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SOME NEW GREAT WESTERN ENGINES.

By the Rev. A. H. MALAN, M.A.
September 8, 1894

(Illustrated with Photographs by the Author.)


THERE are now being turned out at Swindon thirty single-wheel engines having every prospect of rendering good service on the road, possessing, as they do, all the merits of the previous thirty without their defects.

Poor things! the 3001 class made their appearance at an awkward time—for them. They found themselves called upon to supersede time-honoured express engines of wide base, excessive heating-surface, and noble outline, and expected to emulate the achievements of these without tuning a hair, or, in other words, straining a bolt. A certain degree of prejudice against the newcomers was naturally to be looked for on the part of admirers of the broad-gauge " eight feet " with all their admirable qualities. At the first glimpse, the imperishable words of "Henry's First" came to mind—figura habet nihil stabilitatis; and the worst of it was that, as time went on, it did not appear as if such prejudice was unjustified. However, there is no need to repeat what has been said elsewhere; [* "Round the Works of our Great Railways." 1893.] while it would be extremely ungracious to perpetuate the peccadilloes of individuals which have now realised the error of their ways and are turning over a new leaf.


The "Wigmore Castle" was the first to reform, and return to duty as a converted character. After its mishap at Box, when it collapsed at an irregular curve made by itself or by others of that ilk, it retired from the scene, reviewed the situation, protruded its framing forwards, evolved a bogie truck, and reduced its 20-inch cylinders by an inch. Trial trips proving eminently satisfactory, thirty engines with similar features were at once put in hand, while the other twenty-nine of the "Wigmore Castle" class are to be altered as circumstances permit.

At a recent "private view," kindly accorded me by Mr. Dean, the "Achilles," first of the new series, was found to be having the finishing touches put to it, before being dismissed on its travels with a blessing. Its springs were being adjusted in a highly practical and simple manner. One or two good, honest iron nits having been placed at intervals along one rail, the engine would be slowly run over them, the wheels crunching up upon the nuts, and falling off, with a resounding, but harmless bump; clearly showing that this Achilles is not vulnerable in his heels. The sudden jolt and extra pressure on any one spring takes some of the stiffness out of its joints; and thereby the weight of the engine is distributed in more just proportion.

Watching this performance being repeated several times, one recollected how, as schoolboys, we used, of a half-holiday—I fear, without even permission "to go on the line"—to put halfpennies (pennies being too great a sacrifice), in the track of a train, and then, as the engine dashed past, wasted the fears of our guilty consciences by sudden dread lest the coin might send it off the rail! Drivers, in those days, had a mysterious tap somewhere at their command, from which they dearly loved to eject steam and water, in a continuous jet, at about the level of our white collars; taking very good care to turn on the spray before they passed the trespassers, so as not to miss their aim. And for all one knows, the same trick may be performed at the same place, even now.

But to return. The "Achilles" having nothing more particular to do that afternoon than run about in the yard and exercise its machinery, a photograph of it was desirable, and, with this object in view, after sundry tenders, blocking the way, had been removed, it arrived at last on the line—next to a dead wall, with high, distempered, canvas facing. This "studio" proved much too short for its great length; but, on the whole, that seemed a pardonable blemish, as likely to seal its doom more quickly. For, by a strange unfitness of things, the studio is situated almost directly below the stack of the foundry blast furnace; and it so happened that the wind was blowing the sulphurous fumes straight down upon the engine. Hence it was not surprising to hear that the official photographers prefer another background elsewhere. The Greek stories are fond of narrating how, when mortals were worrying some hero, the gods would envelop him in a mist; and just now there was a plain demonstration of the very phenomenon. When an interval of comparative clearness was obtained, a yellow screen was used with an isochromatic plate; but the screen was not of much service, after all, the half-tones proving to be neither better nor worse than in another negative taken without it. But undoubtedly isochromatic plates are far better for such subjects than ordinary plates; as, indeed, they are for nearly all other subjects as well.

