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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 1 (April 1, 1935)

Our London Letter — Two Railway Anniversaries

page 17

Our London Letter
Two Railway Anniversaries.

Air conditioned passenger carriage, L.M. and S. Railway.

Air conditioned passenger carriage, L.M. and S. Railway.

The present year sees Germany celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of the opening of her first railway. In addition, 1935 marks the hundredth birthday of one of England's leading systems—the Great Western Railway, which forms the third largest of the Home transportation groups. The anniversary of the Paddington undertaking occurs on 31st August and already special plans are being devised for the suitable celebration of the event.

The Great Western System.

The Great Western was originally incorporated in 1835 for a railway from London to Bristol. By amalgamations and new construction the system gradually grew in extent, until, at the time of the introduction of grouping, it actually possessed the longest mileage of any Home line. Originally built to a gauge of seven feet, the Great Western incorporates such historic systems as the Bristol and Exeter, the South Wales, the West Midland, the South Devon, and the Cornwall Railways. The throughout conversion of the broad gauge tracks to the standard 4ft. 8 1/2in. gauge took place in May, 1892.

Practically the whole of Britain from London to Land's End is served by Great Western trains. The “Cornish Riviera Express” runs over the full length of the system, while other notable main-line services are those between London and South Wales, London and Birmingham, and London and Birkenhead. Known to tourists as the “Shakespeare route,” the Great Western also operates through expresses between London and Stratford-on-Avon. Headquarters of the system are at Paddington Station, London. This terminal has a greater total length of platforms than that of any other station in Britain, except Victoria (Southern Railway). They measure 15,939 feet, or nearly two and three-quarter miles. In addition, there are two platforms, used mainly for parcels business, which measure a further 1,511 feet. The three main departure platforms are each over 1,100 feet in length, while two arrival platforms each have a length of 1,200 feet.

A most interesting feature of operation on the Great Western line is the working of slip coaches on passenger trains. The Great Western is the only railway in Britain to employ this system to any extent, and the practice actually dates back to 1858. The advantage of the slip coach arrangement lies in the fact that it enables long-distance expresses to serve intermediate towns without the necessity for interrupting long non-stop runs. Also, it renders possible the detaching of coaches at junction points to form the nucleus of trains serving lines not traversed by the main train.

Coaches in the rear of Great Western trains are slipped in this manner:—The slip coach is equipped with a special coupling hook hinged on a pin and retained in its normal position by a sliding bar fitting over the point of the book. At the other end, the bar is connected to a lever in the slip-guard's compartment, situated in the front of the leading coach of the portion of the train to be detached. As the train approaches the point where slipping is to be undertaken, the slip-guard pulls the lever, removing the sliding bar from the point of the hinged hook and permitting it to fall and release the slip portion from the main train. The action of the lever causes the vacuum brakes to be partially applied on the slip portion, and speed is thus reduced. The main portion of the train speeds away on its journey, and the slip section is gradually brought to rest alongside the platform by the slip-guard operating his hand-brake.

There are at present twenty-two slip services in operation on the Great Western. Among these are two slip coaches detached daily off the “Cornish Riviera Express” at Westbury (for Weymouth), and at Taunton (for Minehead and Ilfracombe).

Modern Air-conditioning System.

Passenger travel at Home is being immensely popularised by the utilisation of air-conditioning plant in the main-line passenger coaches. The first air-conditioning experiments date back to 1906. Three years later there was introduced the “Thermotank” system of pressure ventilation and heating, a system which is now largely used on both day and night expresses.

On the L. & N.E. line, a new air-conditioning apparatus, known as the “Stone” system, has recently been introduced. The apparatus is accommodated in a box on the underframe, and air is drawn into the coach through oil filters by means of an electric fan. After leaving the fan, the air is heated
The “Flying Scotsman” speeding northwards from London.

The “Flying Scotsman” speeding northwards from London.

page 18 page 19 by steam to a comfortable temperature, and passed through ducts under the floor, being discharged into the carriage interior through nozzles under the seats.

