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The North Eastern Railway; its rise and development online

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collieries in the neighbourhood of Stella Gill and the shipping staiths at
Tyne Dock and for the 32- and 40-ton waggons between the Ashington group
of collieries in Northumberland and the staiths at North Blyth. Experience
revealed difficulties in the way of adopting the 32- and the 40-ton mineral
waggons for general use, and only 13 of the former and 100 of the latter
were constructed. In 1903 it was decided to adopt the 20-ton type as the
standard high-capacity mineral waggon. The advantages of a waggon of


this capacity as compared with the 10^-ton mineral waggon may be sum-
marised as follows :

(1) The freight load in relation to tare is 16 per cent, greater.

(2) The gross load of the train is increased by 15 per cent.

(3) The freight or revenue load of the train is increased by 34 per cent.

(4) The length of siding required for standing an equivalent tonnage

of coal is 20 per cent. less.

(5) A given tonnage can be moved with the same type of engine in

25 per cent, less train miles when consigned in the larger



The type of covered goods waggon of high capacity which the Company
at first adopted was that of 15 tons with four wheels and two doors at each
side. A smaller waggon, 20 feet in length, with a carrying capacity of
12 tons, was afterwards found more suited to their traffic, and this type was
substituted for the other as the standard high-capacity goods waggon.

Another change about to be made on the ground alike of economy and
efficiency was the substitution at certain busy parts of the line of power
and automatic signalling for the ordinary mechanism of working signals and
points, the first installation being that of the Westmghouse electro-pneumatic
system at Tyne Dock, the second that of the "Hall" electric automatic
system on the main line between Alne and Thirsk junction.



As to the second problem the competition of electric trams in the
Newcastle district it was during the autumn of 1902 that the Tyneside
Tramways were opened from Gosforth to North Shields, taking aw r ay a good
deal of short-distance traffic from the railway. The effect was shown in the
accounts a falling off in the passenger receipts of 30,000 for the half-year,
one-third of which was certainly due to tramway competition. During this
period the Company had carried 18,000 fewer first-class and four million
fewer third-class passengers than in 1901, though every other branch of
traffic showed a substantial increase.



It was therefore decided to equip 37 miles of railway for electric traction.
Early in 1903, contracts were let, one to the British Thompson-Houston
and the other to the British Westing-house Company. The work had, of
necessity, to be carried out without interrupting the ordinary traffic, but by
September 27th, 1903, the equipment of a portion of the riverside line was in a
sufficiently advanced stage to admit of the experimental running of one of
the new trains between Carville and Percy Main, a distance of three miles.
On the 29tfy of March, 1904, the Company began working the section
between New Bridge street, Newcastle, and Benton by electric power. The
public service was preceded by a special train the standard train of three
coaches light open vehicles of the corridor type, each 55 feet in length and
9 feet in width, carried on four-wheeled bogie trucks. It performed the
journey of nearly five miles, including three stoppages at intermediate
stations, in eleven minutes, a saving of four minutes on the steam train time,
and returned in about eight minutes. At 12'50 p.m. the first train of the new
service left New Bridge Street Station with more than its complement of
18G passengers.

On the 6th of June the service was extended to Monkseaton and during
the race-week holidays to Tynemouth. By the end of the month the elec-
trification of the older line to
Tynemouth and the Eiverside
branch was completed, and on the
1st of July, the circuit between the
Central and New Bridge Street
Stations, Newcastle, via Tyne-
mouth, was opened throughout for
electric working. On the 25th of
July, having electrified a portion
of the main line from Heaton to
Bentoii and connected it by means
of a curve at Bentou with the New-
castle and Moukseaton (B. and T.)
CURRENT-COLLECTING SHOE li ue , the Company supplemented

the ordinary electric service

between Newcastle and Tynemouth by a number of express trains,
five in each direction. The route was an epitome of the growth of the
railway system, " line upon line," having been formed by five different
companies and opened for traffic at such different times as 1839, 1847, 1850,


