Colonel H.C.B. [Hugh Cuthbert Basset] Rogers

Colonel H.C.B. Rogers OBE was born in 1905 at Wylam-on-Tyne, often referred to as the birth place of the steam locomotive. Educated at Wellington College and the Royal Military College at Sandburst he was commissioned in The King's Own Royal Regiment in 1924. Seconded to the Indian Signal Corps in 1926, transferered to the Royal Signals in 1930 and drove a train part of the way thiough the Khyber Pass. The OBE was awarded for operations in France and Belgium in 1940 and at the end of the war he became Chief Signal Officer in South Iraq and Persia, responsible for telecommunications in the area. His last military appointment was as a on the Staff of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe. He wrote on both military history and on railway history, and in particular, on locomotive history.

In Rogers' words he was a personal friend of both R.A. Riddles and A. Chapelon, he has written their authorised biographies, as well as maay other books on railway and military matters.

He wrote that he had "early memories of the Great Northern Atlantics. Periodically, from about 1910, I travelled north from King's Cross to Newcastle, and thence to my mother's family home (and my birthplace) at Wylam-on Tyne, The changing of engines at York was a thrill for a small boy — watching the Great Northern Atlantic coming off the train and a North Eastern Atlantic backing on. Many years later, in 1932, I would watch Atlantics in immaculate green livery racing through Baldock on the Cambridge buffet car expresses (the "Beer trains"). Then, early in 1942 when heavy snow had broken down many bays on the telegraph route of the LNER main line, I was asked to undertake its repair with linemen from my own Signal Regiment (which then formed part of the forces organised to resist any German attempt to invade East Anglia). When visiting my detachment engaged on this work, I saw my last Great Northern Atlantic — black and rather dirty, but still looking magnificent".

He is difficult to characterize as his main expertise appears to have been military history, on which he wrote extensively. He placed considerable stress on his friendships with Riddles, Bond and Chapelon.

In his book on Chapelon there are sections where there are indications that excessive reliance may have been placed on literal translations from the French either by the author or by his subject. For instance on page 51 Rogers uses the term "condensations" and on page 95 "the ejection of cylinders had not been sufficiently arrested."

In summary, he is another Nock or Allen, but because of his lack of a railway background, one slightly further removed than them. Thus, one is tempted to distrust his assessments of Gresley (for whom he appeared to have some antagonism), Bulleid, and possibly Churchward, although this last appears to be at least adequate.

In 1972 in Rogers' biography of Chapelon he made the following pair of sweeping assesments: "Sir Nigel Gresley is a very difficult engineer to assess. That he was very able is unquestioned. His early designs were by no means out standing, but he always displayed a great willingness to learn from other engineers. From H. Holcroft he got the idea for the valve gear of his three-cylinder engines; from trials against a Great Western Castle he found what was wrong with his Pacifics; and from Chapelon he learned how to improve the steam circuit and he benefited from the Kylchap exhaust. The end result was an A4 class streamlined Pacific which achieved the world speed record for steam: a brilliant perfor mance, but its validity as a record is somewhat dubious because the engine was running downhill. Gresley was a broad-minded man. Locomotives from the constituent companies of the London & North Eastern Railway had a long life under his rule and construction of some of them was continued. He did not really go in for standardisa tion and his own engines were often 'tailor-made' for the job. He left the LNER with a large stock of capable engines but also with a great number of different classes. He was a very great figure in the locomotive world but much of his practice was discarded by his successors.

Sir William Stanier was a vastly different engineer to Gresley, both in outlook and practice. It was under his regime on the LMS, and not on the Great Western, that the natural development of Churchward's ideas took place. There was a massive standardisation and much scrapping of obsolescent locomotives. Under Stanier the LMS rapidly acquired a fleet of engines which could more than meet all traffic requirements and which, as a whole, were the most capable and modern in the country. He was a keen observer of Chapelon's practice and adopted the Chapelon type of steam circuit for his own locomotives [KPJ: it could be argued that Stanier was far, far slower than Gresley to take on board Chapelon's ideas which only arrived with the Duchess class and the rebuilt Royal Scots, and was thus probably via Gresley!].

Rogers implies that Gresley added to the lack of standardization of the LNER: rightly or wrongly, Gresley followed a far more stable policy in boiler development than Stanier where his original Pacifics had several designs of boiler, and the problems with the Jubilee class are not mentioned. The Rogers' references to "he got his ideas from" (from Holcroft and Collett) in respect of Gresley is not acceptable. The downhill exploit of Mallard as portrayed by Rogers is cheap, but in fairness to the author his view had changed by 1990 when  his Express steam was written and he gave a far more balanced account of Gresley's achievements. Nevertheless, he cannot resist stating that it was Bond who persuaded Gresley tofit modified bogies to the A4s following a single, but rough footplate ride.

Chapter 12 of Express steam relates to the Hush Hush locomotive, Gresley's No. 10000. Whilst Rogers notes several of the suggestions which had been mooted by Chapelon to improve the performance of this disappointing locomotive, and which were incorporated by Gresley, these are illustrated neither in diagramatic nor in photographic form, for this the interested reader has to turn to the RCTS Locomotives of the LNER Part 6C where all these modifications are recorded.

