12 July 2009

Kimberley: "Beaconsfield" 0-4-0 Steam Tram Loco built by Thomas Green & Son of Leeds, England

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On 1 September 2009 we visited the BIG HOLE Museum in Kimberley.

An interesting display, in one of the "old town" streets, is the steam tram locomotive "Beaconsfield", built by Thomas Green & Son of Leeds. This steam tram engine was one of 4, used in Kimberley, by the Victoria Tramway Company to haul passenger trams on the local tram network.

Essentially this is a steam locomotive in a box !!!


Thomas Green & Son of Leeds, England, originally built the steam tram locomotive displayed at Big Hole Kimberley Mine Museum.

Middleton & Williams report in Industrial Locomotives of South Africa (1991) that the "Beaconsfield" steam tram engine was built by Thomas Green & Son in 1886 for 4 feet gauge use in the UK by the Bradford Corporation Tramways.

Later this steam tram locomotive was rebuilt for the 3 feet 6 inches gauge for use by the Victoria Tramway Co in Kimberley. The "Beaconsfield" first started operations in Kimberley on 15 July 1900.

One of the products that Thomas Green & Son became well known for, was steam tram engines. The use of steam tramways in Britain was effectively prohibited by the draconian rules contained in the so-called Red Flag Act or more correctly the Locomotive Acts of 1861 and 1865. The introduction of new regulations, The Highways & Locomotives (Amendments) Act 1879 set out a more workable arrangement as follows:-
  • Engine to be governed to prevent speeds in excess of 10 miles per hour
  • No steam or smoke to be emitted
  • Be free from noise produced by blast or clatter
  • The machinery to be concealed from view at all points above 4 inch from rail level
Thomas Green commenced building tramway locomotives in 1885. These locomotives were initially of the Wilkinson’s patent, built under license. This design used a vertical boiler and a vertically mounted engine which drove one set of wheels through gears. The second pair of wheels was driven through coupling rods. The exhaust passed through a chamber in the firebox to provide reheat, which in principle would make the steam invisible. The speed governor was an “Allen” paddle type which acted on the reversing gear.

Thirty-nine Wilkinson type trams were delivered, before Thomas Green & Son developed their own design, using a horizontal boiler, inclined cylinders and Joy valve gear. The machine quickly evolved such that Green’s tram engines became one of the market leaders.


The advertisement above refers to "air condensing" tramway locomotives.

In Britain, locomotives working on roadside steam tramways were required by law to have condensers. Water tank condensers (as above) were sometimes used but air-condensers were more common. A steam tram engine usually had a full-length roof and this was surmounted by a nest of air-cooled copper tubes in which the exhaust steam was condensed. The system was satisfactory for tram engines (which were very low-powered) but would not have worked for larger railway locomotives.

See steam locomotive condensing apparatus for further information.


photo: Elna Conradie


26 December 2002 photo courtesy Errol Swanepoel. This shows the Beaconsfield as it was formerly on display inside a building. Compare this picture with the one just above showing water damage to ceiling and the other photos taken in 2009 to note amount of rust damage visible on the little engine since it has been moved to a position in the open. Would it survive another 100 years?

Thomas Green & Son built over two hundred steam tram locomotives between 1882 and 1898, only a few were of a suitable gauge of between three feet six inches and four feet. It is therefore appears likely that one of the two Bradford tramway companies were persuaded to sell four of their locomotives to Dick, Kerr & Company, for refurbishment and resale on to the Victoria Tramway Company.


photo: Elna Conradie

In Britain, locomotives working on roadside steam tramways were required by law to have condensers. Water tank condensers (as above) were sometimes used but air-condensers were more common.

A steam tram engine usually had a full-length roof and this was surmounted by a nest of air-cooled copper tubes in which the exhaust steam was condensed.

In order to prevent the creation of smoke, coke as a smokeless fuel was to be used.


The steam tram locomotive has a 0-4-0 wheel type, with two inclined outside cylinders.


This picture by Stefan Untergutsch, sourced from sa.transport , shows the steam tram engine as it was formerly on display inside one of the museum buildings. Of interest is the opened wheel door, which shows some of the wheel gear, and the driving arm from the inclined cylinder.

