Stenlake Publishing - Edward Thompson of the LNER

Edward Thompson of the LNER

Author : Peter Grafton
ISBN : 9780853616726
Cover : paperback
Price : £12.95

The author started work on this book not because he was strongly pro-Thompson but because he was curious about Thompson and about the way that he had been either roughly treated, or ignored by earlier authors. In this respect Thompson was undoubtedly the architect of his misfortunes by virtue of his unapproachable manner. Whilst most experienced railway writers are capable of presenting reasoned and balanced views on a wide variety of railway topics from the locomotive performance to high level decisions, it seems that the name Thompson, particularly in context with that of Sir Nigel Gresley, causes an emotional disturbance.

If Edward Thompson is to be judged, by what standards is the judgement to be made? Is Bulleid judged on his ‘Leader’, Churchward and Raven on their Pacifics – all notable failures? For too long Thompson’s less successful locomotive designs have been stressed, whilst his successful contributions have been merely acknowledged in passing. This hardly leads to an objective assessment, but rather it has the dubious quality of popular appeal, and the ears of railway enthusiasts have been inclined to the voices of those who have sought to discredit him.

Let the facts speak for themselves: of the locomotive work carried out whilst Thompson was chief mechanical engineer, 20 Gresley engines were rebuilt and four more modified from Gresley designs. Furthermore, he did not make radical changes to the Gresley Pacifics and he continued with the ‘V2’ building programme until 1943. Is this the work of a man determined to be rid of Gresley? Nor must it be forgotten that Thompson also rebuilt several locomotives of both Robinson and Raven designs, but nobody has sprung to their defence or accused him of trying to deface the image of these two engineers.

The success of Thompson’s two-cylinder locomotives is surely beyond question and, with the possible exception of the ‘L1’, compares very favourably with contemporary two-cylinder designs. Let Edward Thompson be remembered not only as the man who rebuilt some of the LNER ’s sacred cows and sent members of Gresley’s staff into the wilderness, but also as the man who designed the ‘B1’, introduced the ‘O1’ and showed A.H. Peppercorn the way to the ‘A1’ and ‘K1’.

A5 format, 152 pages, 100 illustration.

Edward Thompson of the LNER

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