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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 12 (April 1, 1928.)

London Letter. — (From Our Own Correspondent.) — Meeting Changed Conditions

page 18

London Letter.
(From Our Own Correspondent.)
Meeting Changed Conditions.

Changed conditions in the world of transportation, arising out of the phenomenal growth of road motor haulage, present one of the most serious of problems to-day facing the railways. Here at Home vast thought has of late been given to the question of how best road competition might be met, and now comes a new solution of the problem by the introduction of a system of “road-rail” transport on the London, Midland and Scottish line.

Containers for Road and Rail.

The London, Midland and Scottish Railway has been assiduously studying ways and means whereby it might best afford a service equivalent in every respect to the convenient door-to door facilities provided by the road carriers. The “road-rail” system promises to mark an epoch in the history of freight transport, and makes a great step forward in the co-ordinating of rail and road. The new service centres around the employment of containers, of which 300 have already been brought into use at a cost of approximately £20,000. Four types of containers are favoured, two being in the nature of covered wagon bodies, and the other two, open wagon bodies. One of each pair has been built to occupy the whole of the loading space on an ordinary open truck, while the other is practically half the size and is therefore suitable for loading in pairs in each wagon. Ropes and chains secure the containers to the trucks, and the containers are fitted with end doors for convenience of loading and unloading. The sides and ends of the containers are collapsible, and six or seven empty containers when folded may be loaded up on an ordinary open wagon.

At the outset the container service is confined to movement between pairs of stations where the traffic passing is of a balanced nature, and firms are being encouraged to open up depots at the railheads to deal with this container business, thereby reducing handling of merchandise to a minimum. Many years ago containers were employed to a limited extent on the former South Eastern and Chatham and Lancashire and Yorkshire railways, but this is the first real effort to introduce the arrangement on any large scale. It represents an earnest attempt to regain to rails a large volume of business which has been drawn to road by door-to-door convenience, and the new system will probably expand very rapidly as the trading public become familiarised with its working.

Freight Enterprise on British Railways.

Apart from the introduction of containers, the Home railways are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to keep freight business moving. New goods stations and marshalling yards are being constructed in many parts of the country, and in these new works the most modern equipment is being installed.

By the London and North-Eastern line there is being laid out what will rank as the largest marshalling yard in Britain. This is situated at March, near Cambridge, the key-point for all traffic from the coal-producing and industrial districts of the North and Midlands to the Eastern Counties. The new yard will cost approximately £300,000, and it will contain ten reception sidings and forty sorting tracks with accommodation for 4000 wagons. Following investigations conducted in America and Germany, an elaborate system of electro-mechanical wagon retarders is being introduced, on the lines of what has recently been done in the enormous Markham Yard of the Illinois Central line in Chicago, while there is also to be flood lighting of the most modern type. This is the first Home railway marshalling yard to employ wagon retarders, and their utilisation will probably shortly be extended to cover other busy classification yards.

London's Stations.

London's enormous passenger stations annually attract visitors from every land, and for the student of railway working these hives of industry ever present the most profitable of object lessons. The busiest of all main-line stations in London is the Liverpool Street terminal of the London and North-Eastern system, which is used by about 250,000 passengers daily. Between the hours of seven and ten o'clock in the morning, some 90,000 passengers pour into the terminus, and about the same number leave between four and seven o'clock in the evening. Over 1200 trains arrive and depart each day, all steam operated, and during the rush hours as many as 54 trains are dealt with in sixty minutes in each direction.

Liverpool Street station dates back to 1874, when it replaced the old Shoreditch terminus. page 19 It was enlarged twenty-four years ago to its present total of 18 platforms. These lead to three pairs of Up and Down lines, and working is controlled by two signal cabins, having 244 and 136 levers respectively. Liverpool Street is the point of departure for the continental services routed via Harwich and for all points in East Anglia. It is also the hub of a vast suburban zone covering the eastern parts of Greater London, Essex and Hertfordshire.

The Road-Rail Complex.

Appreciable progress is being made by the Home railways in the direction of meeting the competition of the highway carriers. Powers now are being petitioned for to operate fleets of road motors for the conveyance of both passengers and freight, and permission of Parliament is also being sought to enable the railways to enter into working agreements with municipal and private undertakings operating road services. If these powers are granted there will be effected a vast programme of co-ordination between the railways and the outside road carrying undertakings. The present year promises to see each of the big group railways engaging in road transport on a scale never hitherto dreamt of, and there is little doubt that in co-ordination between rail and road lies a most promising avenue of progress.

Munich Passenger Station Germany.

Munich Passenger Station Germany.

In almost all European lands co-ordination of rail and road transport is being established by degrees. In Germany the railways are collaborating closely with the road carriers, and in Switzerland and Hungary the Government railways have established subsidiary undertakings to carry on the work of transport by road. In Germany it is estimated that motor competition involves the railways in an annual loss of approximately 250 million marks, and there, as in Britain, the subject of rail and road co-ordination is receiving the most serious attention of the carriers and the Government.

The new German railway system, which is run on essentially business lines, is rapidly climbing to the forefront among the world's railways. In a recent report, Monsieur Levevre, Commissioner for the German Railway Company, states that the receipts for the financial year 1927 are entirely satisfactory and considerably exceed the figures for the two preceding years. For the period January to October, 1927, receipts showed an increase over 1926 of 416 million marks. Reparation payments are being duly met, and altogether the German railway authorities are to be congratulated upon the efficient manner in which the whole business of the undertaking is now being conducted.

page 20

German Railway System.

