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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 2 (May 1, 1934.)

Our London Letter — Suburban Electrification Schemes in Britain

page 11

Our London Letter
Suburban Electrification Schemes in Britain

The famous Forth Bridge, L. and N.E. AngloScottish Main Line.

The famous Forth Bridge, L. and N.E. AngloScottish Main Line.

The most extensive suburban electric railway system in the world is that of the Southern Railway of England. Following the conversion to electric traction of the majority of the suburban tracks in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, the Southern authorities some time ago set about the electrification of the throughout main-line between London and Brighton and Worthing. This enterprise has met with exceptional success, and as a consequence there have now been put in hand further main-line electrifications, which will add an additional sixty route miles to the Company's electric lines.

The main-lines now being electrified are those from Brighton and Wivelsfield to Eastbourne and Hastings. These tracks skirt the Channel Coast, and during the summer months handle an enormous holiday traffic. With the electrification of the Brighton-Eastbourne-Hastings route, the Southern will have a total electrified route mileage of 442, and a track mileage of 1,146. Train services will be immensely improved, and train mileage will be increased from the present total, with steam, of 1,688,820 miles, to 2,446,548 electric train-miles, an advance of forty-five per cent. Marked speeding-up of passenger trains will also be witnessed. The LondonHastings run will be cut by thirteen minutes, and the London-Eastbourne journey by eleven minutes. Special rolling-stock, consisting of seventeen six-car units, five four-car units, and eighteen three-car units, will be employed. These units will be run in the express services to and from London, and are additional to the stock which will be utilised for stopping services.

In speeding-up passenger movement between the metropolis and the south coast, the Southern authorities are in harmony with the general policy of railways throughout the world to give faster and more frequent service to the public. In Europe accelerations are everywhere the order of the day, and practically every European line has one trunk route at least where really high speeds are recorded daily. Among speed routes of note are the SwindonLondon tracks of the Great Western, and the York-Darlington line of the London and North Eastern. Across the Channel, the Northern Company of France operates praiseworthy passenger flights between Paris and Calais, Paris and Liege, and Paris and Brussels. Another railway speedway is the Paris Dijon track of the P.L.M. system.

High Railway Speeds.

The world's record for railway speed is often claimed by Germany. Prior to the Great War, an electric train was run on the military railway at Zossen, near Berlin, at over 100 m.p.h. The Great Western Railway of England, however, claims to have beaten this record by operating a steam passenger train over a short distance at 102 m.p.h. Light railcars have on occasion actually attained higher speeds than these. The “Automotrice Bugatti,” for example, built for the French State Railways, not long ago attained a speed of 107 m.p.h. during trial runs. Taken all round, however, regular daily runs like those of the “Flying Scotsman,” the “Royal Scot” and the “Cornish Riviera Limited,” provide instances of really praiseworthy fast operation that would indeed be hard to beat.

The “King's Own,” a locomotive of the “Royal Scot” Class, London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

The “King's Own,” a locomotive of the “Royal Scot” Class, London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

Modern Signalling Methods.

On the route of the “Flying Scotsman” between London and Scotland, the L. and N.E. Railway has just opened an interesting new signal control tower at Thirsk. This new signalling centre is the last word in modernity. The tower controls 4 1/2 geographical miles of track, and takes the place of five signal-boxes. One man at an electrically controlled switchboard controls the whole of the working over this distance. Altogether 28 1/2 geographical miles of track have been resignalled with colour lights and the control of the signals and poweroperated points is carried out by means of small thumb switches.

The electrical signalling system introduced at Thirsk is of the colour light searchlight type, with alternating current track circuit. The signal indications given include red for “stop,” yellow “proceed with caution,” two yellows “proceed but prepare to pass the next signal-box at restricted speed,” and green “all clear.” Even in the brightest sunlight, the signals are clear for a distance of 1,000 yards, and the installation entirely eliminates detonator working during foggy weather or falling snow. An interesting feature of the double yellow signal is that it advises the driver when he is being diverted off the main track page 12 page 13 on to a parallel running line. Alternating current track circuits of the type installed mark an entirely new departure so far as Britain is concerned.

Cheap Travel Facilities.

Last year the British railways issued what were known as “summer tickets,” enabling third-class passengers to travel at a penny a mile. This move was largely made with the idea of regaining business lost to road. So successful has the venture proved, that recently it has been decided to continue the issue of these penny-a-mile tickets for another year, or until the end of 1934. Before the issue of the “penny-a-mile” ticket, third-class travel cost 1 1/2d. a mile. Now third-class fares are on a pre-war basis.

All the European railways are reducing their passenger fares as opportunity permits, while special cheap travel facilities of various types are being introduced for party travel, excursion movement, and the like. In Germany an innovation is the introduction of what are style “Netzkarte” tickets, literally “net tickets,” available for one month over the entire railway system of 33,650 miles. By expending 250 marks (say £15 12s.) on a third-class ticket, a passenger who cares to set up a new record can now travel nine miles for less than one penny. District “net tickets” also are issued, costing 120 marks secondclass, and entitling holders to unlimited travel throughout 4,000 miles of railway.

Three Bridges Control—the nerve centre of the Southern electrification.

Three Bridges Control—the nerve centre of the Southern electrification.

The “Royal Scot” in America.

One of the most successful publicity stunts ever achieved was the sending last year of the L.M. and S. locomotive and train “Royal Scot” to the United States and Canada. The main object of the visit was to place on show at the Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition a typical British railway train. In practice, the train was not only on show from May to October, but it also was introduced to a much wider audience in the course of its 11,000 mile tour through Canada and the States. At Chicago the “Royal Scot” had over 2,000,000 visitors, while, during the rail tour, another 1,000,000 people went over the train, and millions more turned out en route to view the “Royal Scot” as it steamed majestically past.

During its American tour, the “Royal Scot” developed no mechanical trouble whatever. Souvenir-hunters, however, left many marks on the train. Over 500 electric-light bulbs were carried away as souvenirs, and something like 1,000 autographs were scratched on the coach ceilings. It must be difficult to estimate with any accuracy the precise value of publicity propaganda such as this, but that the trip of the “Royal Scot” to America will prove well worth-while there can be no question.

Britain's Biggest Railway.

The London, Midland and Scottish Railway is generally known as Britain's biggest railway. Probably few New Zealanders, however, realise that the annual revenue of the L.M. and S. line is something like four times as large as that of New Zealand. There is scarcely an important city in Britain that is not either served direct by the L.M. and S. or by L.M. and S. through coaches operated in association with one or other of the three remaining group lines. The railway is actually the largest public company in Britain, and also the country's biggest shopkeeper. Its annual revenue is approximately £80,000,000.

Something like 230,000 employees are on the L.M. and S. paybill. With their families, they would make up a city as large as, say, Manchester or Glasgow. With its thirty hotels, the L.M. and S. is the largest hotel-owner in Britain, if not in Europe; while regarding its stations in the light of branch shops, its 2,490 passenger depots, and 2,934 goods stations make it the biggest multiple shop proprietor in the country.

Electrification in Europe.

Progress in railway electrification continues to be made in Central Europe. At the moment, Austria is to the fore in this connection. Plans are now in course of completion for the electrification of the southern section of the Tauern Railway, Austria, and a section of the double-track main-line from Salzburg to Vienna.