MAILBAG

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents -

By their build­ing and suc­cess­fully op­er­at­ing a replica Pep­per­corn ‘A1’ No. 60163 Tor­nado, the A1 Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Trust has jus­ti­fi­ably earned a good rep­u­ta­tion. So why do they risk this rep­u­ta­tion and jeop­ar­dise the fu­ture run­ning of steam lo­co­mo­tives on the main line, by ros­ter­ing their lo­co­mo­tive to achieve faster tim­ings, with heav­ier loads than has ever been de­manded be­fore by man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­enced in the op­er­a­tion of this class of lo­co­mo­tive? To do so in­curs a high risk, as was ev­i­denced by the se­ri­ous fail­ure near Sandy on April 14. The own­ers may claim the fail­ure was not speed‑re­lated, but risk in­creases with speed and the fact that it oc­curred when 90mph was reached must be sig­nif­i­cant. My rail­way ca­reer started at York just as the ‘A1s’ were en­ter­ing traf­fic. They were de­signed to haul 500‑600 ton loads at av­er­age speeds of 60mph. In this work, they were ex­tremely suc­cess­ful with high re­li­a­bil­ity, avail­abil­ity and low main­te­nance costs – the char­ac­ter­is­tics re­quired for to­day’s steam op­er­a­tions. They were not, how­ever, 90mph lo­co­mo­tives and were only al­lo­cated to work high‑speed trains in emer­gen­cies – and then only with rel­a­tively light loads. The fastest ros­tered work I have been able to find for th­ese lo­co­mo­tives is on the 7.50am King’s Cross to Leeds/Brad­ford ‘Busi­ness Flyer’ in the 1950s. The booked time start to stop from Hitchin to Ret­ford was 96½ min­utes for the 107 miles, with the load re­stricted to 315 tons tare. This com­pares with the 82 min­utes pass to pass re­quired by the stream­lined trains be­fore the war to keep their 127‑minute tim­ing from the King’s Cross to Don­caster pass, and this with a load of 278 tons tare. The ob­ser­va­tion car was only added in the sum­mer, mak­ing the load 319 tons. So why did the A1 Trust al­low Tor­nado to take a load of 12 car­riages, of 417 tons tare, on the ‘Ebor Flyer’, with tim­ings equal to those of the pre‑war stream­lined trains? This was four coaches more, or a 50% over­load, which­ever way you like to put it, based on pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence. From the mid‑1950s, it be­came nec­es­sary to ac­cel­er­ate the East Coast timetable to com­pete with road and air com­pe­ti­tion. The man­ager in charge of the line was the ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tor G.F. Fi­ennes, who ex­horted his team of the need to re­duce jour­ney times and pro­claimed the faster you go, the cheaper you go – and for the need for no less than 3,000 horse­power ‘un­der the bon­net’. How­ever, hav­ing re­viewed all the op­tions with his op­er­at­ing and mo­tive power ex­perts, Fi­ennes came to the con­clu­sion that the only way to achieve shorter jour­ney times, un­til Deltics ar­rived, was to re­duce loads to eight or nine car­riages and run more trains hauled by Gres­ley ‘Pacifics’. He did not take the view that he could keep the loads high and use ‘A1s’. There is surely a les­son from ex­pe­ri­ence here for the A1 Trust. Sim­i­larly, in 1978, when BR first al­lowed pre­served steam over the Set­tle to Carlisle line, T.C.B. Miller (then Chief Engi­neer Trac­tion & Rolling Stock BR) wished me good luck, but added ‘do not ex­pect steam to do what diesels and electrics will do’. Th­ese were wise words of ex­pe­ri­ence which are as per­ti­nent to­day as they were 40 years ago. No one should un­der­es­ti­mate the se­ri­ous­ness of the Sandy in­ci­dent. The frac­tured heavy me­chan­i­cal parts which dropped on the line at 90mph could have come to rest un­der the wheels of the train or jammed in a pair of points, caus­ing de­rail­ment. It re­sulted in 2,400 min­utes of de­lay to other trains and nine full or par­tial can­cel­la­tions. Many pas­sen­gers’ days were in­con­ve­nienced or spoilt. Com­pen­sa­tion for train de­lays will have far ex­ceeded the £5,000 cap on char­ter trains’ de­lay penal­ties, with the bal­ance even­tu­ally picked up by the tax­payer. I have al­ready heard it sug­gested that the £5,000 cap should not ap­ply to steam trains run­ning on the prin­ci­pal main lines. If im­posed, it would se­verely re­strict op­er­a­tions be­cause of the dif­fi­culty of ob­tain­ing in­surance for the higher risk. It is also a se­ri­ous black mark against pre­served steam lo­co­mo­tive own­ers gen­er­ally, who will suf­fer if there is any tight­en­ing up of the rules of op­er­a­tion. I sug­gest the A1 Trust can achieve its ob­jec­tive of a rea­son­able jour­ney time to York by us­ing diesel or elec­tric lo­co­mo­tives one way and us­ing a wa­ter car­rier to elim­i­nate stops for wa­ter the other. 90mph is not nec­es­sary to achieve an ac­cept­able vis­it­ing time in York. It should, in the­ory, re­duce the load by three or four car­riages and in turn in­crease the fare per pas­sen­ger by around £30; ir­re­spec­tive of the in­creased risk from the higher speed and the higher main­te­nance costs. The type of wa­ter car­rier used by Tyseley ac­com­mo­dates 3,000 gal­lons and this should not re­quire re­duc­ing the pay­load by more than one car­riage, bear­ing in mind the weight re­duces as the wa­ter is con­sumed and a to­tal of 8,500 gal­lons should be suf­fi­cient for a jour­ney from King’s Cross to York with­out re­plen­ish­ing en route. Per­for­mance ad­dicts will not like this sug­ges­tion, but they are very much a mi­nor­ity mar­ket and their spe­cialised re­quire­ments for high speed should not be agreed to the detri­ment of safety.

