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

-oOo-

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

-oOo-

Amfleet Replacement

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Amtrak is in the business of ordering more new rolling stock and locomotives in 2019. Hard on the heels of that $850 million contract for 75 new Tier 4 locomotives from Siemens Mobility in December 2018, Amtrak issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) in January 2019 for a new fleet of single-level passenger cars. These are to be replacements for the 40+ years old Amfleet I and ex-Metroliner cars, with an initial order/orders to include “75 trainsets or their railcar equivalents”. The responders to this RFP will be required to provide options for equipment for Washington D.C.-New York-Boston Northeast Corridor, Northeast Regional services, and adjacent state-supported routes.

E60CP and Amfleet train

A 5-car consist of Amfleet cars on the NEC, hauled by one of the then new E60CP electric locos

The original Amfleet vehicles, with their stainless steel, corrugated sides and what some have described as “slit like” windows, were awarded the dubious nicknames of “AmTubes” or “AmCans” in some quarters. The fleet has recently refurbished the interiors of its Amfleet I railcars with new seating upholstery and carpeting, but now they are to be replaced – and there are quite a lot to replace! – over 400 in total, including the re-engineered “Metroliners”. The Amfleet cars are described as the workhorses of Amtrak’s passenger rolling stock, and Corporation states their replacements are to include:

  • Improved Wi-Fi equipment and connectivity,
  • Improved seating,
  • Weather-tight doors and vestibules as well as freedom to move throughout the train conveniently.
  • The modernized fleet will also feature large picture windows, improved climate control systems for passenger comfort and completely new designs for restrooms and passageways between cars.

What might be known as Amfleet III will feature bi-directional operating capability, to minimize turn round times and improve operating efficiency.  In addition, the new railcars and trainsets will include all necessary equipment for Positive Train Control technology. This technology follows from the 2008 tragedy, when a Metrolink commuter train crashed head-on into a freight train, with 25 fatalities. In the same year, the US Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which decreed that Positive Train Control (PTC) systems be installed on all main-line tracks.   PTC is a safety system that automatically slows down or breaks the train if the engineer misses a signal or goes over the speed limit, thus eliminating the possibility of human error.

The Originals

Amcoach interior - 1970s

Early days for an Amfleet II coach interior. This image dates from the 1970s.

The original Amfleet cars were purchased in 2 series by Amtrak, initially in the 1970s for the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP), with Amfleet II appearing later in the 70s and early 1980s on longer distance runs. Locomotive hauled passenger cars were being replaced by Amfleet equipment, designed for 120 mph running. By 1979 there were over 300 such cars in use on the NEC. Fixed formations of mainly six Amfleet cars were planned, hauled by AEM7 type locomotives, reducing the operating cost by avoiding the need to break up and re-form consists at stations or yards. To provide the hourly interval service that was proposed, nine of these train sets were required, five made up from the 34 upgraded Metroliner cars, and the remaining four, of Amfleet and AEM7 locos. Three sets are kept in reserve, in the event of a failure of any of the others used on the New York to Washington workings. There was some difference in 
capacity between Metroliner and Amfleet equipped trains, since the former had only 398 revenue earning seats per train, as compared with the 493 of the Amfleet consists.

AEM7 and Amfleet II train

Classic NEC working, albeit with only a 4-car consist, but this time of the new Amfleet II cars from Budd. Head end power this time is ‘Might Mouse’ Class AEM7 locos, based on the ASEA design from Sweden. Hard to believe this is 40 years ago.

Three orders to the Budd organization in 1973, 1974 and 1975 were for six different designs totalling 492 of the new Amfleet cars. They were initially intended fror short haul services in the North East, but were soon put to work on medium and long haul routes, substituting for the older heavyweight cars, by then described as the “Heritage Fleet”. Unlike the new generation of passenger cars, these were only equipped with steam heating – a factor that was remedied by Amtrak a few years later, when many of the older designs were re-equipped with electric heating systems.

