LEAVES FROM THE INSPECTOR'S NOTEBOOK.
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
A 'Concrete Case. Wipe Out Railway Losses by Encouragement of Travel.
THERE WAS A PERIOD, not so very many months agb, when manufacturers both here and in America were delivering lorry chassis in such considerable quantities that British coachbuilders, with the necessary capacity and experience, were unable to cope with• the Government's very large demands for War Department type bodies. Not every coachbuilder can accommodate any considerable number of unwieldy lorry bodies under construeti-on at the same time. The position was a serious one. Timber was becoming scarcer than ever, and what there was of it went to the circular saw with the leaves on it.
It was at that., time that the authorities received a suggestion that these lorry chassis should be fitted up with ferro-concrete coachwork—bodies built up on a skeleton of steel rod construction and finished in approved ferro-concrete fashion, the whole thing one solid lump—bar the tailboard, presumably. It is no secret that the question was quite seriously considered, but, in the interval, the position as to more normal construction became easier, and that pircumstance, coupled with the opinion that the new form of construction would be unduly heavy, would be too rigid, and would be liable to damage any load dropped on it, resulted in the proposals being discarded.
Nevertheless, so much progress has been made in recent months with such adaptations of the fere), concrete principle as its use for shipbuilding, portable buildings, and so on, that it is now seriously intended to essay the building of railway-truck bodies in this way. And, if railway trucks, why not lorry bodies—unless the question of weight be decieive? The experiment would seem to be worth trying.
In a certain American factory they actually do make plaster moulds of new car-body designs, and subsequently cast from them in aluminium, I am told. And, several years before the war, a French coachbuilder was constructing high-class bodywork by pasting a sort of papier-mache plaster over a framework of expanded metal—a form of construction very closely akin to ferro-concrete in. method at any rate. With timber of poor quality, at exceptional prices and on short supply, It will not be altogether surprising if we hear of further experimenting with the ferro-concrete lorry body in the near future.
Wiping Out Railway Losses.
What with coal, railways and Atlantic flights, there is little room for other news in the papers these days. For the past week or two, and quite rightly, pride of place has been given to the great conferences on conditions of employment on the railways and in the mines. Both subjects are relatively of major interest to us in the commercial-vehicle world. And it particularly behoves us to keep our weather eyes. open in connection with the case that is very astutely being made out for the railways. We are even being told that roads should not be allowed to compete with them.
We are at present, for a. very olAous purpose, being furnished with harrowing tales of the losses incurred, due to the operation of the railways during the past year or two, and we are told that, with such. losses confronting us, we have no right to hope for any reduction of passenger fares or go-ods rates. But we shall do well not to be satisfied with an airy departmental assurance, framed in the usual millions, as to the extent of the loss on operation, without pressing for the reasons and an analysis of the said millions. We are being prepared for huge grants in aid of the railways and the case has to be made as convincing as possible.
Is not the major portion of the passenger traffic at present exclusively of the privilege and warrant class, and are not the full-fare passengers altogether in the minority ? At the same time, are not passenger trains on the long hauls by no means adequately loaded for that very reason? Would not lower fares actually decrease the loss on operation? It has to be remembered that it is not only the soldier who travels cheaply, but a host of other national workers —from land girls., who seem to be always on the move, to the numerous semi-national organizations who are granted special travelling facilities. Is the muchadvertised loss inclusive of that due to these privileged journeys and to the crowding out of the full fare passenger ? Again: the expenditure on stationary and movable plant is far below the average, and the cost of cleaning must have been reduced to a minimum. What is the true analysis of the figures of operation ? The public should press for this, for, de
• spite all that has been said, I have a grave suspicion as to the projected destination of those Road Board millions of ours, and suspect the railway magnates of a few crocodiles' tears at least.