How good was Gresley?

This forum is for the discussion of LNER personalities, and for use by people researching their ancestors.

Moderators: 52D, Rlangham, Atlantic 3279, Blink Bonny, Saint Johnstoun, richard, Tom F

Mark Wilson
GNR J52 0-6-0T
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:53 pm

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by Mark Wilson » Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:54 pm

The replies above seem to me to be as informative in what they say about the respondents as what they say about Gresley. I'd suggest that the first question seems to be, can we agree on what makes a good CME?

User avatar
S.A.C. Martin
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 2007
Joined: Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:11 pm

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by S.A.C. Martin » Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:15 pm

60041 wrote:Things have been quiet on the forum for a bit, so I thought that I would liven it up with the question: "How good was Gresley?"
The recent failure of 60009 on a special working, and the discussion on these pages about the shortcomings of the J39 made me wonder how good an engineer he actually was. The mechanical weaknesses of his 3 cylinder designs (particularly the conjugated valve gear) are well known, but other designs such as the W1, J39, K4 and V4 also had problems. The A1/A3 design needed modification before it showed it's true potential.
There is no doubt that he produced some of the most beautiful locomotives ever built, but how good was the engineering?
I'm not sure such a small sample of Gresley's locomotives is a fair comparison as to how good a designer he was.

When he started as C.M.E of the GNR, he had many locomotives in the GNR's possession which required either outright replacing or extensive rebuilding, and he managed both producing wholly successful goods engines such as (off the top of my head) the J6s, the superfluous J50 tank engine, the 01/02/03 freight engines, some of which were rebuilt by Thompson, but the vast majority of the Gresley design engines carried on in service for well over forty years. That's before we take into account the performances of his pacifics and other experiments.

If we are talking about how good a CME can be, it should be that we look at every aspect of his designs, not just the express locomotives but the workhorses. And I do believe Gresley was a great engineer - some of his best designs in my opinion, are the ones which very little is recorded of them, but for what is recorded, minor modifications including cutting down in height perhaps, little seems to go wrong if the engines are well looked after.

Which is something which could be applied to any, and all, locomotive engineers. Did their designs, when properly maintained, offer an adequate or better service to the companies which owned them? That in my eyes, is the question that should be asked.

As an aside, I have always wondered whether the "Ivatt Pacific" design of 1915 of Gresley's actually had more of an influence on the final Gresley A1 Pacific design - the two share total wheelbase length, driving wheel diameter and spacing, after all. The differences seem to be largely in cab, boiler and cylinder arrangement. (See C.J. Allen's "British Pacific Locomotives" for the 1915 drawing).

Captain Cuttle
LNER J94 0-6-0ST Austerity
Posts: 35
Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:11 pm

Re:

Post by Captain Cuttle » Thu Jul 14, 2011 2:44 pm

CVR1865 wrote: The A4's were known for reliability in pre WW2 days and the damage to the components caused by the grit of reduced maintenance along with heavier loads in WW2 mean that their later problems can perhaps be traced back to this common cause. To criticize Gresley in the light of these uncontrollable events is very tough going on one of the greatest mechanical engineers of the 20th century.
That's an interesting point. Are there any books or articles comparing wartime performances of locos from different companies? V2s performed excellently, from the accounts I've read, despite their "high maintenance" conjugated valve gear.

I'd like to take a look at any literature.

User avatar
coachmann
GCR D11 4-4-0 'Improved Director'
Posts: 487
Joined: Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:52 pm

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by coachmann » Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:11 pm

While LNER mechanics worked hard to keep locos in traffic, LNER officials must have been looking wistfully at the SR S15's, GWR Halls, and LMS 8F's and Black Fives and wondering what they could do about No.1 continually installing conjugated gear when two cylinders would have been better. The SR must have felt the same when meddler No.2 was installed on their premises in 1938 and started to show his colors.