1864, 1882 and 1904. The date was the ninetieth anniversary of the trial run
of Stephenson's first locomotive engine on the Killing-worth waggonway which
the electric trains crossed near Bentou Square. Remembering the important
results of this experiment and the state of efficiency to which the locomotive
engine was carried in Stephenson's day, it is interesting 1 to learn that, only a
year before his death, the famous engineer had some prevision of electric
traction, for, to a young- manufacturer in Newcastle, Mr. G. C. Warden, he
expressed the opinion that probably within the lifetime of the latter, "elec-
tricity would be the great motive-power of the world."*

As to the third problem the reorganisation of the traffic department
the changes involved were so far-reaching that it was considered advisable for
a party of the principal officials of the North Eastern Railway to visit the
United States in order to study American methods of moving and handling
traffic. During the course of a tour of thirty-one clays the party travelled
upwards of 4,500 miles over the principal railway systems of the United
States. What they saw of the working of these lines fully confirmed the
reports which had reached them of the success of the American railway
management and encouraged them to proceed with the reform of their own
railway practice in the direction of increasing train loads and decreasing
train mileage. As the ordinary statistics of the North Eastern Railway,
which Sir Lowthiaii Bell had introduced in the seventies, and for many
years compiled with his own hand, elaborate as these were, did not give the
average train load or the average length of haul, it was decided to arrange
for the compilation of passenger-mile and ton-mile statistics in order to
obtain the data required. The utility of such statistics had been pointed out
as long ago as 1874f and 1875+ and exemplified on the Indian railways for
over thirty years, but this was the first time that an English railway company
had come to a decision to compile them.

Sir George S. Gibb, who was then the general manager of the North
Eastern Railway, became and throughout his railway career remained, a
strong advocate for these statistics, and was never tired of explaining to
the uninitiated or the prejudiced both what such statistics can do and what
they cannot. " Their main use," he explained, " is practical, not
theoretical. They do not enable persons bent on pursuing some unsound

* Time*, April 12th, 1904. Letter on "George Stephenson and Electricity," by G. C. W.
t Economist, Nov. 7, 1874. J Proc. of lust, of Civ. Engineers, Feb. 23, 1875.



theory of railway rates to establish economic heresies. But they do enable
a railway manager to test the work done in carrying passengers and mer-
chandise on any part of the railway, to measure the work performed in
relation to many important items of cost incurred in performing it, to compare
period with period and district with district, to supervise local staff with a
full knowledge of results, to control train mileage, and to enforce economy
in w r orking."


(showing Electric and .Steam Trains).

The first ton and passenger mile figures taken out by the North Eastern
Company for the month of May, 1900, as to goods and minerals, and for
the month of October, 1900', as to passengers yielded, in conjunction with
the train mile and other figures possessed by the Company, the following
information, viz. : that the average train load of merchandise and live stock
was 44'18 tons and of minerals, 92*49 tons* ; that the average haul of goods and
minerals was 22'23 miles ; that the average rate per ton mile for mineral


traffic was '99d. and for goods traffic l'642d. ; that the earnings from mer-
chandise and mineral traffic per train mile averaged 82'65d. ; that the number
of passengers per train was only f>2'10 ; that the average distance travelled
by them was 13'87 miles ; that the earnings per passenger per mile averaged
'617d., the earnings from passengers per train mile 38'54d., and the receipts
of passenger trains per mile 45'96d.f In the light of the facts revealed by
these figures, the management proceeded with the introduction of the new
methods of working.

Early in January, 1902, the final arrangements were made for the re-
organisation of the traffic department on the principle of separating the work
of moving and handling traffic from that of procuring and charging for it.
What was called in American phraseology the " operating " branch of the
department was placed by the new scheme under the control of a general
superintendent assisted by three divisional superintendents and nine district
superintendents while the " commercial " branch was placed under the con-
trol of a chief , goods manager, assisted by five district goods managers and
a chief passenger agent assisted by two district passenger agents. Over
both branches of the department was placed the chief traffic manager who,
in turn, was responsible to the general manager. The main idea of the
scheme of reorganisation was that every operation connected with the work-
ing and handling of traffic should be under one control, the loading of
waggons no less than the running of trains. In the redistribution of duties
the goods department was therefore relieved of the charge of its stations,
warehouses, terminal yards and docks and of the work of loading, unload-
ing and handling traffic, the whole of this work being transferred to the
general superintendent, upon whom rested the responsibility of carrying
out the new methods of economical management. Some new posts were
created those of the divisional superintendents whose function it was to
supervise the work of the district superintendents, and those of the " yard-
masters," a new class of minor officials placed in charge of the marshalling
sidings at the busy centres of the system. The office of mineral manager
at Newcastle was merged in that of divisional superintendent of the North-
ern division (mineral section) to whom were allotted the commercial duties

