The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 1 (May 1, 1928)
Summer passenger train working in Europe and more especially on the Home railways, promises to produce many outstanding high-speed runs. Express working is a feature of main-line operation on the four group systems, and during the present summer it is probable new speed records will be established on the Anglo-Scottish runs and in the passenger train services between London and the West of England.
Last year both the London. Midland and Scottish and London and North Eastern Railways broke new ground with their now world-famous long-distance non-stop trains to and from the north. The running times of these trains are likely to be considerably improved upon during the forthcoming tourist season, and it is even possible that the year 1928 may see something approaching a railway race to Scotland such as was witnessed just forty years ago, with the “Flying Scotsman” and the “Royal Scot”—trains of the East and West Coast routes respectively—as the leading contestants.
Prior to 1888 the journey by the East Coast route, from King's Cross station (London) to Edinburgh occupied just nine hours, with a halt of thirty minutes for lunch at the mid-way station of York. In June, 1888, the West Coast authorities reduced the journey time of the 10 a.m. train from Euston station (London) to Edinburgh from ten to nine hours, thus equalling the time of their rivals. July saw a cut on the East Coast route from 9 to 8 1/2 hours, to which the Euston people replied by announcing that from August 1st they also would make the run in 8 1/2 hours. Nothing daunted, the King's Cross officials immediately instituted an 8-hour timing, and again the West Coast fell into line with a similar speedy booking. By the middle of August, 1888, both routes were operating 7 3/4-hour trains between the two capitals. On August 13th the West Coast set up a new record with a run of 7 hours 38 minutes, while the following day the East Coast made the journey in exactly 7 hours 32 minutes. A truce was then called, it being agreed that the East Coast should retain its timing of 7 3/4 hours until August 31st, and the West Coast revert to 8 hours. On August 31st, however, the East Coast train ran from London to Edinburgh (393 miles) with a train of seven loaded carriages in 7 hours 27 minutes, with a 26 1/2 minute halt at York. This trip constitutes the record for the London-Edinburgh run, and it marked the termination of the historic race to Scotland. To-day both the East and West Coast routes occupy 8 1/4 hours on the London-Edinburgh run.
Long Distance Non-stop Runs.
While the Home railways take immense pride in fast passenger services such as those maintained by the “Flying Scotsman” and the “Royal Scot,” and short-distance runs like the 43-minute flight of the Darlington to York express (44 miles), the group railways of Britain recognise that across the Channel much remarkably fast running is accomplished, notably by the French railways, and in particular the Northern system. The Northern Railway of France has for long been famed for fast passenger operation. So long ago as 1888 this railway could lay claim to operating the longest run for a non-stop daily passenger train on the Continent of Europe. This was the 101 mile run of the Paris-Calais boat express between Amiens and Calais. At the present time the Northern Railway still holds the record for long-distance non-stop running, with its Paris-Brussels non-stop service (194 miles), while another outstanding run is the 94 minute dash of the “Rapide” from Paris to St. Quentin (96 miles).
Last summer the Northern Railway of France actually operated the twenty-seven fastest passenger trains in that country. These included such far-famed services as the “Golden Arrow” Pullmans between Paris and Calais, the “Nord Expresses” between Paris and Jeumont, the “Etoiles du Nord” between Feignies and Paris, and the Dunkirk-Paris “Rapides” covering the 191 miles between these points in 205 minutes. Recently the Midi (Southern) Railway has come to the front among French railways for fast running. The “Sud Express” of this undertaking covers the 91 1/2 miles from Bordeaux to Dax in exactly 89 minutes, a speed of more than 62 miles an hour.
Gaining the Public's Confidence.
On almost every hand there is now a much more friendly spirit existing between railways page 19 and railway users than in the days gone by. This feature of present-day conditions in New Zealand is reproduced at Home, where the establishment of local and regional conferences of railway officers and representatives of the traders is enabling the speedy solution to be come to of many vital problems of mutual concern. Especially wise is the move now being made by the Home railways to take the public into their confidence by the dissemination of news through the national and local newspapers. This feature was commented upon by Mr. J. B. Elliot, Advertising Manager of the Southern Railway, in a recent lecture to students of the Institute of Transport.
In years gone by, Mr. Elliot remarked, if a newspaper required information concerning railways, in the majority of instances the newspaper representatives were curtly informed that no Press statements were permissible. Nowadays all this has changed. Each railway to-day runs its own press section, and accredited representatives of the newspapers are always welcomed and furnished with accurate and timely information. Railway facts are thus presented to the public in true perspective, and by taking the public into confidence a friendly spirit of co-operation and interest has taken the place of the hostile outlook so common in the past.
Another Electric Railway.
Once an almost impenetrable barrier between France and Spain, the Pyrenees are shortly to be climbed and pierced by an electric railway now under construction. A connecting link is being built between the Southern Railway of France and the Spanish railway system, joining France with the whole of Spain. It is planned to connect Toulouse, in France, with Barcelona direct, while further west a line is to be built linking Pau with the Spanish city of Jaca. The French portion of this line is to be electrified mainly on account of the many tunnels there encountered, the severe curves, and the almost continuous grade of 4.3 per cent. The electrification is being accomplished in two sections, one from Pau to Bedous, and the other forward from Bedous to Canfranc. The first section is already completed, the equipment including three sub-stations with 750kw., 1,575 volt direct current sets, each set comprising two rotary converters in series.
