The Working and Management of an English Railway/Chapter 8

The Working and Management of an English Railway by George Findlay
Chapter 8 — Rolling Stock:—II. Carriages


Rolling Stock (ii.).—Carriages.

Mention has already been made in a previous chapter of the rude accommodation with which the earlier railway passengers of half a century ago had to content themselves, as compared with the luxurious conditions of modern travel. As illustrative of this wide difference, our illustration (Plate XXIV.) reproduces an old print showing two of the trains which were actually run upon the Liverpool and Manchester railway at, or soon after, its opening. One of these, which apparently represents the very earliest form of passenger train, is drawn by an engine which is a species of first cousin to the famous "Rocket." All the vehicles, as will be seen, are fully exposed to the weather, except for a slight awning overhead, and only a portion of the passengers are indulged with seats, the vehicles, being, in fact, not unlike an open goods waggon of the present day. The upper portion of the picture shows a train containing somewhat superior accommodation, for all the carriages are covered in, although we may be sure that the internal fittings of these ungainly vehicles were very different to the elegantly-furnished saloons of 1888. It will be observed, too, that the luggage of the passengers is piled on the roofs of the carriages, which elevated situation is also occupied by the guards, and that all the carriages have names, "The Traveller," "The Times," etc., like their predecessors, the stage coaches, which they have but recently superseded. Finally, a party of travellers are seen riding in their own family carriage, mounted upon a low truck without removing the wheels, and only dispensing with the horses. Modern advertisements of the running of excursion trains upon railways, frequently to this day announce the fares as "First class—Covered carriages"—and it is well understood that the term "Covered carriages," thus employed, is synonymous with "third class"; but not every one is aware that this expression is really a lingering survival of the period when railway companies, in announcing an excursion, held out the inducement of what was then the unwonted luxury of covered vehicles for the lower classes of passengers.

A striking contrast to the primitive conveyances of fifty years ago is the passenger carriage shown by Plate XXV., which is a specimen of the latest development of the art of carriage-building in these modern times. Forty-two feet in length, with- accommodation for three classes of passengers, and a compartment for their luggage, provided with a lavatory for the first-class passengers, mounted upon the easiest of springs, well lighted by gas, and warmed during the winter, adorned with ornamental woods and the handsomest upholsterer's work, and replete with every convenience and comfort throughout, it embodies in fact in a high degree, the latest development of modern civilization as exemplified in railway travelling.

The London and North-Western Company possesses a stock of upwards of 4,500 passenger carriages, of which nearly 300 are forty-two feet in length, and the
Plate 25 London and North Western 42 Feet Composite Passenger Carriage of 1888

remainder vary from thirty feet to thirty-four feet in length. Nearly 1,200 of the vehicles are fitted up for lighting by means of compressed gas, and this system of lighting, of which more will be said hereafter, is being extended, the remainder of the carriages being, in the meantime, lighted with rape oil lamps. The whole carriage stock of the Company contains seating accommodation for 164,073 passengers, in the following proportions:—

First class  22,067
Second class  22,506
Third class 119,500

these proportions being very carefully considered and adjusted from time to time in building additional carriages, or renewing old ones, so as to preserve the proper ratio of each class to the others. The Midland Company, as is well known, in the year 1875, decided upon abolishing second class compartments in their trains, and retaining only two classes, viz: first and third; but the success of the experiment is believed by many of the companies to be open to serious question, whether upon financial grounds, or as a matter of public convenience. The London and North-Western Company, at any rate, believe that > society in this country, for all purposes, naturally divides itself into three classes, and that the wants and tastes of the community are best served by their present practice, in which belief apparently, they are supported by the great body of railway opinion in the country, since no other company has, so far, followed the example of the Midland Company, with the exception of, to a certain extent, the Great Northern Company.