Budd actually manufactured a total of 642 Amfleet I cars from 1975-77, and by the early 1980s, the vehicles in the table below were in active service with the NRPC:

Amfleet Stock Active in 1983

Amfleet Cars 1983

The idea was to improve passenger comfort beyond the ageing “Heritage” fleet, and they appeared at the same time as the long distance “Superliner” cars. These started life in 1973, when Amtrak put out a tender for 235 (283 in service by 1983) multi-use bi-level, multi use passenger cars, from a design by Louis T. Klauder Associates. In contrast to the Metroliner cars used on the Northeast Corridor, these new cars were built by Pullman Standard, with the order placed in February 1975, for delivery between December 1976 and June 1978.

In 1980, Amtrak ordered its new Amfleet II cars from Budd for long-haul passenger services, for which the Corporation had previously converted a number of the ageing ‘Heritage Fleet’ cars. Amfleet II was based on the 85ft long ‘Metroliner’ design, just as the first generation, but provided a single level car for those long-haul routes, at about 70% of the cost of the huge new “Superliner” vehicles.

Alongside these locomotive hauled passenger cars, Amtrak had embraced both a major electrification project, with European style motive power, and revisited turbine propulsion with the ANF Industrie design of ‘Turbotrain’ for high speed passenger workings.

These latest orders, and the RFP for new Amfleet stock is another step along the upgrade path for Amtrak, its motive power, rolling stock, and infrastructure, across the network. It will be interesting to see what the new designs look like, and how they perform in service.

-oOo-

Interesting & Useful links:

An Amtrak Retrospective

AMTRAK - web page

Amtrak logo 2

 

So You Want To Be An Engine Driver?

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When I was younger, like all teenagers there were so many options for careers in industry, engineering, and of course railways that were on offer, and amongst those was working on the railway – British Railways. Not everyone wanted to be on the footplate, and there were equally as many options for work across the industry in workshops, research, design, train control, telecoms, and later even computing.

In 1948, at the start of the BR era, the railways employed 648,740 staff at every level, and although only 3 years later this had fallen to 599,980, BR was still one of the biggest employers. In the early 1950s, traffic levels for passenger and freight was fairly stable, and modernisation had yet to start, there were the traditional footplate occupations, and engineering apprenticeships to encourage young people to join.

From 1948, until the late 1960s, BR produced a series of booklets, summarising what the railways did, and what jobs, training, progression, and health and social facilities were offered to the potential new recruits.

The 1950s

These booklets carried the same title throughout:

br 1953 booklet cover

 

The wording of the 1953 booklet, produced just 5 years after nationalisation has some fascinating phrases, especially when compared with later editions, take this statement entitled: “Our General Policy”, for example:

Our policy is:-

  • To give safe, speedy, dependable railway service at reasonable cost.
  • To give the staff good wages, security, and conditions as good as is reasonably possible.
  • To make British Railways pay their way.

The last point might seem, in the face of all the negative publicity to be a wish rather than a policy statement, but BR did pay its way in the 1950s, and indeed, in later years, and was not the economic disaster some claim. In 1953, Sir John Elliot’s introductory remarks included:

1953 quote 1

1953 quote 2

This same booklet just a few pages later urges new recruits to learn the routes of the railway system, and notes that the new starts own region contained maybe 3,000 route miles, or maybe more. Luckily the booklet came complete with a map of the entire system.

Some interesting cartoons were included, such as this one:

cheerful obedience cartoon

Hmm – “Cheerful obedience” eh? Maybe some of the old companies’ management styles were still around – I gather on the Western Region, railway staff were still referred to as the company’s servants. I know it sounds a bit odd to us nowadays, but despite the enormous changes taking place in the post-war society, some aspects took a while to die off.

Facts about BR for the new recruit in 1953

According to this booklet, total staff would be six times as many as went to an FA cup final match, or if all the steam locomotives were coupled together in a single continuous line, they would stretch from London to Cardiff, or Liverpool to Hull. On that same note, apparently:

“The total miles run by our locomotives in a year would be equal to about 21,500 times round the earth.”