Progress in Switzerland.
While Spain and France are energetically pushing ahead with electrification proposals, much greater progress is being made in mountain-locked Switzerland, the greatest railway centre in Europe, whose railways form the pivot upon which depend trans-Continental services innumerable. The Budget proposals for the Swiss railways for 1928 provided for an expenditure of 49.7 million francs upon constructional works. The first stage of the Swiss Government Railways electrification will be completed this year, and this will enable considerable reductions to be effected in the outlay on the acquisition of material and construction. The cost of the current year's electrification is put at about 15 million francs, as compared with 40 millions for 1927.
At December 31, 1927, the Swiss Government Railways operated approximately 1,000 miles of electrified track, to which there will be added about 100 miles during 1928. By the end of the present year some 60 per cent. of the Swiss Government Railways will have been converted to electricity. After 1928 a pause will intervene in the electrification plan, this halt being designed to allow of a more gradual reduction in the staff and in the number of steam locomotives which are being replaced by electric traction in the new era. The Swiss Government Railways are among the most efficiently managed and operated transportation undertakings in the world. By means of electrification a great deal is being done to retain business to rail which would otherwise be captured by the road carriers, and trans-Alpine travel is also being immensely stimulated by the replacement of steam by electrification.
Development of Goods Wagons.
One of the most interesting features associated with the working of freight traffic in recent years is the steady growth which has been witnessed in the carrying capacity of goods wagons of all types. Of all the world's railways, those of America stand out as leaders in the employment of the high-capacity freight wagon, but in Britain and on the Continent of Europe generally a great deal has been accomplished in this direction. The London and North Eastern and Great Western Railways now utilise high-capacity wagons on a big scale for the conveyance of general merchandise and coal, and vast economies are thereby secured in operation. Across the Channel it is on the German railways that the greatest progress has been made in this field.
High-capacity wagons of a new type have recently been acquired by the German railways for the carriage of coal from Upper and Lower Silesia and the Ruhr to Berlin and other centres. These wagons are constructed of silicon-steel and have a tare weight of 19 tons and a carrying capacity of nearly 60 tons. The wagons are fitted with roller bearings and automatic brake equipment, and the base of the truck is of saddle-shape, and gives immediate total discharge of contents upon release of either side chutes. Seventeen loaded 60-ton wagons normally form a complete train, which has a total length of 190 yards, as compared with the 630 yards covered by 68 trucks of 15 tons capacity. Specially reduced conveyance rates are applicable to coal traffic carried in full train loads in this way, in a similar fashion to the rating privileges granted high-capacity wagon users at Home by the Great Western line.
Business Methods in Italy.
Under the government of Mussolini rapid strides have been made in recent times by the Italian Government Railways, which are now run on essentially business lines. In three years a railway deficit of £12,000,000 has been turned into a profit of £2,000,000, and all over Italy the most ambitious plans are under way for the development of the Government railway system.
The 12,500-mile Italian railway system of today broadly comprises two main trunk routes running north-west and south-west, one on either side of the land, an intricate network of lines serving the whole of northern Italy, a distinct system serving the island of Sicily, and a small self-contained railway system in Sardinia. In the past few months there has been great activity in railway construction in northern Italy, primarily with the idea of stimulating the trade of the great ocean gateway of Genoa. The Italian Government Railways are aiming at building a new trans-Alpine line, running through the Stelvio Pass and the district of Resia, to connect in the shortest and quickest manner Genoa and the capitals of Central Europe. It will also join the port of Venice with the principal European centres. The Italian Government Railways give employment to something like 173,000 workers, and the railways of the land are this summer being called upon to handle an exceptionally heavy tourist business.
The Land of a Thousand Lakes.
Next to Italy, the European country which is drawing probably the biggest amount of new business in tourist travel is picturesque Finland, “land of a thousand lakes,” and the near neighbour of stricken Russia. The railways of Finland are Government owned, and are about 4,000 miles in extent. The first railway opened in Finland connected Helsingfors with Hameenlina, and dates back to 1862. The management of the Finnish Government Railways forms a central board of government under the Ministry of Communications and Public Works. It consists of a president, a vice-president, and nine chiefs of departments. Passenger traffic forms 40 per cent. of the business handled, and all the through expresses include in their make-up the luxurious cars of the International Sleeping Car Company. Coal is a scarce commodity in Finland, and the traveller through this beautiful corner of Europe finds cause for constant wonder in the quaint-looking wood-burning locomotives, with their huge chimneys, which are largely employed for train haulage. Helsingfors and Viborg are the principal stations on the Finnish railway system, and an interesting feature of post-war development is the co-ordination of rail, road and water transport which has been accomplished everywhere throughout the country.