* As the mileage of mineral trains includes the mileage of empty returning trains as well
as of full trains, the average train load comes out as 92'49 tons. Excluding the mileage of the
empty trains the average train load would have been double that given, or 184*98 tons.

t A table showing the increase in the average train load and in the average receipts per
train mile from 1900 to 1912 inclusive, appears as appendix F.


previously performed by the mineral manager as well as the supervision of
the working of the mineral traffic in the Darlington, Hartlepool, New-
castle, and Sunderland superintendents' districts. This reorganisation of the
traffic departments was followed by changes in the administration of the
locomotive department, the head of which now took the title of chief mechan-
ical engineer. The changes were all in the direction of a devolution of
responsibility which was distributed among three new district locomotive
superintendents (charged with the efficient working of the engines), three
new waggon superintendents and three new locomotive accountants. The
reorganisation took effect on and from the 1st of March, 1902.


Together witli the North British, Great Northern, and Midland Com-
panies the North Eastern had assisted in promoting a Company for the
purpose of erecting a bridge across the Firth of Forth, guaranteeing to the
shareholders on certain conditions a dividend of G per cent. Their object was
to secure a fair share of the North of Scotland traffic, almost monopolised at
this time by the West Coast Companies. Since the laying of the foundation
stone of the middle pier on the Island of Inchgarvie on the 30th of Septem-
ber, 1878, little had been done, but the contractors, Messrs. William Arrol &
Company, were making active preparations to begin the works at Inver-
keithing and South Queensferry when the collapse of the Tay Bridge took
place. Public confidence was shaken in the design of Sir Thomas Bouch
for a suspension bridge with towers of unprecedented height and spans of the
enormous width of 1,000 feet. Grave doubts were entertained whether
sufficient allowance had been made for wind pressure on the towers and
chains and it was decided in the first place to refer the plans back to the
committee of engineers who had reported that the bridge would be amply
sufficient to " meet the strains due to extreme gales of wind." These pre-
cautionary measures did not prevent the contractors .from cutting the first
turf at South Queensferry a ceremony which took place on the 1st of
March, 1880. The shadow of the Tay Bridge disaster, however, hung over
the proceedings and the conviction was gaining ground that Sir Thomas
Bouch's magnificent design would never be realised. Seven years had elapsed
since its adoption, and now when the contract was let and the steel for the
structure ordered, the Forth Bridge Company found it necessary to re-open
questions affecting its very principles. The financial and engineering diffi-
culties appeared to them so serious that in the next session, 1880, they


introduced a Bill for the abandonment of their undertaking, but this Bill
the North Eastern in conjunction with the Great Northern and Midland
Companies found it necessary to oppose. Their engineers considered that a
continuous steel girder bridge on the cantilever principle as designed by
Mr. John Fowler was quite practicable, and, before the Bill came up in the
House of Lords, a conference took place at York between the representatives
of the four railway companies chiefly interested in the scheme and those of
the Forth Bridge Company, with the result that they agreed to withdraw the
Bill and to apply for a renewal of their powers. The terms of arrangement were
that the Forth Bridge Company should have an absolute and perpetual guar-
antee of 4 per cent, per annum instead of a conditional guarantee of 6 per
cent., the four companies being liable in the following proportions North
British, 30 per cent.; Midland, 32i per cent.; Great Northern and North
Eastern, 18f per cent. each.

