The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 4 (August 1, 1927)
London Letter. — (From our own Correspondent.) — French Railway Centenary
(From our own Correspondent.)
French Railway Centenary.
One hundred years ago-two years after George Stephenson's great triumph on the Stockton and Darlington line-there was opened for traffic the first railway in France. This was a single-track line, twelve miles in length, connecting Saint Etienne with Andrezieux, in the Department of the Loire.
During the present summer elaborate contenary celebrations are to be conducted by the French Railways, headed by the Paris, Lyons and Mediterranean system, of which undertaking the Saint Etienne-Andrezieux line to-day forms a part. Built to what is now the standard French railway gauge of 1.45 metres, the Saint Etienne-Andrezieux Railway was originally intended for use exclusively as a mineral line, with horse haulage throughout. In 1832, however, the conveyance of passengers commenced to be undertaken, and twelve years later steam locomotives replaced horses as haulage agents. By French railwaymen the Saint Etienne-Andrezieux line is looked upon with equal reverence as is the Stockton and Darlington undertaking by Home railway workers, and the Christchurch-Lyttelton line by transportation folk throughout New Zealand.
Progress and Consolidation.
While the numerous serious train accidents which have been recorded of late on the French railways undoubtedly give cause for some concern, as to the efficiency of the operating methods there followed, there has recently been witnessed marked progress in almost every branch of railway activity across the Channel. Almost all of war's ravages have now been made good; tens of thousands of well-planned homes have been built for the railway workers, in place of the battered shacks left after the Armistice; elaborate schemes of electrification have been put in hand; and train services everywhere augmented to meet the needs of growing passenger and freight business.
Following the lead set by Britain six years ago, an ambitious scheme for the grouping of the French lines, in the interests of economy and efficiency, is now being considered. Under this scheme, there is planned the taking over by the Eastern Railway of the railway system of Alsace-Lorraine, which is at present administered by the French government from head-quarters at Strasbourg. The fusion of the Orleans and the State Railways is also proposed as well as intimate working arrangements between the Orleans and Midi (Southern) undertakings in train working in south-western France. Under conditions such as exist across the Channel, there would appear considerable scope for judicious grouping, and the Superior Railways Council in Paris is to be congratulated on the determined fashion in which the problem of consolidation is being tackled.
The Sale of Transportation.
There is, no doubt, a good deal of difference between selling, say a bar of soap, and selling railway travel. In their essentials, however, both tasks have much in common. In almost every business transaction salesmanship holds an all-important place, and in the railway world there is certainly tremendous scope for the development of improved salesmanship.
In Britain, the railways are this year devoting vast attention to this vital problem. In the campaign for improved salesmanship a big part is being played by the interesting of the staff generally in the employment of courtesy and pleasing manners; by improved canvassing machinery and a reorganisation of the working in the publicity offices scattered throughout the country; and by more scientific advertising of every kind. Railway workers of all grades now appreciate how closely interlinked are their own personal interests and those of the railway management. Individual employees are to-day, entirely on their own initiative and without thought of additional pay, doing much in their leisure hours to gain the goodwill of the public, thereby bringing valuable business to rail and consolidating their own positions. This is an especially happy state of affairs. It augurs well for the future of the Home lines, for with every employee acting as a keen canvasser for rail transport within his own immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, success becomes certain.
With road competition conducted on such keen lines, the need for personal interest on the part of every individual employee in the securing of traffic to rail has become very real. Phenomenal indeed is the progress of road transport in Britain. Many single road transport undertakings to-day thoroughly cover page 19 territory as extensive as that served by the larger individual railways prior to grouping, and the lesson is there for every railwayman to read.
As I dictate this letter, there lies before me a copy of the current issue of the public time-book published by one typical road transport undertaking specialising in passenger movement. This particular concern operates 120 distinct services, covering 1,250 route miles, and tapping towns and villages with a population of four million people. There are 224 pages in the book, which is sold at twopence per copy. Five pages are devoted to a list of services, and there then follow 22 pages giving a very complete alphabetical index of places served. The detailed time-tables occupy 121 pages, while the closing portion of the book embraces fares lists, rules and regulations, a handy calendar, information as to markets and early closing days, and a free insurance coupon against accidents when travelling. Perusing a publication such as this, one readily realises the remarkable ramifications of the presentday road carrying organisation. Small wonder that the three big railway unions-the National Union of Railwaymen, the Railway Clerks' Association and the Amalgamated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen-have at last joined forces with the railway managements in their efforts to put the business of road transport upon a fair competitive basis.
Co-Ordinating Road and Rail.
Road transport is not necessarily always an obstacle to railway development. Properly co-ordinated, there are many ways in which road transport may prove of positive benefit to the rail carrier. On the Underground Railways of London, for instance, an especially happy idea has been conceived in this connection. At the outer suburbann termini of the Underground lines, special garages are being erected for the convenience of patrons, and in order to attract business to rail.