Although, nominally, the passengers who travel upon the London and North- Western Railway are divided into three classes, there are, in a manner of speaking, four classes, for the saloon passengers almost constitute a class in themselves, paying, in some cases, a slightly higher fare than first class, and enjoying superior accommodation. The North- Western have not seen their way to follow the example of their great rivals (the Midland Company) in introducing "Pullman Cars" as used in the United States, in their trains; but they have filled the places of these with saloon carriages of their own construction, which, in their belief, are quite equal, if not superior in some respects, to the Pullman Cars. These are run, as sleeping carriages, in all the night trains between London and Scotland, Holyhead (for Ireland), Liverpool, and Manchester; and, for the payment of a very moderate fee over and above the first class fare, the passenger can secure a berth in one of them, and accomplish his journey without any of the weariness and discomfort, which, until some few years ago, rendered a night journey to the North an experience to be dreaded, and by all means, if possible, to be avoided. The berths are fitted up with beds, pillows, sheets, and rugs, and the traveller may enjoy as sound a night's rest in them as if he were in his own bed at home.

The saloon is supplied with lavatory accommodation, and the passenger, being awakened by the attendant when nearing his journey's end, can make his toilet, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, provided by the attendant, and alight at his destination refreshed and prepared to commence his business without losing time in repairing the fatigue of the journey. Saloon carriages are also available at all times for parties travelling by day trains, on payment of a certain minimum number of fares, and drawing-room carriages, luxuriously fitted up with couches, easy chairs, and tables, are run by the principal express trains between London and Liverpool, seats in which can be obtained on application in advance by telephone or otherwise, without any charge over and above the first class fare. The Company also provide saloon carriages specially fitted up for the accommodation of invalids and their attendants.

The London and North- Western Company have for many years built their own carriages at their Wolverton works, situated about midway between London and Birmingham. These works cover an area of about fifty acres, and are traversed by what was formerly the main line of the London and Birmingham Railway, but the line has since been deviated, and the old railway has been converted into sidings within the works. In the old days of the London and Birmingham Railway, Wolverton was a kind of "half-way house," and was fixed upon for that reason as the chief locomotive centre; but when the London and Birmingham became amalgamated with other undertakings, some of them reaching to the extreme North and West, and blossomed into the London and North- Western, it was found more convenient to remove the locomotive works to Crewe, and since 1877 the works at Wolverton have been devoted exclusively to the building and repair of carriages and other vehicles used in passenger trains, of parcel carts and vans, omnibuses, station furniture, office fittings, and many other requirements, both for trains and for stations. For all these various purposes, the carriage department employs 2,234 workmen at Wolverton, besides 489 at other workshops which have been established at Euston and Crewe, and 731 men engaged at out stations in executing small repairs, and in cleaning, lamping, and examining the carriages. In the old days, when a journey of moderate length occupied a much longer time than it does now, the Wolverton passenger station was a very important place, having extensive refreshment and dining rooms, but the traveller of to-day is only on the threshold of his journey from London to the North when his train dashes through Wolverton without even deigning to stop there.

With the consent of our readers we will now pay a visit to the Wolverton Works, and endeavour to gain some insight into the method in which the rolling-stock of a great railway is built up and maintained. The smaller companies, of course, do not build their own carriages, but obtain them from one or other of the firms of railway carriage manufacturers in the country.

Entering at the main gateway, facing the old London and Birmingham Railway, and, for the moment, passing by the extensive ranges of shops devoted to various purposes, which meet the eye, we first visit (by way of beginning at the beginning) the timber stores, containing at all times a two years' supply of the raw materials of which the carriages are constructed. Here we find the spoils of the West Indian and American forests in the shape of huge logs of mahogany, baywood, pine, and Quebec oak, the East Indies being represented by teak, largely used in the framing and fittings of the carriages, while English oak and ash are not wanting. Overhead is a high-speed travelling crane which, as we are looking on, seizes one of the great logs in its powerful grasp, and lifts it on to two trucks, standing upon a miniature railway of two feet gauge, which runs throughout the works. The log is rapidly run into the saw mill, and is met on its entrance either by a large circular saw, which speedily converts it into planks, or by a frame saw, which cuts it into boards or panels as required. The planks are next cut into scantling of standard sizes, and are sent to the drying shed to season, or if they already consist of seasoned timber, they are at once marked out, and fashioned into the various parts of a carriage by some of the numerous machines of complex construction and bewildering variety which may be seen on all sides, performing the most complicated operations with the utmost apparent ease and rapidity. Meanwhile, however, we follow our log of unseasoned timber in its new form of planks, or scantling, to the drying shed, where we are shown timber of every description, and of all shapes and sizes, stacked symmetrically, and with the greatest neatness and exactitude, for seasoning, together with piles of mahogany panels, and of veneers of walnut, sycamore, ebony, and various other decorative woods, used for ornamental purposes. These are all labelled and dated, and receive, we are assured, as much anxious care and attention as a connoisseur would bestow upon his bins of choice vintages, for much depends upon the skilful selection and preparation of the materials from which the carriages are built.