On the 4th of March, 1890, the bridge was formally opened by the
Prince of Wales. A mile and a half in length and 451 feet, in height from
the base of the deepest piers to the top of the cantilevers, with two spans
of 1,710 feet, two of 075 feet, fifteen of 108 feet and five of 25 feet each, this
gigantic structure, composed of nearly 00,000 tons of steel and iron, 740,000
cubic feet of granite and 330,000 cubic feet of rubble masonry and concrete,
was the most remarkable engineering work in the world. The new route
opened by the Forth Bridge gave the East Coast Companies an advantage
over their West Coast competitors to Aberdeen and Inverness of nearly 16i



Up to this time, active competition between the East and West Coast
Companies had been confined to the southern side of the Firth of Forth.
One of the railway sensations of 1888 was the race to Edinburgh, when
the West Coast Companies, on the 1st of -Time, began to run their principal
day trains between London and Edinburgh in 9 instead of 10 hours. The
East Coast Companies, whose corresponding trains had performed the journey
since 1876 in 9 hours, replied by reducing their booked time to 8^. Towards
the end of July the West Coast announced that they also would run in 8|
hours from the 1st of August, and the East Coast therefore made arrange-
ments to run in 8 hours on the same date. The West Coast then announced
a further reduction to 8 hours to begin on the 6th, on which date their train
arrived at Edinburgh eight minutes before time ; but it consisted of four
carriages only, weighing about 80 tons, while the weight of the East Coast
train was not less than 100 tons.


On the 13th of August the East Coast reduced their booked time to 7f
hours, and on the same day the West Coast accomplished the journey in
7 hours 38 minutes. The following day, the East Coast cut down their
record to 7 hours 32 minutes, the run from Newcastle to Edinburgh (124|
miles) being performed in 124 minutes. A conference was held on this day,
when it was arranged that the booked times until the end of the month should
be fixed at 7f hours for the East Coast and 8 hours for the West Coast. On
the last day of August the East Coast drivers, by way of a fitting finale to the
remarkable series of runs, made a special effort to outdo all their previous
performances and establish a record for the East Coast route. The journey
from London to York (188 miles) was performed in 3 hours 22^ minutes, and
from York to Edinburgh (204f miles) in 3 hours 37f minutes, at an average
speed, deducting stoppages, of 57'6 miles per hour for the first part of the
journey, and 57' 7 miles per hour for the second. Between York and New-
castle, the train, which consisted of two first-class, two composite, a third-
class carriage and two vans a total weight of 10(H tons was hauled by one
of " Tennant's express passenger engines," built in 1885, and from Newcastle
to Edinburgh by one of Mr. T. W. Worsdell's compound engines built in

After the Forth Bridge was opened, competition between the rival routes
was extended to the North of Scotland, and became more and more active.
Every year since 1890, improvements had been made in the East Coast service,
and the determined efforts of the West Coast Companies to minimise the
advantages obtained by their rivals made the great race of 1895 one of the
most interesting chapters in railway history. Each stage of the contest was
followed by the public with intense interest, and people who had not the
remotest idea of ever visiting Aberdeen rejoiced none the less when the
journey-time (by the route they favoured) was reduced first by minutes and
then by hours. Alarmists prophesied grave disaster, while optimists proved
in letters to the press that trains travelling at high speeds were much
the safest. Fortunately the forebodings of the fainthearted had no realiza-
tion, and the racing ended without mishap.

* Mr. Edward Fletcher retired in 1882. He was succeeded by Mr. Archibald Macdonnell,
who resigned in 1884. Between his resignation and the appointment of Mr. Thomas William
VYorsdell in 1885 the North Eastern Railway was without a locomotive superintendent. Some
heavier engines being required to work the East Coast express trains between Newcastle and
Edinburgh, Mr. Tennant suggested the building of a class of engines similar in type to those
of class 901, but with a longer wheel base and larger cylinders. A design was submitted
which received the approval of the locomotive committee, and in February, 1885, the first
of a set of twenty engines, officially known as the 1463 class, was ready for work.


