A Glimpse of Gresley
by Mel Haigh
On my first Tour to China in May 1987, the Group visited the
Sujiatun Railway Museum situated in the Southern Suburbs of Shenyang. The
Museum was located, in the open, on two sidings, adjacent to the Sujiatun
Motive Power Depot. I am not sure of the exact date on which the Museum opened,
but I think it must have been at least 5 years prior to this visit, as some of
the exhibits had been supplemented by a profuse display of weeds and in one
case by a young sapling growing out between the frames.
|Class JF2 No. 2525 at Sujiatun Railway Museum May 1987.
Photo: Mel Haigh
Class JF2 Nº2525 drew my attention, as exposed on the front
running plate was a sturdy, and very basic example of Gresley's Conjugated
Motion. The parts of course had to be opposite hand to the English version, the
original batch of 5 locos in this class were built by Alco in 1924 (The
difference only to be expected, from a nation that drives on the wrong side of
The History of the Chinese JF Class is too complicated to tell
here, suffice it to say that there were some twenty odd subdivisions of the
Class, covering some 2,500 Engines.
|Equal Motion Lever Conjugated Motion JF2 Nº2525
||Two to One Level
|Photos: Mel Haigh
All the JF Class Engines, with the exception of the JF2s were Two
Cylinder 2-8-2s, and operated mainly in Japanese occupied North East China.
Alco had supplied some "standard" JF class Engines in 1919 to the
Puppet Manchurian Railway Administration. One can only assume that a more
powerful Engine was required to operate on some of the more arduous routes, and
so Alco delivered Five Three Cylinder Class JF2 Engines in 1924. Like their Two
Cylinder predecessors the Japanese expanded the Class, with KSK, and Kawasaki
building a further 22 Engines between them. There is a suggestion in a Chinese
Publication that a further 41 Engines were built, but I cannot find any
evidence to back up this claim.
|Class JF2 Nº2525 now in the palatial surroundings of the
new Shenyang Railway Museum October 2004.
Photo: Mel Haigh
Returning to China in autumn 2004 I was pleased to find that a
new purpose built Railway Museum had opened in Shenyang. All the dilapidated
Locos from the old open-air site, plus some new ones have been cosmetically
restored and are now displayed in the new building. So Nº2525 (A Kawasaki
product, not Alco) and its conjugated motion now resides alongside another Blue
Streamliner Class SL7 Pacific Nº751.
|Also in Shenyang Railway Museum is class SL7, Oct. 2004.
Photo: Mel Haigh
The discovery of this "foreign" use of the Conjugated
Valve Gear led me to look for other uses of the Gear by other overseas
railways. These will be the subject of future Glimpses of Gresley.
Looking further into the Alco connection, it appears that 5 three
cylinder Pacific locos with ALCO (Gresley) conjugated valve gear, were supplied
to the Japanese National Railway (I believe Class C52, the book I used as
reference was in Japanese script, so I could be wrong) about 1925. The Japanese
copied, and 'improved' the design and these engines were designated
Class C53, and they were used on all the crack express trains. About 1934 some
of the Class C53s were 'streamlined' it may have been effective
aerodynamically, but was visually ugly to say the least. This is no doubt due
to converting an existing loco as opposed to building new. The SL 7 mentioned
above is of Japanese origin, and is visually acceptable and was built about the
same time as the Class C53 was being converted.
|JNR Class C53 in Standard and Streamlined form.
In order to make sure that I was not setting off on a wild goose
chase, I asked Peter Townend if he could give me any information about the use
of the Gresley Gear outside the British Isles. The answer was yes, but he would
prefer to write an article detailing the development of three cylinder
propulsion, and the various way in which the valve gears were adapted to suit
this cylinder layout. Peter kindly agreed to the article being published in
Chime and it was published in two parts, starting in the Spring 2006
Whist writing this piece I heard rumours that the New Shenyang
Railway Museum had closed, on checking with my Chinese contacts, they confirmed
it was true, and that the building had been demolished. They were unable to
tell me what had happened to the loco collection, it seemed that the Government
edict to eliminate all steam engines by the end of 2005 included the
"stuffed and mounted" exhibits as well. Happily a short while ago I
received a letter from China informing me that the locos were safe and were to
be housed in a new building in a Pleasure Park near the centre of Shenyang.
|Some views of C53 valve gear taken by
our CME Richard Swales during a visit to Japan in 2006. Richard has provided
many more views of the gear and this locomotive but sadly too numerous to print
them all in Chime.
Please note that Melvin's articles are his own copyright work
and should not be reproduced without prior consultation with the author.
First published in Chime 139, Spring 2006
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