Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

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S.A.C. Martin
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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by S.A.C. Martin » Mon Dec 26, 2011 2:08 pm

Blink Bonny wrote:Ay up!

Thanks to Hatfield Shed and S A C Martin for those most illuminating descriptions of just why the L1s failed to meet expectations.

You are both Officers and Gentlemen, sirs. :mrgreen:
I fear it's all Hatfield, actually! I have said very little of use. Thanks due to Hatfield for such insights.

It's interesting regarding the "unobtanium" problem regarding locomotive design. When I was studying aeronautical engineering at Loughborough, prior to my English degree, we had a section which looked specifically at materials engineering, and the cost against strength against usage debate always threw up an interesting debate, particularly regarding turbine blades.

One wonders what might have been, had Thompson not had the circumstances of war, to affect both his decision making and designs.

One thing is clear to me - they may not have been the best Pacific locomotives in Britain, when compared to that which came after them, but the Thompson Pacific designs were not troublesome in the same way that we had the best part of a decade's worth of development with the Bulleid Pacifics. It is interesting to compare the two mindsets and see the sheer number of reported failures, in different areas of one design, compared to the other, which have relatively little in the way of recorded problems, but are detested purely on the basis of their designer.

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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by enterprise » Mon Dec 26, 2011 6:14 pm

As a young fireman at Neasden 34E I fired the L1 0n locals on many occassions. I think Neasden had more of them than almost any other depot. On the whole they were good steamers and easy to fire. The trick was that if you did get one that was difficult then the answer was a thin fire all over the box. With regards to their mechanical problems, my driver put it down to all the weight of the motions being supported by the single slide bar. Certainly the first thing we checked at the end of each run was the slide bar bolts, two at one end and four at the other. I did fire the A5 and they were grand engines, I was always getting a rollocking off my mate for putting too much coal at the front of the box. 'How many times do I have to tell you, mate? Don't put it up the front, put it behind the door!
Wonderful times,
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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by Blink Bonny » Tue Dec 27, 2011 4:13 am

Ay up!

The Bulleids (a favourite of mine, I have to admit) really were ahead of their time. Just think of the improvements made to the design using modern sealing techniques and materiels to fashion the chains from. In their original form they used more lube oil than the Crompton type 3 diesels used for fuel!

Maybe Bullied shoudl have been sent to a running shed as part of his Apprenticeship like Gresley was. But here I digress.
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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by enterprise » Tue Dec 27, 2011 12:15 pm

May I wish all members a very happy new year? May you always have plenty of steam and water in the boiler during the coming year!
Enterprise (34E)

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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by strang steel » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:23 pm

strang steel wrote: And obviously a very brave man; who else would have dared tackle the expense of the P2s? 96lbs of coal a mile? I just hope the enthusiasts who are considering building a new one will take that into account when they do their sums.
Although nothing to do with Thompson, I thought 96lbs a mile was excessive but am now reading about the P1s and they consumed 150lbs a mile :shock:
according to part6B of the RCTS books.

Given that there are 2240lbs in a ton (UK version), that is one ton of coal every 15 miles.
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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by S.A.C. Martin » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:27 pm

150lbs a mile :shock:

What, regularly?!

How can a locomotive with the standard 180lb A1 boiler be such a miner's friend? :?

There again, I suppose (not knowing the prototype very well, forgive me if this is said in error), not having the superheater headers nor increased pressure to 220lb as well as the changes to the safety valves that the A3s had may have contributed to the coal consumption?

Makes the P2s' reputed high coal consumption look acceptable.

Although to be fair Strang, how was it that the P1s survived to 1945, though Edward Thompson's reign? They might have been better off being rebuilt as A3s (though the LNER re-used the boilers and tenders for A3s and B1s which I suppose is not a million miles from amounting to the same thing?)

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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by strang steel » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:47 pm

It would seem that the 150lb/mile figure comes from a dynamometer car trial which was to assess the effectiveness of the booster. It would appear that the booster required cut off to be 50% against the normal 35%, and a compromise was reached of 45% and full regulator.

Given that the trailing load approximated to about 1600 tons, and that speeds rarely exceeded 30mph, I suppose that it is not quite as bad as it seems.
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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by S.A.C. Martin » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:59 pm

Ah, I see. That is a different kettle of fish.

Does rather put rather pointedly the idea that locomotives operate differently according to the conditions they were operated under.

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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by strang steel » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:20 am

This may give a clue to the reason why Thompson did not immediately take the locos out of service. Given their relatively high haulage capacity and the lower overall speeds during wartime, maybe he thought they would be useful doing what they did best on coal trips to the capital, and therefore freeing up other freight locomotives for the many extra trains that were needed?