The parts and sections, which we have seen cut out of the seasoned timber in the saw mill, are run by means of the small tramway into what is termed the "body shop," where they are put together by the coach-makers, and begin to assume the rough outline of the body of a carriage. This is raised by a crane, and lowered on to the under-frame already prepared for it, and which is constructed of channel steel, with Mansel wheels and radial axles. The vehicle, in its rough state, is next taken forward to another shop, where it undergoes long and tedious processes of rubbing-down, painting and varnishing; and meanwhile, the internal fittings, linings, and other upholsterers' work, which have been prepared in various shops devoted to such purposes, are put in, and the break gear and gas fittings are added. Finally, when the carriage is quite complete, it is placed in a cool airy shed, for the paint and varnish to thoroughly harden, before it is turned out for use in trains.

The making of the wheels for the carriages is a very interesting process, and will repay a visit to the wheel shop. The wheels are made without spokes, the centres being solidly built up by segments of teak compressed by hydraulic power. Passing the formidable double row of wheel lathes, which, with apparently very little attention from the workmen, are cutting long spiral shavings of steel from the tyres very much as one pares an apple with a sharp knife, or boring out tyres, and cutting the grooves for the retaining rings, which, when in position render it impossible for the tyre to leave the wheel, even if it is broken into several pieces, we arrive at the machinery by which the wheels are finally put together. A steel tyre, spun from a solid block of Bessemer steel, without a. weld, is swung up by a hydraulic crane on to the press, the teak segments, already cut and shaped with the greatest nicety by an automatic machine in the saw mill, are placed in position within the circumference of the tyre; the press is closed up, and a handle is turned, which sets the hydraulic ram in motion. Soon we hear the solid teak blocks begin to groan as they are forced into the tyre, and with a few loud thumps they are driven home, when the press is opened, and the wood-centre is seen to be as compact as if it were fashioned out of one piece of timber. Nothing remains but to add the retaining ring and boss plates; another hydraulic press forces the wheel and its fellow on to the axle and keys them up; and one more pair of wheels is added to the many thousands that are ceaselessly rushing to and fro upon the iron highway.

Making a tour of the premises, we shall observe that there are special shops and rooms for almost every portion of the work which has to be carried en. Here for instance, is a shop devoted to the fine cabinet work required for the internal fitting and decoration of the carriages, and close at hand is a room where a staff of girls is employed in French polishing. The body shop, paint shop, and drying rooms, we have already seen; but here is a carpenters' shop, where furniture, ticket-cases, barrows, and similar articles are made; a smithy, where brawny workmen are wielding the heavy sledge-hammers, and fashioning all kinds of intricate ironwork; a spring makers shop; brass and iron foundries, where casting is going on, and the molten metal is spurting from the cupola furnaces; a lamp shop, with its deafening sound of the ceaseless tapping of tinmen's hammers, and rooms where women are busily engaged in cutting out and making up the trimmings and linings of the carriages; while everywhere we cannot fail to be struck by the ingenious mechanical appliances which mimimise the labour, and secure uniformity in the work, although these are too numerous and complicated to be described.

Before leaving the works we must pay a visit to the laundry, where some half-dozen women are engaged in washing the linen and towels used in the saloon carriages, all of which are sent to Wolverton daily to be washed, in exchange for a clean supply, about 4,500 articles being thus dealt with every week. Most of the work is done by steam, supplied by a small vertical boiler, the linen being dried in a hot closet, and very scrupulously aired before being sent away, so that passengers never need have before their eyes the fear of damp sheets, in the sleeping saloons.

