 8671Examples operated in British Railways experimental period between 1948 and 1956 was powered by ‘heavy oil engines’ – the use of the word ‘diesel’ seemed to be frowned on by the professional press in some quarters.  The few main line types that had been built were based around medium speed, 4-stroke power units, with complex valve gear, and perhaps over-engineered mechanical components.  Power to weight ratios were poor.

In the USA in particular, where fuel oil and lubricating oil costs were much less of a challenge for the railroads, 2-stroke diesel engines were common, with much higher power to weight ratios, but equally higher fuel costs.  Indeed, the Fairbaks-Morse company had designed and built opposed piston engines, long before English Electric’s ‘Deltic’ prototype appeared.

Napier_deltic_animation_large

A fascinating glimpse into the workings of the 2-stroke ‘Deltic’ engines. In this animation, the source of the power unit’s name as an inverted Greek letter ‘Delta’ is perhaps more obvious.

Eventually, BR produced its modernisation plan, and included numerous diesel types, for operation and haulage of the very different services in all regions of the UK – they were dominated by medium speed 4-strokes, and only two examples of the 2-stroke design.  The two examples were at opposite ends of the league – both in terms of operational success – and perhaps in the application of the 2-stroke to rail traction.

Intermodel locoThey remained the only two examples in main line use until the 1980s/1990s, when as a result of privatisation of rail services, many more 2-stroke powered examples were ordered and delivered from the major manufacturers in the USA.  It may be though, that this technology will see only a brief life, as further electrification, and other technology changes take place.

This is just a brief overview of some aspects; please click on the image below for a few more thoughts:

2-Stroke Diesels Cover

Useful links:

M-V Article cover page

 

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BR Standard Steam Locomotives – Class 4MT 2-6-0

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Three years after nationalisation in 1951, the first of a new range of standard steam locomotives took to the rails, only 6 years after the end of the Second World War, and in the same year as the ‘Festival of Britain’. The post-war years were marked by shortages – not just of food and everyday items – but also by shortages of labour and the raw materials for industry.

Britain was still operating a rail system dependent on steam and coal, but was also casting an eye to the adoption of oil, and new power systems to rebuild its railway network, and its locomotive stock. Many of the steam types still in use were well past pension age, and had been designed for specific routes and operating requirements of their previous owners.

Standardisation of components, and other aspects of design and construction had been pursued most strongly by he GWR and LMS, whilst others such as the LNER and Southern Railway had pursued a more varied path. The Southern in particular was probably the most radical and innovative of the ‘Big Four’ in the years leading up to nationalisation.

E.S. Cox, was Executive Officer (Design), Railway Executive and in a paper he presented to the Institution of Locomotive Engineers made this comment about standardisation:

“Partial standardisation was effected during World War II with the L.M.S. Stanier 2-8-0’s which were built and run by the four main line The Austerity 2-8-0’s of Mr. Riddles’ design are also an example of the overall standardisation.”

The design process from 1948 onwards included – of course – the Interchange Trials’ – which helped develop both the overall design principles, and detailed assessment of the performance of key components and sub-assemblies. Then, in 1951, 12 steam types were announced that would provide almost universal route availability across British Railways, but where an existing design met those requirements, it would be adapted into what became the BR ‘Standard’ designs. The Class 4MT 2-6-0 tender design came in at design No. 7 in the original plans:

BR Standards - original 1950-51 list

The list above shows that the subject of this little overview was not even provided with a number range, or quantity at this stage. It was to be introduced in 1952, with Doncaster as the parent office for its design, and building of the eventual 115 locomotives would take place there, and at Horwich Works. There were 11 batches – constructed between December 1952 and October 1957 – but although Doncaster was awarded orders E395 (76020-4) in 1952, E396 (76025-34), part of this last order (76030-34) was built at Derby. In 1954, Doncaster was given order E397 (76035-44), but these too were transferred to Derby.

Horwich had the honour of building the first of the class – 76000 in December 1952, and the last to be built, 76099, was also outshopped in November 1957, despite Doncaster turning out the last numbered member (76114) the previous month.

However, it still begs the question why the class were ever needed, given that its design was very much based on Ivatt’s last 2-6-0 design for the LMS, since no fewer than 82 of that design were built by Doncaster and Darlington between 1948 and 1952. At least it made sense to give Doncaster the prestige of being the parent office for the design of this BR version.

All four of the class rescued for preservation were built at Horwich Works, and those that are operational carry the standard BR lined black livery:

Preserved Class 4s

Click on the image below to follow the story in a little more depth.