This is pure conjecture, mind you.
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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by S.A.C. Martin » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:28 am

That makes a lot of sense.

One thing which doesn't to me - could anyone explain what evidence there is, that Edward Thompson ever had any affinity with the NER, aside from marrying the daughter of Sir Vincent Raven?

I cannot see that marriage into the Raven family would have given Thompson any affinity with the NER, particularly after 1912-1923 with the GNR and 1923-46 with the LNER?

This seems to be the only argument and doesn't fit in particularly with anything Thompson did in his years of engineering.

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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by Bristoliana » Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:26 pm

Good point, SAC Martin, and something I have always wondered about.

Based on the very limited information available by a 10minute search on the web (particularly looking at the steamindex website which effectively provides a potted but somewhat random digest of different texts from different sources), you have to say there is very little that would portray Thompson as emphatically an 'NER man', rather than as someone who liked Raven personally and married his daughter.

To summarise:

- Thompson worked for other companies including the NER in his early career (I believe he was employed at Derby for the MR)
- His longest pre-LNER employment was on the GNR as Carriage and Wagon Superintendant
- During the LNER period, Thompson worked at Stratford and at Doncaster, and never specifically at Darlington
- Thompson is apparently on record as stating that Raven's knowledge of locomotive engineering specifics was poor; he also disliked many features of NER practice.
- Many people have previously pointed out that Thompson was heavily influenced by Stanier and Churchward in certan matters (divided drive); yes, his cylinder layout is unlike Gresley's , but it is also not particularly like Raven's. It seems instead to be an attempt to fuse together GWR and LNER practice.
- Raven avoided NER types in creating 'standard' types by rebuilding; he seems to have much preferred GCR types.

I'm drawn heavily towards the conclusion that Thompson was not a left-over NER survivor enacting grisly revenge on the hated GNR-man Gresley, he was in fact the first true fully 'LNER' man to come to the helm; in that he had experience across most of the new company and he attempted a fusions of practice that would draw on both pregrouping and post-grouping experience.

I say nothing about whether what he did was a good idea or whether he was successful, but I've always thought that to portray Thompson as the somehow the aggrieved heir of Raven was a bit far-fetched at best, and at worst was naked pre-grouping prejudice from Gresley's sypathisers among the design staff.

But it does leave the lingering idea that something went wrong at a senior management level on the LNER in the 40s to have engendered and been unable to diffuse such a personalised, divsive atmosphere.

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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by S.A.C. Martin » Wed Jan 11, 2012 3:12 pm

If I may venture a further theory; there is one locomotive which encompasses the design ethos of two railway companies, but which is almost always decried, dismissed, or vilified to the extent that it was supposedly to the detriment of the LNER and a slight on Gresley. But I will come back to that shortly.

Thompson spent most of his working life on the GNR and LNER. If he did not have an appreciation of the GNR and the locomotives/rolling stock it had, then I would argue that, like Stanier, he could have gone into the job, "wiped the slate clean" and started with a completely blank piece of paper, producing locomotive designs based on practice from elsewhere. Like Stanier, no standardized designs in the sense that they all shared a vast amount of interchangeable between many classes instead of a few.

Yet Thompson's reign is almost solely based on using and utilizing as many existing and standardized components to produce adequate and standardized designs. Some of his locomotives, the L1 for example, could be argued used too many standardized components and produced a locomotive class which was not entirely up to the task, but the fact remains that all of his rebuilds and new builds utilized already existing locomotive classes and specific components.

The Pacifics, A2/1 and A2/2, used already existing locomotives and components from specific classes to produce new designs. He rebuilt a D49 into the D class engine by using D11 components. Of that particular experiment, no more were rebuilt in that manner, but the Q4 tender engines were rebuilt into the useful Q1s and using mostly J50 components to that end.

The B1s and rebuilt B17s, the B2s, all shared common components and a case in point, the almost standard Thompson 100A boiler was used across a variety of rebuilds of various classes after in many respects, the ideas being tested out on the B12/4s and B12/3s in the 30s whilst working at Stratford.

So where did this policy of standardization come from? Having worked on the GNR and LNER where Gresley’s designs certainly had a degree of standardization, but not to the extent of the GWR, for example, Thompson’s policies are certainly a world away from Gresley’s thinking and most people would argue are a result of austerity during the second world war. On that point, I would not doubt there is a degree of that in there, however something clicked with me yesterday when I was reading about another locomotive engineer, and suddenly it all made sense.

