Category Archives: Research

LNWR George the Fifth Trust becomes a Partner of the Friends of Crewe Heritage Centre

The heart of the London & North Western Railway will forever be Crewe and in turn Crewe substantially owes its rapid transformation from a tiny village in the early 19th century to a significant regional centre of over 70,000 inhabitants today to the London & North Western Railway; its antecedents and descendants. The existence of the prestigous Rolls-Royce and Bentley in Crewe, both marques of engineering excellence that owe their existence to the long and rich engineering tradition of Crewe, first established down by the coming of the railways.

Crewe is richly steeped in railway history and the railways and Crewe are forever entwined. Crewe Station was completed in 1837 by the Grand Junction Railway and is one of the world’s most historic stations as well being one of the major junctions on the West Coast Main Line. Crewe Works was opened by the Grand Junction Railway in 1840. To support the new locomotive works, over 200 railway cottages were constructed for the workers and their families who settled there, dramatically enlarging the tiny hamlet’s population. By 1848, after the merger in 1846 of the Grand Junction Railway with the Liverpool & Manchester Railway and London & Birmingham Railway, the works employed over 1000 men and were already producing one locomotive per week.

Crewe Works witnessed a number of firsts and milestones. Locomotive Superintendent, John Ramsbottom developed the first reliable safety valve and water scoops for the collection of water by passing locomotives from troughs positioned between the rails. The works was also the site of the first open-hearth furnaces employed on an industrial scale anywhere in the world. And another milestone among many – Ramsbottom’s 0-6-0 ‘DX Goods’ class went on to become the largest single class of engines in Britain with 943 built at the works in Crewe! Ramsbottom and his successor Webb, revolutionised the standardisation and interchangeability of parts and tools in manufacturing.

With the formation of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923, Midland Railway locomotive and engineering practice was broadly adopted and the new company’s centre of engineering was located at the Midland’s former headquarters and works in Derby. However, with the appointment of William Stanier as Chief Mechanical Engineer in 1932, Crewe’s experience with heavier locomotives (Claughtons and various 8-coupled good classes for example) led Crewe to regaining pre-eminence. Crewe became the centre of construction for the LMS’s most distinguished passenger and mixed traffic classes; the Princess Royals, Coronations, Jubilees and the redoubtable Black Fives.

Following nationalisation in 1948, Crewe’s place as a centre of engineering continued and the works turned out various Standards including Riddles’ Britannias and Clans. By the end of steam, Crewe works had turned out over 7000 locomotives. It’s worth noting that the LNWR George the Fifth class ‘Coronation’ of 1912 (which can be seen in our photo-collection on the main-site) was in fact Crewe’s 5000th engine! The George the Fifth class was indubitably a product of Crewe and an exemplary class embodying Crewe’s and the the London & North Western Railways’ engineering excellence.

The 1955 Modernisation Plan saw the rapid transition from steam to diesel and from 1957 on, the works were turning out a succession of diesel types, including the famed Intercity 125’s, which remain in service today.

For over 150 years Crewe has been and remains a centre of railway engineering, and while today the works are a shadow of their former self, Crewe’s proud railway heritage isn’t forgotten thanks to the tireless efforts of the Crewe Heritage Centre. The Trust’s cause is aligned with that of CHC as our locomotive similarly represents a celebration of this heritage. Our locomotive will be a living and breathing testament to Crewe and to the London & North Western Railway’s position as the largest and arguably most prestigious of the pre-grouping rail companies, and at the time of grouping, Britain’s largest business!

As with the tremendous efforts of the Crewe Heritage Centre in preserving the rail history of Crewe and of Britain more broadly, we hope that our LNWR George the Fifth new-build will be an ambassador for Crewe to present and future generations and a living celebration of Crewe’s contribution to early 20th century engineering. Our locomotive will exemplify the sophistication of the twentieth century London & North Western Railway, bringing it to life for the enjoyment and education of all.

