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Famous Expresses - 2

Crack Trains and Their Records on British and American Trunk Lines



ONE of the most outstanding features of British railway operation of to-day is the development of what may be termed the 100-miles express traffic and the long-distance non-stop run. The former has been responsible for a pronounced shrinkage of time between the metropolis and the various provincial commercial centres, such as Birmingham and Bristol, while the latter has reduced the tedium of travelling over long distances very appreciably.

The long-distance non-stop express was brought within the range of commercial possibility by the perfection of the means enabling a train to replenish its water-tank while travelling at full speed. The idea is ingenious and very simple. A narrow, longitudinal, shallow trough is laid centrally in the four-foot way, upon a suitable stretch of level line. At each end the floor of the trough is sloped from the maximum depth to zero in order to facilitate the entrance and emergence of the scoop device which is lowered into the trough and through which the water is forced into the tank of the locomotive.

As a result of this innovation, the present limit of an engine’s run without a stop is controlled either by the fuel capacity of the locomotive or the physical endurance of the crew, the latter more particularly. Precisely what can be done in this connection on British railways was revealed by the London and North Western special, comprising an eleven-coach train with a double-header, which ran from Euston to Carlisle, a distance of 299 miles, without a stop, on July 19th, 1903; while the Great Western has a scheduled train which runs from Paddington to Plymouth daily, a distance of 245¾ miles, without a stop.

TAKING UP WATERThe numerous advantages accruing from the ability to pick up water while travelling at 60 miles or so per hour, introduced upon the British lines, did not fail to impress American railways. The invention, however, is not so imperative upon the North American continent, seeing that the distance which a train shall travel under one engine is limited severely. Notwithstanding this handicap, however, the divisional points, as these engine-changing stations are called, in some cases are spaced some-what widely apart - up to about 150 miles. Under these latter circumstances, and especially upon the Eastern railways, the water trough was adopted, and the railways not only received considerable benefit from the innovation, in point of making time, but they found it an excellent means of combating a pest which is peculiar to the railways of the United States.

TAKING UP WATER on the Great Northern Railway.

The genus hobo is a serious factor in American railway operation. He represents a traveller who, on principle, considers that railways should carry him from place to place for nothing. A hobo, whether he can or cannot afford the fare, will never pay; he prefers to steal a “lift”, either by taking up a position among the tie-rods beneath the carriage, standing against the connection forming the corridor between two coaches, or lying prone upon the roof. The first-named seat is the most favoured, and although the couch may be hard and uncomfortable, it is preferable to the “blind” and the roof.

One Atlantic seaboard railway had laid water troughs at various points upon its road between New York City and Chicago for the benefit of its crack expresses, which thereby were enabled to make clear runs between the divisional points. When the task was completed the Limited set out one morning with a hobo concealed beneath the first coach behind the engine, who chuckled to himself that he would have a quick run to Chicago. The train was making a merry speed, and the illicit traveller was dozing peacefully. Suddenly he was immersed in the finest shower-bath he had ever encountered in his life. He knew nothing about the new idea for picking up water en route. Upon the scoop being lowered, the water was thrown out in volumes, and he received the full brunt of it. When the train pulled up at the next divisional point, the train crew perceived a limp, bedraggled object of human misery emerging from beneath the baggage car. The officials laughed so uproariously at the discomfiture of the hobo that they let him go, knowing full well that he would communicate to his pals the risks attending travelling on the Limited.

FRONT VIEW OF A GREAT NORTHERN EXPRESS LOCOMOTIVEAmong the many British expresses probably none is so familiar to the travelling public as the “Flying Scotsman”, as it has been described colloquially for so many years, although to-day this train has lost a considerable amount of its peculiar glamour owing to the number of other fast trains which go the East Coast way. For many years the Great Northern Railway held paramount position in point of speed. Its route is favourable to pace, because it is free from sharp curves and grad-ients, the summit being only 345 feet above sea level. In the days of the single drivers the Stirling locomotives, with their 96-inch driving wheels, achieved a worldwide fame.


In the memorable ding-dong battle for supremacy waged by the West and East Coast routes from 1888 to 1895, between London and the North, the Great Northern locomotives put up some fine running performances. In the bid for premier position it inaugurated non-stop runs between London and Grantham, a distance of 105½ miles. Now the crack expresses accomplish the 175¾ miles between London and Wakefield (via the Great Northern and Great Central joint line between Doncaster and Wakefield), and between London and Doncaster, 156 miles, without intermediate stops. The northern extremity of the main through line of this system is at Shafthulme Junction.

