The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3 (July 1, 1933)
Our London Letter
L. and N.E. Express leaving Sheffield for London (Marylebone).
British Railway Improvements.
Slowly improving trade conditions seem to give promise of more prosperous times ahead for the British railways. During the past year or two marked economies have been effected by all the four group systems, but care has been taken throughout to see that the thousand and one items of equipment that go to make up the transportation machine were maintained in first-class condition. Notwithstanding financial difficulties, essential new works and improvements have been undertaken to meet changing public demands and altered transport conditions. At no time in their century-old history have the railways been better equipped for public service.
In the years that have followed the grouping of the British railways, conspicuous improvements have been effected in locomotive development. Heavier trains, run at higher speeds, have everywhere called for more powerful and faster locomotives. New traffic routes, opened out as a result of grouping, have often taxed locomotives to their utmost limit. How well the railways have met changing conditions is illustrated by those wonderful products of the locomotive-designer's art—the “Royal Scot” engines of the London, Midland & Scottish line; the London & North Eastern's Doncaster-built “Pacifics”; the “King” Class machines of the Great Western; and the Southern Railway's magnificent “Lord Nelson” locomotives.
In Britain, rolling-stock of new design is continually being introduced. Almost every time a fresh batch of passenger carriages is built, new and improved standards of travel comfort are set up. Goods wagons, too, are subjected to constant betterment. There are probably no more suitably designed wagons the world over than the 24,000 twenty-tons capacity coal trucks belonging to the British lines.
In the realm of train signalling, in electrification—in every single branch of railway activity—there is apparent the determination of the four group railways to maintain their equipment at concert pitch. When the trade boom does arrive, depend upon it, the British railways will not be found wanting.
Popularising passenger travel is an objective that must never be lost sight of in these days of keen competition. By many, the modern traveller may be regarded as a somewhat pampered individual; the fact remains, however, that luxurious travel has come to stay, and it is only by providing really comfortable and speedy transport that the railway can hope to hold its own.
The All-Metal Passenger Coach.
Although the majority of the main-line carriages operated in Britain are not of all-steel construction, the railway managements are fully alive to the advantages of the all-metal passenger coach. Greater strength, longer life, lessened maintenance costs, and reduced fire risks, are among these advantages. On the L.M. & S. line, about three per cent. of the total carriage stock is of the all-steel class; on the three other group lines the proportion is somewhat less. A prime reason for Britain's lack of enthusiasm for the all-metal carriage lies in the fact that conditions favour a design of carriage having side doors to each compartment, instead of being constructed on the saloon principle. Steel construction does not lend itself quite so well to the provision of side doors.
Across the Channel, the Belgian railways have recently introduced as many as one thousand all-steel passenger coaches. One type has a length of 72ft. 2in., with bow ends, and two double doors at each end. Seats are fixed face to face on either side of a central gangway. Another design—for the long-distance services—has four end doors and a side corridor. Yet another type—for local use—is 59ft. lin. long, with lateral doors and seats placed face to face along a central gangway.
The Railway Position in Belgium.
The Belgian Railways are Government-owned, and rank among the most efficient in Europe. Like railway systems the world over, the Belgian lines have suffered greatly from the competition of the road carrier. To meet changed conditions, many economy schemes have been put into operation. To save in wages, the retiring age of employees has been reduced. Passenger and freight train services have been cut, and savings effected through the closing of many roadside stations and the less important locomotive and carriage and wagon works.page 19
On many Belgian branch-lines, goods trains now run only on alternate days. Fast rail motor trains have taken the place of heavy steam trains on secondary routes. Freight rates have in many instances been cut by as much as twenty-five per cent. As in Britain, the Belgian railways are co-operating with many of the principal road carriers in the operation of combined rail and road services, while in some instances, where unprofitable branch line services have been discontinued, concessions have been granted to road motor companies to handle the business of the area.
The Police Dog Patrol System.
While the influence of Belgium on world railway operation may not have been so great as that of some other European lands, credit for one exceedingly useful development taken up by the British lines may rightly be claimed by our Belgian friends. This is the police dog patrol system, as employed extensively to-day on many British railway-owned dock premises. In the protection of railway property in England, canine guards play a big part, and it was from Ghent, Belgium, that police dogs first were imported.
In the beginning, it was the alarming increase of pilfering and the frequency of fire outbreaks caused by trespassers on railway property which led to Britain's acquisition of police dogs from Belgium. In the protection of the railway watchman in his responsible duties, and in detecting the presence of suspicious characters on railway property, the canine patrols have proved of incalculable value. The dogs employed are of the Airedale breed, and work only by night, regarding anyone other than a properly uniformed watchman as an enemy. Sufficiently strong to floor and pin down any intruder, the mere fact that the dogs are known to be in daily employment has resulted in a striking diminution in the number of suspects frequenting railway premises.
The Historic “Hetton” Locomotive.
One hundred and eleven years ago there was put into service on the Hetton Railway, in Northern England, the historic “Hetton” locomotive constructed by George Stephenson and Nicholas Wood. This famous engine has been given a place of honour in the unique railway museum established at York.
Built in 1822, the “Hetton” was rebuilt in 1857 and again in 1882, when link motion was fitted. The engine was actually in harness until 1913, and under its own steam it proudly led the Railway Centenary procession of old and modern locomotives at Darlington, on July 2nd, 1925. The “Hetton” now stands on show—a rare monument to the genius of Stephenson and his colleagues, and a rare inspiration for the railwaymen of to-day.