Geoffrey Hughes, like Alan A. Jackson, belongs to that fortunate set of railway enthusiast-authors who knew the post-Grouping railways before the Second World War, and the period of economic austerity which followed. This latter inflicted so much damage that only a residual railway service is left in Britain in the twenty-first century. The generation which followed Hughes and Jackson were perhaps fortunate to see the diversity which formerly existed before the railways declined into a sort of high speed inter-urban tramway which in vast areas is not even electrified. Many would watch the departure of freight, mail, parcels, sleeping cars and on many routes the type of accommodation necessary for attracting people of substance as passengers. As late as the 1960s it was still possible to view the lists of sleeping car passengers at King's Cross in the evening before the departure of The Aberdonian and it was unusual not to find a sprinkling of people with titles. Such people, including the "people's party's" ministers, now regard trains as a means for conveying "other people", although distinguished French men and women continue to arrive at Waterloo via Eurostar..
Thus, it is appropriate to begin the section on Hughes' authorship with a quotation from his LNER which eminated from what its publisher (Ian Allan) envisaged as a sort of Pullman car role in its operations entitled Malaga Books (named after a preserved Pullman car). The extract also adds to the material available on the website on what both Hughes and KPJ consider to be our great engineering hero: Sir Nigel Gresley:
The introduction of electric lighting, with the advantage not only of safety and convenience but also of through control, so that the lights in a train could be switched on or off by the guard, aroused Gresley's mind to the possibility of using electricity for cooking purposes in kitchen cars, so removing gas entirely and eradicating a potential fire hazard, He studied the development of electric catering appliances, even to the extent of taking part in discussions at the Institution of Electrical Engineers when papers on the subject were presented. His first practical application was in 1921. in a five-car articulated set itself an innovation in that it constituted the first extensive application of that principle to contemporary express coaches, although a number of articulated corridor pairs had been built, the earliest in 1915. This quintuple set was built for the Leeds service, and being to the maximum of the GNR load gauge was unable to visit other parts of the system; it remained on this work until it was withdrawn in 1953, following damage sustained in a collision.
A feature of Gresley's later Great Northern coaches, contributing not only to their appearance but also to their riding qualities, was the double bolster bogie, invented by Alex Moulton and introduced by Gresley in 1908. With its distinctive pressed steel sides, this type of bogie featured an extra stage of cushioning against shock, although being heavier, more difficult to maintain and more expensive than conventional types; after some years a heavy duty variation was evolved for carrying the heaviest coaches and for articulation purposes, when each bogie was in effect carrying the weight of two half-coaches. Later thoughts intervened in the case of suburban sets, when it was realised that the extra cost of the double bolster was unwarranted for comparatively short journeys...
Appropriately, LNER contains a Foreword contributed by the late Lord Whitelaw, grandson of William Whitelaw, the first Chairman of the LNER and one who clearly enjoyed a good relationship with his Chief Mechanical Engineer.
Sir Nigel Gresley: the engineer and his family is one of a series of biographies on major railwaymen published by Oakwood Press. The Hughes work with its integration of family history with all apsects of his subject's work should have set a paradigm for the remainder of the series, but sadly most of the contributions to the series fail to match the high standard set by Hughes: whereas Hughes is excellent most of the others have a "routine stamp" about their contributions.
ARLE: the Association of Railway Locomtive Engineers:
notes on the Minutes, 18691949. Author.
Typescript: the original Minutes are held in the Archives of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers: another copy of those for1914 to 1924 are held at the PRO: RAIL 1057/3538
Flying Scotsman: the people's engine. [York]: Friends of the National Railway Museum Enterprises, 2005. 64pp.
A reproduction of Cuneo's superb painting of the preserved locomotive crossing the Forth Bridge on the cover sets the standard for a beautifully written text which is accompanied by many interesting photographs, the majority of which show the locomotive in its preserved state. The author is indeed fortunate to have seen Gresley Pacifics in their prime when he watched them pass Hadley Wood in the 1930s and even has dim memories of seeing Flying Scotsman at the Wembley British Empire Exhibition.
A Gresley anthology. Didcot: Wild Swan/Gresley Society, 1994. 102pp.
Full contents listed with short abstracts
The Gresley influence. London: Ian Allan, 1983. 160pp.
May be regarded as a precursor fot the more thorough Oakwood biography.
Harry Pollitt: GCR locomotive engineer. Author, 1995.
written with David Jenkinson, but published by Hughes
LNER. London: Ian Allan, 1986. 160pp.
Marketed under the Malaga books label the book was produced to high standards, both in terms of well-presented and informative text and appropriate illustrations. These include a colour portrait of Gresley on page 84, and paintings by George Heiron. Includes portraits of many of the senior managers and key Board members, such as Andrew K. McCosh who was Chairman of the Locomotive Committee . Includes many aspects of the Company including its shipping fleet and excellent publicity and advertising. It should be noted that Ottley 18123 records a London School of Economics PhD: An economic history of the London and North Eastern Railway. (1990).
Sir Nigel Gresley: the engineer and his family. Usk (Mon): Oakwood, . 216pp.
This is an extremely important biography, and its Author was able to meet some of the remaining people who had worked with Gresley, notably T. Henry Turner (who had studied the Gresley family), Norman Newsome, Freddie Harrison, Terry Miller and Eric Trask.
The tradition of St. Peter's Netherseale had been one of High Church inclinations, and it is possible that this prompted the Revd George Nigel [Sir Nigel's uncle] to have misgivings about his faith. Anyway, some time after his father's death, he resigned his living and went to stay with his mother, who had left the rectory in Netherseale for a house known as 'Green Bank', in the village of Turnditch, near Belper. Following the death of his mother in 1921, he spent some time in Rome, and was converted to Roman Catholicism. This period was said to have been the happiest of his life. Later he was appointed to the Parish of Halstead, in Essex, where he is still remembered with affection. On his death in 1937, he left instructions for a Requiem Mass to be said in his memory, and for a meal, with wine. This has been recalled as 'quite a party'.
This brief extract is sufficient to indicate that the author has the ability to investigate what some may regard as more central issues in the development of Herbert Nigel Gresley: the reason for his birth in Edinburgh, rather than in Derbyshire and the selection of Crewe rather than Swindon or Doncaster for his basic training as an engineer. The next extract demonstrates that this ability was not achieved at the cost of a failure to be able to communicate vital technical issues.
Later, in LNER days, 'N2s' were allocated to Scotland, where they were not popular, and were said to be prone to derailment. On such evidence as has been established, this did occasionally take place, but the cause was inadequate permanent way rather than shortcomings with the engines, although in all probability the 'N2' wheel arrangement was not really suitable for some of the faster outer-suburban services in the local conditions. A later general cause for criticism concerned the twin-tube superheater, which was subject to leakage, and was replaced by a Robinson type.