Halls of Fame – A Mixed Traffic Masterpiece

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Some might say, that the Great Western Railway’s “Hall” and “Modified Hall” class 4-6-0s were simply a do anything, go anywhere mixed traffic design – which they were – but of course, the GWR would not be able to operate without them. These locomotives were the unsung heroes of the steam railway, and yet not one was set aside for inclusion in the UK’s “National Collection”. Happily though a number of both the original Hall and Modified Hall designs can still be seen in operation, and under restoration. In fact, one of their number is being ‘re-modified’ to represent the precursor Churchward “Saint Class”, which is a tribute to the design’s longevity and importance.

This class of 4-6-0 was easily the most numerous on the GWR., and was a design whose ancestry can be directly traced to the famous Saint Class. In a number of instances they have been referred to as “6ft 0ins Saints”. No fewer than 258 of Collett’s new Hall Class engines were built between 1928 and 1943, following the highly successful modification and operation of saint class engine No. 2925 “Saint Martin”.

Designs for the new Hall Class locomotives were born out of Churchward’s practice, with some influence from the operating department.
They were perhaps the first truly mixed traffic type owned and operated by the GWR and although built when C.B. Collett was Chief Mechanical Engineer, the basic format had already been outlined by Churchward in his scheme of 1901. The success of the 43XX moguls would, in the opinion of’ the running department, be improved still further with the lengthening of the wheelbase and the provision of a leading bogie, and for greater power, a GWR Standard No. 1 boiler.

In December 1924, came off Swindon Works with 6ft 0ins coupled wheels, and the Collett side window cab. But, these were 
the most obvious differences, with others that were thought necessary on the rebuild but not included later, or modified for the production series engines.

The rebuilding of’ “Saint Martin” incorporated standard ‘Saint Class’ cylinders, which following conventional Swindon practice, required them to be carried lower in the frames, in order to line up with the centre line of the smaller coupled wheels.

Saint Martin - Green Folder GWR 63

This is the locomotive which gave birth to the most numerous, popular, and successful of’ the GWR two-cylinder classes. The extensive modifications to No.2925 Saint Martin, here seen in converted form, resulted in the building of the Hall Class 4-6-0s.    © Lens of Sutton

So, that’s where the new “Hall Class” started life, as a combination of an earlier 4-6-0 design, paired with the operating ideas and experience with the 2-6-0 “43XX Class” moguls.

The New Kid On The Block

The appearance of’ the new mixed traffic engines was not without its troubles, despite the successful trials with the rebuilt “Saint Martin”, though fortunately, none of these related to the design, construction, 
or operation of the new engines. On the GWR, as on other companies’ lines,
 the 1930s was a time when many of the older designs were being scrapped and replaced with more modern, more efficient designs. However, the rail enthusiasts of that time regretted the arrival of the “Hall Class” only because many of the ageing 4-4-0s – some dating back to 1890s – would soon be extinct.

The first 80 of the new breed of locomotives came out of Swindon Works under Lot 254, between December 1928 and February 1930.

4901 Adderley Hall copy

The first of the many – No. 4901 in photographic grey at Swindon Works in 1928. This was a very successful design, and formed the backbone of GWR and BR Western Region mixed traffic working until it was scrapped in 1960.           (c) Historical Railway Images

Unsurprisingly they were fitted with the Swindon Standard No.1 boiler, as adopted for all large 10-wheeled locos, and fitted to their predecessor “Saint Class” 4-6-0s, but with Collett now in charge, the footplate crew were provided with a larger, side window cab. On the face of it this might not seem a key design improvement, but compare the Hall cab to an older design, such as the Saints, with their Churchward cab, the protection from the elements was visibly improved.

In construction, the new design largely kept to Swindon practices, whether it was for boiler, firebox, frames, or bogie design, with the Collett changes having been proven in practice with the highly successful “Saint Martin” – rebuilt and delivered in December 1924. In fact this rebuild was so successful that an order for those first 80 “Hall Class” was placed with Swindon Works in December 1927.

Eventually, 257 of the “Hall Class” were built up until the early spring of 1943, and cost £4,375 each  in the first batch, and whilst subsequently, cost rose, they rapidly became the GWR’s workhorse, and universally operated across the network.

Hall diagram

Boiler, Frames, Wheels and Motion

These were the Swindon “Standard No.1”, and were fitted to all the GWR’s 10-wheeled locos, and were the same as those fitted to the “Saint Class”, but the Halls boilers had the added suffix ‘A’, as prescribed in the company’s extensive classification scheme. The boilers were built in two rings, with the second ring tapered, attached at the rear to a trapezoidal shaped firebox, following ‘Belpaire’ style, and “waisted in” to fit between the frames at the cab end. The firegrate itself had a flat rear portion, with the front tapering downwards, from just in front of the training coupled axle.

The cylinders were mounted on the outside of the frames, as part of a casting with half of the smokebox saddle. The inside admission piston valves were carried above the cylinders, and a rocking shaft transferred the movement through the frames from an extension rod, expansion link, and the eccentric rods attached to the driving axle. Sounds complicated! Eccentrics mounted on the driving axle were the characteristics of the Stephenson valve gear, which, by the 1920s was standard Swindon practice.

The 6ft 0ins coupled wheels had 20 spokes, and were paired with 3ft 0ins diameter wheels on the leading bogie. Churchward’s simple design principles in the generously proportioned axleboxes, with pressed in whitemetal liners were maintained by Collett – for the Hall Class these were 10ins long and 8 ¾ ins in diameter. Coupled wheels were balanced in pairs, with steel plates rivetted to the spokes, and molten lead poured into the gap, and was a change from earlier practice, and claimed to provide greater accuracy in balancing.