It is a somewhat interesting sight to watch the operation of paying the large number of men engaged in these works; and the method employed to facilitate the task, and avoid mistakes or disputes, is not without ingenuity. The whole of the men employed are numbered consecutively from one upwards, and at pay-time they arrange themselves in numerical order in a large yard, so as to form a queue, and pass the pay-window in single file. Each man, as he passes the window, hands in his pay check, and receives in return a tin box stamped with his number, and containing his wages. At the end of the passage is a receptacle, into which he throws the empty box, this being considered his receipt for the money; since any question as to the correctness of the amount must be raised before he parts with the box. The money is, of course, counted out and placed in the boxes beforehand, and so simple is the process, and so expert are the clerks employed, that the whole of the men, upwards of 2,000 in number, are paid and the business is at an end in less than half-an-hour.

The physical and moral welfare of the men are not lost sight of, but are promoted in many ways. There is, for Instance, a spacious dining-hall, with accommodation for 1,000 men, each seat being provided with a coffee can and cup, and a cooking tin. Adjoining the dining-hall are large kitchens fitted with ovens, boilers, and hot-plates, where the workmen can either procure their meals at a small cost, or can bring their own provisions, and have them cooked free of charge.

Near the works are schools, largely supported by the Company, where the children of the workmen are educated for a very small fee, while near the schools is a Science and Art Institute, a handsome brick building, in which so much good work is being done, that an extension of the premises will very shortly be necessary. The Company have provided also a spacious recreation ground near the station, and the men can boast of a promising amateur athletic club, cricket and football clubs, and a strong and efficient company of the County Volunteers.

Wolverton, to a great extent, resembles Crewe in being a railway colony, the inhabitants of which are all engaged in one occupation, and although a considerable number of young women are employed in the works, there were formerly a great many girls, the daughters of the workmen, who could find no occupation. Seeing this difficulty, Messrs. McCorquodale and Co., the Company's stationery contractors, considerately came to the rescue, and by erecting a large envelope factory in the immediate neighbourhood, have provided suitable employment for the surplus female population. Apart from the carriage works at Wolverton, the superintendent of the carriage department has under his orders, at what are termed "Out-stations," a staff of nearly 1,200 men, who are engaged in the repair, examination, greasing, lamping, washing, cleaning, and warming of the carriages throughout the system, and it may be useful to give some account of the manner in which these very necessary operations are carried on.

Examination.—About one hundred carriage examiners are employed, who are stationed singly or in small gangs at the most important stations and junctions from one end of the line to the other. Before any man is appointed to a post of this kind he must have had previous experience in the lifting and repairs of carriages in the shops, and it is his duty to carefully examine the wheels, springs, and other running parts of all carriages standing at, or passing through, his station, tapping every wheel-tyre with his hammer, so that his experienced ear may detect by the sound whether they are in good order and without flaw. Where no special staff of coach repairers is employed, the examiner has also to attend to slight repairs of internal fittings, defective locks, etc. At the more important stations pits are provided between the rails to enable the examiners to get beneath the carriages to inspect the under-gear.

Greasing.—This is attended to by men stationed at the principal stations and junctions under the orders of the examiners, their duty being simply to examine the axle-boxes of every carriage passing through their station, and replenish them with oil or grease when required.

Washing.—Every carriage is washed outside with water once each day, the water being usually obtained from cast-iron tanks let into the ground, with a self-acting ball-valve. The buckets can thus be filled instantaneously, without the loss of time involved in drawing water into them from a tap. At the large stations there are sheds specially provided for carriage washing, having wooden stages the height of the carriage floors, alongside each line of rails, with wrought-iron troughs running the whole length of the stages, which by the ball-valve arrangement are kept constantly full of water. Periodically, of course, the outsides of the carriages require something beyond the simple washing with water, and have to be thoroughly scoured with soap or some cleansing composition. The equipment of each "washer" consists of a bucket, a long-handled brush, with which he can reach from the ballast, if need be, the tops of the carriages, and a small spoke-brush for getting into corners, etc.