At the Morden terminus of the City and South London Railway a garage has been provided covering an area of 7,600 square feet, and affording accommodation for more than 200 motor cars, with private lock-ups. Ordinary passengers are charged 1s. 6d. for the service, while season ticket holders are charged one shilling a day or five shillings a week for the use of the garage. Repair and cleaning facilities are available, and the arrangement is resulting in large numbers of suburban residents driving to the railway terminal and there garaging their cars and continuing the journey into the city by train, in preference to making the throughout run by road with all the delays this course involves in passing through the congested thoroughfares.
Railway signalling has made tremendous progress since the day when a lighted candle placed in the window of a stationmaster's house served as primitive warning to the drivers of approaching trains on the Stockton and Darlington lines. To-day automatic colour light signalling represents the high-water mark of signalling practice, and in a recent installation on its York and Darlington tracks, the London & North Eastern Railway has advanced even further than usual, by combining with the automatic equipment a novel form of approach lighting of signals.
No suitable power supply being available for this installation, operation by primary batteries is provided for, with approach lighting as a means of reducing current consumption. Normally the signals are not illuminated. When a train approaches to within 1,200 or 1,800 yards, the colour light signal is illuminated through track circuit control, and the red, yellow or green light is displayed, according to the length of clear headway in advance of the signal. On passing a signal, the train causes a red light to be exhibited in the rear, until it has proceeded a distance of from 1,600 to 2,000 yards. Although largely experimental in character, the York-Darlington installation promises to pave the way for the general utilisation of approach lighting on suitable sections of track.
Suburband and short-distance movement is being increasingly accomplished on the European railways by means of electrical haulage and light rail motor cars. In long-distance work, however, the steam locomotive will for long remain the prime mover favoured. Recognition of this fact is encouraging the mechanical experts to devote study to means calculated to increase haulage capacity and general efficiency of the steam engine.
Modern improvements in the British Locomotive follow on the lines of larger and improved boilers, feed-water heating, super-heating, compounding, better valve design and the introduction of the booster. Proposals are now under review for the employment of a type of “flash” boiler working at high pressure, or water tube boilers in combination with some of the new fuels. The latest locomotives put into service have boilers of increased capacity, the coned boiler barrel and wide firebox being a feature. Attention is being directed to the possibilities of an arrangement for preheating the feed-water prior to reaching the pump, and by smoke-box gases while being forced from the pump to the boiler, the pump being actuated from the driving mechanism. Superheating is being very fully employed, and the use of compounding in conjunction with superheating is being extended.
Does double-heading pay? This is a question which many Home locomotive and operating officers are at present asking. The desirability or otherwise of employing a couple of engines for hauling a heavily-laden passenger train, rather than running the train in two portions, or introducing a more powerful type of locomotive, is a question of much controversy. page 21 When two engines are employed for train haulage, danger and discomfort to passengers not infrequently arise through lack of unison between the drivers. Here, in England, many trains may be observed drawn by two engines of the same class: this would, in the majority of cases, appear an unnecessary waste of power. An assisting engine is usually called for when the load is just too much for the train engine to handle independently, and the assistance demanded is not, as a general rule, such as to necessitate an extra engine of equal power to that of the train locomotive. With the introduction of more powerful locomotive types, double-headed trains are on the decline at Home, yet the problem still remains on many routes.
Publicity has now been recognised in New Zealand as essential to railway prosperity. Here at Home the railway advertising departments display much enterprise and initiative. This year's summer publicity campaigns have produced a vast collection of attractive advertising matter, among which tastefully illustrated and appealingly worded booklets are much in evidence.
The general practice in holiday advertising is to issue one large volume, dealing in general fashion with the whole of the resorts served by the railway, supplemented by less bulky publications each covering some particular district or resort in detail. Among the principal all-line guides published in England, the “Holiday Haunts” volume of the Great Western is especially interesting. This book runs to some 1,000 pages, and has been issued annually since 1906. Scores of artistic illustrations from photographs are included: and the preparation of the current issue called for the circulation among Great Western station masters of no fewer than 91,000 printed forms, upon which to summarise the attractions of the various resorts and the accommodation for visitors there available. The issue runs to 175,000 copies, and 215 tons of paper were employed in its production.
More than two thousand years ago, Egypt gave us the first automatic machine. This was a primitive slot machine which, in return for a five-drachma piece, delivered a cup of wine. To-day, a host of wonderful automatic machines have been pressed into mankind's service, and, in the railway world, devices of this kind are everywhere in daily employment.
Of all British lines, greatest use of automatic machines is made by the London Underground Railways. Something like two hundred automatic ticket-issuing machines are in service on this system, supplying about 50,000,000 passenger tickets annually. Other ingenious devices installed on the Underground include machines for the sale of sweets, cigarettes and matches, and automatic time-table, picture post-card and postage stamp distributors.