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War Economy

Railways Reactions

Railways Reactions

It is likely that the experiences of the Railways Department in wartime, when it carried a considerable extra load with its coal supplies short of requirements and often uncertain, accelerated the post-war changeover from coal-burning to oil-burning and electric locomotives. The Department's annual report to Parliament in 1946 said:1

‘The coal-supply has continued to be a source of constant difficulty throughout the year, and restrictions on passenger services have had to be maintained. The total quantity of coal consumed increased from 576,926 tons to 610,086 tons, although over eighty per cent of the increase was in soft coal.

‘Arising out of the difficult position regarding coal supplies, investigation has been made into the possibilities of the use of oil fuel for locomotives. From the operating viewpoint there is no doubt that the present fuel cost per locomotive mile of an oil burning locomotive would be in excess of that for a coal burning locomotive. However, arrangements have been made for two locomotives to be converted for test purposes and these should be ready for operation at about the end of the year.’

Railways coal consumption was to drop to well under a half in the twelve years following the war.

1 Parliamentary Paper D–2, p. 2.