[‘A1s’] WERE ONLY AL­LO­CATED TO WORK HIGH-SPEED TRAINS IN EMER­GEN­CIES DAVID WARD

I doubt whether many of them have been on the foot­plate of a steam lo­co­mo­tive at 90mph and wit­nessed first-hand the in­creased stress on the lo­co­mo­tive and on the foot­plate crew. The A1 Trust’s plans for com­ple­tion of the ‘P2’ fol­lowed by build­ing a new Ban­tam Cock, the con­struc­tion of a pur­pose­built de­pot at Dar­ling­ton, and a set of mod­ern car­riages is surely the best way for­ward and the one most likely to suc­ceed. David Ward, former di­rec­tor of BR Spe­cial Trains, by email A1 Trust Op­er­a­tions Di­rec­tor Graeme Bunker re­sponds: David’s com­ments are made be­fore in­ves­ti­ga­tions have been con­cluded into the in­ci­dent, in­clud­ing our in­de­pen­dent re­port from First Class Part­ner­ships, so clearly we have not yet had a chance to di­gest and im­ple­ment rec­om­men­da­tions yet to be made to us. Tor­nado was built with the in­ten­tion that it could run be­yond the cur­rent 75mph his­toric steam speed limit. It is fit­ted with roller bear­ings, en­hanced light­ing and other en­hance­ments as part of that am­bi­tion. The ECML is also a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion to the 1950s, be­ing all con­tin­u­ously welded rail, and key speed lim­its like the 20mph at Peter­bor­ough sta­tion re­moved. The last pas­sen­ger run of the class in BR ser­vice achieved over 100mph, demon­strat­ing that the ‘A1’ was one of the best of ECML ex­press pas­sen­ger de­signs. David is right that the lo­co­mo­tives were pre­ferred on the heav­ier trains, and were re­mark­ably ef­fi­cient when run­ning them, but they were quite happy run­ning in the 80s and when re­quired a lit­tle faster, and that is all we have con­sid­ered is rea­son­able to ask of Tor­nado. The train on April 14 was 12 ve­hi­cles of Mk 1 and Mk 2 de­sign. The in­clu­sion of the Mk 2s meant a need for an ETH sup­ply and there­fore a gen­er­a­tor car was in­cluded, rais­ing the train from 11 to 12 car­riages. How­ever, the eight Mk 2s in the con­sist are lighter and on ‘B4’ bo­gies com­pared to the heav­ier Com­mon­wealth type, and thus the over­all weight of the train is not at great vari­a­tion to a full Mk 1 train. In 2013, ‘A4’ Bit­tern ran well with 11 ve­hi­cles on its last 90mph run, and on Tor­nado’s trial run in 2017, it was run­ning with a higher load than April 14 and cruised ef­fort­lessly in the 80s (SR466). We would never plan to run a full 13-coach char­ter train set at such speeds, but we also only timed the train to need to run in the 80s on the favourable stretches of the ECML. If Tor­nado had not ex­ceeded 82mph, and made mea­sured climbs of Stoke Bank, then all the pass­ing times would still have been achieved. At the time of the fail­ure the lo­co­mo­tive was only be­ing asked to pro­duce 1,150hp; well in­side its ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The 90mph fig­ure, in some ways, is a red her­ring, as we do not set out to en­sure we achieve that speed. Our in­tent is to be as ef­fi­cient and as ef­fec­tive as pos­si­ble. For ex­am­ple, if we can achieve a four-hour York sched­ule through Net­work Rail’s strate­gic char­ter paths ini­tia­tive, then the max­i­mum speed is some­what ir­rel­e­vant. Speed for speed’s sake is not what we are seek­ing and if we cover the ground too fast it is not the re­lax­ing day out that most pas­sen­gers pre­fer. In the cor­rect place, wa­ter car­ri­ers have their uses, as Vin­tage Trains demon­strates to great ef­fect. How­ever, with Tor­nado hav­ing a range of around 115 miles on one ten­der of wa­ter (de­pend­ing on the route/di­a­gram) there are lit­tle or no tim­ing ben­e­fits for us on the ECML. If run­ning to York from Lon­don there is no way a steam char­ter at sen­si­ble times of the day won’t get looped and that cre­ates a wa­ter stop, so the weight penalty of a wa­ter car­rier isn’t jus­ti­fied. We are con­sid­er­ing wa­ter car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity in our own train, but this is more about re­li­a­bil­ity of sup­ply than speed­ing up of trains. I am pleased to see David’s sup­port for our own plans for the ‘P2’ and ‘V4’. With a ded­i­cated train, the of­fer should be at­trac­tive and com­men­su­rate with run­ning steam in the 21st cen­tury. For this, we are grate­ful of his sup­port and look for­ward to wel­com­ing him on board.

