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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 6 (September 1, 1934)

Our London Letter

page 12

Our London Letter

The Railways In War Time.

The new L.M. and S. Leyland Diesel-hydraulic Railcar.

The new L.M. and S. Leyland Diesel-hydraulic Railcar.

Twenty years ago the British railways were confronted with the stupendous task of transporting the Army Expeditionary Force from the various inland camps to the Channel ports. Those hectic summer days of 914 will live long in memory, while the remarkable manner in which the railways silently and speedily conveyed men and supplies to the Western Front in the initial stages of the Great War, will ever be regarded as one of the rarest achievements in the whole history of transportation.

The vital part played by railways in the Great War is, of course, universally recognised. In Britain, around every fighting front, and in every corner of the Empire, railways paid a noteworthy contribution to the success of our arms. On the German side, the immense benefits secured through the possession of efficient railway facilities were also proved up to the hilt.

An anniversary such as this recalls many personal memories of war-time activities in the railway field. There were busy days spent by your correspondent in connection with troop and munition movement on the Home railways. Then came a period of service with the Guards, followed by a commission in the Railway Troops of the Royal Engineers. Here skilled engineering and operating men from all corners of the Empire joined hands, and commanding units of these splendid fellows in France and Belgium was indeed a rare honour. With the Armistice there came a spell of staff duty in the Rhineland, bringing a privileged insight into German railway methods and German railway thoroughness. Twenty years ago! It only seems like yesterday we were crawling stealthily along those tiny light railways that bordered Vimy Ridge and the Arras battle-front, with our load of ten or twelve trucks of high-explosive shells behind the petrol-driven locomotive; or returning back at dawn from the advanced railheads with a long string of heavily-laden ambulance cars. Here's greetings to all khaki-clad railway colleagues who came through safe and sound, and precious memories of the Empire's railwaymen who paid the supreme sacrifice at the call of duty.

Fast Train-running in Germany.

Since the Great War, the German railways have been unified to form one big transportation undertaking. From time to time there have been recorded in these pages the steady improvements effected in every branch of German railway working. Now the Berlin authorities are setting out to secure a world record for fast passenger train running. Following the sensational success of the “Flying Hamburger” daily service between Berlin and Hamburg, fast services of a similar type are being prepared throughout the country.

A number of new six-axled motor trains are being built to the “Flying Hamburger” design, while other trains, styled “rail-Zeppelins,” are being constructed. These “rail-Zeppelins” are composed of three cars, carried on eight axles. Another design of fast train consists of a steam railcar furnished with apparatus enabling the necessary head of steam for operation to be generated after only one minute's heating of the boiler. Through the employment of light train units such as these, it is hoped to bring every important German centre within half-a-day's journey of Berlin.

The Railcar and its Uses.

Light train units are now being universally introduced to meet existing conditions in the passenger department. The railcar has undoubtedly opened up quite new possibilities for fast and frequent passenger services such as are demanded to-day. Steam, electric power, petrol and heavy oil are all employed in connection with railcar operation, while recently, in Czechoslovakia, motor-driven railcars, burning gas produced from wood for fuel, have been introduced. Bodies of aluminium, often stream-lined, are features of many modern railcars, while one-man control is general with this class of train.

There has been acquired by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway an interesting new design of Diesel-hydraulic railcar. This is a two-axled unit weighing only 101/2 tons, seating 40 persons, and attaining a speed of 50 m.p.h. in 49 seconds from a dead start. A 130 h.p. six-cylinder oil engine forms the power unit. This is mounted under the floor, and transmits its drive through a hydraulic torque converter to the driving axle. The partially stream-lined body is of all-steel construction. A “passenger door is provided in the centre of the body on either side, and the seats are placed, in pairs, longitudinally along a central gangway. The new L.M. & S. railcar is for service in the London suburban area.

A typical Light Railway Company's Headquarters, France, 1918.

A typical Light Railway Company's Headquarters, France, 1918.