Cleaning.—The "cleaners," of whom a large number are employed, attend to the insides of the carriages. They are provided with a bass broom, a hard hand-brush, and a soft one, a wash leather and a linen duster. They are expected to shake each carpet, well brush the linings and cushions, clean the windows, and finally to dust the whole carriage throughout.

Heating of Carriages.—During the cold weather, that is to say generally from the 1st November to the 31st March in each year, every compartment of each class is supplied with at least two foot-warmers. The ordinary foot-warmer is an oblong tin, filled with water through an orifice which is then hermetically sealed, and the warmer is placed in a boiler until the water is heated. A patent foot-warmer has, however, been introduced, and is now in use on all the main lines, in which the water is replaced by acetate of soda. The utilisation of crystalised acetate of soda for this purpose is of comparatively recent introduction, the advantage consisting in the fact that the heat, before it has altogether disappeared, can be restored by merely shaking the receptacle, and that the heat is retained nearly three times as long as in the ordinary hot-water tins, viz., for about 8 hours, thus avoiding the inconvenience and annoyance to passengers of continually changing the foot-warmers on a long night journey. The acetate of soda used for this purpose should possess a slightly alkaline re-action to litmus test paper, and should be commercially free from sulphate-chloride and carbonate of sodium, as well as from acetate of lime. It should not possess any unpleasant odour of tarry matter, and its total impurities should not exceed 2 per cent. The warmers are charged in the following manner:— The acetate of soda is first placed in a large iron tank and reduced by heat to a liquid, of which seven quarts are placed in each warmer. Seven ounces of water are added, and two cast iron balls, each two inches in diameter, and weighing 20 ounces, are placed inside. The aperture at the end, through which the liquid has been introduced, is now covered by a cap, soldered down, with a small hole left in the centre. The warmer is placed in another tank, and the contents again brought to boiling point, when the receptacle is hermetically sealed, and is then ready for use.

The sleeping saloons in the through trains between London and Scotland, Holyhead, Liverpool, and Manchester, are warmed by means of high-pressure hot-water pipes, each saloon being supplied with a small heating apparatus for the purpose.

The Lighting of Carriages.—Until recent years the carriages upon the London and North-Western Railway were all lighted by means of oil-lamps, but this plan is being gradually superseded by the introduction of a system of lighting by compressed oil gas, about 26,000 oil lamps being, however, still in use. At all stations where the lamping of trains is performed, separate rooms are provided, as remote as possible from the station buildings, to lessen the risk of fire. These rooms are furnished with tables having iron frames and slate tops, with benches for cleaning and filling the lamps, wooden stands for cleaning the lamp cases, and racks affixed to the walls, in which the lamps are placed when cleaned, trimmed, and ready for use. The rooms are also fitted with iron tanks for the oil, waste bins, and sawdust bins. On the arrival of a train the lamps are removed from the carriages, placed on a truck specially constructed for the purpose, and taken to the lamp-room, where the cases are cleaned, the burners filled, and the wicks trimmed, when the lamps are replaced in the train, or placed in the racks, as the case may be.

The system of lighting by oil gas, previously referred to, is the patent of Mr. Pope, the gas being manufactured from shale oil. At the stations where this gas is made and supplied, the oil is brought to the works in barrels, and emptied into a large covered iron tank, let into the ground outside the gas-house, being afterwards pumped thence into a smaller tank, placed at a high level inside the gas-house. From this it is allowed to gravitate to red-hot retorts, through a small jet pipe, and is vapourised, afterwards passing through a hydraulic main to the condensers, thence to a coke scrubber, and, finally, through a registering meter to the gas-holder. The gas is stored in reservoirs about 18 feet long, and about 4 feet in diameter, built up of ½-in. plates, to stand a working pressure of 150 lbs. to the square inch. The reservoirs are provided with gun-metal inlets and outlets, and also with a low-level outlet, to admit of drawing off the hydro-carbon which is thrown down owing to the compression of the gas. A combined engine and pump is employed to pump the gas from the reservoir to the receiver, whence it is conveyed by pipes to the cylinders attached to each carriage, at a pressure of 150 lbs. to the square inch, each cylinder, as well as the main, being supplied with a pressure gauge, so as to show at a glance when they are full.