When Dr. Johnson visited Aberdeen in 1773, on his way to the
Hebrides, the city was very little known to the travelling public, and he did
not think it " superfluous to relate that, under the name of Aberdeen are
comprised two towns about a mile distant from each other." The journey
from Edinburgh to Aberdeen was made leisurely in a post-chaise which, to
Dr. Johnson, represented " the luxury of travelling." The line into Aberdeen
was opened in 1850, but it was not until 1855 that a through service with
through bookings by the East Coast lines was brought into operation. The
North British rails then ended at Edinburgh and the Caledonian line did
not extend much further north than Greenhill, the junction with the Scottish
Central. By either route Aberdeen was only reached by passing over the
lines of independent companies, and it was not until the Forth Bridge was
brought into use, in 1890, that the East Coast route secured a marked

The journey between London and Aberdeen, which in 1855 had taken
about 17i hours, had, by 1887, been reduced to 14 hours. In 1888, the " race
to Edinburgh " had led to an understanding between the rival companies
that the time taken by their best trains from London to Edinburgh should
not be less than 8| hours. This arrangement, while leaving the West Coast
Companies free to accelerate their trains to more northerly places, like Perth
and Aberdeen, acted as a restraint on the East Coast, whose route to these
cities was by way of Edinburgh. In 1889, therefore, we find the journey
from Euston to Aberdeen reduced to 12 hours 50 minutes, while the trains
from King's Cross were timed to take a full half-hour longer.

In 1894 the shortening of their route by the construction of the Forth
Bridge and an acceleration of the North British trains north of Edinburgh
made it possible for the East Coast Companies (while still observing the
" understanding ") to reduce the journey to Aberdeen to 11 hours 35 minutes ;
the West Coast trains, under revised timings, took about 15 minutes longer.

So things remained until 1895, when the West Coast, on June 22nd,
announced that, commencing on July 1st, their 8'0 p.m. from Euston would be
booked to reach Aberdeen at 7'4 a.m. just 5 minutes behind the East Coast
train. The East Coast now threw over the 8 hours agreement,
maintaining that the " informal understanding " had not been intended to
apply to the night trains, but only to the day trains, which had a 20 minutes
luncheon stop at York. They announced that from July 1st there would be
an acceleration of their 8'0 p.m. train from King's Cross to allow of Aberdeen
being reached 15 minutes earlier than before. For a fortnight the booked


services by both routes remained unchanged, the East Coast trains reaching
Aberdeen 15 minutes, or, by virtue of better time-keeping 1 , as much as 30
minutes, ahead of their rivals. But these small re-arrangements proved to
be merely a preliminary skirmish. The challenge was thrown down by the
London and North Western and Caledonian Companies on July 15th, when,
by huge blue posters, they announced that " from that very night " their train
from Euston would be timed to reach Aberdeen in 11 hours a 40 minutes
acceleration on their previous timings. It could not be expected that the
East Coast Companies, having spent so much capital on the Forth Bridge,
would surrender their position without a struggle. Railway enthusiasts, in
the words of one of them, " snuffed the battle from afar," and began to con-
sider possibilities. The two routes were compared. The East Coast route
was the shorter by a trifle over 10 miles, but there were other factors to take
into account gradients, curves, stops, portions of line where slowing-down
was necessary. In the matter of gradients, the West Coast route with steep
banks at S'hap and Beattock was probably the more heavily handicapped ;
but, on the other hand, the East Coast route was at some disadvantage in
having two " frontier " stops (York and Edinburgh) while the rival route had
only one (Carlisle). In addition to the halt (common to both trains) at
Aberdeen Ticket Platform their trains were timed to stop at four other
stations, Grantham, Newcastle, Dundee, and Arbroath, the corresponding
stops on the competing line being Crewe, Stirling, Perth, and Forfar. Later
August 19th to 21st one intermediate stop on each route was eliminated,
viz., Arbroath on the East Coast and Forfar on the West Coast, and, on what
came to be called the "exhibition" run of August 22nd, the West Coast
eliminated the stop at Stirling. The East Coast had also the disadvantage

Online LibraryWilliam Weaver TomlinsonThe North Eastern Railway; its rise and development → online text (page 70 of 81)