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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 6 (October 1, 1927)

London Letter. — Power Developments

page 18

London Letter.
Power Developments

Electrical haulage is undoubtedly destined to develop to a remarkable degree on the railways of the five continents in the years which lie ahead. Not for some considerable time, however, will electricity totally replace steam in main-line service. Realising that the “Iron Horse” is likely to remain for many years the prime mover in the railway world, much attention now is being devoted to the possibilities for improving upon existing design, and evolving new and modified types of machine offering prospects of heightened efficiency and economy in running and maintenance.

One of the most interesting of post-war activities of the locomotive builders is found in the novel “Kitson-Still” engine, developed by the well-known establishment of Kitson & Company, Leeds, England. This takes the form of a locomotive unit constructed on the “Still” principle-a feature well-known in its application to ship propulsion-in which the engine is double-acting, with internal combustion at one end of the cylinder, and steam at the other. The production of steam in the boiler is assisted by the excess heat of the I. C. exhaust, while the cylinder jackets, which relieve the very high combustion temperatures, also are in direct connection with the boiler, and take a part in steam production. Oil burners are used for heating the boiler primarily, the steam end thereby being rendered available for starting, when it possesses marked advantages over the oil cycle.

The first complete locomotive of the new type is now being put into traffic.

Technical Instruction.

Railway education in Britain takes many forms. Not for many years has so admirably equipped an educational establishment been opened up at Home as the special school recently established at South Kensington station, by the London Underground authorities, for the instruction of employees engaged in the work of signal maintenance. At this new school, lecture courses and practical demonstrations are given free of charge to signal linesmen and apprentices. On successful emergence from the courses, employees are awarded qualifying certificates, authorising the holders to take charge of a signal maintenance section.

An experimental track circuit for testing and demonstrational work is a feature of the equipment of the South Kensington School. A clever arrangement for lowering or raising the water level in a tank illustrates the effect of wet or dry weather upon a track circuit. Miniature automatic signalling installations include A. C. condenser feed track circuit and daylight signal, complete with all electric train stop, A. C. resistance feed track circuit and D. C. lamp signal, with electropneumatic train stop, and an A. C. impedance bond track circuit and flux neutraliser signal. A model signal box is also provided, complete with seven-lever power frame and illuminated train diagram, as well as a length of full-sized track with points lay-out and signals.


In a branch of railway activity such as train signalling, where refinements and changes in operating practice are constantly being introduced, the need for an educational establishment such as this is very real. Reviewing recent developments in the realm of signalling, it would seem that what is probably the most promising experiment is the employment of intermittent or transient track circuits. In his presidential address to the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers, Mr. E. F. Fleet, of the London and North Eastern Railway, made interesting reference to a system of this character installed on a section of single line at Castleford, in Yorkshire.

In the Castleford installation continuous current track circuit is dispensed with, but before a train can be signalled in either direction, the transient impulse current must have swept the track from both ends, first by the signalman offering the train, and then by the signalman accepting the train. In each instance the energising of the circuit is dependent upon the line being clear and opposing signals being in the danger position.

The function of the ordinary continuously energised track circuit, in maintaining the interlocking of converging signals or points during the passage of a train, is accomplished by the back-locking of the incoming home signal lever and the “king” lever or direction lever, until another current has been transmitted by the signalman at the sending end, which is given page break
Off to Holiday-Land A typical Summer scene at Waterloo Station, London.

Off to Holiday-Land
A typical Summer scene at Waterloo Station, London.

page 20 after receipt of the “train arrived” signal. After working for several months, the new installation is reported to have given great satisfaction in operation.

Friendly Co-operation.

Not long ago, Sir Josiah Stamp, Executive President of the London, Midland and Scottish Company, remarked in a friendly talk to the members of the Derby branch of the Railway Clerks' Association, that running a railway was a “rummy job.” In straight-forward terms, Sir Josiah put before his audience the difficulties under which his line was working at the present moment, and the talk was typical of the friendly fashion in which Home railway leaders to-day treat with their employees in the effort to increase railway efficiency.

