28 Apr 2010

After Tornado - yet nother new steam locomotive?

More East Coast Magic.60163 Tornado, originally uploaded by FlyingScotsman4472.

The Tornado Trust has done, and does, a great job, and today I received a letter from the Chairman to the covenanters about a proposal to build a replica P2 locomotive.

The thinking behind this is that the expertise developed by the Trust should be directed towards further construction. This sounds like a good strategy. However, there are many possible options and in my view, at this stage a feasibility study should consider at least a few of the alternatives. In addition to a straight replica of the 1930s design, some of the obvious ones include
  • a small production run of tank locomotives, suitable for use for the actual traffic on preserved railways round the country. This struck me recently when travelling on Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway, where a 9F was used for to haul five mark one coaches at a top speed of 25 mph. Whilst it is nice to see a 9F in action, this is extravagant and does not present the impression of a steam locomotive working hard. A small tank locomotive would have been appropriate for the task.
  • one or more examples of David Wardale’s updating of the British Railways class 5, the so-called 5AT, which, due to its greater efficiency, should be the equal of a class 8.
  • one or more examples of the locomotive designed by Roger Waller of DLM for the Hauenstein line between Sissach and Olten. This is a 4-8-4 tank locomotive but could equally well be a 4-8-0 tender locomotive. This can be adapted for the British loading gauge and can be finished off in any desired style, such as a Gresley streamlined casing.
  • an updating of the P2 based on Porta principles of improved combustion and draughting, with other efficiency and labour-saving devices
  • A “carbon neutral” steam locomotive using fuel from a renewable source or waste material
We are fortunate in having a number of the largest express passenger locomotives with a popular following, including the GWR Kings and Castles, a few Merchant Navy Pacifics, several LMS Pacifics, two Britannia Pacifics and of course the Duke of Gloucester, plus Tornado itself. There are also projects to construct a Patriot and a Clan class Pacific. I think there is a risk of spreading resources too thinly, and it is a growing one as the number of people who remember steam is dwindling as the years pass. There is a real possibility that as this generation passes, all the valuable work done will be lost as these machines are cast aside.

Also, looking a decade ahead, the main lines are likely to be increasingly congested and it may be difficult to provide the opportunities for these locomotives to do what they were designed to do.

On the other hand, steam technology is far from dead. Roger Waller has demonstrated that conventional steam locomotives can operate competitively within the modern railway environment. The rebuilt Kriegslok has been used both for steam specials, commuter trains and on hire to the Swiss Railways (SBB) for infrastructure duties, a task for which it proved popular, especially in residential areas! This shows that an appropriate steam locomotive can not only cater for the enthusiast and leisure market, but also earn its keep in mainstream use on the regular railway.

In conclusion, it seems to me that
  • there are about half-a-dozen obvious and possible options that need to be considered, and
  • it would also be a good thing to see the Trust promoting steam by applying some of the many technical improvements that have been made with the technology over the past forty years.

1 comment:

  1. I think the P2 proposal is crazy. By far the best idea is the 5AT.