The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 5 (August 1, 1934)
Our London Letter — Expanding Railway Business
Optimism is now the order of the day throughout the Home railwayworld. Both passenger and freight business continue to expand, and special measures are being taken by the four group railways to meet the improving situation. The staple industries, like those of coal-mining and iron and steel manufacture, have got into their stride again. Freight traffic receipts week by week register welcome increases, while on the passenger side takings everywhere are appreciably swelling.
Large numbers of employees in the traffic, locomotive and engineering departments, laid off during the slump, are being re-instated; and experienced trainmen who were loaned to other branches for less skilled duties, are being put back on their regular jobs. Locomotives which for long have been standing idle are once again being brought into traffic, and altogether the outlook for railways and railwaymen alike is decidedly propitious.
An interesting featurè of the present business revival is the heightened activity witnessed in the advertising and canvassing sections of the group lines. Ambitious publicity campaigns are now being conducted by each of the four leading railways, while passenger and freight canvassing is proceeding intensively throughout the country.
Not content with covering Britain thoroughly, the railways are moving further afield in the search for new business. Recently joint advertising and canvassing offices have been opened by the four groups in Paris and New York respectively. The staffs of these bureaux have been carefully selected from the railway personnel, and the members have been specially trained and have extensive personal knowledge of Britain's attractions in the holiday field, as well as its industrial needs and potentialities. The bureaux work in the closest association with the foreign railways and steamship companies, and a feature is made of combined bookings by rail, sea and road to and from any point in Britain.
Railway Improvements in France.
The intimate working arrangements in operation between the English and French railways render of especial interest a most comprehensive improvement plan just launched by the French Ministry of Public Works. This plan involves the spending of something like #35,000,000 on railway betterments during the next eight years, and covers almost every branch of railway engineering and operation.
First of all the overhaul of the whole of the French signalling system is to be undertaken. Then, the quadrupling of many of the principal main traffic arteries, and the reconstruction of the principal freight marshalling yards is to be tackled. The Paris passenger termini are to be enlarged and brought into line with modern requirements, while much station rebuilding is to be undertaken in the provinces. Steel passenger carriages are to be built to replace existing wooden stock, and new freight cars of special design are to be introduced. The abolition of level-crossings is another aim, while last but not least there is to be a complete overhaul of the train despatching arrangements throughout the country. Railway transport in France already attains a very high standard. On the completion of the new betterment plan France will be the happy owner of a railway system second to none throughout Europe.
Conversion to Electric Traction.
In Europe many of the principal railways are firm believers in electrification's future, and Switzerland, in particular, offers a fine example of the increased efficiency and economy secured through the conversion of existing steam-operated lines to electric traction.
A most striking feature of Swiss electrification is the employment of electric locomotives with “one-man” operation. Out of 525 electric locomotives in service in Switzerland, 353 are equipped with the familiar safety device known as the “dead-man's handle,” rendering them suitable for one-man operation. Forty-eight per cent. of the Swiss electric services today are worked by locomotives having only one man in the cab, a plan which is said to result in a saving of about #200,000 per annum.
A further improvement now being introduced takes the form of the “Signum” system of automatic train control. Should a driver run past a distant signal at danger, an optical signal appears in the locomotive cab. After a further 165ft. have been covered an audible signal follows. If the driver still fails to observe the warning, a special page 10 page 11 whistle comes into operation and the air-brake is automatically applied. Special apparatus like this is naturally expensive at the outset, but in course of time the initial expenditure is more than off-set by resultant savings.
The Modern Roadbed.
Sound roadbed and track form the very basis of efficient railway operation. The modern steel rail is a very different affair from the crude track of pioneering days, and permanent-way folk all over the world may rightly take pride in their contribution to railway progress. Just now a good deal of thought is being given to the problem of increasing rail life, and in Britain several worth-while devices are being tried out with this aim in view.
Reduction of wear by wheel flanges on the side of the rail-head is being effected by the employment of oilboxes, mounted on the sleepers against the outer rail approaching curves, and lubricating the periphery of the wheel. On sharp curves special lubricators are installed to prevent check rail wear. Wear on frog and wing rails in busy crossings is met by the employment of special springs, which not only give increased track life but also ensure smoother travel. Familiar to all is the utilisation of manganese steel for railway purposes. Manganese steel rails are proving most durable at Home, and the majority of the busiest points and crossings are now laid with this special steel. One of the earliest junction installations of this character was that at Newcastleon-Tyne, on the L. and N.E. line. This consists of 92 manganese steel crossings and rails, covering 77 intersections. The total length of the junction is 141ft., width overall 58ft. 6in., and total weight 70 tons.
The Railways of Norway.
Exactly eighty years ago there was opened for traffic the first Norwegian railway, an event which is being appropriately celebrated by the State Railway authorities of this picturesque European land. To-day the Norwegian Government lines run 2,500 route miles, the 4ft. 8 ½in. gauge system comprising a network of lines radiating from the capital, Oslo. The Oslo-Bergen route carries the heaviest traffic, and the 306 mile journey between the two points named is covered in thirteen hours. Between the stations of Voss and Myrdal, on this route, no less than twenty-five tunnels are encountered, the longest being the Gravehals Tunnel (17,421ft.), which took twelve years to construct.
The average speed of passenger trains in Norway is 40 m.p.h. Passenger carriages are mainly of the compartment type, and sleeping-cars are also of this design. Dining-cars are run on the principal main-line services. By the time this letter appears in print Norway will be thronged with tourists eager to witness that awe-inspiring natural spectacle, the “Midnight Sun.” At this season, the sun at midnight lingers above the horizon, turning the weeks before and after the summer solstice into one long unending day.
Russian Railway Progress.
Recent advices from Moscow tell of the complete reorganisation of the Russian railway system. The former thirteen departments in the so-called People's Commissariat for Transport have been superseded by eight new sections, political, operating, commercial, locomotive, rolling-stock, permanent-way, signalling, and new works respectively. The management has been decentralised with divisional control, and big cuts made in the headquarters staffs.
Independent eye-witnesses who have recently returned from Russia all pay tribute to the progress that is being made in main-line railway construction. At the moment work is being begun upon the building of a further 6,000 miles of additional track, while big electrification schemes are also in progress, embracing over 3,000 miles of existing steam-operated track. It is planned to increase the Russian locomotive stocks of all types from 19,500 to 24,500, and about 250,000 additional freight wagons are to be built by the close of 1937. In her railway rehabilitation programme, Russia is being aided by skilled American engineers and operating officers.
Fast New Trains in Holland.
The introduction some time ago on the German railways of the heavy-oil operated “Flying Hamburger” passenger train between Berlin and Hamburg created something of a sensation. Following the success of this novel train, some forty new trains of somewhat similar design are to be introduced on the State Railways of Holland. Like the “Flying Hamburger,” the new Dutch trains are designed on streamlined principles, and they will be capable of speeds up to 87 m.p.h.
Each train will be formed of three articulated carriages, mounted on four bogies. Two hundred feet in length, the weight of each train is being kept down through the use of aluminium to 75 tons. A complete train of three vehicles will accommodate 176 passengers, and at the outset the new stock is to be employed in fast service between Amsterdam, Utrecht and Arnheim. Thirty-five of the new Dieselelectric train sets are being equipped with two 410 h.p. engines, and the remaining five sets will each have two 375 h.p. engines. While Holland is taking up this new idea enthusiastically it is interesting to note that in Germany three additional expresses of an improved “Flying Hamburger” type are to be introduced for use on the Berlin-Dresden and Berlin-Leipzig routes.