Thompson was not influenced in his design policy by the NER in any way. It was predominantly GER.

Both in terms of the overall style of the aesthetics of his engines, and in the standardized components between classes, Thompson was a GER man through and through, and the evidence lies in that sole A1/1 locomotive, Great Northern, which also serves as a case in point as to why he kept both the name and the number of the prototype intact despite the “rebuild”.

Thompson served at Stratford works for eleven years from 1930-41 as the workshop manager. He had access to, and indeed worked on, a vast majority of the James Holden locomotive designs. He led the design team which helped Gresley rebuild the Stephen Holden B12s, and there’s little doubt that he observed studiously the lengths to which Holden Senior had standardized his locomotive fleet in terms of particular components. The Holden D14 (later rebuilt by Gresley as the D16/3 – and who had access to the D16s for these rebuilds?), for example, shared boilers with the J17 0-6-0s. Cylinder sizes were also reused between similar Holden machines.

James Holden’s policies are quoted as being “[he] developed T.W. Worsdell's designs, but also incorporated a high level of standardisation. Many parts on his locomotives were interchangeable”.

Is this any different to Thompson’s approach to Gresley?

But the most damning piece of evidence for me is Great Northern. If Thompson really disliked Gresley, in such a manner that he would have seen fit to remove all of Gresley’s designs from the planet – then scrapping 4470 and not replacing it, nor perpetrating the name would have been the obvious, most brutal revenge on a man he hated.

But he did not hate Gresley. They disagreed, vociferously: there was no doubt some level of resentment and Thompson clearly did not take very well to being slapped down by Gresley on occasion (see the D20 rebuild for full details).

He would not have taken on the Great Northern name if he had truly hated Gresley – after all, the GNR WAS Gresley. Great Northern, 4470, WAS Gresley. And in one engine, we actually see the evidence of a man who thought in the same manner as James Holden – “It is good, but I can do better” – and “I will standardize locomotive components for ease of maintenance”.

This was why he rebuilt 4470, and but not why he kept the name. Clearly he too, had love of the GNR, though undoubtedly it could be argued that the board’s reaction to scrapping an engine of such high standing in history would have been adversarial at best.

I had always wondered for many years – WHY Great Eastern Prussian blue on Great Northern – but now I think I know why.

The above is not evidence, it is at best circumstantial, but I believe – because it makes perfect sense to me – that Edward Thompson had an affinity with the work done by James Holden on the GER.

His own engineering policies and designs echoed Holden in so many ways that I have begun writing down the parallels, and there are many. The choice of livery on 4470, if not proof, is a symbol of his thinking.

It is a symbol of all of his work at Stratford, surrounded by GER locomotives and people of GER thinking. His locomotive designs, undoubtedly born out of the principles of engineering he saw on a daily basis for eleven years. The D Class model I have been working on has been described as “GER” like now by nearly a dozen different people on various forums – coincidence, or deliberate in Edward Thompson’s engineering? The development of a go anywhere, powerful 4-6-0 – was the B1 not simply a B12 re-envisioned?

More and more I believe that Edward Thompson has been damned, and misunderstood entirely, and in this sudden realization that there may be a collation between his tenure with the LNER as CME and that he experienced at Stratford in the 30s, the unusual choice of livery for Great Northern seems explainable, as does the rest of his thinking.

There is no doubt his engineering was a world away from Gresley’s, but crucially he did not think so little of Gresley that the major layouts of the locomotives and big engine policy changed so drastically as has been described; nor do I think Thompson was so vile and twisted that he chose 4470 out of spite.

4470’s rebuilding was the “peak” for Thompson – his 6ft 8in express passenger locomotive, incorporating his engineering policy (taken thusly from Holden’s practice on the GER), but keeping the fundamentals of the GNR – the bits which worked (sic), hence the livery – hence the keeping of the name, and hence the choice of THAT engine.

Do I have evidence for his thinking? No. Not yet. I do not have the evidence. It is, as stated earlier, mostly circumstantial and joined up thinking. Is it more plausible than Thompson as an NER sympathizer? I think so, but that does not make it any more relevant than previous thoughts.

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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by Blink Bonny » Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:09 pm

Ay up!

True enough, Simon. The only evidence that I have seen put forward as to ET's Darlington tendencies is his use of quadrant curves rather than the Gresley style "S" surves wherever possible.

I have also learned something about GER engines which, although I recognised them as such for years, knew little about other than they were painted blue.