“The tonnage of freight which starts a journey every working day on British Railways is nearly ten times the tonnage of the Queen Mary.”

Amongst numerous other facts, although the idea that any new sleepers used annually if placed end to end would form a plank between London and Calcutta (Kolkata today), seems an odd one.

1953 jobs montage

The remainder of this booklet goes on to describe how the all six regions work, from signalmen, ticket collectors, lorry drivers, permanent way gangs, booking office and control office staff, station porters to workshops staffed by fitters, plumbers, electricians, etc. There are several pages about opportunity, either promotion within a department, or moving to another role somewhere else, but there is a particularly interesting comment about the influence of the private companies practice over the nationalised system. It was stated that it may not mean anything to the new start, but the old practices were still in place in almost everything said or done in 1953.

Maybe that was partly to blame for the Western Region’s enthusiasm a few years later for its chocolate and cream (ex GWR) livery on main line rolling stock, and its ultimately failed attempt to use hydraulic transmission systems for diesel locomotives.

Training was emphasised, along with opportunities for further education such as day release, or night school, for many engineering or craft apprentices. These training options lasted well into the 1970s, and have only recently seemed to die out – perhaps as Britain’s engineering industry began its long, slow decline.

Paragraphs about, pay security, recreation and welfare made up the remainder of the booklet, with details of the grading system, and arrangements, and the ever popular staff magazines and notices. The concluding paragraph sums up the BR approach – at least at policy making level – to the running of the railways:

1953 conclusion quote

conclusion cartoon 1953

Some of these ideas, policies, and practices changed significantly over the years, for a new starter on British Railways, and later British Rail. A decade later, the same booklet was produced, but this time, with a foreword by the then chairman of the British Railways Board – Dr Richard Beeching.

The 1960s

1963 cover image

The change in tone from the tone of the introductory remarks in the 1953 edition is quite marked.

The language of Dr Beeching’s introductory remarks in 1963, showed that difference, and focussed on the changing times, and the upheaval in operations. The first sentence seems quite a contrast to the paternal, family friendly style of a decade earlier:

1963 quote 1

The brevity was continued:

“The organisation that changes is the organisation that lives, and British Railways are going to change fast to match the changing needs of the times.”

His last comment seemed to suggest the ‘new’ organisation wanted only those recruits who were able to bring or develop the skills needed to make and sustain technological change – with the carrot of promotion dangled much more obviously:

1963 quote 3

Fascinating, still generally paternal in approach, but now with little reference to public service, or stability. Perhaps rightly reflecting the very dramatic changes that Beeching and Marples brought to the railways, using the hook of new technology and promotion for those ‘bright minds’. The comment he made about needing to … “ design and operate new equipment” …. Suggested the door was closing on the old style railway workshops as engineering education and apprenticeships.

[15 railway workshops were closed between 1962 and 1966, with the loss of more than 12,000 jobs, but despite this, BR still managed to recruit apprentices, and the engineering skills were maintained and grown – for a time.]

There was clearly a theme that reflected the change that BR was undergoing, and technological progress was affecting the available career options, whether in engineering, traffic, or administrative roles. The prospect of secure employment on the railways was seen as diminishing, and yet BR was actively developing and inventing technology that is still in service today, and not just in the UK. BR was also still active in ferries and coastal shipping in the early 1960s, and operated cross-channel hovercraft services under the “Seaspeed” label, in partnership with SNCF.

So, yes, there were still prospects for those ‘bright minds’, but by the 1970s, with the exception of the ill-fated APT, and the extension of electrification from Crewe to Glasgow – as promised in the 1950s, things were beginning to slow down.