SIN­IS­TER AND FRIGHT­EN­ING

Ha­worth’s 1940s event is run not by the Keigh­ley & Worth Val­ley Rail­way, but a group of lo­cal peo­ple, with the aim of bring­ing sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic ben­e­fit to the vil­lage. A mil­i­tary char­ity al­ways ben­e­fits too. Re­gret­tably, there were grow­ing num­bers of peo­ple at­tend­ing in Ger­man uni­forms and, to make mat­ters worse, many bore SS in­signia. A few years ago, my wife and I walked up Main Street dur­ing an event to be con­fronted by a man dressed in an SS ma­jor’s uni­form, drip­ping in black and sil­ver, with a dag­ger car­ry­ing the Swastika, strut­ting about slap­ping his rid­ing breeches with a pair of black leather gloves; he clearly loved it and was be­ing en­cour­aged by a num­ber of oth­ers in sim­i­lar at­tire. Fa­mously, the fol­low­ing day, two ‘SS gen­er­als’ were try­ing to ob­tain a drink in the pub at the bot­tom of the street, but be­ing told, po­litely, where to go. Just to be near them was sin­is­ter and quite fright­en­ing. I’m no ‘snowflake’, but th­ese peo­ple are wear­ing the re­galia and, in­ten­tion­ally or not, glo­ri­fy­ing a regime that worked en­tirely on the prin­ci­ple that ‘might is right’, and which en­gi­neered a war that killed tens of mil­lions of peo­ple. It sys­tem­at­i­cally and in­dus­tri­ally killed over ten mil­lion peo­ple, not as a re­sult of con­flict, but as a pol­icy and pur­pose of state. It says a great deal about the rea­sons why Bri­tain fought them, that we do not ban such dress by law, but then we are not them and our na­tion does not thrive on force. Af­ter an ap­palling in­ci­dent at an­other rail­way in­volv­ing a Jewish fam­ily, the mes­sage seems to have come home that there were never any bat­tles on Bri­tish soil, so any ‘re-en­act­ments’ have no his­tor­i­cal value what­ever (SR480). The Civil War, on the other hand, did hap­pen here, so com­par­isons are wholly in­valid. David Pear­son, Ha­worth

