The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9 (January 1, 1930)
Our London Letter
Our London Letter
“Here's New Year greetings, hearty and sincere, to reader friends everywhere. The year which has just drawn to a close has witnessed real progress on railways the world over, and railwaymen, alike in New Zealand and in the Homeland, have genuine cause for pride in the accomplishments of the past twelve months.“—Our Special London Correspondent in his New Year Contribution.
A Year of Railway Progress
Issue by issue the pages of the New Zealand Railways Magazine have told, throughout 1929, of the many and varied achievements of the eighteen thousand railway employees scattered on the various tracks lying between Opua and the Bluff, while in these “London Letters” have been recorded the outstanding items of interest concerning railway construction and operation in Britain and Europe generally.
Reviewing the railway position in Europe at the close of 1929, one finds the Home railways effectively established as group undertakings, with generally increasing traffics and a bright future ahead. The competition of the road carrier is largely being met; electrification is being extended in the London and Manchester areas; motive power is being steadily improved; passenger and freight train services speeded up; and improved connections have been introduced with continental railway systems. Across the Channel, the railways of western and central Europe have effected vast improvements in almost every department during 1929. Through the activities of the transportation section of the League of Nations, irksome frontier barriers have been removed, Customs operations speeded up, and better through international services opened out for both passengers and merchandise. Even in Russia, some progress has been effected in the railway field in the year which has just drawn to a close, and, altogether, the coming months seem to hold genuine prosperity for all the European railways. Especially does this appear likely on account of the admirable manner in which railway managements and railway employees are now pulling together in the common cause. At long last, the European railwayman has come to recognise the fundamental truth that only through whole-hearted co-operation and unstinting teamwork can railway prosperity be achieved, and that upon the prosperity of the undertaking depends the prosperity of the individual worker and the well-being of his family.
Home Railway Improvements.
There are many big improvement schemes now about to be tackled by the Home railways. Probably the most interesting of these is the removal of the Southern Railway's Charing Cross terminal in London, from the north to the south bank of the River Thames. The question of the transfer of this important passenger station across the river has for some years been under review, and in 1930 it is probable that work will be begun thereupon. Charing Cross is situated in the very centre of London, the original station being opened in 1866. By the removal of the station to the south bank of the Thames, a great deal of congestion will be avoided in the Strand and neighbouring streets, while underground electric railways and road motors will afford connection between the new page 35 station and the city. In place of the existing railway bridge across the Thames, there will be built a new bridge for road traffic and pedestrians, the need for new road connections across the river being particularly acute. The Southern Railway are to be given the site of the new depot, and the cost of building the new station will be borne by the London County Council, the promoters of the new bridge scheme.
Probably the electrification of Liverpool Street station and the adjacent suburban routes will be the first big conversion project to be tackled in the London area. Plans have already been prepared in the rough for this work, but, as a Government inquiry now is to be undertaken into the economic possibilities of electrification throughout Britain generally, it may be some time before a definite decision is reached regarding the Liverpool Street project.
Future of Electrification.
There is no doubt that problems associated with the building up of the four big railway groups out of the large number of independent concerns once operated in Britain has retarded progress in electrification at Home. Now that most of these problems have been met, a marked increase in electrification activity may be expected, both on the main lines and the principal city and suburban routes. Broadly speaking, the prime problem to be met is the question of finance. Electrification calls for heavy initial expenditure, and it is right that due consideration should be given to this factor. At the same time, it is not unlikely that Government assistance will be forthcoming to the railways in their electrification plans, for the conduct of work of this character would do much to provide employment, both for skilled workers and unskilled labourers. From the viewpoint of the traveller, electric operation has a great deal to commend it, and the experience of the Southern Railway in its extensive electrification works in the London area has shown how electric operation favours traffic growth.
In, say, twenty years or so, it is not unlikely that electric trains and road motors will be the page 36 principal forms of transport employed by railways the world over. Little by little, steam haulage is giving way to electricity and petrol, and, as the years proceed, there will be witnessed a gradual decrease in steam working on both the passenger and freight sides. Who would have dreamt, even ten years ago, that railways were destined to engage in road transport on a nation-wide basis, such as is the case in Britain to-day? All over the Homeland, in city streets and in remote rural areas, the passenger and freight motors of the four group railways may be observed daily in service, and every month sees new road motor services opened up in one corner of the country or another.
Door-to-door Services in the Homeland.
In the field of railway-owned road motor transport, two items of current interest stand out above others. One is the partial closing of the Broadstone terminal in Dublin as a railway passenger station and its conversion into an omnibus garage, while the other is the development by the Southern Railway of England of a new “door-to-door” collection and delivery service, under which freight is collected and delivered by road motor within distances of ten miles from selected railhead distribution depots. Broadstone station was one of the most important of Irish passenger stations, and its partial conversion into a motor garage is accounted for by the purchase by the Great Southern Railway of the Irish Omnibus Company. Under the new order, several of the tracks are being filled in, and road motor services will take the place of the train for almost all but long-distance working. The Southern Railway of England's new “door-to-door” service promises to become especially popular. The idea underlying the plan is that traffic is conveyed on rail by fast goods trains over long distances from the big manufacturing centres to the nearest distribution centre, where it is transferred to the Southern Railway motors and conveyed direct to destination. In the reverse direction, farm and dairy produce is collected by the railway motors, conveyed by road to railhead, and then sent on by fast goods train to destination—an efficient linking up of the two means of movement, each of which is the best in its own sphere.
New Year Construction Programmes.
During the present year large additions are to be made by the Home railways to their locomotive, carriage and wagon stocks. It is the usual practice in Britain for the railways to construct, in their own shops, a large proportion of their engines and rolling-stock, and in the various establishments scattered throughout the country there is now great activity. High-powered steam locomotives and high capacity freight wagons are among the new equipment being turned out, while much new passenger stock of a really luxurious order is also included in the building programmes.
Of all Home railway shops, most important are those of the L.M. & S. Railway at Crewe and Derby; the Doncaster locomotive works on the L. & N.E. line; the Great Western shops at Swindon; and the Eastleigh establishment of the Southern system. The railway shopman is one of page 37 the most important of workers in the great railway hive, although unfortunately his part in the railway game is at times apt to be overshadowed by the more spectacular task of the engine driver and passenger guard. Among the Home railway shopmen are included some of the world's most skilled mechanics, and from the British railway shops a great number of skilled officers have gone out to railways in every land.
Fares on Fast and Luxurious Trains.
In many parts of the world it is common for a railway passenger to be called upon to pay an additional fee for travel by certain crack trains. In Europe “limited” trains have not until recently been operated in large numbers, but the practice of running this class of train now appears to be growing. Within the past year or so, Britain has put into service a number of trains which are only available for the passenger who is willing to pay a surcharge over the ordinary rail fare, most of these trains being especially luxurious or especially fast.
A Railway Sound Picture
The Pennsylvania News reports that “The Broadway Limited,” a moving picture film with sound effects just completed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, had its initial showing in Philadelphia, U.S.A., on 12th October, 1929. The new picture depicts a trip on the world famous P.R.R. flyer between New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, and reveals many of the interesting operating details which surround the movement of the train.