That same simple design approach was equally effective in the coupling rods, which were plain, or slab sided, with no fluting – a practice adopted on many railways, ostensibly to save weight and reduce hammer blow.

Tenders

No less than three different designs of tender were paired with the class. From No. 4901 to 4942, a standard Churchward 3,500 gallon design was used, whilst from 4943 to 4957, a new Collett design of 3,500 gallon capacity was used, and finally a new 4,000 gallon Collett tender for the rest. This last type still carried the characteristic out turn to the upper sides of the bunker space, but when Hawksworth took over from 1941, this changed, and with the new ‘Modified Hall’ and ‘County’ class 4-6-0s, a simple, slab sided tender was adopted. That old simplicity rule appearing again.

Hall Class – Leading Dimensions

Hall Class Dimensions

Hawksworth’s Modified Hall

This was a fair bit more than modifications, and demanded changes to jigs, tools and working practices at Swindon, and so perhaps to describe this as a modification was wrong. It was much more of a development, by applying Hawksworth’s ideas to Churchward design and building a new mixed traffic locomotive for the GWR.

Hawksworth too over from C.B. Collett in 1941, and oversaw the motive power of the GWR until nationalisation in 1948. But, where Collett had largely continued the Churchward model, Hawksworth took a more radical – with a small ‘r’ – approach. He had up until that point been the company’s Chief Draughtsman, with responsibility for locomotive testing.

First out of the blocks was the 6959 Class or “Modified Hall”. These 71 locomotives were built between 1944 and 1950, and based on the Hall Class, a number of experimental ideas included that improved the performance of the 6ft 4-6-0s across its operational range.

Modified Hall 7923 Green Folder GWR 69

Classic Modified Hall on shed in the early 1960s. No. 7923 “Speke Hall”, in final BR lined green livery and sporting the post 1956 on the Collett 4,000 gallon tender. On the fireman’s side, the Modified Halls had the fire iron tunnel alongside the firebox, as standard practice, whilst for 7923, the old familiar Collett 4,000 gallon tender was used.         Photo: RP Bradley Collection.

A key change in the design of the Standard No.1 boiler used on these engines, was the fitting of a 3-row superheater, with 21 flues, which was intended to improve the speed and performance of the type, along with further boiler/firebox changes to cope with poorer quality coal. Mechanically too, the Modified Halls were a simpler construction, with full length frames, and cylinders attached to the outside faces, instead of the previous casting, which included a part of the smokebox saddle. These changes inevitably brought down building costs, and the simpler layout reduced operating and maintenance costs.

The adoption of a single mainframe construction, from drag box to buffer beam demanded a major change to the fabrication, and assembly, of the cylinders and valves. This simple change away from part plate and part bar frame to all plate frame was a radical step, and which must have caused major changes in the practices used in the works foundry and erecting shops. The cylinders, still driving the Stephenson valve motion by means of rocking shaft, were also still 18 ½ ins by 30ins, but were now cast as two separate pieces, bolted to the outer, machines faces of the mainframes. To carry the smokebox, a new cross stretcher was placed between the frames, and extended upwards to provide a support and mounting for the smokebox itself.

Modified Hall diagram

All GWR two-cylinder engines had a pronounced fore and aft motion, especially when starting, and the Modified Hall was no different, and whilst their were inconsistencies in the layout of the steam and exhaust pipes at the front, that pronounced motion continued. But, perhaps the most obvious departure was the widescale adoption of mechanical lubrication. Up to the arrival of these locomotives, GWR practice was “hydrostatic lubrication”, which consisted of the driver counting the number of drops (15 drops every 2 minutes) of oil passing through a sight glass on the footplate. The new locomotives had the mechanical lubricators mounted on the running boards, just ahead of the leading coupled wheels, and for guidance, the cab gauges included an ‘oil’ / ‘no oil’ indicator.

The tenders on the first 14 of the modified class were straightforward Collett 4,000 gallon types, but from 6974 onwards, Hawksworth provided the new, much simpler to build, slab sided design. The approach here followed that of other railway companies, in pursuing a simpler design and build process, to reduce capital and operational costs, with the intent that maintenance practices would be cheaper.

Modified Hall Class – Leading Dimensions

Modified Hall Dimensions

Oil Burners

The use of fuel oil for railway locomotives at the time the Hall Class arrived was not in regular use in Britain, because of the abundance of coal supplies – and no doubt the cheap cost of mining.   Even so, it had been tried back in 1893, with the most famous examples being on the Great Eastern Railway – as an experiment.

Shortly after the end of World War 2, there was a coal shortage GWR, and in particular in 1946/47, where the severe winter drove increased demand. But, of course, there was a manpower shortage as well, despite the ‘Bevin Boys’, who were recruited to replace the young miners, who had been conscripted during the early war years.

So, the railways, including the GWR, revisited the idea of equipping steam locomotives for burning fuel oil. This was also encouraged by the promised removal of the fuel-oil tax, and in October 1946 a subsidy of £1 per ton was paid to consumers – such as a railway – of fuel oil. This subsidy offset the fuel-oil tax, and with that in mind the GWR planned to convert 84 Hall Class engines to oil burning, but in the end only 11 were completed, with another 10 fitted with the oil burning equipment. In addition, the Government promised help to all companies changing over from coal to oil, which included the bulk purchase of all the necessary equipment, both on the loco and on the shed.

Converted

Garth Hall - oil -Green Folder GWR 57

“Garth Hall” as converted to oil burning in 1946.

