ELECTRICS IN RAILWAY SERVICE
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Facts and Figures of the Midland Railway Collection and Delivery System Which Promises to Usher in a New Era in Road Motor Transport.
So far as a railway company is concerned, conversion from animal to mechanical transport provokes other problems which are of peculiar perplexity. The van .driver may seem to be presented with a simple, straightforward task, but, in reality, he is a trained man. As a rule he enters the service as a boy and grows up with his work.:. In this way he learns his ronnd together with its varied duties, as well as becoming intimately familiarized with railway working, in .so far as it is affected by collection and delivery. To introduce petrol working would be to cause a certain degree of chaos, arising from the withdrawal of certain units from service to pass through the requisite period of tuition both in driving and the fulfilment of roadside repairs, which involve the mastery of a certain amount of mechanical knowledge. The perio41 af inculcation would necessarily be spread over
a certain number_ of weeks, and the withdrawal of the particialar units would throwadditional duty upon those remaining, or. possibly necessitate the work being placed in less competent teinpOary hands. The alternative would be to train drivers especially for the work, or to engage skilled men, but men -who would be deficient in knowledge of railway business.
By adopting electric propulsion these troubles are avoided : there is no disruption of ordinary business, since the operation of the vehicle may be mastered within a few hours by a man of average intelligence.
In any large undertaking, such as a railway conapany, the introduction of machinery must be eonsummated in such a manner as to interfere with manpower to the minimum. The elimination of all such interference is an overwhelming advantage offered by the electric. The. horse driver can be taken straight from the reins and put in charge of the -wheel. The Interregnum of training is reduced to the very briefest
period, and the railway company, furthermore, i& not deprived of a useful unit. Owing to the mixed character of railway traffic, it is well-nigh impossible to determine upon a single type of vehicle capable of meeting all and every re quirement. The business naturally falls into two broad classes :—(a) Light passenger traffic, including the handling of personal passenger baggage as well as miscellaneous small parcels of merchandise and express business.: and (b) freight embracing all merchandise sent tiy goods train. So far as the experience of the Midland Railway has taken them, conclusions appear to point out that the all-round vehicle,
if such a one.should be required, would be the 3 i 42-tonner. It is the vehicle which s best suited to all round requirements, as well as economical and effi cient working-.
The fleet of electrics maintained for the extremelyvaried traffic of ,London comprises 54 vehicles,, and its composition is as follows : 15 15-cwt. parcelvans 2 1-ton parcelvans passenger traffic. 914-ton parcelvans .15 2-ton lorries • • 7 3i-ton lorries goods traffic. 6 5-ton lorries The fact that traffic falls naturally into two welldefined classifications—passenger and goods respectively—necessitates a corresponding subdivision of the fleets and their allocation to two departments. Parcels are handled by the passenger traffic, and' the heavy height by the goods department respectively. The departmeni whose work the respective vehicles are doing has, therefore, their actual road operation, and that of the staff manning them, under its own direct control. On the other hand, the construetIoa
and maintenance of all, the machines is a responsibility of the Chief Mechanical Engineer's Department, which is responsible for the acquisition of the vehicles and which is consulted bythe respective operating departments as to the types best adapted to their requirements.. Both repairs and running adjustments are carried out by the Technical .Department; whose 'staff alsostpass the drivers. Thus there is secured all the advantages accruing from centralization, together with those of decentralization,
which in operation allows control to the department most directly affected.
I am enabled to give the accompanying table setting forth the average annual cost of maintaining and working the electric motor fleet of the Midland Railway. The figures include all charges except the wages of drivers and attendants.
Sub-division of the Work.