Jobs for the Boys

There were still jobs for the boys, with the occasional reference to women in clerical and secretarial roles in these “Welcome” booklets, and this gender divide was certainly in evidence in this 1961 edition, which opened with this comment:

extract from 1961 booklet_1
That said, women were shown in these booklets in their stereotypical roles of the day, such as these examples from 1961 & 1963:

Each of these introductory booklets showed the layout of BR’s regions, and included a much larger map of the whole network, and perhaps that too, along with the free and ‘privilege’ travel, seen as an inducement to an adventurous career on the railway. The list of contents was equally wide ranging, and this is typical:

Regional Variations

There were regional variations of these booklets too, and the example below is from the London Midland, and dates from 1961. The cover would look particularly patronising today, but as it is important to say, that was how society at work and play expressed its opinions on roles.

special for boys - lmr 1960s

This particular booklet was issued by the LMR’s Traffic Department, and obviously focused on the roles that operated the trains. This included a variety of jobs from cleaner, through the other footplate roles, and you could start as telephonists, junior porters, messengers and letter sorters.

Pay & Conditions

In 1953, statements about pay were included in a section marked “WE and YOU”, which had become “Rewards and conditions” by 1963, but in both examples, the rates were agreed in negotiations with the trades unions. This included basic hours of duty, and overtime payments when necessary at a higher rate. The actual hours had changed too in the 1950s, and the ‘guaranteed week’ of 44 hours had been reduced to a 42 hour week by 1963 – for what was then called “wages grades”.

There was a mention of “Security” in 1953, which is not mentioned in later editions. However, the security refers more to the value of the “guaranteed week” – clearly no longer available to anyone on a “zero hours contract” in 2019 – and to sick pay and other “benevolent funds”. For BR’s new recruits in 1963 this was referred to under “Pensions and sick pay”.

1960s wages list - full

Looking at the wages in the above list from 1966, it is difficult to relate to what this meant in practical terms, but a great deal of information provided to new starts covered pay, promotion routes, duties, responsibilities, health and safety, leisure and recreation. I wonder how much of that remains in place for many businesses today.

-oOo-

 

Is UK Rail Privatisation Just a Fake?

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As I’m sure we all know, back in the early 1990s, the EU attempted to increase competition in the rail industry through a directive, which was, designed to separate train operations from infrastructure support and maintenance. Not an unreasonable idea we might think, especially as all of our rail networks in Europe started out as private businesses, which owned and operated the trains as well as the track.

Most countries opted to “privatise” by simply creating two separate companies – one to run the trains, the other to manage the physical infrastructure. In Britain, we carried this much further and created that simple, single entity managing the track, but created many separate train operating companies. Not only that, but the rolling stock and motive power was transferred to another group of private businesses – the rolling stock companies – that leased these back to the train operators.

Things were equally complex when it came to fixing track, and general repairs and upkeep of the infrastructure, where various subcontractors in the supply chain offered civil and mechanical engineering services, and often with more than one company competing for a contract. I imagine in any business, when multiple suppliers and multiple contracts are involved for either the same, or ongoing maintenance work, managing those suppliers can be a heavy cost burden on the business.

The overall idea that the degree of fragmentation applied to a single business – i.e. running a train on a piece of track from ‘A’ to ‘B’ – could reduce operating costs, through increased competition to provide goods and services is clearly false.

Passenger Rail Operations in the UK Today

In 2017/2018, there were 23 – well 24, but one of these lost their licence to run trains in the summer of 2018 – train operating companies (TOCs) across the UK rail network. Some passenger services were transferred to the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and then there were the old PTE style operations for metropolitan areas like London and Manchester.   All of these train operating companies received some form of subsidy from central government, part of which is the network charge, to cover their share of costs relating to the fixed infrastructure, with the rest a payment to run services. In the majority of cases the income charged through ticketing, whether regulated, off peak, peak, or any other form, does not cover the costs of franchising.

Some of the operators’ do not of course get franchises awarded, or are contracted to provide services by franchise from central government. These are either ‘open access’ operators – who run trains on specific routes if and when timetable paths permit – whilst others simply run from one station stop to another, such as the Heathrow Express or Gatwick Express. On top of this there are of course the cross channel Eurostar services, which do not have a franchise agreement with the UK government, and is owned and operated by its French, Belgian and Hermes Investment Co owners.