So, for the GWR, the first loco to be converted was No. 5955 “Garth Hall” in June 1946, and it was allocated a new number – 3950. The remaining 10 locomotives were converted in April and May 1947, and included: 4907/48/68/71/72, 5976/86, 6949/53/57. The average life of these locos as oil burners, was around 2 years, with all being reconverted to oil-burning in 1950.

Oil Refuelling Depot layout cover

Re-Converted

Garth Hall - no oil -Green Folder GWR 133

By 1950, the few Hall class engines that had been running as oil-burners, were all converted back to coal burning. In this view, the original candidate “Garth Hall” is paired with a standard Hawksworth 4,000 gallon tender.

Operations

So, why were these locomotives needed? They were introduced at a time when the GWR had few modern mixed traffic designs, but plenty of the express passenger variety, and whilst Churchward’s application of new developments, especially following French practices were a great improvement on the Dean era, traffic was changing. Churchward had already introduced the 47XX series of heavy freight 2-8-0s, but a design that could be used on both passenger – long distance, or shorter – and a variety of freight workings was becoming an essential tool in railway operations.

When the Halls started to appear, all of the ‘Big Four’ companies were engaged on modernising and standardising their locomotive stock, which, in the 1930s resulted in many hundreds of the old ‘pre-grouping’ designs being scrapped, and replaced by engines with a wider operational range.

On the GWR, Churchward’s approach to locomotive design and standardisation in 1901 was mirrored in later years, by British Railways from 1948, and included elements of current best practice at home and abroad. Tapered boilers for example were introduced after studying the American approach, whilst the firebox was developed from a design popularised in Belgium, by Belpaire.

Churchward’s successor C.B. Collett applied these radical changes introduced a decade or so earlier in the “Saint Class” conversion in 1924, and delivered the most successful mixed traffic design the GWR operated, as the “Hall Class” 4-6-0.

The earlier ‘standard designs’ had included a mixed traffic loco with 5ft 8ins coupled wheels, and was a type that had been advocated by the Operating Department. The Hall experiment – which you could conclude was an exercise in recycling, delayed the introduction of a 5ft 8ins mixed traffic engine, and was entirely down to the Hall’s operating success. Collett did finally introduce a 5ft 8ins mixed traffic design – the “Grange” class, from 1936, more than a decade later.

Initially, the first 14 Halls were sent out to the West Country and based at Laira and Penzance, but as more were built, they were soon spread out across the network, and by 1947; some 30 depots had an allocation of the Hall Class.  From their earliest days, workings normally associated with Halls were as varied as the names they carried, from freight, empty stock, stopping and express passenger. Only the prestigious ‘Cornish Riviera’ express was excluded from their range, but in later years, even this was overcome.

Barring engine 4941 “Bowden Hall”, which received a direct hit from a bomb in WW2, most of the class survived into BR days unscathed, and remained so until around 1961, and as dieselisation progressed rapidly on the Western Region, only 50 Hall Class engines were at work in 1965.

The Modified Halls of course suffered similar fate at the end of steam, but they had earned a reputation as speedy machines, and were well though ouf by enginemen and maintenance crews alike. The various changes to their design and construction certainly seemed to add to their value as mixed traffic designs, and coupled with their Collett progenitors, they were indeed a mixed traffic masterpiece, shared by three different CMEs of the old GWR.

After Life

Perhaps unsurprisingly, no fewer than 11 of the Hall and 6 of the Modified Hall class engines were rescued from the breakers’ torches, and now ply their trade on a number of Britain’s Heritage Railways. There are 3 Hall Class and 3 Modified Hall Class fully operational, with 4 of the Halls either being overhauled or restored, whilst 4920 is listed as stored on the South Devon Railway. Perhaps most interestingly, a Hall Class achieved superstar status thanks to Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling – 5972 “Olton Hall” is now a static exhibit at the Warner Brothers Studios.

Of the Hawksworth Modified Halls 4 are fully operational, with one being overhauled at the time of writing, and the final member 6984 “Owsden Hall” being restored at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.

Preserved Hall Class Engines

Preserved Halls

Preserved Modified Hall Class Engines

Preserved Modifieds

Further Reading & Links:

  • “GWR Two Cylinder 4-6-0s and 2-6-0s, Rodger Bradley,
    • Pub; David & Charles 1988; ISBN; 0715388940
  • “The GWR Mixed Traffic 4-6-0 Classes”, O.S.Nock,
    • Pub; Ian Allan 1978; ISBN; 0711007810
  • “Great Western Steam”, W.A.Tuplin,
    • Pub; George Allen & Unwin 1982; ISBN; 0043850359
  • “The Great Western at Swindon Works”, Alan S Peck;
    • Pub; Ian Allan 1998; ISBN; 9781906974039

 

Raveningham Hall video (Modified Hall Class)

Rood Ashton Hall video (Hall Class)

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An Italian Odyssey

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Since 1995, I have taken a number of photographs in Italy, at various locations where we have started, ended, or simply watched the trains go by, and I thought it would be an appropriate time to share some of those images on these pages.

Naturally, some of the steam locos were seen in the Science Museum in Milan, including the Ansaldo built 2-8-2 of Class 746, together with the 1,000th locomotive built by Breda – Class 685 No. 600.  Alongside these are examples of the P7 0-8-2T, and R301.2 0-6-0T.  The only other steam locomotive in this collection is that of SNFT 0-6-0T No.1 on the plinth outside Brescia Castle, where it has been since it was selected as the first monument to steam traction in Italy, by the local model railway organisation – the “Club Fermodellistico Bresciano”.

