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British Railway History Item


Edward Thompson

He worked in both industry and the railways before being appointed carriage and wagon superintendent of the Great Northern Railway in 1912. This was followed by area Workshop manager of the LNER, mechanical engineer at Stratford Works in 1930 and finally Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London & North Eastern Railway in 1941 upon the sudden death of Sir Nigel Gresley. The personal anamosity between Thompson and Gresley has been the subject of much conjecture in railway circles.

While at Stratford, he successfully rebuilt many of the Great Eastern Class B12 4-6-0s and Class D16 4-4-0s during 1932-3. As CME he had to rectify the wartime problems with Gresley's conjugated valve gear, which resulted in the drastic and expensive rebuilding of these and other engines.

At this time during the war the LNER. possessed more modern large locomotives than the other companies, however it was sadly lacking in modern locomotives to operate its secondary services. A large number of these locomotives were pre-grouping and were wearing out. It was a problem Gresley had appreciated prior to the war when he introduced his V4 2-6-2 locomotives, of which only two were built. They were a succesful but, at the time, a costly solution to the problem. Thompson promptly cancelled an order for a further eight V4s and replaced them with his new B1 4-6-0s. with 6ft 2 in coupled wheels as opposed to the V4's 5ft 8in. The B1 was to be the equivalent of the L.M.S. Class 5 4-6-0 and the Great Western Hall Class.

Thompson outlined a scheme for standardisation even though requirements could have been met by building more of Gresley's Class V2 2-6-2s and O2 2-8-0s. However, Thompson ignored as far as possible any of Gresley's designs and decided on 10 standard classes as well as a number of existing classes would see out their useful lives though some were to be rebuilt.

The 10 standard designs were:

  • A1 4-6-2 Express Passenger : prototype was rebuilt from Gresley's original Class A1 Pacific.
  • A2 4-6-2 Heavy Passenger and Freight : prototype was rebuilt from Gresley's Class P2 2-8-2.
  • B1 4-6-0 General Utility : A new design using standard parts.
  • K1 2-6-0 Mixed Traffic : prototype was rebuilt from Gresley Class K4 2-6-0.
  • O1 2-8-0 Heavy Freight : prototype was rebuilt from Robinson's Class O1 2-8-0.
  • J11 0-6-0 Freight : prototype was rebuilt from GCR Class J11 Pom-Pom.
  • L1 2-6-4TMixed Traffic Tank : New Design.
  • Q1 0-8-0T Heavy Shunting Tank : prototype was rebuilt from GCR Class Q4 0-8-0.
  • J50 0-6-0T Medium Shunting Tank : prototype was rebuilt from GN/LNER Class J50.
  • Light shunting tank possibly ex-NER J72.

Thompson also decided to retain the following classes:

  • A10 4-6-2 Gresley's A1 class to be rebuilt as Class A3.
  • A3 4-6-2 To be retained.
  • A4 4-6-2 To be retained.
  • B17 4-6-0 To be rebuilt with 2 cylinders and reclassified B2.
  • D49 4-4-0 A 2 cylinder example to be rebuilt.
  • B16 4-6-0 Valve gear to be modified.
  • V2 2-6-2 to be retained.
  • V1 and V3 2-6-2T To be retained.
  • K3 2-6-0 To be rebuilt as K5 with 2 cylinders.

Thompsons most successful design was the Class B1 4-6-0 mixed traffic engines from 1942 of which 410 were eventually built. He also designed and constructed steel panelled corridor carriages from 1945, following extensive surveys of public opinion.

In mid 1946 Thompson retired and the post was filled by Arthur H Peppercorn who was a totally different type of person to Thompson. He was very much an admirer of Gresley's work and was succeeding Thompson who was the opposite. The state of maintenance of the existing fleet of locomotives after the war was a worry rather than the design and construction of new locomotives, however as it was known Thompson was to retire new drawings were available for the first of the Peppercorn pacifics which Thompson knew nothing about. Thompson, no doubt, expected the whole 43 of his Class A2/3 pacifics and the 39 Class A1/1 rebuilds would be built. The first decision made by Peppercorn was to restrict the A2/3 Pacifics to 15 examples and the rest to be built to the new design. Similarly the proposed A1 6ft 8in Pacifics were to Peppercorn's new design and building continued into nationalisation.

Last Updated : Friday 14th April 2006 05:48

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