26 December 2002 photo courtesy Errol Swanepoel.


All motion, wheels and connecting rods had to be hidden from view by means of a “skirt” fitted around the locomotive to within a few inches from the ground. This was to prevent horses and other livestock being frightened at the sight of moving wheels and spinning valve gear and rods.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

The following are extracts from a thesis titled "A socio-economic history of the public passenger tramways of Kimberley: 1880-2000" researched and written by Richard John Lawty Sabatini, and published here by The University of Johannesburg.

"Gibson Brothers, having observed the successful introduction and operation of steam tram locomotives in Britain and the Continent, decided to replace the mules with similar locomotives. They approached the Kimberley Borough Council first with a photograph of a steam tram locomotive in service in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. This was presented to Mr. C.K. Moloney, the Kimberley Town Clerk in October 1898, in order to show the Council what “boxed-in” locomotives looked like. "

"The photograph was also presented to the Beaconsfield Town Council and a similar agreement was concluded by mid-November 1898. The agreement was however subject to conditions imposed, upon such locomotives, by the Board of Trade in England in the "Use of Mechanical Power on Tramways Act of 1879". The Kimberley Borough Council also entered into an agreement with the Gibson Brothers, and among their clauses was one stating: “The locomotives shall be of the best type and of similar kind or type to those in use in Bradford and other large towns in England”."

"During 1898, the entire line between the Halfway House Tram Depot and Stockdale Street was lifted and re-laid with heavier rails to accept the greater mass associated with steam tram locomotives. A similar re-laying programme was implemented on the Beaconsfield route in 1899. With the opening of the Kenilworth Extension, the Stockdale Street terminus had been retained as the Kimberley terminus, with the connecting trams on the Gladstone route running to and from Kenilworth. The turning of mule-hauled tramcars at the end of the various tram routes had presented no problems since the mule teams were merely unhitched from the tramcar and led to the opposite end of the tramcar and then re-hitched. The tramcars thus travelled backwards and forwards and were not actually physically turned around. "

"Once the steam tram locomotives entered service this simple process would not suffice, as a run-round loop would be required for the locomotive to uncouple from the tramcar and reverse to the opposite end of the passing loop in order to re-couple to the tramcar. Provided these passing loops were in place, operating using steam traction would not be a problem. As some of these passing loops were not correctly positioned, a series of track alterations was started. The Kimberley Borough Council Public Works committee was approached by the Gibson Brothers in early August 1899 for permission to construct a short crossing (passing loop) in either Stockdale Street or New Main Street, in order for the steam tram locomotives to change direction at arrival at the terminus. At the same time, they requested authority to attach small signboards to some of the electric streetlight poles along the tram route to denote the official stopping places for the trams."

"The severe curvature of the rails on the corner between Stockdale Street and Dutoitspan Road had been a constant source of flange wear for both the steel rails and tyres of the tramcars, ever since originally laid in 1887. A request from the Gibson Brothers to the Kimberley Borough Council to alter the route to ease the curvature into Main Street had been rejected in December 1895 and the matter had been allowed to drop. "

"Permission for the construction of the Stockdale Street passing loop was quickly forthcoming. Then in September a similar application was made to construct a further siding (passing loop) near the Kimberley Town Hall, and concurrently W.A. Dale, The Victoria Tramway Company’s engineer presented plans for paving the passing loops in Dutoitspan Road outside the Masonic Temple and the Halfway House Tram Depot. Included in his plans was a request to re-site the current passing loop in Stockdale Street to outside the Theatre Royal in Dutoitspan Road. The reason offered included problems being experienced with road traffic outside the Theatre Royal, which they believed could be solved by the construction of a short siding (passing loop) outside the Theatre Royal itself."

"This request was firmly rejected by the Council and the twin matters of the severe curvature and the situation of the Kimberley tram terminus were to remain a constant source of irritation and frustration to the Gibson Brothers for several years to come. "

"The track replenishment programmes in both Kimberley and Beaconsfield were finally completed in mid-1899, and thereafter attention focused on the construction of a similar passing loop at the Dutoitspan terminus of the Beaconsfield section of the Victoria Tramway Company. At the Beaconsfield Town Council meeting of 3 October 1899, permission was granted for the construction of a passing loop at the Dutoitspan terminus, opposite the Oddfellows Arms Bar, and construction commenced immediately."