Milan’s cavernous Central Station provides a brilliant backdrop in 2009 to the power car E414-103, built in the late 1990s, and heading an ETR500 high-speed train, shown in the post 2006 livery of grey,white and red.  Another example – E414-128 is shown leaving Verona with a Milan bound service in 2008.

Out on the Milan-Verona-Venic main line, back in 1995, Desenzano-del-Garda was the stopping off point for a couple of the views in the bright sunshine of high summer.  These range from E444-064 a Fiat/Breda built 4,000kW Bo-Bo (These were Italy’s first high-speed locos)  on a Venice bound express, through a pair of E652 series B-B-B types, led by E652-052 on a freight working.  Also seen, is a D.445 diesel No. 1114 – the standard passenger design of the time, on a regional working from Verona.

North of Milan, at Como San Giovanni station, we see an E632 B-B-B from builders Ansaldo heading towards Chiasso and Bellinzona in Switzerland, whilst in the opposite direction, one E656.051 arrives.  Nicknamed “Alligators”, these were the articulated B-B-B design developing some 4,200kW.

Alongside Lake Maggiore, at Stresa, in 2007 we pick up a “Cisalpino” service running through the station these 9-car tilting trains, in this case designated ETR470 followed on from the preceeding ETR450, and 460 series, known as “Pendolino”.   A short time later a northbound service headed through, with E464.285 at the front, with the rear driving trailer – sporting a touch of graffiti.

Heading southbound again at Stresa, a weatherbeaten E652.062 trundles through with a southbound freight, these ABB/Ansaldo/Marelli built locos deliver some 4,950kW, and are now exclusively used on freight.  This was followed by a local/regional service with E633.110 at the head, covered in a liberal amount of graffiti.  This class dates from the 1980s, and was the forerunner of the E652 on its freight working.

Back out to the Milan-Verona-Venice main line in 2014 and 2017, a varied collection of stock is seen entering and leaving Verona Porta Nuova.  An E464 – No. E464.409 puts in an appearance on a Tren Nord working, in its shiny green livery, and an assortment of ETR high-speed trains on the Frecciabianca (ETR500), Frecciarossa (ETR500), and the Swiss liveried version of the ETR610 series.  In Switzerland, these are classed as RABe 503, but have also been known as the Cisalpino Due, since they are in effect the upgrade or replacement for the tilting Cisalpino trains seen at Stresa, back in 2007.

Hope you enjoy.

-oOo-

 

Coniston Branch – Gateway to the Lakes

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Foxfield – Junction for Coniston and the Lakes

Although in existence for 100 years, it has not acquired the fame of its near neighbour, the shorter Lakeside Branch. Yet, it is, or rather was, equally picturesque. Running for nearly ten miles on continuously rising gradients – well almost, there were a couple of sections of level or falling grades – the terminus at Coniston was set against the dramatic backdrop of “Coniston Old Man”, towering to some 2000ft. above village and
railway.

Foxfield Jct_1

Foxfield as it was in 1919, with the ‘old railway’ connection to Broughton noted at the very top of the map.              “Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland”

The Coniston Branch of the former Furness Railway Co. was actually formed as a separate company by a group or Furness directors, and incorporated on 10th August 1857. Opened on18th June 1859, and closed only seven months short of its centenary, in October1958, the track was very soon lifted, and the impressive station building at the Coniston end of the line demolished.

Peter Millar photo from FB

The terminus of the Furness Railway’s branch at Coniston with its impressive, mountainous backdrop, where, from nearby quarries, both slate and copper had been extracted for many years. Coniston was also the birthplace of the famous water colour artist, w. Heaton-Cooper. Photo: Peter Millar

Strictly speaking the line to Coniston, as the Coniston Railway, was built from Broughton, the one time Junction of the Furness Railway with the Whitehaven & Furness Junction (W&FJ) main line from Millom. The inverted “Y” connection proved troublesome in operation, with main line trains between Barrow and Millom having to reverse at Broughton. The Furness absorbed the W&FJ Co. in July 1866, in order to remove the threat posed by that company’s plan to build a viaduct across the Duddon into F.R. territory. This direct threat to Furness traffic was thus effectively removed, although the plans to carry the main line across the estuary by a viaduct were retained for a time, unti1 the costs of construction forced the company to use the present roundabout route
to Millom and West Cumberland.

Broughton Station copy

First station on the branch to Coniston was Broughton, seen here in a view taken in later years.

However, their was a penalty to be paid for this., and as a consequence of abandoning the Duddon Crossing Scheme – Bills for which were laid before Parliament – the Furness was required for many years, to carry passengers around the coastal route for the same fare as would have been paid over a shorter, more direct line, using the viaduct. From 1870 onwards then, the main line was taken over the Duddon Just north of Foxfield, on a much smaller bridge. The short cut-off line from Foxfield to the Duddon Bridge forming the third side of a triangular Junction, replacing the previous end on connection with the W&FJ line, and putting Broughton firmly on the Foxfield to Coniston branch line.

Broughton_1

The original end point for traffic from Coniston, before the link to Foxfield was built, was Broughton, but shown here in an 1892 map, and connecting to the Furness Railway.    “Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland”

 

Woodland Station

Woodland Station – the second along the branch – seen here in a postcard view – also shows the passing loop alongside the platform on the south side of the line.