For many years it was the custom of the British lines to make known their difficulties to their staffs by means of official circulars, bulletins and similar lines of approach. Recently it has come to be realised how lacking in appeal are many of these cold and sternly official documents. To take their place, so far as this is practicable, there now pass friendly messages between the managements and the men, by way of heart-to-heart talks delivered by the various leading officers to the staff at the principal centres. The replacement of the stereotyped broadcasts of the past by this new line of approach is a feature of especial interest, and is a move which is going far towards building up the spirit of teamwork and co-operative effort among all ranks, which forms so important an essential to successful railway working.

Canal Schemes.

In the “good old days” of the pre-war era-which incidentally, were (from the railwayman's point of view) in many ways very bad old days-enthusiastic devotees of inland water transport never tired of clamouring for the increased canalisation of Britain. Nowadays little is heard of the alleged need for new inland waterways for the conveyance of freight, and of the so-called “strangulation” of the canals by the railways. Public opinion to-day is far too strong at Home to allow of any scheme being seriously considered which has for its object the construction of costly inland waterways in a country so well served by rail and road. Across the Channel, however, proposals are again being advanced for embarking upon expensive canal schemes regardless of the fact that the railways are in a position to carry out all essential services with equal, and generally speaking, greater efficiency and economy.

The grandiose plan for canal construction in Germany is being stoutly opposed by the Berlin railway authorities. The remarkably able fashion in which the new German Railway Company (established under the Dawes scheme) is tackling the problem of transportation in the important territory it serves, has previously been referred to in these Letters. In theory the idea underlying the Government's canal construction policy is to afford work for the unemployed; in practice it is being found that canal construction can only absorb a very small proportion of unskilled labour. Bearing in mind the rapid progress effected in every branch of railway working in Germany in recent times, and the wide improvement plans of the German Railway Company, it would appear the most foolish of policies to set up at this stage a system of competing canals, and it seems almost inconceivable that the hard-headed authorities at Berlin will allow themselves to be led away by the pleadings of the small but very noisy “canal group,” who call for costly new waterways in territory which could be far more efficiently and economically served by rail.

Continental Railway Grouping.

Just nine years ago the kingdom of Czechoslovakia was born, and the foundations laid of the 8,000 mile railway system which to-day has arisen out of the Bohemian, Austrian and Hungarian transportation undertakings given over to the Prague authorities after the world war.

Of the European standard-guage of 4 ft. 8½ in., the Czecho-slovakian railways radiate from the capital city, Prague, northwards to central Germany, southwards to Vienna and Budapest, eastwards to Poland and Russia, and westwards to Nuremburg and south Germany. Locomotives number 3,5000, passenger vehicles 8,000, and goods wagons 96,000. Prague is connected with Paris by fast through trains making the run in twenty-six hours. Czechoslovakian passenger trains closely resemble those of Germany, while stations are everywhere built on generous lines. Train signalling is being rapidly improved by the introduction of automatic and semi-automatic equipment, and it is the proud boast of the Czecho-slovakian railway workers that they provide the safest travel in Europe.

One of the most picturesque of all central European lands, Czecho-slovakia owes much to her far-flung railway system for the remarkably speedy rehabilitation which has been accomplished during the past few years.

Road Services.

Few Home railways have been more to the fore in the development of road transport as a feeder to rail than the Great Western. So page 21 long ago as 1903 this line inaugurated a passenger road service in Cornwall, while on the freight side steam-driven road lorries were employed in the Birmingham area for general delivery services as far back as 1902. To-day a special road transport department, with headquarters at Paddington Station, London, supervises the operation of 206 Great Western passenger-carrying road vehicles and 650 road motors and steam wagons. The route mileage covered by the passenger cars totals 1,223, and some six million passengers annually are handled. Eighty-four depots are maintained at important industrial and agricultural centres in connection with freight haulage by road, while special repair shops are located at four divisional points.