What the singles were to the closing years of the nineteenth century, the Atlantics are to the present decade - powerful representatives of speed. This class of express locomotive made its first appearance in this country upon the Great Northern Railway. The latest Great Northern locomotives of the 4-4-2 class, while not so powerful as those used upon the American railway where this type was born, are equal to their prototypes in point of pace. The cylinders have a diameter of 20 inches with a stroke of 24 inches. The boiler has a diameter of 66 inches, with a length of 16 feet between the tube plates. The fire-box is 143 square feet; the total heating surface of the tubes is 1,884 square feet; superheater, with which the latest examples are equipped, 570 square feet, giving an aggregate heating surface of 2,597 square feet, while the grate area is 31 square feet. Steam is used at a pressure of 170 pounds per square inch. The drivers are 80 inches in diameter, and the wheel base of engine 26 feet 4¼ inches. The total weight of the engine in running order is 69·4 tons, of which 18 tons is disposed upon each driving axle, thereby giving 36 tons available for adhesion. The six-wheeled tender, with capacity for 6½ tons of coal and 3,500 gallons of water, weighs 43·1 tons, bringing the total weight of the locomotive ready for the road up to 112·5 tons.


THE LATEST TYPE OF GREAT NORTHERN EXPRESS LOCOMOTIVE. These powerful Atlantics (4-4-2) when ready for the road, weigh, with tender, 112·5 tons.

These engines now work all the fastest express services of the system, hauling trains varying from 200 to 300 tons in weight. They put up some very fine running performances such as the timed run of 120 minutes for the 105·45 miles between London and Grantham, an average of 52·72 miles an hour, and from London to Doncaster, 155·96 miles in 180 minutes - 51·95 miles per hour. The crack trains to the far north running the East Coast way, a service which is maintained by the Great Northern, North Eastern, and North British conjointly, are known far and wide, Edinburgh, 396 miles from King’s Cross, being brought within 7¾ hours’ travelling of the metropolis.

Indeed, the communication between London and the Scottish centres is of a very complete character, three routes being available - the East Coast, the Midland, and West Coast respectively. The Midland way to the north terminates at Carlisle, 308 miles from the metropolitan terminus at St. Pancras, many of the most important provincial centres being tapped en route. North of Leeds to the Border the line traverses very broken country, where the discovery of an easy alignment proved no easy matter. At Carlisle the Midland meets the Caledonian Railway, whence the traffic is worked to Scottish points.

The express traffic may be divided broadly into two classes. There is the through business to the North, and that to the Midland centres - Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, etc. There are two notable long non-stop runs, the longest being between London and Shipley, in the summer - a distance of 206 miles, and between the metropolis and Masborough, during the winter - 162 miles. The Sheffield expresses constitute a notable feature of the service, the 158½ miles being covered in 180 minutes, representing an average speed of nearly 53 miles per hour.



Two broad classes of locomotives have been designed by Mr. Henry Fowler, the chief mechanical engineer to the system, for the operation of the Midland crack express service. Both are of the 4-4-0 class, one being simple and the other compound. The latest compounds of the 1000 class have three cylinders, one high pressure, with a diameter of 19 inches, and two low pressure, of 21 inches diameter, by a common stroke of 26 inches. The drivers are 84 inches in diameter, and the boiler steam pressure is 220 pounds per square inch. The simple machines of the 990 class have cylinders of 20½ inches diameter, by 26-inch strokes, while the diameter of the driving wheels is 78½ inches. Owing to the utilisation of the Schmidt superheater, the working pressure of the steam is reduced to 180 pounds per square inch. The weights of the locomotives of the two classes differ very slightly, the engine and tender of the 1000 class in working order weighing 105·8 tons, while the 990 class under similar conditions turn the scale at 106·2 tons.

The two types of locomotives are designed for fulfilling the opposite conditions prevailing in operating the Midland express traffic. As a rule the Scotch expresses are worked over the easier division of 198 miles between London and Leeds by the 1000 class compounds, while the 990 class take the trains over the second stretch of 110 miles to Carlisle which bristles with heavy gradients, the summit at 1,166 feet being gained between Hawes Junction and Kirkby Stephen.



The West Coast route is that offered by the London and North Western Railway. Here, again, conditions similar to those experienced upon the Midland in the northern part of the journey are encountered, the most difficult section being the six miles’ pull over Shap Fell, where the summit level of 914 feet is reached, with a maximum rise of 1 in 75. The increasing traffic and the augmented weight of the trains engaged in the Scottish service resulted in a further demand for greater locomotive effort, which has culminated in the “Sir Gilbert Claughton” 4-6-0 class, which has been designed to handle this business over the northern division of the system between Crewe and Carlisle.