Of course we still subsidise the railways – and not just the state owned arms length business of Network Rail – but it is interesting to compare just how much taxpayers have contributed, both before and after privatisation. The graph below simply shows direct government grants to support the passenger rail business, and it does not include some aspects of the Railtrack/Network Rail, or project funding:

central gov grants

It looks as though the government managed to stop subsidising passenger rail operations in 2010/11 – but then, there is more to operating a rail network than just running a few trains from A to B. The total government support also has to include support for major projects – Crossrail, HS1, HS2, etc., and the graph below shows just how much has been centrally funded over the same time period. As before, starting from a low base in the 1980s:

total gov support

The list below is just an example of how much some of the current TOCs received in 2017/18 to run services, both with and without the “Network Support Grant” that is due to Network Rail:

table 1

Looking at the above, there is a 50:50 split between profitable and loss-making operations. But only if you leave out the subsidy paid to each operator to cover the infrastructure (network) support and maintenance where they run their trains. If you include the network support grant element, none of the operators in the list above generates positive figures. So, do we accept that separating infrastructure from operations has not really improved either cost of services or performance, but simply shown that some regional rail services are just more expensive to run than others? No real change from the 1960s, 70s, or even in the 1980s when investment levels were really poor.

includes network support

excluding net support

The past couple of years has seen a lot of controvwersy over extending, cancelling or re-bidding for various franchises, and some of the existing franchises will not end for another 6 years. Subsidies for the TOCs look set to continue for some time according to the Dept. For Transport’s Franchise Schedule.

Is this still the right way to run our railways?

-oOo-

 

 

 

 

Bring Me Sunshine – Lancaster to Morecambe & Heysham

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To me, the railway from Lancaster to Morecambe has always been linked to holidays by the sea. We would arrive from Lancaster Castle, by way of Lancaster Green Ayre, and on to Morecambe, almost never to Heysham.  We almost always travelled between Lancaster Castle, then down to Green Ayre on the electric trains, and across the Lune past Scale Hall to Morecambe Promenade station.  Right next door was the famed Winter Gardens, and directly opposite, the outstanding Midland Hotel.  On occasions we did arrive at Euston Road as well via a diesel multiple unit, and just that little bit further from the seafront.

The line was of course never intended to be a mere holiday branch line, and the route from industrial West Yorkshire, through Skipton was to connect to the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway at Low Park (Grayrigg / Dillicar) near Kendal, with a branch to Lancaster from Sedbergh.

Midland Hotel_July 2018 copyIn the 1840s a plan was hatched to build a railway from industrial West Yorkshire, through Skipton to a port at Lancaster – St George’s Quay – on top of which it was agreed by the businessmen involved, it would also connect with Hull on the East Coast. Over £1million in share capital was raised, with Charles Vignoles as the engineer in charge.

At the same time as the North Western Railway secured its Act, the Morecambe Harbour & Railway Company was planning to build its own line from the harbour at Poulton-le-Sands, (as Morecambe was then known) to Lancaster.   The Morecambe Act was approved on 16th June 1846, two weeks before the North Western Railway secured its own Act.

Morecambe Promenade from above 1920 EPW004078However, the Morecambe harbour company was more focussed on gaining increased revenue from harbour dues that coastal shipping and ferry trade offered, and its line was ‘handed over’ to the North Western Railway even before construction started. In addition to the line from Morecambe to Lancaster, the Harbour Company’s plan also included a proposed connection to the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway near Hest Bank, but this was dropped in 1849, only to be resurrected under the LNWR some 10 years later, and completed in 1864.

northumberland street station
1891 OS Map of approaches to Morecambe. “Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland”

The ‘Little’ North Western proposal from Leeds to Lancaster’s main purpose was to carry its produce from Leeds and Bradford to the west coast ports and main line railways, and unsurprisingly, the company’s head office was at 22 Commercial Street, Leeds. Here was the northern end of the North Midland Railway in the 1840s, and George Hudson’s territory for his grand plans for the York and North Midland, and expansion westwards to Liverpool and Manchester. However, the ‘Little’ North Western came to connect with the Leeds & Bradford Extension Railway, which was absorbed into the Midland Railway in 1851, and the ‘Little’ North Western leased by the Midland from January 1859.

