Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Greenly Generates Interest ... (1)

... In Decarbonisation!
Henry Greenly, one of the fantastic four pioneers of model and miniature railways, begins his book (first published in 1906!) with an enthusiastic review of the development of electric traction for the full-sized railway.

He starts by referring to events in 1879 when he was just three years old.

fbb has somewhat embellished the tale for the benefit of modern readers who will, most likely, have little appreciation of the shock and awe that electricity brought to the operation of passenger and goods trains world wide.

Your writer begins with an extract from a letter from Werner von Siemens (left with snazzy whiskers) to his brother Carl, dated June 12th 1879.
Our electric railway is quite a spectacle here. It is running even better than expected. In just a few hours’ time, around a thousand people a day are being transported for a donation of 20 pfennigs to charity. The train carries 20 to 25 people and runs at roughly the pace of a horse-drawn tram. This is something we certainly can develop!

Werner is writing about the Berlin Industrial Exposition which, as well as proclaiming German industry and technology, also presented itself as a "theme park".
One of the main attractions of the event was the first electric locomotive from Siemens & Halske. It pulled three small cars fitted with wooden benches, each car being capable of carrying six passengers for a ride along a 300-meter circular track.

Electrical power was supplied to a third rail from a nearby generating station. During the four months of the exhibition, it carried 90,000 passengers. The original locomotive is now displayed at the Deutsches Museum in Munich and a replica is shown at the German Museum of Technology (Berlin).
IN 1879, the loco was developed into a more practicable machine for use in a (coal) mine, this time with two driving positions and overhead power pickup via two skates and a track at ceiling level.
The practical electric railway was born and Greenly includes a drawing of that frst passenger carrying train in the world in his little book.
Way back then, photographs were hugely expensive to reproduce and print so books had to be content with "plates" produced separately and inserted between the printed pages.

Siemens is still a major international player in the field of electric traction, being the builders of the UK's new "Thameslink" stock ...
... and developing a UK production plant at Goole.
You do wonder what Werner and bro Carl might think if they could see what had happened to the "something we can develop".

Greenly passes quickly over this momentous event in Berlin and begins his brief review of the burgeoning tale of electric traction in London in 1890.
In that year the City and South London Railway opened; the first "tube" line in the world. Carriages. known informally as "padded cells" ...
... were hauled by stubby little electric locos, sketched by Greenly ...
... but better appreciated from a modern photograph of a preserved power car.
Presumably the "padded cell" design drew its gloomy inspiration from the fact that the tunnels were in darkness and station names were announced lustily by on board staff!

Ultimately this line became the City branch of today's London Underground Northern Line - with proper windows.
Next comes this vehicle in 1893 ...
... a quality line drawing of one of the original cars of the Liverpool Overhead Railway, again experienced for real at the Museum in its home city.
Electric traction is now spreading over the pond and we press on to 1895.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railway had started in 1830 and had a substantial network by the mid 1870s ...
... including a route to Chicago.
Its pioneering electric loco was hardly a big deal, but it was a start, fortunately recorded photographically.
Clearly staff and management were justfiably proud of their new tech, numbered "1"!

On a portion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad system, the company had constructed the Howard Street Tunnel that runs beneath a section of the central part of Baltimore.
City ordinance prevented the installation of smoke flues and vents to exhaust the heavy smoke produced by steam locomotives in the tunnel, especially when moving passenger and freight trains on the steep northbound upgrade. The need to reduce or eliminate the dense smoke and toxic fumes in the tunnel was the impetus for what became the world’s first main line railroad electrification.

Power came from overhead "rails" (Severn Tunnel, eat your heart out!) ...
... and was generated by a specially built power station near the southern (Camden) portal.
 Thus we have the first "Main Line"electrification in the world.

Henry Greenly then takes us back to London and it is 1900.
The Central London Railway (The "Two Penny Tube", later the Central Line) opened in 1900 and its trains were hauled by electric locomotives.
These were very heavy ...
... and there were vociferous complaints from property owners along the line about vibration and possible damage to property. After experimenting with lighter electric motors, it was decided to change to multiple unit operation (normal underground trains) ...

... and the locomotives were "retired" in 1903.

In just over ten years, we have seen significant development of the idea of electric trains - and that development would continue all over the world. 

Greenly widens his overview ...

The Great Carriage Shed Rebuild.
After limited progress due to inclement weather, yesterday saw some forward steps in fbb's terrifying but rewarding project - to re-scratchbuild a disintegrated carriage shed.

Sheets of glazing plastic have been stuck in behind the front "skin" of the building ...
... the Meccano strengtheners have been painted and re-affixed and the painted window frames are set in place.
The "meat" of the plinth to cover the screw heads is glued on; to be followed by strips of stone "plating". 

The whole caboodle is held in place on the wobbly remnants of the building by a couple of laggy bands - prior to fixing the new wall to the roof structure.
This is quite complex as the plastic wall is thinner than the old now-crumbled plywood, so extra spacers will be needed (hidden from view) or the roof won't fit.

Tricky, eh?

 Next Greenly electric blog : Thursday 30th July 


  1. Andrew Kleissner29 July 2020 at 06:52

    Does Greenly mention Volk's Electric Railway in Brighton (1883) or Blackpool Tramways (1885), the first electric railways in Britain and both still in operation although (obviously) updated - though not so much in Volk's case!

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