10th October 2020 · On-Line Meeting: Edward Thompson

Presenter: Simon Martin

We continued our series of “Zoom” virtual meetings on Monday 10th October when 52 participants – our best attendance yet for a “Zoom” meeting, including one from the USA – took part. We were addressed by prolific author and occasional television presenter Simon Martin who gave a talk on Edward Thompson, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway from 1941 until his retirement in 1946. Thompson was born at Marlborough College (where his father was an assistant master) in 1881. He was educated at Marlborough, and then Pembroke College, Cambridge. From 1910 he held various senior engineering posts on the North Eastern and Great Northern Railways – interrupted by war service in the Army – and from 1923 the LNER. After the death of Sir Nigel Gresley in April 1941 Thompson was quickly appointed by the LNER Board to succeed Gresley as Chief Mechanical Engineer. Simon’s very detailed research included reading the minutes of all the LNER Board Meetings, and much other material available at the National Archives, Kew, and the National Railway Museum. It was during this research that Simon realised that there was no evidence for the frequently expressed view that Thompson had attempted to wipe out Greeley’s achievements on the LNER. On the contrary there was statistical evidence that Thompson’s locomotives were able to hold their own in mileages between general overhauls, annual mileages, for example. Simon referred to Thompson’s work on the standardisation of locomotives and parts, which clearly showed no bias against Gresley’s designs, at a time when wartime and post-war pressures made this policy so essential. Thompson’s recommendations for the basis of a future standard LNER locomotive fleet contained a number of Gresley’s classes in either original or modified form.