Remaining stations on the Coniston line included Torver, a moderately sized village, two miles from Coniston, and the single platform at Woodland, the midpoint of the line. Construction ran into difficulty almost straight away, 
as the main contractor, Mr Charles Pickles of Bradford was, as they say, financially embarrassed, and declared bankrupt in August 1858. That is not to say that the work involved the Coniston line had proved complicated, rather the opposite in fact, and was easily completed by local sub-contractors under direct Furness Railway supervision.

RPB Photo 1156

The sad remains of the derelict goods shed at Torver, captured in the 1980s.  Photo (c) Rodger Bradley

The ·main purpose behind the building of the line was to provide transport for the copper and slate mined and quarried in and around Coniston, to the existing railhead at Broughton, and finally exported over Furness metals to Barrow and beyond.

Bearing this in mind, it is curious to note that it was in fact opened for passenger traffic first, on 18/6/1859, with the Board of Trade Inspector passing it fit for the carriage of goods traffic the following year. In 1862 the line was absorbed into the Furness Railway proper, and from the later Victorian era, some effort was made to establish tourist traffic, which continued until the 1950s as part of numerous road/rail/steamer tours in Lakeland.

Torver Station copy

Torver Station was the last stop before Coniston, and at the summit of the branch, from where the last 2 miles into Coniston were on gently falling gradients.

Geographically – always good to bear in mind for scenery and the like! – the approach to Foxfield from the south, is over Angerton Marsh, following the shores of the Duddon Estuary, across which the massive bulk of ‘Black Combe’ can be clearly seen. On the southern shore, the railway enters Foxfield by way of a short cutting through the limestone ridge of Foxfield Bank. The double track main line is separated by the station’s island platform, which houses, or rather housed, the station building, signal box, partial overall roof, and a small goods shed on a parallel road, outside the down main line. The main lines come together again immediately north of the station, curving away to the north west, whilst the Coniston Branch Junction made off to the right, or north easterly, heading for 
Broughton.

Coniston Station_1

The impressive location of Coniston Station, shadowed by the Furness Fells, and with stunning views of Coniston Water. As goods traffic declined, tourist traffic grew, but sadly no longer extant – what might have been?        “Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland”

The main lines were carried past the site of the former Junction
at Foxfield Farm, on an embankment built out from Foxfield Point, to carry the railway over the Duddon River on a short viaduct, and on into Cumberland. Back at Foxfield, the station and Junction is a mere 25ft above sea level, whilst almost from the ends of the points set for Coniston, the line began its upward climb. For almost 1·mile, the Coniston line curved away northward on a quite gentle gradient of no more than 1 in 3970, but steepened rapidly through 1 in 400 to 1 in 229, and entered Broughton only 1-¼ miles from the junction, on a rising grade of 1 in 59. Passing the rocky outcrops of Eccle Riggs and The Knott, through Broughton Station the gradient steepened further to 1 in 49 as the line turned north eastwards towards Woodland Station.

Sandwiched between Broughton Moor to the north west, and Woodland Fell to the south east, the route followed the break in the high ground along the course of two rivers – Kirkby Pool and Steers Pool. Even along these two ‘valleys’, the track pursued its upward climb on gradients of between 1 in 179 and 1 in 81 to reach the small station at Woodland. Entry over a level crossing – one of five on this route – the single platform supported buildings constructed from local stone and slate, including a telegraph office and signal box. The smallest station on the line was just 4 miles 110 yards from the junction.

Coniston copy

Coniston Station seen here in LMS days, had a suitably imposing overall roof that reflected the imposing backdrop of the Lake District fells, and with Coniston Water only a few hundred yards away, clearly visible, provided an important destination for many tourists.

Leaving Woodland behind, again on rising grades, the summit of the line was reached just before Torver, at around 7 miles from Foxfield. At 34ft above sea level, this summit was in fact the highest point reached by the whole of the old Furness Railway network. At this point, with some of the quarries responsible for the line’s existence nestling in the lower slopes of Walna Scar (2,000ft), on its northwestern flank, the railway was almost within sight of Coniston Water. The village of Torver, almost 7 ¾ miles from Foxfield, and just over 2 from Coniston, the track was again sandwiched between two fells, almost encroaching on the settlement, and obscuring a clear view of the lake from Torver Station. Just before the station, the last but one level crossing on the route – “Dalton Road Crossing” – was negotiated, with the small goods yard and shed on the south side of the line. The points here were controlled by the single line tablet carried on the engine, which could not be removed from its position on the ground frame until the points were reset for trains to pass on the main line.

Coniston with FR Railmotor

The Coniston Branch was home in Furness Railway days to the company’s own designed and built railmotor – which must have looked colourful in its blue and white livery. In the background in this view, the lower slopes of the fell “Coniston Old Man” can be made out – walking distance from the station!!

The remaining two miles of the branch found the line turning more directly northwards, and for the most part on gently falling grades, following the shoreline of the lake before turning through almost 90 degrees to reach the terminus at Coniston. The final level crossing on the line was situated almost mid way between Torver and Coniston at “Park Gate”. The end of the line was of course provided with the ‘greatest’ facilities for passengers, its station sporting an impressive all over roof, large goods shed, a 42ft diameter turntable, and small, single road engine shed. The backdrop to the Coniston Branch terminus was to say the very least – impressive – towering over both village and railway was the 2,635ft high fell, “The Old Man of Coniston”.

The Furness Railway’s milepost here was 43 miles from Carnforth, but in a dramatically different location.

Operations

Ulverston Mirror 1862 Extract1

Extract from the Ulverston Mirror 1862

Three years after the opening of the branch, and in the same year as the absorption of the W&FJ, the Furness company’s passenger train timetables, published in the Ulverston Mirror (Sept. 13th 1862), listed 4 down and 4 up trains daily.1st, 2nd and 3rd class being provided on all but two services; 3rd class passengers were not permitted on the 11-15 am express from Whitehaven (The Coniston connection left Coniston at 12 noon), or the 5-15pm down service from Barrow.