Your theories re ET hold water. I'll have a think about this.
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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by mick b » Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:53 pm

Sadly I dont think the "truth" will ever be known

I can see your point re Great Northern but you can also argue the following

Great Northern at the time of its rebuild was not the only Gresley pacific in the same clapped out condition. It is too much of a coincidence that Thompson picked this Loco for a virtually total rebuild. He could have picked another loco hardly any comment would have been made by anyone and just treated as another pacific. But instead chop Great Northern show everybody who is boss and leave his workforce in turmoil. He clearly never got on with his drawing office who sat on his designs until he retired at which most were binned and Peppercorn brought out the superb A1 and A2. Remember Peppercorn was CME for less than 2 years and managed to bring out two pacific designs in such a short period. How ? because most of the design work had been done without Thompsons knowledge whilcst he was CME.

Thompson saw the oppourtunity to rebuild Great Northern and show everybody in the LNER that he could take a Gresley pacific and create a Thompson pacific that was better. I have no doubt that was one of his primary reasons whether from spite, jealously and just for the hell of it who knows.
Did he achieve his aim ? he produced a better performing Loco yes than the A1/A10 that was only surpassed when the A3's were finally given Kylchap exhausts.
Was it a good design yes and no , the frames extension idea simply did not work as it cracked etc as already mentioned as the other design problems.
He clearly had GCR influences the A1/1 used a GCR regulator amongst his other ideas.

GER Blue cant see anything relating to GER other than the colour. I think it was to make it look different from any other LNER Pacific as was the weird original cab design. Thompson was saying I am the boss look what I can and have done. Once the statement was made it went back to Apple Green and the cab reverted to the normal design. Thompson had made his point.

I find it strange why he did so many rebuilds of various locos. What was he trying to prove? or achieve ?. A lot of the locos were pre grouping designs and by this time getting quite long in the tooth.
As far as I aware none of the rebuilds were any better than the original loco prior to being re built.

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Re: Edward Thompson. Good or Bad

Post by Wildebeest » Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:19 pm

If you would like a good read about ET I'd recommend the book "Edward Thompson of the L.N.E.R." written by Peter Grafton and published by Kestrel Books in 1971 (I was lucky to spot a copy on ebay).

He was and clearly remains a very misunderstood man. Unfortunately, he seems to have been the victim of bad press from a few influential people/journalists/writers who were not or did not want to take a pragmatic view of the difficulties of running a steam railway in wartime and the austerity years that followed. He was also, unlike his predecessor, totally uninterested in self-publicity so he did not bother defending himself from the nonsense that was being spoken or written about him. He knew he had a difficult job and as there was in reality no one else available with his experience of all aspects of reailway matters, he got on with the job in hand to the best of his ability.

ET was a Stratford man as Assistant Mechanical Engineer during the period 1927-33 which may account for his liking for GER blue, and, contrary to earlier thoughts in this thread, he was also a Darlington man as he was Mechanical Engineer for the North Eastern Area 1934-38 and lived in or around Darlington during that period - which is when I got excited!

I'm a Thompson born and brought up in Darlington and although ET and his wife had no children, he did have two brothers so when I saw a photo in Peter Grafton's book of Elton Parade in Darlington, where ET lived when he first moved to Darlington, my memories of my grandparents' large house on Elton Parade immediately jumped to the forefront. Although my father, Christopher Thompson, after serving as a marine engineer with 2 or 3 well known shipping companies, including Blue Star Line, had come ashore to be a humble fitter at Faverdale Wagon Works, his father, Charles Thompson, had, so I was told, been in charge of the breakdown trains in the North Eastern Area.

Eagerly, I researched the family tree and found that....there was absolutely no family connection. My Great Grandfather, John Thompson, had been a blacksmith at North Road Works and Charles had been an apprentice there. That was a bit of let down but still I'm proud of my family's connections with the NER and LNER.

Turning to 4470 "Great Northern", as Peter Grafton relates, a member of ET's team was of the opinion that "Thompson selected it, not so much because in his mind it personnified Gresley and therefore by rebuilding it he was symbolically destroying him, but because he - Thompson - felt that if his ideas and designs were successful, then it was fitting that 4470 should be the first locomotive to embody improvements that were envisaged". In any event, there were apparently only six unrebuilt members of the class remaining so his choice was limited.

It's unfortunate he had a fixation on equal length connecting rods which led to the ungainly appearance of 4470 and ET's other Pacifics but most of the rest of his modifications worked at a practical level. Arthur Peppercorn had an excellent base on which to develop the A1's as can be seen in "Tornado" today.

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