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Articles By Mike Rooth

The Webb Syndrome

No,all of us do *not* dislike pointed,or direct questions. For a kick-off,they are so much easier to answer than waffle. What you've come up agin,is the BOF(Britsh Old Farts) syndrome. They neednt necessarily *be* old,they just act that way(In fact one theory is they were born like it).It goes "Dont question our wisdom,we are right because we said it".There's a lot of it about, but fortunately,usually confined to organising committees and the like.

I call it "The Webb Syndrome".Francis Webb was the CME (Chief Mechanical Engineer) of the London and North Western Railway at the turn of the century.He was a great fan of compound locomotives,and introduced a great many of them,usually flawed, during his tenure of office.One flaw resulted in a most amusing happening,more than once.You'll probably have to get Jed to explain this to you.The engines were of the "2-4-0" wheel arrangement,except, with the two driving axles not being coupled they were *really* 2-2-2-0.The front driving axle was driven by the two high pressure outside cylinders taking steam at boiler pressure.Now this axle was under the control of valve gear,reversible from the cab in the normal way.The second axle was driven by a single *inside* cylinder,big as a bloody dustbin,which took its (low pressure) steam from the exhaust of the outer two.This gylinder had what is known as a "Slip Eccentric" valve gear,which is *not* controlled from the cab.Instead,the eccentric (Or excentric,to quote Ahrons)is loose on the axle and is pushed round by a stop collar fixed to the axle.It needs half a turn of the axle in the required direction before it assumes the correct position to control events.SO..the loco backs onto the train at Euston Station, rolling DOWN the Camden Bank in reverse.The valve gear is put in full forward,and the regulator(throttle) opened.The front drivers slip. So what? Well,the rear drivers are still in reverse,because the loco hasnt moved the necessary half turn of the rear axle to put the slip eccentric in forward gear.But the HP cylinders are busily exhausting into the LP steam chest,and thence into the LP cyl.The wheels arent coupled so of goes the rear axle.In reverse.And there it sits,with both sets of driving wheels going in opposite directions.Not the best way of ascending the Camden bank with 400tons trailing. Complain to Webb?Ah,no.He designed it so there *cant* be anything wrong with it.When Webb retired,the entire compound fleet was scrapped in about five years by George Whale,his successor.Bar one "Hardwicke" which still exists.And that's the attitude you've come up against. IBM copied it it the sixties and seventies."Its IBM,it *must* be OK". Incidentally,if a driver *did* complain to the CME,he usually got sacked.IBM just got told to piss off,which on the whole was less than they deserved.

I beleive that Canadian Pacific bought one Webb compound "for evaluation" or more likely 'cos they do with a laugh.Nothing was heard of it after it left these shores,and the speculation among historians was that the Canadians quietly chucked it in a corner of Lake Michigan,which was all it deserved.

There you go,boring lecture over,all sit up straight now!

   
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