Morecambe to Lancaster

The original terminus of the Morecambe Harbour & Railway Company was on the wooden jetty at Poulton-le-Sands, which was later replaced by a stone structure. The present day “Midland Hotel” was originally known as the “Morecambe Hotel”, and the stone jetty marked the western boundary of the harbour.

A more ‘conventional’ station, with an overall roof was built at Northumberland Street, as the railway’s passenger traffic grew, along with a hotel to serve travellers for Douglas and Belfast. The line did actually end on the jetty, with a long, low building designed and constructed to allow goods to be offloaded rapidly from ships on to the waiting trains, before setting off on their eastward journeys. The building actually lasted around 90 years – into the 1930s – although shipping had ceased after the loss of traffic to the Furness Railway, and from 1904, following the opening of the Midland Railway’s harbour at Heysham.

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Morecambe’s original passenger station at Northumberland Street boasted an overall roof.  Photo Courtesy: Ken Ludlam

One of the major problems with Morecambe’s harbour was the range of the tide, resulting in the Midland Railway transferring sailings to Piel, near Barrow, on the Furness Railway. In 1867, the direct connection with the Furness, from Wennington was completed, connecting with the Lancaster & Carlisle at Carnforth. The new ‘Furness & Midland Joint’ line allowed the Midland to transfer its ‘boat train’ traffic from Poulton to the Furness Railway jetty at Piel, which was independent of the tide, and provided a better option for the Midland Railway. The Midland and Furness companies, together with James Little & Co., as equal shareholders, jointly owned the IOM steamers. The Furness Railway began construction of its extensive docks at Barrow in 1867, and created a new station at Ramsden Dock, specifically for the steamer traffic to the IOM, Ireland, and even America. The Midland continued to operate all its Irish and other seaborne traffic from either Piel or Barrow until 1893, when it duly gave notice of its intention to cease that operation.

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1893 OS Map of Lancaster Green Ayre.      “Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland”

Heysham Harbour

The first mention of a harbour at Heysham was included in the Act of Parliament obtained by the ‘Little’ North Western in 1849, the same year that saw approval for the connection between Green Ayre and Castle stations in Lancaster.

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Interior of the original Heysham Harbour station, possibly around 1908.                                   Photo courtesy: Mandy Sharpe

However, it wasn’t until 1897 that the Midland Railway – by then effectively owners of the ‘Little’ North Western – bought the land to build a new deep water harbour, to provide greater reliability for their cross-sea traffic. The site chosen was at the southern end of Half Moon Bay, with a branch line connecting to the original line at Torrisholme, with access from both Morecambe Promenade and the lines to the harbour, as well as directly to Lancaster Green Ayre – in effect the ‘Torrisholme Triangle’.

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The impressive approaches to Heysham Harbour in later British Railways days.            Photo courtesy: David Wood

There was a 4 year delay after giving notice to the Furness of its intention to cease running boat trains to Barrow, but after spending £3 million on a new 350 acre site, construction was completed and the new harbour with its rail connection was opened in 1904.

Electrification

Just after the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, the original station at Northumberland Street was replaced by the impressive Morecambe Promenade station, and a curve linking the LNWR line to Morecambe via Bare Lane was completed. This longer route from Lancaster Castle provided the LNWR with access to its own station at Euston Road – only a very short branch from the Midland’s line. Yet another connecting curve was made from the LNWR’s Bare Lane route to the main line at Hest Bank, which enabled trains from the north to access Morecambe directly, these changes collectively known as forming the ‘Torrisholme Triangle’.

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Taken on Heysham old station’s No.2 platform in BR days, showing the final livery applied to the ex-LNWR stock, converted by Metropolitan-Vickers and brought into use on the M&H route in 1953.                        Photo courtesy: David Wood

By far the most far-reaching change was the announcement in 1906 that electrification of the line from Lancaster Castle, to Green Ayre, and on to Morecambe Promenade. At that time Richard Deeley was the Midland Railway’s Locomotive Superintendent, and this work would have been seen as we today look at the use of ‘new technology’ in industry. This work built on the successful use of electricity at the recently opened Heysham Harbour, where the Midland’s own power station was supplying power to dockside cranes and other equipment.