Locomotives were by many standards, small in the early days, at first using 2-2-2 well tank engines hauling 4 or 6-wheel coaches on passenger turns, and the old Bury 0-4-0 types on freight duties. These latter have left their most famous example in the care of the National Railway Museum today – engine No.3 “Coppernob”. As traffic increased on the much larger parent system, bigger, heavier locomotives came into service, and the older 6-wheelers gave way to non-corridor and corridor bogie coaches, this was eventually reflected in the type of rolling stock seen in regular service on the Coniston Branch. Naturally, on branch lines, changes took longer to occur, since the traffic was proportionately less, and in later years, until the early 1930s, ex-Furness Railway 4-4-2 tank and 0-6-0 tender classes were regular performers. The 4-4-2T class was specifically designed for branch line service by the FR’s CME, W.F.Pettigrew. This innovative engineer was also responsible for the introduction of the steam railmotors used on the Coniston line around the turn of the 20th Century. The railmotor was unique in the sense it was the only motive power both designed and built at the company’s railway works in Barrow.

 

Later, under LMS and BR (London Midland Region) management, the archetypal British 0-6-0 held sway on al, freight traffic, including former Furness Railway and Midland (Johnson) designs, whilst Fowler and Ivatt tank engines were allocated to Coniston to work the passenger trains, based at Barrow’s only sub-shed.   On the main line, local passenger duties were worked by Fowler 2P 4-4-0 types, along with Stanier, Fowler and Fairburn 2-6-4 tank engines, and of course the inevitable Stanier ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0. Visiting motive power on the London turns rarely ventured north of Barrow, where rebuilt and unrebuilt “patriot” and “Jubilee” class 4-6-0s were frequently seen. Mainline freights however often included the ubiquitous Stanier 8F 2-8-0s, amongst the ‘Black Fives’ and Fowler 4F’s, and at least one surviving “Super D” 0-8-0 of LNWR origin was allocated to Carnforth. This latter could be found working the odd mineral train around the coast – even in BR days.

 

FR tour No8_1

Most of the rolling stock transferred to this area for regular service had seen better days elsewhere, a practice still common today – “Pacers” being the obvious example. In the early 1960s, the ill-fated 2-stroke Metro-Vick Co-Bo’s were pensioned off to work passenger services into and around the Furness and West Cumberland areas. Of course they were put to work on longer runs down to Preston, or up as far as Carlisle. The Metro-Vicks had proved troublesome on the prestigious “Condor” fitted freight service over the Midland main line from Hendon To Gushetfaulds Depot in Glasgow, and were no better on the less demanding duties on West Cumberland lines, being stopped frequently for repairs. Some of the first Derby built dmu’s of the mid 1950s were put to work in this area from new, and were still at work out of Barrow MPD in 1964 – though nowadays of course, these have long since disappeared. They were replaced in later years by a variety of the first generation dmu’s, and later by British Rail’s “Sprinter” designs.   Most recently the area has seen a mix of new and 40 years old designs, with questionable operational efficiency.

This reflection of the changing face of passenger traffic, or perhaps its ongoing decline, was equally apparent on the freight side, with the run down and closure of mining operations, quarrying and the once enormous iron and steel industry. Today, there is little or no freight traffic, beyond the transport of spent nuclear fuel to the West Cumberland reprocessing site.

RPB Photo 1155

Looking back down the line towards Barrow-in-Furness, long after the Coniston Branch was closed, and Foxfield no longer a junction station.              Photo (c) Rodger Bradley

RPB Photo 1292

Taken from the level crossing, with the water tower on the left, and station buildings and signablox on the platform to the right, these are typical former Furness Railways structures. Still in place in the 1960s.          Photo: Lens of Sutton

Previously, mineral and steel products traffic to and from the works at Millom in particular had to pass through Foxfield, and although the closure of the Coniston Branch in 1958 meant lost traffic, it did not, initially affect the facilities at Foxfield. Nowadays, the impressive stone built station buildings, goods shed and other structures have long since been demolished, and replaced by the less costly ‘bus shelter’. To add to this ignominy, many stations on the Furness and West Cumberland lines, including Foxfield, were demoted to “request stops” – the train being stopped by intending passengers, jus as you would attract the attentions of a bus driver!

The following tables showing freight and passenger working through Foxfield in 1940 and 1948 respectively, represents an interesting period, when there was intensive main line traffic, and the Coniston Branch was still open.   That said, the emphasis and benefits of Lakeland tourism – so ably developed by Alfred Aslett, and deployed by the Furness Railway – has also long since disappeared.   Access to the area by and for tourists simply means today driving, towing a caravan, or riding in on a bus or coach – a situation delivered by the short sighted planning from the late 1950s and 1960s.

 

Table 2a

Table 2b

 

 

Table 3

Table 1

The following tables list the level crossing and signalboxes included in the Furness Railway’s 1918 Appendix to the working timetable:

Signalboxes Etc

Level crossings

A final view of one of the Furness 0-6-2 tank engines, taken by the late Frank Dean.  The second photo looks out across the station throat, beyond the engine shed to Coniston Water in the background.