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Steam Locomotive Efficiency.

For main-line working the conventional steam locomotive still stands supreme, and recently a great deal has been done to add to steam locomotive economy and efficiency. Interesting data issued by the L.M. & S. line tells how, since 1923, the number of steam locomotives on the system has been reduced from 10,316 to 8,226, or 20 per cent. At the same time, the average weight per locomotive increased 111/2 per cent., and the average tractive power 141/2 per cent. These improvements have been secured by closer relationship of designs to locomotive tasks and by greater availability through curtailment of time in shops awaiting and under repair. This was formerly 51/2 weeks, as against the present figure of a trifle under one week. Equally helpful has been the gradual extension of mileage between general repairs by as much as 80 per cent.

It will be recalled, that some time ago the L.M. & S. authorities introduced a special locomotive costing plan. This plan has proved of the greatest assistance, and has demonstrated how great are' the economies secured through the use of modern locomotives as compared with older types. The replacement of older locomotives by machines of modern design, now actively proceeding on the L.M. & S. line, is effecting valuable savings.

The London Docks.

Improved handling equipment installed at the London docks is facilitating materially the movement of the immense quantities of meat, fruit and other produce arriving from New Zealand. The London docks are controlled by an independent body known as the Port of London Authority, and all the mainline railways have direct connections with the Thames-side docks and wharves. Every year about 35,000,000 tons of traffic is handled at the Port of London, and the annual arrivals and departures of shipping total approximately 56,000,000 net. reg. tons.

New Zealand meat imports are mainly brought to the Royal Albert Dock, where there are specially-equipped berths and large cold stores. The biggest cold store holds the equivalent to 250,000 carcases of mutton. At Tilbury Docks, too, much New Zealand produce is handled, while meat, fruit and dairy produce also finds its way to the King George V. Dock, the largest on the Thames. Altogether, the London docks cover an area of 4,203 acres, with a water area of 722 acres. There are forty-five miles of quays, all linked up with the main-line railways, and the dry dock, warehousing, and carnage equipment is unexcelled in the world.

Italian Railway Progress.

Very marked in recent years has been the progress effected in every branch of the railway industry in Italy. One of the leading aims of the Rome authorities is the shortening of the railway routes between the principal cities, the opening of a new direct route between Rome and Naples a year or two ago, marking the first big accomplishment in this direction. Following the completion of the Rome-Naples new main line, there has recently been opened a new 54-mile route affording direct connection between Florence and Bologna, two of the leading centres in Northern Italy.

This railway, costing approximately £20,000,000, is really one of the engineering wonders of the world. The Florence-Bologna line pierces the heart of the Apennine Mountains. There are twenty-three miles of tunnels on the route, and thirty-eight bridges and viaducts. The longest tunnel, through the highest point in the Apennines, is 111/2 miles in extent, and is actually the longest double-tracked railway tunnel in the world. The famous Simplon tunnel is three-quarters of a mile longer, but this really consists of a pair of single-track tunnels. As a result of the opening of the new direct Florence-Bologna line, the journey between the two centres has been shortened from over three hours to under two hours, while the through journey from Rome to London and other centres has been cut to correspond.

Electrification in Denmark.

Electrification of the suburban tracks of the Danish State Railways in the neighbourhood of the capital, Copenhagen, has revolutionised passenger transport in this corner of Europe. Working on the 1,500 volts direct-current system, with overhead transmission, the first route to be electrified in Denmark is the 16-mile section between Copenhagen and Klampenborg, with a short branch to Holte. Initially, there are being operated over these lines forty-two motor cars and twenty-one trailer cars, these being made up into trains on the familiar multiple unit arrangement according to traffic needs. The electrical equipment for the cars has been supplied by the English Electric Company Ltd., of Stafford, while the car bodies have been built locally.

A world-famed Scottish landmark—historic Edinburgh Castle.

A world-famed Scottish landmark—historic Edinburgh Castle.

page 14