The operation of the equipment is entirely automatic, as the fan motor is switched on by a thermostat as soon as steam is applied to the train. The power supply is derived from the lighting batteries, and the equipment continues to function until the steam supply is cut off. The new system not only provides a supply of clean fresh air to passengers, but as the air is introduced only under a very slight pressure, it also ensures an absence of objectionable draughts.

Cheap Travel Facilities.

Railway passenger travel at Home is now cheaper and easier than ever, thanks to the introduction of a new fares programme, embodying wider facilities and important fare reductions. Public support has justified the railways' policy of lower return fares to such an extent that it has been found possible to make the third-class penny-a-mile, return-within-a-month facility a permanent feature. Hitherto known as the “Summer Ticket,” this facility is now named the “Monthly Return Ticket,” and its advantages have been still further increased.

First and third-class monthly tickets are now available for use on the outward and return journeys any day within one calendar month from date of issue. They also admit of break of journey in either direction, and in many cases, where two or more railways operate in the same territory, the tickets are available on the return journey by alternative routes. Minimum fares for these tickets are 3s. 9d. first-class and 2s. 6d. third-class, except on the Southern line where the minima are 7s. 6d. and 5s. respectively.

As an experiment Home railway first-class cheap fares have been cut by ten per cent., and their basis is now fifty per cent. over the corresponding third-class cheap fares. This applies to monthly return, cheap day, excursion, and other reduced fares. Tourist tickets issued between 1st May and 31st October will be reduced by 26 per cent. first-class and 18 per cent. third-class. These tickets will have an availability of three months, and will be subject to minima of 22s. 6d. first-class and 15s. third-class.

The Home railways cannot claim to offer the cheapest travel in Europe. This distinction falls to the State Railways of Finland, where a thousand-mile journey may be undertaken for approximately 34s. second-class, and only 23s. third-class.

Finland is one of the most interesting of countries, and her State Railway system covers a length of 4,000 miles. The first railway was opened between Helsingfors and Hameenlina in 1862.

Some recent Speed Records.

Remarkable speed records set up on the London & North Eastern Railway a short time ago, by a steam-operated train between London and Leeds, promise to mark the opening of a new era in high-speed main-line passenger operation. For some years, the L. & N.E. Railway has had in mind the necessity for speeding-up train working on its main-lines out of London, and had it not been for the Great War it is probable many of this Company's trunk routes would have been converted to electric traction.

Recently the rapid strides made in the development of the internal combustion Diesel engine, using heavy oil, have diverted attention in fresh directions. Germany and Russia have been particularly successful with high-speed Diesel engines, and in the United States, too, there is now a feeling that Diesel-electric traction may quite conceivably render main-line electrification as we know it to-day quite obsolescent. The recent speed tests on the L. & N.E. line were undertaken with the idea of ascertaining the possibilities of the operation of high-speed units like the “Flying Hamburger” at Home.

The steam locomotive concerned in the test was No. 4472, named “The Flying Scotsman,” with a load of 147 tons. The 186 miles between King's Cross Station, London, and Leeds were covered in 151 minutes 55 seconds, an average speed of 73.4 miles per hour. Two hours exactly were occupied in the first 155 1/2 miles of the run, giving an average speed for this distance of nearly 77 miles per hour. On the return journey from Leeds to London, the throughout average speed worked out at 70.8 m.p.h., with 205 tons behind the locomotive. At one point, a speed of 100 m.p.h. was actually reached, while for forty miles a speed of 90 m.p.h. was maintained. Since these speed tests were made, another typical express locomotive of the L. & N.E. line—the “Cock o' the North”—has been despatched to France for special tests at the Vitry Testing Plant, this being presumably another move in the plans now under review for the acceleration of main-line services generally between London and the north.

L. and N.E. Express Locomotive, ‘Cock o’ the North.”

L. and N.E. Express Locomotive, ‘Cock o’ the North.”