L2 Class 0-6-2T at Coniston

L3 Class 0-6-2T at Coniston

Further Reading & Useful Links:

  • “The Coniston Railway”; Michael Andrews, Pub. Cumbrian Railways Association, 1985

Coniston Railway book cover

North American Steam

Standard

As is well known, steam power was invented and developed in Britain country for both stationary and locomotive purposes. Its introduction and use in the United States very likely came about as a result of illegal activity here in England. At around the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, it was deemed an offence by ·the government of the day to transmit any information about the development or use of steam power to North America. In fact it was punishable by a one-year prison sentence in addition to a £200 fine! But, evidently news of James Watt’s success was transported across the Atlantic it would appear that industrial espionage is not a modern phenomena!

The first practical use of steam power, as applied to railways, in the USA, was first witnessed in the shape of locomotives imported from England by the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co., which operated a sixteen-mile horse and gravity operated coal railway in Pennsylvania. The first steam locomotive to run in the USA was in fact the English built “Stourbridge Lion”.

Replica Stourbridge Lion - United_States_National_Museum_(1956)_(14781532311)

A replica of the first steam loco to run in the USA – built in 1932 by the Delaware & Hudson Corp.   Photo: Internet Archive Book Images https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43475790 

Best friend

Built at West Point Foundry, the “Best Friend of Charleston” was the first home built steam loco for a US railroad. Photo courtesy Norfolk Southern Corp.

The first American built locomotive to be operated by an American railroad, was built at the West Point Foundry in 1830 and made its inaugural run for the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Co. of Charleston, on Christmas Day 1830. The locomotive was appropriately named the “Best Friend Of Charleston”. In appearance it hardly resembled a steam locomotive as we know it at all, powered by a vertical boiler positioned behind the driver, driving four coupled wheels it was not entirely dissimilar to the rather less successful “Novelty” locomotive, entered for the Rainhill Trials in England the previous year. But, it was a beginning, from which the North American steam locomotive was developed, ultimately to produce some of the World’s largest and most powerful steam locomotives ever to be built.
 In the early years of railway development, steam locomotive design in the USA progressed along similar lines to that of their European counterparts.

But then, there came to be a number of what at first could be seen as small, technical differences, providing a divergent path along which North American loco. design progressed. One of the principal foundations to this alternative to the British school of design, was the predominant use of bar frames as the principal technique of chassis construction, whereas in Britain, plate frames were the preferred method. Although bar frame techniques were actually first Introduced in the U.K. by Edward Bury, their development in the USA resulted ultimately in the use of techniques for manufacturing the chassis or frames of steam locomotives as enormous one piece castings. In many cases with cylinders and ancillary items of equipment ”cast on”. Style, an arbitrary idea in itself, was possibly the one most obvious difference between North American and British types.

North American 2 copy

The first cantilever trestle bridge in the USA, carrying the Cincinatti Southern Railroad across the Kentucky River, with a typical passenger train of the period. The “High Bridge” was opened in 1877, and rebuilt in 1911 – this view is of the original bridge. Photo courtesy Norfolk Southern Corp./RPB Collection.

Whereas in this country designers placed great emphasis on the aesthetic appeal of their machines, the era of elaborate ostentation in the USA reached a peak in the 1860s and. 70s. These then gave way to more logical concepts of the steam locomotive as a machine, where it was not a sin to trail pipework and fittings
 on the outside of the locomotive, making the working parts more accessible and maintenance infinitely easier.

CP_steam_loco

A recreated Central Pacific # 60 steam locomotive at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah          Photo: Mr Snrub at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3488328

To many of us though, thinking of nineteenth century design in the USA, immediately there comes to mind the wood burning 4-4-0 types, replete with ‘cowcatchers’, ornate bell and enormous chimneys. (Diamond stacks as they were known.) These locomotives were a tradition, if not a legend of North American railroads, and engendered a folklore and many legends of their own., from ‘Casey Jones’ to the ‘General’. The latter, in particular, having quite an entertaining history, culminating in its seizure by Union forces during the Civil War. The elaborate ornamentation of some of those mid-nineteenth century designs achieved well nigh indescribable levels, with gold plated scrollwork and paintwork and lining schemes that would have done justice to any regal palace!

By 20th century standards such locomotives were small, yet it’ was with just such engines as these that the vast mid-west and western seaboards of the USA were penetrated. Possibly the most outstanding achievement being the linking by rail of both east and west coasts at Promontory, Utah on May 10th 1869.

Alabama Southern 4-6-0 - 1905

Typical of US motive power at the beginning of the 20th century was this 4-6-0 on the Alabama Southern Railroad in 1905.    Photo by: By Internet Archive Book Images. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43245503

The locomotives of the Central and Union Pacific Railroads were brought
 to within feet of each other and the ceremony completed by driving in a golden spike. From this point, railroading in the USA entered a period of explosive growth, as the government endeavoured to foster settlement of the West. New routes and companies sprang into existence, almost on a par with the ”Railway Mania” period in this country. In terms of Locomotive design though, there the resemblance ended. Railway companies in this country, for the major part, relied on their own designs, whether built in their own workshops, or by contractors. In the USA however, contractors to a much greater extent were relied upon to produce the designs as well as constructing the engines.

There emerged the idea that locomotive manufacturers as specialists in design and construction of steam locomotives would develop their own ranges of ‘standard’ designs, to be bought virtually, “off the peg”. Naturally there were exceptions, though in the sphere of technical development, the manufacturers were often first in the field. This approach was not unknown in this country, but developed to a much greater extent in the USA. A resultant feature being that whereas here it is traditional to refer to a class of locomotive by its owner and designer; in the USA it is almost invariably that of the manufacturer. The names of which were virtually household in this country also; Baldwin, Lima, Alco, etc. Many of these companies’ products were owned by almost all railroads, where the manufacturer, being a specialist, designer and builder, could supply in greater numbers than could the railroads, who were left free to concentrate on the business of carrying passengers and freight.