"Although the necessary alterations to the track layout were well in hand, the Gibson Brothers were confronted with the option as to which country to purchase the steam tram locomotives from. With the exception of the ill-fated battery car, all tramcars had been purchased from the United States of America. Thus had steam tram locomotives been popular in North America it is quite possible that the locomotives would have been of American origin. Such locomotives had actually failed to find favour in North America and so the Gibson Brothers were forced to focus again on Britain for the supply of suitable locomotives."

"There were at this time numerous locomotive and tramcar manufacturing companies in Britain. From among these, the Gibson Brothers selected the Dick, Kerr & Company with offices in London and Kilmarnock in Scotland, to supply suitable steam tram locomotives. One of the reasons for this choice of contractor was that as well as actually constructing tramcars Dick, Kerr & Company also built, supplied and equipped tramway systems. Such was their reputation as tramway engineers that the Mills’ Syndicate had used their services when planning the Camps Bay Tramway Company in 1899 in Cape Town."

"The Gibson Brothers also felt that the cost of purchasing new locomotives direct from one of the manufacturers was beyond their means and so Dick, Kerr & Company were requested to try to source suitable Cape gauge locomotives second hand, if any were available.

Although the purchase and overhaul had been completed successfully in 1899, and delivery arrangements to Kimberley had reached an advanced stage, events far beyond the control of either the Gibson Brothers or Dick, Kerr & Company conspired against them, rendering a delay of several months to their delivery inevitable."

[... the delay was caused by the Siege of Kimberley, which started on 14 October 1899, and ended on 15 February 1900.]

"The re-opening of the railway line to the south enabled the long overdue tramway equipment, ordered well before the outbreak of hostilities, to be delivered to Kimberley. The first three steam tram locomotives were amongst the earliest deliveries, which enabled the first of them to enter service on 15 July 1900."

"Strangely the fourth locomotive only arrived the following year. The reason for this delay is not known, but may have been due to a protracted overhaul at the Dick, Kerr & Company’s workshops, or problems involving shipping space, with military supplies taking precedence."

"According to photographic evidence, each of the locomotives was numbered and named after the local diamond mines. However, as there were more mine names than locomotives, Bultfontein and Dutoitspan were combined into Beaconsfield:

Steam tram locomotive number 1 was named "De Beers"


Steam tram locomotive number 2 was named "Beaconsfield"
Steam tram locomotive number 3 was named "Premier"*
Steam tram locomotive number 4 was named "Kimberley"
*The name Premier was changed in late 1906 to "Wesselton"

An element of mystery surrounds these four steam tram locomotives. What is known is that Thomas Green & Son of Leeds, England built the one in the Kimberley Mine Museum. It is also highly likely that all four were constructed by the same manufacturer, as this would have assisted in the standardisation of spare parts, which would have then kept maintenance and repair costs to the minimum.

"The thought of a conventional steam locomotive operating on a public street tramway system, would have been sufficient to cause bedlam and chaos. Thus in order to prevent such situations certain stipulations and safeguards had been laid down by the Board of Trade in England. "

"The most obvious visual features of a steam locomotive lie with what its name implies, the creation of steam, which is later exhausted into the atmosphere along with smoke. Thus regulations restricting such emissions were carefully stipulated. In order to prevent the creation of smoke, coke as a smokeless fuel was to be used.


Condensers, mounted on the roof were to prevent the appearance of steam, as well as to conserve water through cooling for re-use.


All motion, wheels and connecting rods had to be hidden from view by means of a “skirt” fitted around the locomotive to within a few inches from the ground. This was to prevent horses and other livestock being frightened at the sight of moving wheels and spinning valve gear and rods.


The steam tram locomotives as delivered, were all thus fitted. They were of the 0-4-0 wheel arrangement and had two inclined outside cylinders. The cost of each locomotive was only £500, an amount that could have offered Dick, Kerr & Company only the most meagre of profit margins."

Sources:
  • A thesis titled "A socio-economic history of the public passenger tramways of Kimberley: 1880-2000" researched and written by Richard John Lawty Sabatini, and published here by The University of Johannesburg.
  • Industrial Locomotives of South Africa (1991) - John Middleton & Huw Williams

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