Upon the London and North Western Railway it is no uncommon circumstance for the locomotive to be called upon to handle a train ranging from 350 to 400 tons. Ten years ago the business was fulfilled adequately by the “Precursors” and “Experiments”, but the exigencies of weights and speeds compelled a more powerful machine. Accordingly, the chief mechanical engineer to the system, Mr. Cooke, decided to meet these later requirements by adopting superheating, which had established its advantages upon the Continent. The outcome was the “George the Fifth” class, which is really an improved “Precursor” with superheater. The drivers are of the same diameter, 78 inches, and the boiler is precisely the same, except for the superheater tubes. The cylinders have a diameter of 201 inches, with a stroke of 26 inches. The aggregate heating surface of the tubes and fire-box is 1,547·15 square feet, and that of the 24 superheating elements, which are of the smoke-tube type, 302·5 square feet, making a total heating surface of 1,849·65 square feet. Steam is used at a pressure of 175 pounds per square inch. The weight of the engine in running order is 59·85 tons, and with the tender in loaded condition, 99·1 tons.

The year following the appearance of the “George the Fifth” class, an improved “Experiment” was brought out for working the express passenger trains over the difficult northern division between Crewe and Carlisle. This 4-6-0 type was named “Prince of Wales” class, the distinction being the addition of a superheater. The engine has nominally 72-inch drivers, with cylinders of 20½ inches diameter by 26-inch stroke, and the steam is used at a pressure of 175 pounds per square inch. The total heating surface is 1,897·5 square feet. The weight of the engine in running order is 66·25 tons, and of the tender - carrying 3,000 gallons of water and 6 tons of coal - 39·25 tons, making 104·5 tons in all.

This railway has cultivated its long-distance traffic very assiduously, and there are over fifty trains which make daily nonstop runs of 100 miles or over. The longest regular run of this character is that between London and Liverpool, the 192¼ miles being covered in 208 minutes, giving an average start-to-stop speed of 55·5 miles per hour.

During the past few years the trains of the Canadian railways have undergone remarkable acceleration. Pride of place is occupied by the “International Limited” of the Grand Trunk system, which every day throughout the year covers the 840·6 miles between Montreal and Chicago in 22 hours - an average speed of 38·2 miles per hour. The fastest section of the journey is over the 334 miles from Montreal to Toronto, which is completed in 7½ hours, an average of 44·5 miles per hour.

This Limited is not only the crack train of Canada in point of speed, but also with regard to comfort and luxurious equip-ment. It comprises six coaches - combination baggage car, first-class coaches, dinner, parlour, and Pullman drawing-room, which are the finest expressions of their work in the country.

The train is drawn by one of the latest type of Pacific 4-6-2 superheated locomotives, having 73-inch drivers. The total heating surface of tubes is 3,254 square feet, and of fire-box 163 square feet, giving an aggregate heating surface of 3,417 square feet. The grate area is 50·62 square feet. The weight of the engine is 228,000 pounds, while the tender, with

8,000 gallons of water and 10 tons of coal, weighs 150,000 pounds, giving a total weight, ready for the road, of 187·5 American tons, while the total over-all length is 72 feet 4 inches.

There is one feature of American train working which often perplexes and confuses, as well as amuses, the stranger from this side. Officially, the trains are operated under numbers. Thus while the “International Limited” is the colloquial description, its official designation is train No. 1. But it does not retain this distinction throughout its flight from Montreal to Chicago. Upon reaching Toronto No. 1 mysteriously disappears; it becomes Train 15 and continues as such on its westward journey for another 118 miles to London. Here there is another shuffle, the train becoming known as No. 5. As such it enters Chicago. One would think that on the return journey from Chicago to Montreal it would retain its colloquial name. But it is not so; it starts off as No. 14. It clings to this description until it has covered 334 miles of its eastward journey, when it blossoms forth as Train 4 for the remainder of the journey to Montreal. The westbound express leaving Montreal at 9.40am similarly is known as Train 7 to Toronto, where it becomes Train 17 to Port Huron. Here it reverts to its former description and continues to Chicago as Train 7.

Another magnificent American train which has compelled attention during the past few years is the “Olympian”, running between Chicago and Seattle over the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railway. It is a seven-car train, Pullman throughout, representing a dead weight of some 300 American tons. It runs in both directions daily, leaving Chicago at 10.15 pm for the Pacific northwest and Tacoma for the Great Lakes at 8.45 am, the 2,201-2 miles between the two termini being covered in 72 hours westward and 86 hours respectively - 30·5 and 25·6 miles per hour. The train is replete with every convenience, comprising smoking compartment in the observation car, private sleeping compartments complete with furniture, bath-room, and many other little conveniences which serve to relieve the tedium of travel. The train carries a miniature, yet complete, electric lighting station, together with an electrically-driven vacuum cleaner, with which its operator, who scours the cars every day en route therewith, will vacuum-clean your clothes upon request.



[From Part 15 of Railway Wonders of the World by Frederick A. Talbot, 1913]

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