Wages, it may be pointed out, are elimina.ted because the drivers belong, respectively, to the general superintendent's staff, as regards the paroelvans, and to chief goads manager's staff in connection with the freight vehicles. Moreover, the wages item is a variable factor. In some instances only one man is employed on a lorry, in which case, under present conditions, 2100 would cover the annual wages cost. In other instances, a man and a boy are employed, while occasionally two men are engaged, thereby increasing the wages item to 2140 and 2170 respectively. Moreover, in certain instances, a lorry is worked by two shifts of men, thus being turned into almost a 100 per cent, machine, so far as time is concerned, the vehicle being in service for about 20 hours out of the 24 hours, the balance of time being occupied in charging, the batteries. Two shifts also apply to the parcelvans, but these are worked normally by a driver and van boy, with a combined wages list of 2140 per annum. Similar charges would be incurred were. steam, petrol or -any other system of propulsion adopted, and so, for this reason, the wages item is eliminated. The figures refer exclusively to the machines. The working period, I might mention, is for the year 1916; and the; figures are exclusive of recent wages advances.
For purposes of further comparison the working of one, petrol vehicle is included—a', 25-cwt. vehicle. In view of the fact that the cost per mile of this machine —5.2d.—is but aid. less than that of operating a 2-ton Edison and 1.35d. more than that of the 30--cwt. parcelvan, sueh.a difference may be attributed to a high charge for petrol. But in this instance the liquid fuel is assessed at 2s. per gallon. It must be noted that the 2-ton Edison goods Vehicles cost more than • paacelvans, .owing chiefly to heavier repairs and lower mileage. As a rule, petrol parcelvans have longer runs than electrics.
Analysis of Costs.
The costs are set out in detail and may provoke criticism. The average current charge is approkie42 mately id. per unit. The tyres do not excite comment, no difficulty being experienced in more than fulfilling the guarantee of 10,000 miles. The repair charges may seem to be somewhat heavy, bearing in mind that there is little in the electric vehicle to go wrong. But it should be borne in mind that (1) the figures represent the first 'year's experience of the company with electric vehicles, and more attention was given to overhaul, etc., than is now regarded as really neces sary in accordance with experience ; and (2) a considerable expenditure was incurred in making good damage due to accidents on the goods vehicles. These result largely from yard congestion and from the propinquity of electric lorries in the sheds to horse lorries, railway vans, and wagons and even locomotives.
Mechanical Repairs Insignificant.
Several cases of damage to the electrics have occurred from collision with moving wagons, and even with an engine, and damage to mudguards, dashboards, etc., from horsed vehicles as well as other electrics is very Common indeed ; such damages, though minor individually, bring up costs in the aggregate. Mechanical repairs are insignificant as a rule.
• The high standing charges may also excite comment, but they are inclusive of interest, depreciation or provision for renewal of the chassis, body and battery. The latter figure is based absolutely on the guarantees of the manufacturers, and as the terms of guarantee have not yet expired it is impossible to relate whether or no they should be modified.
One fact is already certain as regards the lead battery machines, which are guaranteed for two years, and someiof which are already over this age, viz., should_ revision.be necessary it will be in a downward, and not an upward, direction. Yet, notwithstanding the ample allowances which have been made, the low cdst per mile is certainly -impressive, and its signifi cance in matters pertaining to contemporary trans, . port °Pylons.
[intense interest in being aroused at the moment in electric) propulsion, as is evidenced from the letters we. are receiving from our readers. But a certain proportion of our supporters apparently cherish the opinion that we are advocating the claims of the electric at the expense of our old friends petrol and steam, and that powerful vested interests are in
fluencing our policy. But this is far from being the case. i For instance, n our last issue dealing with the Midland Railway electric fleet and operations the statements therein were set forth wholly upon our own initiative. None was authorised in any way by the Midland Railway. We consider it necessary to ma.ke this assertion lest any of our readers should feel disposed to accept the information therein published as Tie E COMMERCIAL MOTOR accepts unreserved responsibility, We think such action is essent;a1, more particularly in connection with the statement concerning the capital outlay, i.e., the 54 vehicles having cost £60,000. the directors' future intentions and the remarks regarding the saving effected by displacing by parcelvans.—En.]