The railways in 1951 were changing due to the implementation the Government’s plans following nationalisation in 1948, but of course this meant that political interference grew – especially in the finance area.
The post-war recovery depended on the railways for transporting goods and people but was not thought through with the consequences of the armed forces demobbing hundreds of thousands of people. These had new found skills such as driving, and combined with military surplus equipment such as lorries and vans, competition was rife in the transport world.
The railway 1951 mechanical engineering renewals budgets were £5m for locomotives, £12m for carriages and £19m for wagons. The repair budget for all items was estimated at £60m.
To save money, The Government decreed that the railways should economise by reducing coal consumption by 10,000 tons a week. This was brought about by a fuel shortage creating price rises estimated to cost the railways an extra £3m a year. The economies were made by reducing train services thus driving more people and goods away and onto the roads.
The engineers experimented with steam locomotive boiler and firebox design changing the draughting arrangements. This reduced the smoke emissions as more coal was burnt reducing ash and increased fuel efficiency by around 12%. The downside was damage to boiler with more cold air being admitted to the fire providing oxygen thus improving combustion.
The Railway Executive (who ran Britain’s railways) formed a committee to design a ‘Standard’ set of locomotives for use around the UK. These were designed for use from anything between main line express services to local branch line services operated by tank engines. They would all bring economies of scale as parts would be interchangeable and 999 were eventually built.
The ‘Britannia’ class was the first ‘Pacific’ type with the first batch built at Crewe designed by Robert riddles in his position as Member for the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Railway Executive.
‘Britannias’ were announced as taking over from the likes of Castles, Royal Scots, V2s and West Country Class locomotives on the various regions. The first 15 were allocated to East Anglia and the next 10 to the Western region and all these were built at Crewe. The engines had a 42 square foot firebox and two cylinders measuring 20 by 28 inches and the tender had cut-away sides allowing good visibility when tender-first running was needed. It was a member of this class No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell that pulled the last BR steam train in August 1968 and still runs today owned by the National Railway Museum.
The first of the class was subjected to many test runs between London and Carlisle and also at the Rugby locomotive test plant with the designer present.
A smaller version of the Standard Pacific was also introduced in 1951. The Class 5 was designed for mixed traffic duties and the first ones were built at Derby and allocated to the Midland and Scottish Regions.
They were numbered from 73000 onwards and intended to take over from the LMS ‘Black 5s and the GWR Halls and LNER B1s.
The first of the Standard Tank Engines also emerged in 1951 from Brighton Works where 44 were built with another 10 at Derby. Others were also built at Eastleigh and Ashford. These were designed as powerful mixed traffic engines designed by Riddles in conjunction with the Standard 4 type engine.
The American taxpayers had paid for a trip in 1950 for the UK Locomotive Manufacturer’s Association to visit America to study their methods of diesel construction. The report was issued in 1951 and said that production should be introduced using the unit method where every part of the production process was understood, timed and costed.
It suggested that staff should mingle and that new methods of working be implemented to create an efficient manufacturing process and budgetry control. This would, the report said, introduce a universal cost-consciousness essential to help the drive for greater productivity and had been historically absent.
The report said all the right things but when the Modernisation Plan was created a few years later, a plethora of different diesel locomotives were built so it seems not much was really taken from the visit! Indeed, steam locomotives were still being built in 1960!
The Southern Railway hoped to build three express passenger train diesels and introduce them in late 1947, just before Nationalisation but they did not achieve this. They ended up entering service in 1951 along with the London Midland Region’s diesels, the latter also intended for mixed traffic services as well as expresses.
The Southern diesels were designed by O V S Bulleid and the project completed by S. Warder, the Southern Region’s Mechanical and Electrical Engineer. Two were built in Ashford Works and numbered 10201/2 while the LM variants were numbered 10000/1. The Southern diesels included a toilet and washing facilities for the crew as well as a cooker!
Another early diesel that was introduced was No. 10100 designed by H. Ivatt and Fell Developments Ltd. This was notable as it had electric transmission and was a speculative build by the company.
London Transport built some battery powered locomotives for engineering train use. They could pull 200 ton trains at 15mph when the electric rails were switched off for track work. Seven of these were built in 1951 adding to the fleet of nine delivered in the 1930s.
The French Railway Museum sent a Buddicom steam locomotive built in France in 1834, to the Festival of Britain. It was put into steam and steamed from Paris St Lazare to Acheres and was then hauled to Dunkirque for the sea crossing. Again, hauled to London, the engine was steamed up and ran into Bricklayers Arms depot to be formally welcomed by descendants of the builders.
A miniature railway was built in the Battersea Festival Pleasure Gardens called ‘The Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway! It was 500 yards long and had three locomotives with the initial one built in Southport and called Nellie. She was constructed to a curious design inspired by the cartoonist of the time, Emmett.
The Golden Arrow ran between London Victoria to Paris via Dover or Folkestone and in 1951 was allocated the new Britannia class of steam locomotive as it was a prestige service. A new Golden Arrow train was built including carriages called Carina and Pegasus which included the Trianon Bar.
The carriages were double glazed and air conditioned with the roof sprayed with asbestos 3/8 inch thick. The new train entered service in June 1951 as it was expected that many visitors to The Festival of Britain would travel from Europe on the train. For mere mortals, a new standard carriage was introduced, the precursor of the BR Mark 1 carriage.
61 new Sleeping Cars were ordered to be built in 1951 and 1952 split between Wolverton and Derby Works. First to emerge was the 3rd class variety built by the Eastern and North Eastern Regions. Hot and cold water was now provided in each compartment which now had upper and lower berths. Each car had 330 gallon tanks for water and the water was solid fuel heated and an axle carried electric generator which was also used to charge batteries as well as providing on-train light. Each coach cost £8500 to build.
By 1951, the railways had developed a new freight wagon strategy designed to introduce 34 types of wagon to replace many different designs of wagon, mainly old and costly to maintain.
The first of these to be built was the 12 ton vacuum braked ventilated goods van and 3000 had been ordered to be built at Wolverton.
A standard Brakevan for goods trains was also introduced weighing 20 tons. Their design was based on the LNER 20 ton version and modifications agreed by the Unions and Railway Executive. Faverdale Workshops were to build 400 of these which could run at 60mph and included a desk and coal fire for the Guard.
The Hunslet Engine Company Ltd built four diesels for export to Peru. These were tested on 780 ton trains on the steeply graded Stourton and Guisley branches taking the place of LMS 8F 2-8-0 steam engines. They were also tested on shunting duties at Stourton Down Yard for a month.