Class 4 Cover

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Did BR Workshop Closures Benefit Manufacturers?

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Back in the 1960s, as the British Railways Workshops were being re-organised under a programme announced in 1962, the UK still had a significant number of private sector manufacturers.  Although, some were already in serious financial difficulties, as they tried to make the transition from building from steam to diesel and electric traction.

In 1965, the British Railways workshops in North Road, Darlington, some 1,400 employees were  building diesel locomotives.  So, they had made the transition, and as part of BR were supporting the modernisation programme.

Darlington – the birthplace of railways – the locomotive works closed in the same year that England won their one and only football world cup, resulting in the loss of more than 2,100 jobs. From the autumn of 1962, when news of Darlington’s closure was announced, thousands of protestors filled the A1 (the Great North Road) in the centre of the town, and the traffic struggled to pass. These protests continued – and were widely reported in the local press – continued until the works was closed in 1966.

Politicians too were alarmed at the prospect of closure of the works, and in 1965, the local MP ( Ted Fletcher) made this observation in the House of Commons:

  • I did address a Question to the Minister on 22nd March asking him what reduction had taken place in the manpower of the railway workshops over the last five years. I was informed by the Minister that 24,000 jobs had disappeared in British railway workshops over the last five years. So it seems to us that over the five years of Tory rule preference has been given to private enterprise, and publicly-owned industry has been deliberately sabotaged for doctrinaire reasons and, as a consequence, the labour force has been allowed to run down too rapidly.

More tellingly, in the same session Ted Fletcher made this interesting observation:

  • As far as I am aware, A.E.I. has not got any locomotive building works. Much of this work is put out to subcontractors. The jigs, the tools, the templates, and the fixtures in Darlington North Road shops were transferred to a private firm—Beyer-Peacock in Manchester—so that it could fulfil a subcontract for part of the order for diesel locomotives.
  • This action was taken by the Railways Board in spite of the assurance given by Sir Steuart Mitchell at that time to the Railway Shopmen’s National Council that everything possible would be done in the granting of new orders to alleviate the necessity for redundancy at Darlington. Machinery and equipment were disposed of to private enterprise.
  • At the same time, the manpower in the workshops has been allowed to run down.

Fascinating – was it true?  Was this a way of the Government trying to support the failing Beyer-Peacock, because the prevailing view about railway workshops was ‘over capacity’, and yet, according to Ted Fletcher in the debate:

  • It (British Railways)has completely over-estimated the number of redundancies that should take place. This is borne out by the fact that many railway workshops now work a considerable amount of overtime. This includes some shops in Darlington. As much as 30 hours a week are now being worked in overtime in many workshops.Many of the thousands made redundant struggled to find work, but the nearby Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills provided some opportunity for continued employment in engineering.

It is equally ironic perhaps that in addition to the closure of BR’s Darlington Works, Beyer-Peacock’s Gorton Works were closed in the same year – 1966.  Rather like the North British Loco Co. in Glasgow, which closed in 1962, Beyer’s foray into diesel traction was not successful, as they allied themselves to the Western Region’s use of diesel-hydraulic types.  Perhaps the company’s most well known design was the ‘Hymek’ Type 3.  That said they also fabricated the mechanical parts for diesel-electric and electric locomotives, but they found that subcontracting activity uneconomic.

Hymek - Beyer Peacock

Beyer-Peacock’s transition to non-steam construction was not helped by its decision to construct these Type 3 design for BR Western Region’s attempt to use hydraulic transmission. This example of the publicity material was sound, but the product was less successful.                                        Photo courtesy: Historical Railway Images

Clayton Type 1

The ill-fated Clayton Type 1 was very definitely non-standard, and had technical shortcomings too.

On top of that, Beyer Peacock also built what was perhaps the worst diesel locomotive ordered by British Railways – the infamous “Clayton Type 1”.  BR had ordered no fewer than 117 of this twin engined, centre cab design, straight off the drawing board, and Beyer’s were unfortunate enough to be the sub-contractors for the last 29, built in the company’s final year of life, 1965.

Looking at Beyer’s position in the 1960s, the possibility of the Darlington tools being transferred to Manchester increases.  In 1962 Beyer’s were awarded 2 orders for 18 locomotives each, of the Type 2, (Class 25/3 in TOPS numbering) 1,250hp Bo-Bo design, to be numbered in the range from D7598 to D7677.  The other 44 locomotives were to be built at Derby.