As for Peppercorn being the postwar savior of LNER loco design, how can one tell when he only designed a 2-6-0 and two Pacific's. It was Thompson that gave the LNER its very own Black Five, built the precursors of Peppercorn's classes and extended the life of numerous other classes.

( :P )
Last edited by coachmann on Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jwealleans
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 3645
Joined: Wed Oct 25, 2006 8:46 am

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by jwealleans » Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:27 pm

I'm not going to pick a fight, Larry, because I think these threads are largely pointless and don't change anybody's mind. I am interested in whether there are any comparable availability or frequency of overhaul/mileage between heavy repair figures to prove or deny that thesis.

To nail my colours to the mast let's not forget that Silver Link ran the Silver Jubilee every day for three weeks without failure before the next A4 was ready. Let's not forget either that the origin of the conjugated gear was in Germany - can anyone comment knowledgeably on their experience with it?
While LNER mechanics worked hard to keep locos in traffic
They could always have gone to the LMS and worked on overheated bearings on Derby 4s?

Spamcan81
LNER N2 0-6-2T
Posts: 60
Joined: Sat Dec 12, 2009 7:10 pm
Location: Bedfordshire
Contact:

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by Spamcan81 » Thu Jul 14, 2011 6:15 pm

Also remember that some of the A4's best work came in their later years and they were able to match the diesel diagrams of the day.

DaveF
NBR J36 0-6-0
Posts: 117
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 3:22 pm
Location: Northumberland
Contact:

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by DaveF » Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:17 pm

If I remember correctly Gresley's conjugated valve gear was very similar to a design by Holcroft, of the GWR and later Southern. There is a discussion of it in Holcroft's books, published many years ago by Ian Allan.

Also Gresley was avoiding the maintenance problem of a third set of valve gear which would have been between the frames on a three cylinder engine.

As for not making modifications to designs presumably thought would have been given to the cost of changes compared to the improvement in availability. During the late twenties and thirties traffic levels dropped greatly, there would hardly have been a shortage of locos!

In terms of failures and loco availability has much changed today? Performance figures show enormous variation between classes (and even operators).

As for Bulleid I seem to remember being told that some of his wartime "innovations" were dictated by problems of sourcing materials, including aspects of his valve gear design on his pacifics.
You may enjoy my photos which have now moved to flickr from the sadly missed fotopic.

They can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidwf2009/

kudu
GCR O4 2-8-0 'ROD'
Posts: 571
Joined: Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:34 am

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by kudu » Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:15 pm

DaveF wrote:If I remember correctly Gresley's conjugated valve gear was very similar to a design by Holcroft, of the GWR and later Southern. There is a discussion of it in Holcroft's books, published many years ago by Ian Allan.
And if I remember correctly, Gresley's original version of conjugated gear was an over-elaborate affair and it was Holcroft that showed Gresley how to do it. Not that we should hold that against Gresley. ("Good artists copy, great artists steal" - Picasso.)

And Maunsell also used Holcroft's conjugated gear on his early N1s and the K1 (River Frome), but abandoned it later.

Kudu

n2-4744
NER Y7 0-4-0T
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:49 pm

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by n2-4744 » Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:57 pm

well it has to said thompsons designs were not 100% he is only really known for his b1 4-6-0 and l1 2-6-4t ,gresley did mess up a little but look at the legacy he left

User avatar
60800
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 2316
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2011 5:41 pm
Location: N-Lincolnshire
Contact:

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by 60800 » Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:35 pm

Gresley left behind the most perfectly proportioned and best looking locos with the most beautiful sounds eminating from thier cylinders at full clap and with the perfect whistles to match. You can say that about the GWR's Kings and Castles too, but you certainly can't say that about many other non-LNER designs.

EDIT: Gresley perfection http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq316odf_Sk
36C - Based out of 50H and 36F

User avatar
Blink Bonny
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 3946
Joined: Mon Dec 03, 2007 9:21 pm
Location: The Midlands
Contact:

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by Blink Bonny » Wed Jan 11, 2012 12:04 am

Ay up!