Always a leader in the European railway world, the German railway system forms one of the most important of trans-continental travel links. Berlin, the capital, is the great railway centre of the country, ranking on the Continent only second to Paris from the point of view of the number of long-distance services radiating therefrom. The thorough fashion in which the German railways brought their transportation machine up to concert pitch in readiness for the world war is common knowledge; in the post-war rehabiliation programme the German railway staffs have shown equally striking ability.


In probably no branch of railway working has such striking progress been recorded in recent years as in the signal department. Although great changes have been witnessed in many directions in the signalling field, however, it is somewhat singular that until recently semaphore signals as developed in the infancy of railways continued to hold undisputed sway on all the Home lines. Now the semaphore signal of the old familiar type is to undergo a most important change, after serving for something like four score years.

In place of the lower quadrant semaphore, with an arm moving in the quarter of the circle below the horizontal to indicate “line clear,” there is now to be introduced the upper quadrant signal, i.e., with the arm raised above the horizontal to indicate “proceed.” This change is in accordance with the best modern practice as favoured on many European lines and in the United States, and the new form of semaphore is to become standard throughout all the Home railway systems.

The semaphore was first employed at New Cross, on the London and Brighton Railway, in 1841, and was the invention of Charles Hutton Gregory, the engineer of that line. The horizontal position of the arm represented “danger,” while to indicate “proceed” the arm was lowered and concealed in a slot in the post. With the adoption of block signalling Gregory's type of signal was still employed, but for the “clear” indication the arm was lowered not quite into the post, but sufficient to form a well-defined angle with it.

“Southern Maid” Pacific type passenger locomotive Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.

“Southern Maid” Pacific type passenger locomotive Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.

Trade Advertising on Railways.

Trade advertising on railway premises to-day forms a most valuable source of income for the Home railways, and for many continental and overseas systems. On all the Home lines trade advertisements in the form of posters, enamelled plates, show-cases and placards, are placed on exhibition in stations, waiting-rooms, offices and passenger carriages, and add considerably to the railway revenues. As a general rule the trade advertising is supervised by the railway advertising staffs, and some especially pleasing publicity page 21 is to-day put out by the leading traders making use of the facility.

By the Southern Railway there has just been completed the reorganisation of its trade advertising section. Headquarters have been set up at Waterloo Station, London, and the system has been divided into three divisions with a regional trade advertising representative stationed in each section. Depots for the convenient handling of advertising matter have been established at convenient points on the system, and an outdoor staff of inspectors has been set up to supervise the exhibition of the different classes of advertising matter. It may seem a big jump from driving a passenger locomotive to handling, say, an advertisement for chocolates on' railway premises. Today however, both of these duties come under the head of “railway working,” so wide are the ramifications of the “Iron Way” of 1928.

Across the Irish Sea. Shooting the rapids at Killirney.

Across the Irish Sea. Shooting the rapids at Killirney.

Automatic Ticket Devices.

Marked progress has been effected during the past quarter of a century in the methods employed by the world's railways in the issue of tickets to passengers. Since Edmondson brought into use on the old Newcastle and Carlisle railway the first ticket-issuing machine, a vast number of ingenious automatic devices have been pressed into the service of the booking-clerk, and in this connection no railway system has played a more enterprising role than the Underground Railways of London.

Twenty years ago the “pull-bar” slot machines were first introduced on the Underground to assist the booking-clerk, and the machines in use to-day not only issue the tickets in return for suitable coins, but also print and date them as issued, and give correct change for sixpenny and shilling pieces. Slot machines are also electrically attached to a special form of turnstile which is automatically released on insertion of a coin, and give access to platforms by purely mechanical means. The latest innovation is an electric table ticket printer which is being introduced. Two of these machines deal with the whole of the tickets issued at a busy station, all the tickets being printed from blank rolls at the time of demand, instead of having to be specially printed in advance of issue and stored in bulky ticket racks.

On the Underground Railways of London some 28 million tickets are issued annually from slot machines, while in the “passimeter” offices an additional 127 million tickets annually are handed out. The installation of the new electric ticket printers will enable 180 million tickets to be issued by machinery annually.

A Lilliputian Line.

Traffic is rolling in on the most satisfactory lines on the newlyopened Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway, in Kent, England, the smallest public railway in the world. This diminutive line is toylike in its dimensions, but it is a serious commercial undertaking with a large passenger and freight traffic. Fifteen inches is the gauge of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway, and it is a double track route some 8¼ miles in length serving one of the prettiest stretches of holiday-land in south-eastern England.

This lilliputian railway possesses just eight stations, and the new Romney terminus is equipped with four passenger tracks, a commodious engine shed, an erecting and machine shop, two sheds for the storage of rolling stock and an extensive goods yard. The track consists of rails weighing 24lb. per yard, British standard flat-bottomed section, spiked to 9in. by 4in. Baltic fir creosoted sleepers, 3ft. long, placed at about 22in. centres. Especially interesting are the locomotives employed on this quaint Kentish line. There are five miniature “Pacific” type locomotives for passenger service, two being of the two-cylinder class, and three having three cylinders. These haul trains of 300 passengers at 25 miles an hour. Cylinders are 5 1/4in. by 8 1/2in., coupled wheels 25 1/2in. diameter, carrying wheels 12 in. diameter, coupled wheel-base 4ft. 8in., heating surface 19,436 sq. in., grate area 678 sq. in., total length over buffers 24ft. 8in., total height 4ft. 5 3/4in., and total weight in working order 8 tons.

Some sixty semi-open passenger carriages are owned by the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch line, and tourist specials are a feature of the summer business. The railway has the honour of having been opened by H.R.H. the Duke of York, and it is serving an especially useful purpose in the transport of both passengers and merchandise.