To borrow a nautical phrase, the, engine "sits" the rail well; the framing looks less common and hopelessly angular than before; a front view shows all outward signs of top heaviness to have been eliminated by the additional wheel, well in advance of the buffers. There is a certain amount of ornamentation, too, that seems quite in keeping with a class destined to bear such titles as "Majestic," "Dreadnought," etc. For instance, the arms of the Company are no longer in flat transfer, but cast in relief and hand-painted; and the name letters are shown off against black lacquer. But the arms seem too crowded in, laid the brass letters are too near the brass splasher-bead for a good effect.

But how paltry seems that splasher-bead, as compared with the embellishments of the past! The intrinsic value of the brass in the "Great Britain's" two splashers (one of which still survives, and may be seen surmounting some name-plates in a Cornish vicarage) was over six pounds.

An outsider can suggest anything he likes, because his advice is not in the least likely to be taken; and therefore the remark can be hazarded that the name might with advantage be placed midway between the splasher and framing, and embellished with a little scroll-ornamentation in brass—i.e. something after the style of the name of a passenger steamer, only not so "loud." The arms might then be removed to where the number now stands; and the number, in smaller letters, be placed below it, or relegated to the buffer beam, or some odd corner. The broad-gauge thirty, be it remembered, were never numbered; but then, they were not items in the thousands, but sui generis!

The bogie, one learns, is no one's patent; it has "grown." Would that it could have grown a bit wider during its evolution! But the narrow-gauge demands that the cylinders and bogie-bearings, etc., should pack themselves within such confined limits that it is a work of real nicety to get at the details. Let us hope that no member of the 3031 class may come to grief, except where a pit is handy. Why, the other day, a driver of an engine of another class, crept into the "works " of his bogie, and to! there the fore part of him stuck fast ! A pretty position for a man to find himself in, especially if his train was just signalled!

One uses that term "narrow " gauge, because the usual expression "national gauge" seems almost to imply that the nation has something to be proud of, which is by no means the case. But the term is admissible, after all, for one broad-gauge engine may still be seen running in Swindon yard. This is a travelling crane, which is kept at work, and the third rail kept to work it, because it can do more duty than ordinary cranes, and need, no cramping of its wheels to the rail lest it should tip over. Narrow-gauge advocates, please observe!

It is good to see the big single driving-wheel still retained. With a fair load, nothing can beat the motion of a single-wheel engine; and it may not be all fancy that seems to detect a difference in the momentum and pulsating vibration of a railway carriage at a high speed, according to whether a single-wheel or coupled engine is attached. But it is a serious problem with heavy loads to get enough tractive power out of one pair of wheels, so as to keep time, without so weighting them as to strain the gear. In addition to not exhausting their steam quick enough, it was in this direction that the 3001's proved a little too energetic; on which account their cylinders are being reduced, and a ton taken off the burden of their "drivers." But, while referring to them, it is only just to say that the pitching and rolling for which they have been rather notorious would not have been so bad if 5-inch bullhead rails and well-packed transverse sleepers had been general; it being, a difficult thing to keep 3-inch bridge rails quite true—as between themselves—when supported by longitudinal baulks. On the broad gauge, the wide base annulled any small irregularity, but the narrow gauge has but little margin of stability.

Experiments, it is asserted, are being held somewhere towards making electricity an adjunct to the high-pressure locomotive, by utilising the waste power of the crank-shaft to create a current applicable to the other wheels; rendering them thereby auxiliary driving-wheels. Such an additional grip, if it should prove workable, would at once permit increased loads and greater speed, besides being of material help in mounting banks. But the time for this innovation has not yet arrived; there may be counteracting objections to the idea; but at any rate the "Achilles" class (so ably set out in the reproduced official diagram) will serve well enough for some years to come. And it can be safely predicted that the " Stormy Petrel," "Voltigeur," " Behemoth," "Devonia" [why not "Lyonesse" and "Cornubia"?], etc., will not require to put in an appearance at the repairing sheds more frequently than any well-disposed engine, of robust physique and average vitality, would feel itself amply justified in doing. We heartily wish them well.


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