NB: The heading illustration shows the preserved D7628 “Sybilla” – on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in 2016.  Photo (c) Charlie Jackson, and Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. 

However, Beyer-Peacock were unable to complete the final 18 locomotives ordered by BR and the work was transferred to Derby.  Given that the Type 2 locomotives were a BR design, and were predominantly built at Darlington – all of Class 25/0, and many from classes 25/1 and 25/2, it does seem likely that any jigs and tools could have been provided to Beyer-Peacock.

The idea that the Government and British Railways Board allowed the transfer of jigs, tools and other machinery to Beyer-Peacock in the 1960s does not seem to have prevented the company from failing.

So, with hindsight both the BR workshops – Darlington in particular, where many BR Type 2 diesels were built – and the Beyer-Peacock works in Manchester were significant losses to the engineering industry.  On the one hand, the BR works closed as part of a Government plan to reduce railway workshop capacity, and on the other a failure of the particular private sector business to make the right commercial choices perhaps.

Useful links:

1966 – Death of Darlington Loco Works

Beyer Peacock – Locomotive Builders to the World

Beyer, Peacock & Co – Grace’s Guide

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Francis William Webb and His Locomotives

Standard

Francis William Webb was appointed Locomotive Superintendent of the London & North Western Railway (LNWR), in 1871, and for 32 years held that position, until failing health forced him to resign in 1903.  He has been described as an autocratic manager, and during his time, it has been argued that much of his work – especially in the use of compounding – was unnecessary or ineffective operationally.  However, it cannot be denied that he was a man who drove the development of Crewe Works, and established the company at the forefront of railway and engineering technology in the Victoria era.

His engineering knowledge and desire to provide innovative solutions may not always have been a success – either practically, operationally, or commercially – but they took the boundaries of the technology forward.  Whilst he inherited the development of Crewe Works from his predecessor John Ramsbottom, it was Webb that pioneered the use of both Bessemer and Siemens Open Hearth processes to manufacture steel rails.

Webb started his career back in 1851, at the age of 15, as an engineering apprentice, under the tutillage of Francis Trevithick, and later John Ramsbottom – himself a prodigious inventor, designer and locomotive engineer.   By 20, Webb had moved into the Drawing Office, and in March 1859, when he was just 23, FW Webb was appointed Chief Draughtsman.  In 1862, the LNWR was formed by the combination of the Manchester & Birmingham, and Grand Junction Railways, and Webb was promoted and moved to Crewe as Works Manager, as John Ramsbottom was appointed CME of the LNWR.

RPB No 1368 - HMRS Collection

One of Webb’s 3 cylinder compound goods 0-8-0 locomotives at work. Worth noting is the obvious size of the central low-pressure cylinder.
Photograph: Historical Model Railway Society Collection.

Intriguingly, Webb left the railway company in 1866, to join the Bolton Iron Co. – confirming perhaps his expanding engineering interests and knowledge.  The Bolton company was part owned by John Hick, who later became a director of the LNWR.  Less than four years later, and due to John Ramsbottom’s deteriorating health, Webb returned to the railway in 1870, taking over completely in 1871.

It may seem urprising that a Vicar’s son from Tixall could rise to such heights in such a short period, but it must be remembered that railway and locomotive engineering was the ‘new technology’ of the day, and certainly a new industry.  Unliked his brother, Francis Webb showed little interest in a religious career, but showed both an aptitude and great ability in menchanical engineering.

Whilst that ability may not have been enthusisastically lauded by the operational railway engineers on the LNWR, his successful locomotive designs were very successful, and a number lived on into the British Railways era.  Of the 26 different locomotive types delivered under his leadership, only 11 were compounds, the remainder – some 2,563 locomotives, were simple expansion.  The compounds totalled 531, with most built in the 1890s.

Please click on either of the two tables below for a bigger picture ……

FW Webb LOCOS 1

FW Webb LOCOS 2

The descriptions in the PDF file below is an overview of the various classes, which I hope is of interest:

Francis William Webb and His Locomotives

FW Webb COVER

 

Useful links:

I originally wrote this item for the magazine “Engineering in Miniature” back in the 1980s, and wanted to revisit the matter of compound operation in steam locomotives.  The magazine is still in full swing, and I envy the skills of the model engineers, who are everywhere producing small – not always that miniature – replicas of the real thing.  Their skills in almost every aspect of engineering practice, and their workshop capabilities are something we can all be proud of.

This is a link to the magazine’s site:

EIM Logo from 1980s

Further information ….

 

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