With a common cause in mind, we are very pleased to announce a partnership between the Trust and the CHC. We commend the Crewe Heritage Centre in their efforts and encourage to our readers and supporters to pay the CHC a visit with their families and friends to experience their many fascinating and unique attractions including the only surviving Intercity APT. The Crewe Heritage Centre reopens in March 2014.

The website to the Crewe Heritage Centre can be found here. We have also conveniently listed it on the links page  to our main site. We commend the work and efforts of the volunteers at the Crewe Heritage Centre most warmly and we at the LNWR Steam Locomotive Trust hope to have a long and close relationship with them. We most humbly thank the Friends of the Crewe Heritage Centre for listing us as partners on their site.

Posted in Crewe, Crewe Heritage Centre, Exhibition, General News, History, Preservation Steam, Research, Website | Leave a comment

An update on the smokebox door

We apologise for the recent silence but we can report the following and we hope to have more updates very soon, hopefully with photos over the coming weeks.

Due diligence on the smokebox door has taken us longer than we anticipated but we are finally underway. The down-payment has been made with Keyte Smith Ltd of Bingham, Nottingham. Peter Stanton, the Chairman of the LNWR Society and Member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and a Chartered Engineer was appointed by the Trust to ensure that we confirm to the appropriate certification especially as we want to be eligible for mainline running. Along with Jamie Keyte of Keyte Smith, all the necessary due-diligence for the smokebox door has being undertaken.

A materials certificate is to be provided and the door will be made of Boiler-Plate, which is stronger and more resistant to corrosion than the ‘Crewe Steel that’ the LNWR employed, which was made by the LNWR for its own use. Keyte Smith have also done calculations to demonstrate that the door will be able to withstand the partial vacuum behind it. The outer door profile is being produced by a process known as ‘metal spinning‘. You can read about the process on Wikipedia here. The original doors were fabricated by pressing, which only makes sense if you are producing large quantities of the same item (as Crewe Works was undoubtedly doing) and really isn’t practical or cost-effective for one-offs. I should stress that the result will be indistinguishable from the original.

Internal discussions are currently taking place to finalise the next stage. We are all reasonably certain about the next part to be fabricated next however we’ll hold off announcing it until the decision is definitive. To this end we hope to soon begin running simulation software and following due diligence to again ensure mainline running. What I can say is that we are considering a more structurally integral part of the locomotive, which we hope will be a serious demonstration of intent. It has made sense for us to hold back on structurally critical parts of a new locomotive until we felt ready to tackle them but we are coming to grips with the fabrication, tendering and certification processes and we are attracting invaluable support from knowledgeable and experienced individuals such as Peter Stanton, Richard Coleby and Ted Talbot.

We are also steadily gathering interest and support and we have you, our donors and supporters to thank for getting us the point where we can finally cut metal. Of course it perhaps goes withing saying that much more is needed and so we humbly ask for your assistance in raising sufficient funds for the next stage of fabrication. And remember, once we reach the £10,000 mark matched funding from a kind benefactor will kick in, helping to expedite the build. At £20,000, another £10,000 in matched funding will be made – all the way to £50,000 – which will give this project a real fillip. People like you will make this happen so please consider becoming a regular donor or if you’re not comfortable with monthly contributions, then a single donation is of course also greatly appreciated. A reminder that UK taxpayers can match their donation through Gift-Aid so remember to tick the Gift Aid-box and fill out the appropriate details when filling out the donation form. Monthly donations can be cancelled at any time. You’ll find a link on ‘How to Help‘ at the top of this page including the form in doc and PDF formats. Single donations also can be made securely through Paypal on our main website.

We thank you for your support!

Speaking of assistance, the LNWR Society is in the process of digitising the drawings it holds in its collection and we shall be receiving a full collection in a digital format soon. We kindly thank the LNWR Society for this gesture.

Posted in Fabrication, General News, History, LNWRS Society, Research | 1 Comment

Richard Coleby

As fabrication finally gets underway we’ve been critically assessing the designs and pouring over reports of the engine’s performance whilst in service to identify flaws and investigate where and how to incorporate the best of modern practice while remaining as true as possible to the original design. To this end Ted Talbot, Peter Stanton and Jamie Keyte among others are dedicating their invaluable time and expertise to the task, and we hope to report more on their involvement as the project progresses.