The gas is conveyed from the works where it is made, to the station or shed where the carriages are charged, through an underground main of iron pipe, having an outside diameter of 1¼ in., and an inside diameter off ¾ in., connecting hydrants are then attached to the main, to which gas-hose is attached at distances of about 120 ft. for filling the cylinders in the carriages. The hose is of india-rubber and canvas knit together, and is capable of withstanding a pressure of 150 lbs. to the square inch; it has attaching unions and stopcocks at each end, so that it can be taken off the main without waste of gas, the main and the carriage cylinders having stop valves, so that all can be closed before detaching the hose. The gas in the main can also be drawn off into the gas-holder when it is desired, for any reason, to empty the carriage cylinders. Each carriage has one or two cylinders, which are filled to a pressure of 110 lbs. to the square inch, and are made of lined steel, with the seams welded, and two of these, 16 feet in length, with a diameter of 13 in., will carry a sufficient supply of gas to keep twenty lights, burning on a journey from London to Aberdeen and back. Gas cannot be consumed under this high pressure, but has to be passed through a regulator, so as to reduce it to something like the pressure of coal gas as used for household purposes, and this is effected by a very simple contrivance. The gas passes from the high pressure cylinder through a small needle hole, with a pin valve and lever attached to a diaphragm, in a round box. As soon as 95 water gas gauge pressure has entered this box, the diaphragm rises and closes the valve, which does not re-open until the lights are turned on, when it admits gas at the same rate at which it is consumed at the burners. Each jet can be regulated to a given size, so that it cannot blaze and cause waste, and all the lights in a carriage can be turned off or half-off, by a key at the end of the carriage. Finally, each carriage has a pressure gauge to indicate the pressure of gas in the cylinders, and to shew when the supply is exhausted.

It must not be supposed that the London and North Western Company, in their endeavours to secure an improved system of lighting their passenger carriages, have overlooked the question of electric lighting, or that they have been oblivious of the experiments which have been made in this direction upon various railways, but chiefly upon the Southern lines. They are, on the contrary, perfectly alive to the fact that in all probability the electric light is the light of the future for railway carriages, as for most other purposes; and they have not been behindhand in making experiments with it on their own account. For some time past one of their trains running between Liverpool and Manchester has been lighted by electricity, and not without success; and although the directors, regarding the question as only in a transitional or experimental stage, have not yet seen their way to adopt the system to any large extent, a brief account of what has been done may perhaps be of interest.

It is tolerably well known that there are at least three methods in which a current of electricity may be obtained for lighting the carriages of a train. A primary battery may be used, or secondary batteries as on the Brighton line, or the dynamo may be used direct. Each system has its own supporters, but the greatest consensus of opinion, at any rate amongst railway engineers, appears to be in favour of either the secondary batteries, or the direct action of the dynamo, while possibly the ultimate solution will be found in a combination of the two; that is to say, the train will carry both a dynamo and accumulators; but whether the dynamo is to be carried on the engine or driven from the engine direct, or is to be driven by a separate engine, or by the axle of the guard's van, are points not yet determined with any degree of authority. The train already referred to on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, carries a Brotherwood's engine and a Siemen's compound shunt dynamo fixed on the tender of the locomotive, with an ammeter and switch on the engine, so that the driver may regulate the current, and there are two lamps in each compartment of the train with an automatic switch arrangement, so that in the event of one lamp failing, the second would be automatically brought into use. The system, which has been devised by the Company's chief telegraph superintendent, does not admit of the engine leaving the train without disconnecting the current, but this difficulty might be overcome by the use of secondary batteries or accumulators. The capital outlay required for the installation of this one train, including the Brotherwood engine and dynamo machine, was £286, and the working expenses for a year have amounted to £84 2s. 1d., which works out to about ·628 of a penny per lamp per hour, but this has since been somewhat reduced, and moreover, a portion of the working expenses would be no greater if there were three or four trains to attend to, working between the same points.