Traffic

Throughout its life, the ‘Little’ North Western arm of the Midland Railway, and well into BR days, passenger traffic was typically the holidaymakers from the east, and Yorkshire in particular, which together with day trippers and local traffic from North Lancashire was certainly popular. To a degree it was also quite cost effective. For example the new station at Scale Hall, which opened in June 1957, was expected to pay for itself in 7 years, but it achieved its target in half of that time, only 3 ½ years – even before the ‘Beeching Report’ was published.

It wasn’t just holidaymakers though, as businessmen from Leeds and Bradford were provided with a ‘Residential Express’ by the Midland to transport the wealthy wool merchants and manufacturers from Yorkshire to their homes at Poulton, and for a time, the service even included a ‘Club Car’.

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Carlisle Upperby based 45518 on a stopping passenger train on the “Little” North Western at Wennington in 1962, heading for Morecambe.        Photo courtesy: Mandy Sharpe

After nationalisation, passenger numbers remained largely unchanged, and Morecambe remained a popular holiday resort, but like most UK resorts was dramatically affected by the growth of foreign holidays, and cheaper flights to destinations with guaranteed sunshine.

In terms of pure passenger numbers, in 1962/63 Beeching records these as 50,000 per week on the Lancaster to Morecambe line, but only around 5,000 a week on the ‘Little’ North Western route, along with the line from Wennington to Carnforth.

Density of freight on the other hand was an interesting picture, with 50,000 tons a week for the Heysham, Lancaster to Skipton and Leeds – at least it was justification for the original reasons for the building of the ‘Little’ North Western line, with access to the port of Heysham. Tonnage by station on these routes was much more varied, and perhaps as expected, places like Halton, Wennington, etc. delivered between zero and 5,000 tons.

Again though, Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham generated between 5,000 and 25,000 tons a week. Heysham was listed on Map No. 11 of the Beeching Report as one of the terminals for the ‘Liner Train Routes’ being considered by BR at that time, and so perhaps its future was assured even during that dramatic period. In fact daily liner train services were operated between London, Birmingham and Heysham in 1968, as the national freight strategy was set to be expanded with a £12 million investment in new terminals and routes.

Beeching & Closure

In the infamous “Beeching Report” 13 stations were scheduled for closure, and the Lancaster Castle, Green Ayre, Morecambe and Heysham service was to be stopped, and the route closed completely. Green Ayre was perhaps the largest casualty, along with the electrified line, and Morecambe’s Euston Road station. The latter was in a derelict state for many years after the line closed, until the site was cleared and redeveloped.

There is little doubt that the decision to withdraw and modify the Leeds to Morecambe services contributed greatly to the once famous seaside town’s decline, although the freight services to Heysham continued, the economic prosperity of the area suffered badly.

On the 3rd January 1966 the passenger traffic ceased on the line, four months later the locomotive and goods depots closed, including boat trains to/from Manchester, Birmingham and London and ” The Ulster Express”. In May 1966 the locomotive and goods depots closed, and with the withdrawal of all traffic on the remnants of the eastbound track from Green Ayre in 1976, the station and remaining yards were demolished.

Further reading:

Click on the image below to load a more detailed review of the lines between Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham, services, locos and rolling stock.

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Useful Links:

rylands railway map 1950s extract

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Guards or Conductors?

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The role of the passenger guard on trains has been in the headlines over the past year, with the protracted dispute on Southern Rail, Northern Rail and changing the role of the driver, whilst the guard becomes a conductor with what appears to be less responsibility for the safety and security of the train. It is interesting to reflect what the old Southern Railway rulebook said about the role of both driver and guard in 1933:

Rule 138

“The Driver must afford such assistance with his engine as may be required for the formation, arrangement, and despatch of his train. Each train is under the control of the Guard, who must give the Driver any instructions that may be necessary as to the working of it.”