In the early years of the 20th Century, locomotive design in the USA was moving towards progressively larger types, with which, ultimately, that country became world famous. Its largest locomotives though, owed their development to a French engineer. These were enormous articulated designs, capable of hauling the heaviest of loads, and often in many cases, their tenders alone were larger then the largest British Pacific locomotives, indeed, particularly with the articulated types of the Union Pacific and Norfolk &Western Railroads, even the fireboxes could be bigger than an average living room.

AAR 7 copy

A picture to evoke nostalgic memories of steam, as a pair of Northern Pacific’s giant Mallet articulated locomotives stand in the yards at Missoula, Montana, and ready to handle the huge transcontinental freight working. Photo courtesy; Association of American Railroads.

The most popular form of articulation in N. America was the Mallet arrangement, whose originator was the French engineer M. Anatole Mallet. Basically it consisted of two separate chassis supplied by a single boiler, the leading chassis being pivoted about, the rear. Principle wheel arrangements of this design were of the order of 2-8-8-2, 4-6-6-4etc. Although originally designed to make use of compounding arrangements, most of the N. American types were simple expansion machines, Such locomotives were designed primarily for heavy freight haulage, although on the Union Pacific, a smaller version of the enormous 4-8-8-4
 “Big Boy”, albeit a not much smaller 4-6-6-4 type, was intended for fast, long distance passenger turns. (Long distance on the Union Pacific, was the 5000 odd miles between San Francisco and Chicago). Many railroads in the USA used the articulated types, but there were of course some quite remarkable exceptions. Notably, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, whose rigid frame 4-4-4-4 and 4-4-6-4 locomotives, known forever as Duplexii, were of comparable proportions to the articulated types. Built during the “Streamline Era” and sporting an air smoothed casing, these were really spectacular designs.

C&O Class K4 at Chief_Logan_State_Park_-_C&O_2755

C&O Class K4 at Chief_Logan_State_Park, as preserved at Logan, West Virginia. 92 of this 2-8-4 design were built for C&O, where they were known as the “Kanawha” type, and although a number of other railroads operated them, they were also referred to as the “Berkshire” type.     Photo By Brian M. Powell, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9374221

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Fe 5011 Texas Class 2-10-4 No.5017

Santa Fe “5011” “Texas” Class 2-10-4 No.5017. Built by Baldwin in 1944, this example is now at Green Bay Railroad Museum, 8/70. Baldwin started building these in the 1930s, and they were the heaviest (247.5 tons) and most powerful (T.E. 93,000 lbs) “Texas” type ever built and also had the largest piston thrust (234,000 lbs) of any locomotive.                 By Hugh Llewelyn – 5017Uploaded by Oxyman, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24387751

Steam in the USA reached its zenith in the, early 1930’s, at the beginning of that decade there wore over 56000 locomotives in service. It was at this time, marking the ·beginning of the “Streamline Era”, that some of the most impressive and largest locomotives were built. The largest, as we have noted, were the mammoth Mallet articulated types, for heavy freight haulage. On the passenger side, as in this country, passenger schedules with improved timings, demanding higher speeds, dictated the design of more powerful locomotives, capable of handling the heaviest loadings. But, whereas in this country passenger locomotive design reached a peak with the heavy 4-6-2 Pacific types, in the USA. passenger locomotives became even larger. Amongst the largest and most impressive of these were perhaps the 4-6-4 Hudson and 4-8-4 Niagara types for the New York Central Railroad.

North American 1RPB Photo 488 NYC Niagara No 6000

Classic North American steam locomotives for express passenger or freight services, are perhaps nowhere better illustrated by the streamlined 4-6-4 “Hudson” and 4-8-4 “Niagara” designs for the New York Central Railroad.

Photos: Assoc of American RRs / RPB Collection

Of these, the former was probably the more popular for passenger haulage, the design being used in quantity by most, if not all of the U.S. Class 1 railroads. The New York Central’s design was possibly the most successful, though seeing a variety of improvements and alterations from its first inception, the overall design remained the same, its capacity for sustained high speed haulage of heavy loads was surpassed by few, if any others.

It might well be imagined that all North American steam locomotives were of massive proportions, such however would be far from the case, though it must be said that even the “Branch Line” locomotives were more often than not
 as large as many British main line types. Again, not all locos. were conventional in design. Apart from the several narrow gauge lines, the USA possessed some quite unique examples in the “Shay” and “Heisler” geared drive locos. intended for use on logging railroads, where the gradients, curves and clearances were often extremely severe.

The changeover from steam to diesel traction was begun earlier than here, but unlike this country, when the final elimination of steam took place, the railroads had a fairly lengthy experience of the new motive power behind them. The first diesel appeared on the Central of New Jersey Railroad in 1925. It was not an immediate success however, its power to weight ratio made it uneconomic, but these were problems of course, that were subsequently overcome, since 27 years later, the number of diesel locomotives outweighed that of steam. An interesting comparison can be made with these figures; in 1929 there were only 22 diesels in service, compared with 56,936steam types, by 1955 diesels were in the majority with 24,786 and only 5,982 steam. For steam, the worst years and complete elimination came between 1955 and 1962. During this period the number of diesels rose by 3,318; steam locomotives being reduced from 5,982 to 51! There are still, at the time of writing, seven steam locos in service on Class l railroads, six of which are narrow gauge types.

-oOo-

Further Reading & Useful Links:

From Railway Matters: New York Central Giants