See also Backtrack, 2005, 19 pages 311, 507 and 636 for feature by L.A. Summers which mentions Chapelon, a sharp response frpm J.T. van Riemsdijk and (the last) from Summers again which calls into question the veracity of Rogers' authorship.

Rogers, H.C.B. The Great Northern Railway (Ireland). Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1948, 54, 141-3: 1949, 55, 6-8; 23-4; 104-6.4 illus.
A locomotive history, with emphasis on 20th century development.


Bulleid Pacifics at work. London: Ian Allan, 1980. 128pp.
Mainly pictorial (over 200 illus.). Highly critical of all the Bulleid designs in their original form and wondered why it took so long to rebuild the troublesome locomotives. Also condemns the Leader design..
Chapelon: genius of French steam.. London: Ian Allan, 1972. 175pp. + plates.
See important letter from J.T. van Riesmsdijk in Backtrack, 2005, 19, 507 in response to ill-informed attack on the subject of this book and absurd allegation against its author.
G.J. Churchward: a locomotive biography. London: Allen & Unwin, 1975. 216pp.
Recent re-examination of copy in Edinburgh Central Library showed that this is really a very good book which is very aware of the subject's published output. Good on the scissors valve gear where he came into conflict with Deeley. The acknowledgments are pertinent:

Without the help that I have received from many people it would not have been possible to write this book. If the great engineer, who is its subject, comes to life at all in these pages, it is due primarily to Mr W.N. Pellow, late Locomotive Running Superintendent of the Great Western Railway, Mr H. Holcroft, who described himself as Churchward's 'man for design', and Mr R.F. Hanks, who after serving under Churchward in a very junior capacity at Swindon eventually became Chairman of the Western Area Board of the British Transport Commis- sion. My friend Harry Holcroft died at the age of ninety-one, shortly after sending me his comments on the draft Chapter 6 of this book. Mr W.N. Pellow, apart from the time and trouble he has devoted to correcting my work, has himself re-written sections where I have strayed from the truth or written mechanical rubbish. Mr R.F. Hanks has read nearly all my chapters and has provided me with much kindly comment and correction. Mr K.J. Cook, the last Great Western man to occupy Churchward's chair at Swindon, has given me invaluable aid with regard to some chapters which he was kind enough to read. Mr R. C. Bond, late Chief Mechanical Engineer of British Railways and subse- quently Technical Adviser to the British Transport Commission, gave me particular help over the last two chapters. That great engineer Mr M. A. Chapelon has given me his opinion on G. J. Churchward and his engines, and has added much invaluable technical comment. And finally, my old friend Mr R.A. Riddles, late Vice-President of the LMS and then Member of the Railway Executive for Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, has given me his own appreciation of Churchward's locomotives and of those design features which he incorporated in his Standard Locomotives for British Railways.
Apart from these eminent locomotive engineers, there are many others who have given kindly assistance. Captain P.R.S. Churchward, probably G.J. Churchward's closest surviving relation, has told me a great deal about the history of this remarkable family. Mr E. Hannaford Hill, one-time 'tiger' of the Hill House coach, knows a great deal about G.J. Churchward's branch of the family; and Mr F. W. Robinson, who owns the Stoke Gabriel Garage, is the son of the Hill House coachman and played as a boy with G.J.C.'s unfortunate nephew. .

Express steam: locomotive development in Great Britain & France. Sparkford: Oxford Publishing Co., 1990. 120pp.
The following are the Chapter headings: Sturrock and the Great Northern; The Nord: from Cramptons to Compounds; Stirling and Webb; Churchward and du Bousquet; The Ivatt Atlantics; Superheating; The Great Bear and the Baltics [the latter being French]; Gresley 's Beauties; The Nord Super-Pacifics; Steam Revolution [Chapelon's work in France]; Stanier's Pacifics; Water-Tube Boiler [Gresley/Yarrow]; Gresley's Streamlined Finale; Chapelon's Favourite Engines; Bulleid's Deviation; The Mountains [in France]; After Gresley [Thompson/Peppercorn]; The End of Steam in Great Britain and France; and Epilogue.
The last steam locomotive engineer: R.A. Riddles. London: Allen & Unwin, 1970. 215pp.
Does apear to have received a considerable amount of support from the book's subject. Pages 79-80 describe how in early 1937 Rogers first met Riddles through the naming of Patriot No. 5504 Royal Signals. At that time Rogers was the Regular Army Adjutant of the London Corps of Signals, a Territorial unit of Royal Signals..
Riddles and the '9Fs'. London: Ian Allan, 1982.  112pp.
Text is taken almost word for word from the Last steam locomotive engineer, but there are one or two "new" anecdotes and more extensive coverage of the 9F design.
Thompson and Peppercorn: locomotive engineers. London: Ian Allan, 1979. 160pp.
Makes extensive use of letters received from J.F. Harrison, Gold, Symes and T.C.B. Miller
Transition from steam. London: Ian Allan, 1980. 128pp.

2011-11-23