Author: David Clough
Publisher: Ian Allan
Class 52 Westerns have always held something of a fascination for me, right from my introduction to them through a picture of a striking but scruffy looking locomotive in a pack of Ace Top Trumps.
Having been withdrawn from the national network before I was born, my knowledge of Westerns and indeed other diesel hydraulics was limited and I wanted to understand why hydraulic drive was deemed a failure.
It was for this reason I purchased Hydraulic vs Electric, The Battle for the BR Diesel Fleet, by David N. Clough.
Running to 160 pages, the book provides a thoroughly detailed overview as to the motives for introducing diesel hydraulic drive onto the Western region, the relative merits of diesel hydraulic and diesel electric and some very interesting conclusions as to why diesel hydraulic was a success elsewhere in Europe but not the UK.
Clough delves into the National Archives to determine the origins of the British Railways Technical Committee’s decision to run trials of diesel electric drive versus diesel hydraulic, and in doing so debunks the myth that the reason that the Western region was the main destination for hydraulics was its fiercely independent nature.
He explains the advantages and disadvantages of hydraulic and electric drive in a way that’s easy to digest through the use of subheadings exploring transmission efficiency, transmission design, cooling, maintenance and locomotive weight.
It was only the explanation of how a torque converter works that lost this non-engineer.
Text is accompanied throughout by an abundance of good quality photography, which includes rare images of prototype locomotives such as LMS 10000 and 10001, and a number of German V200 locomotives.
The minor irritation is the consistent reference to the pre-TOPS locomotive classifications, which even by the end of the book had me cross referencing against photographs to determine what locomotive class we were actually talking about.
But overall this was an excellent read and worth purchasing if you want to understand the real reasons the hydraulic transmission failed to succeed in UK locomotives.