Gresley's engines weren't perfect but then nobody's were! The looks - can't argue there. "Gresley Good Looks" is almost a cliche! The sounds when in good nick were excellent but check out the Transacord recordings of knackered V2s on the Waverley route! That conjugated gear needed quite a bit of maintenance, but then when Gresley and Holcroft designed it, nobody expected a little Bavarian corporal to plunge the world into war, did they?

Were Thompson and later Peppercorn simply reacting to the perceived likelyhood of decent fitters becoming thin on the ground? Certainly Peppercorn saw the major fault with the Thompson Pacifics and cured it.

Having said that, if the Thompson Pacifics been as bad as it has been suggested they were, wouldn't they either have been withdrawn very quickly or been rebuilt?
If I ain't here, I'm in Bilston, scoffing decent chips at last!!!!

User avatar
2002EarlMarischal
LNER A3 4-6-2
Posts: 1402
Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:18 pm
Location: Burbage

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by 2002EarlMarischal » Sat Mar 31, 2012 8:40 am

I believe there is a saying that "if it looks right, it is right". We should also remember whose locomotives are the most famous and the best at pulling in the crowds even now.

I'm a lucky boy today - off to Salisbury Hall at London Colney and the De Havilland Museum in my capacity as a director of the newly formed Flying Mosquito Trust. Of course there is little wonder that the "Wooden Wonder" was designed there during WW2. After all it was SNG's home during the 1930's and this will not have been lost on the marvellous team that came up with the beautiful Mosquito. :D

User avatar
Blink Bonny
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 3946
Joined: Mon Dec 03, 2007 9:21 pm
Location: The Midlands
Contact:

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by Blink Bonny » Sat Mar 31, 2012 11:45 am

Ay up!

EM, I envy you! The Mossie is my favourite plane and I only saw one flying low once. It had beetling about over Dewsbury for a week or two following restoration to flying condition then, on the last day, "beat up" the town well and truly. A bomber/PR airframe (my fave" :D ) painted PR blue. Oh, the sweet song of those Merlins!

It had been sold to the USA and later crashed at an airshow, killing the two pilots. And thus ended the last High Performance Piston Twin trainer.

Can I thumb a lift? :mrgreen:
If I ain't here, I'm in Bilston, scoffing decent chips at last!!!!

User avatar
2002EarlMarischal
LNER A3 4-6-2
Posts: 1402
Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:18 pm
Location: Burbage

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by 2002EarlMarischal » Sat Mar 31, 2012 7:54 pm

Blink Bonny wrote:Ay up!

EM, I envy you! The Mossie is my favourite plane and I only saw one flying low once. It had beetling about over Dewsbury for a week or two following restoration to flying condition then, on the last day, "beat up" the town well and truly. A bomber/PR airframe (my fave" :D ) painted PR blue. Oh, the sweet song of those Merlins!

It had been sold to the USA and later crashed at an airshow, killing the two pilots. And thus ended the last High Performance Piston Twin trainer.

Can I thumb a lift? :mrgreen:
Next time BB - why not! :)

SNG's former home looks well looked after though sadly not open to the public:
[95] Salisbury Hall.JPG
Here's the Mosquito B35 next door in the De Havilland Museum which also has the prototype (in bits) and a fighter version:
[96] Mosquito B35.JPG
The story goes that SNG named Mallard after the ducks swimming around his moat! :)

User avatar
60800
LNER A4 4-6-2 'Streak'
Posts: 2316
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2011 5:41 pm
Location: N-Lincolnshire
Contact:

Re: How good was Gresley?

Post by 60800 » Sat Mar 31, 2012 7:58 pm

Blink Bonny wrote:It had been sold to the USA
Are you sure BB?

I was told on a visit to the BBMF that they had bought it and had a space ready for it behind the lanc's starboard wing. It crashed about two weeks before they were due to take delivery.
36C - Based out of 50H and 36F

Post Reply