A task of building a new-build of an extinct class is a fine balancing act – that is, how to be true to the original design while ensuring that any design flaws when identified, aren’t repeated or are at least mitigated. In the case of the LNWR George the Fifth class, we are dealing with a design that is over 100 years old. We have the benefit of hindsight arising from reports into the service life of the class (which themselves have to be investigated for their veracity or potential bias – take the reports of ‘flimsy frames‘ for example, which appears to have been unwarranted) and of 100 years of subsequent practice in locomotive engineering specifically and engineering and metallurgy more generally.

And so in addition to the tremendous pool of expertise and knowledge mentioned above we are also pleased to announce the critical assistance of Derby-trained Richard Coleby who has kindly agreed to investigate reports of possible valve-gear errors in the original George the Fifth design. Richard’s impressive resume includes serving an Engineering Apprenticeship at Derby Loco Works in the final years of steam during which he gained an in-depth knowledge of the repair and maintenance of steam locomotives.

After leaving BR in 1969 he established a partnership dedicated to building large scale miniature steam locomotives and was responsible for the design of several engines including the famous Stapleford Nickel Plate Berkshire (at the time the most powerful 1/5th scale locomotive in the world) and the 59 class Garratt now residing at the NRM.

In the 1980s he was responsible for a rebuild of the Stapleford Curwen Atlantic ‘John of Gaunt’ which included many features designed to reduce maintenance requirements, such as the enclosed toary-driven valve gear, roller crossheads and big-ends and balanced slide valves. In 2009 he led the project to build ‘Norfolk Heroine’ the second Garratt on the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway and is currently working on a completely new Garratt incorporating as much modern practice as possible into a large miniature engine design.

We humbly thank Richard for his invaluable contribution, helping to ensure that this new-build George the Fifth, while a true member of the class and externally indistinguishable from its siblings will nonetheless incorporate the best of modern practice where absolutely critical so that maintenance can be minimised and service-life extended. We aim to build-to-last – an engine that will well outlast us – ensuring many decades of enjoyment for all who see her and ride behind her.

Posted in Fabrication, General News, Research, Richard Coleby, Ted Talbot, Valve Gear, Volunteers | 2 Comments

Those ‘flimsy frames’?

2013? Hard to believe. We hope you are all well and wish you all the best for the coming year. We also hope to have some news for you in the coming weeks now that Christmas is out of the way.

In the meantime we’d like to bring an article written by Ted Talbot for the January edition of ‘Back Track‘ entitled “Centre Bearings, Weak Frames and all that” to your attention. It concerns the removal of the Centre Bearings and frames from LNWR engines, which was authorised in 1923 and had a deleterious effect on the reliability, maintenance costs etc of the engines. Ted’s article looks at the consequences, assesses the reputation that LNWR engines subsequently received, that of having ‘flimsy-frames’ (undeserved argues Ted) and the likely motivations of this removal (a decision emanating from the smoke-filled rooms of Crewe’s old rival, Derby perhaps?)

The Centre Bearing was a feature of LNWR engines employing Joy valve gear where the space on the driving axle typically occupied by the eccentrics driving the steam chests found with Stephensons gear was instead occupied by a centre bearing in addition to the axle box bearings, which served to lessen the fore & aft shocks on the crank axle. To illustrate what a Centre Bearing and frame was, Ted has kindly provided us with a photograph of between the frames on a 5in gauge model of a D class 0-8-0 (the unsuperheated Whale 0-8-0 with large boiler). Note the central plate or frame and the Central Bearing between the connecting rods and cranks. Note too that the steam-chest linkages to the con-rods known as the valve rods and the reverse gear linkages have been removed here for clarity.

We heartedly recommending Ted’s fascinating article. We also recommend the Back Track journal for anyone interested in the rich and endlessly fascinating history of Britain’s railways.

Posted in BackTrack Journal, Fabrication, General News, History, Research, Ted Talbot, Uncategorized, Valve Gear | 1 Comment