It is the established policy of the Great Western Railway in its road transport activities to mould the services in such a manner as to provide feeders for the ordinary train services. Cut-throat competition with outside road transport agencies is never attempted. Outside road carriers are, in fact, encouraged in their task, and the endeavour is always to get these road transport undertakings to work in amicable fashion with the railway in connection with the through movement of passengers and freight. There is undoubtedly big scope for the same co-ordination of rail and road transport services in every land, and the example set by the Great Western under this head is worthy of every commendation.

The Red Tie Passes.

When grouping came to Britain, there were introduced many striking changes in railway uniforms. Now there has come the final break from the sartorial traditions of a century. In future no more red ties are to be issued to Home railway workers. On the Southern line, the last system to retain the time-honoured red cravat, a neat blue tie is being issued in its place, to the general satisfaction of the employees.

It was the former London and South Western line that introduced the red tie in the British railway world. Many years ago a director of the Company, observing in the course of an inspection trip that there was some difficulty in stopping a train in an emergency, conceived the idea that all employees engaged in traffic movement should wear a red tie, which could promptly be used as a danger signal. Originally, the ties were neckerchiefs about a yard square, but by degrees smaller ties were introduced. In practice the red tie did not prove an efficient danger signal, and its withdrawl in this age of scientific operating methods has occasioned small surprise and few regrets.


At December, 1926, the value of the stocks of stores and materials held by the group railways of Britain totalled £22,876,375, representing £1,125 per route mile, or £439 per single line mile, including sidings. In a single year
The Central Passenger Depot, Bremen, Germany.

The Central Passenger Depot, Bremen, Germany.

page 22 something like £50,000,000 is spent by the four groups in materials of one kind and another. Having regard to these enormous figures, it is natural that vast attention should be paid to the question of stores department organisation and working.

Storekeeping in its many phases was thoughtfully dwelt upon in a lecture delivered the other day by Lieut.-Col. C. J. Francis, stores superintendent of the Southern Railway, to graduates and students of the Institute of Transport.

Among the points brought out by Col. Francis was the important one that, in arranging contracts, the stores superintendent should include as many commodities as possible where prices are stable, and stipulate that all orders should be executed within a prescribed period. This not only keeps stocks down to a minimum, but also enables many articles which are not frequently used to be eliminated from stock altogether and purchased specially as and when required. Sufficient time should always be given by the using departments in ordering materials to allow the storekeeper to secure them on the most favourable terms. Buying in a hurry, it was rightly pointed out, is invariably a bad business proposition.

On the subject of the standardisation and simplification of stocks, Col. Francis had much of interest to say: this was a most urgent need. The initiative in regard to standardisation of common-user materials should be taken by the stores superintendent, but in regard to standard parts for locomotives, passenger and goods vehicles, signals, telephones and telegraphs, lighting and technical equipment for other services, the primary responsibility rested with the chiefs of the departments concerned, although the various departments should work in close co-operation with the stores people in the preparation of standard stock lists.

Long experience in the railway game has taught the writer the great need for increased co-operation between the stores people and the using departments. There is a tremendous field for saving in the stores bill, and if every individual railway worker, no matter what his job may be, would exercise just a little more care in the use of the tools and equipment with which he is provided, the resultant economy would be enormous. We are all apt at times to be a little prodigal in the use of other people's property. A moment's thought will afford realisation that when a railwayman effects even the slightest to savings in the stores bill of his line, he is in reality doing himself a good turn and making his job additionally secure, by bettering the financial position of the undertaking he is privileged to serve.

New type of observation car for use on Trans-Canada Limited. Canadian-Pacific Railway.

New type of observation car for use on Trans-Canada Limited. Canadian-Pacific Railway.