BAN IS DIC­TA­TO­RIAL

Sorry, but I think that Nick Bro­drick’s re­sponse to David Mel­lor’s letter com­pletely misses the point (SR480). Ev­ery­one with a mod­icum of com­mon sense knows that the English Civil War was fought in Eng­land, but the only ref­er­ence to the Ger­man and Nazi uni­forms is in films, tele­vi­sion and books. It is good that peo­ple have ac­cess to th­ese uni­forms and that they wear them at events. If peo­ple think that th­ese uni­forms were seen in com­bat in the UK then the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has failed mis­er­ably. If the wear­ing of th­ese uni­forms prompts ques­tions and thus knowl­edge then this is good. I am 76 and am often ap­palled by the lack of knowl­edge of the so-called ex­perts who are sadly lack­ing in his­tor­i­cal knowl­edge of the 19th cen­tury and thus often speak a load of rub­bish. Ban­ning Ger­man and Nazi uni­forms is dic­ta­to­rial and wrong. Let the pub­lic de­cide through re­ceipts at NYMR and other events. In case you did not know, Ru­dolph Hess, when he sur­ren­dered, was wear­ing full Nazi uni­form in Scot­land and Eng­land. Gor­don Walker, Jar­row

LACK OF RE­SPECT

As a rail­way vol­un­teer of 51 years and also the son of a Sec­ond World War Seafire pi­lot and a WREN, I feel I need to com­ment on the uni­form de­bate. Most Sec­ond World Warthemed events that I see at rail­ways seem to be on the theme of a fun day out: that’s what the Sec­ond World War was all about, wasn’t it? All jit­ter­bug­ging, Jeeps and com­i­cal Dad’s Army or ’Allo ’Allo-type fun. Well, no it wasn’t. As we re­ally know, it was a dread­ful pe­riod in his­tory when huge num­bers of peo­ple died hor­ri­ble deaths. I have yet to see any re-en­ac­tors at rail­ways who in any way dis­play any ac­cu­racy in what they present. Most seem to be peo­ple who have never got over play­ing at war in the play­ground and are now hav­ing a bit of fun in a con­trived uni­form. What is next? Com­edy con­cen­tra­tion camp de­por­ta­tions with striped out­fit­ted peo­ple be­ing herded into ex-BR fruit vans? We need to re­mem­ber what hap­pened to re­mind peo­ple not to let it hap­pen again, but pre­sent­ing it as a fam­ily fun day out is not the way. Let’s move on. 1950s and 1960s-themed events, maybe? Mike Gott, Hor­wich, Bolton

NAZIS HAULED BY AN ‘L1’

The state­ment that Ger­man sol­diers [other than POWs] were never on main­land Bri­tain is not to­tally cor­rect. In April 1936, the Ger­man am­bas­sador to Bri­tain, Leopold Von Hoesch, died sud­denly. Much re­spected by the Bri­tish for his ef­forts to pro­mote An­gloGer­man re­la­tions and peace in Europe, as well as out­spo­ken views about the Nazi regime, his repa­tri­a­tion to Ger­many was an ex­tra­or­di­nary af­fair. The Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties ar­ranged, on April 15 1936, an al­most semi-royal fu­neral cortège from the em­bassy to Vic­to­ria sta­tion, ac­com­pa­nied by Bri­tish troops and po­lit­i­cal fig­ures, as well as one of our reg­i­men­tal bands. Also present in the cortège were Ger­man troops in full uni­form and, as the cortège left the em­bassy, Nazi salutes were given. Von Hoesch’s cof­fin was draped in the Nazi flag, which he would have ab­horred, given his op­po­si­tion to Hitler’s poli­cies. At Vic­to­ria a spe­cial train, headed by SR ‘L1’ 4-4-0 No. 1756, was wait­ing to con­vey his body to Dover where the de­stroyer HMS Scout was wait­ing to take Von Hoesch across the North Sea to Wil­helmshaven. Peter Clark, Brom­ley, Kent

IT SAYS A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE REA­SONS WHY BRI­TAIN FOUGHT THEM, THAT WE DO NOT BAN SUCH DRESS BY LAW

RAIL AR­CHIVE STEPHEN­SON

The lightly loaded ex­presses of the pre-war era are epit­o­mised in this view of ‘A4’ No. 4492 Do­min­ion of New Zealand haul­ing the eight-coach ‘Sil­ver Ju­bilee’ in 1938.

ALAMY

A replica Spit­fire is dis­played in the streets of Ha­worth.

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