Fascinating – clear definitions of the role – but have the roles changed with changes in the technology of the train? The roles remained unchanged under early British Railways management, and in the BR Rule Book, the same Rule 138, has the same definition. Also in this book, an earlier rule has some additional information:

Rule 130 has 8 further sub-sections which clearly define the Guard’s responsibilities that cover making sure the doors are properly closed, and are responsible for securing the safety of passengers on the train, and if, or when an unusual situation arises.

Conductors are only referred to in the old Southern Railway rulebook when Drivers unfamiliar with a route were required to have a “Conductor” on the footplate/in the cab for guidance. This same rule (Rule 127) existed in the 1950s, in BR days too, so the only definition was for someone who knew the route to assist the train driver.

In the USA, ticket examination/inspection as well as the safety and security of the train was the role of the “Conductor” – the same role as the Guard in the UK.

Removing the Guard from his role on longer distance trains has always been controversial, but on short and very short operations, like the London Underground, it has been commonplace, and a degree of automated operation was introduced many years ago. In the late 1960s, as steam disappeared from the railway, the footplate staff reached a “Manning Agreement” which removed the need for 2 men on the footplate on certain types of train, and provided for amendments to grading, and reduced the impact on wages.

Later years, as ‘modernisation’ progressed, in the 1980s, the “Bedpan” line saw a protracted dispute between British Rail and the railway trades unions about DOO (Driver Only Operation). But this was tied in to a wider, earlier (1982) dispute with British Rail about “flexible rostering”, which resulted in a strike by ASLE&F. The “Bedpan” line trains were stored out of service for months, until agreement was reached with the train drivers.

The efforts to introduce DOO on the Southern in 2017 seem to have resulted in the usual mix of confrontation management and staff and the desire to protect revenue collection. The privatisation of the rail network in the UK has ensured that there is total focus on revenue collection – on-train Guard/Conductor inspecting and selling tickets – leaving the safe opening and closing of doors solely down to the Driver.

Whilst technology has moved on, and systems have been developed and implemented to reinforce, or provide operational support to train crews, is there an emerging conflict in the privatised railway between a focus on revenue collection and the safety and security of the travelling public? Events in the wider world, and incidents in the UK, whether in Manchester or London, have clearly demonstrated, with tragic effect, the need for more attention on the safety of passengers on a moving train, as well as at stations and access points.

But the disputes with the Train Operating Companies over the role of guards dates back to early 2016, and spread beyond Southern, to Greater Anglia, GTR, Northern and Merseyrail, amongst others. Towards the end of 2018 it shows no sign of being any closer to a resolution.

In early 2017, it was claimed that the Rail Safety & Standards Board had endorsed the view of operator “Southerm”, that DOO trains were safe, including this statement:

  • In a report published on Thursday, Ian Prosser, the HM Chief Inspector of Railways, confirmed that driver-only operation on trains on Southern are safe, with suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff in place.

The key phrase here seems to be “….with suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff in place.” That doesn’t sound like an absolute confirmation to go ahead – does it!

The announcement went further:

  • The ORR made some recommendations for further improvements, including ensuring that CCTV image quality is consistently high, which GTR-Southern has accepted and is in the process of implementing. The report also suggested some further minor improvements that are required before DOO is introduced at a small number of stations, for example improvements to station lighting.

I imagine that until the work is completed, operation of DOO services would not therefore be safe, and compliant with HM Chief Inspector of Railways requirements.

This was the report:

Even the next generation of high-speed trains – the Hitachi Inter-City Express trains have been ordered as DOO – so at least it will not be able to stop at unstaffed stations. So what is the role of the on-board Conductor – Customer Experience Person – just as on the Docklands Light Railway? On the DLR the Customer Experience Person is charged with responsibility for stopping the train if suspicious activity or an urgent/emergency incident is encountered.

But, are the Train Operating Companies using advances in technology for the benefit of the passenger – or just another way of treating their staff as commodities, or avoidable costs – human resources?

Other links:

 

 

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