Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Grand Crimean Central Railway

In typical Victorian fashion, the longer the title of the Railway Company, the shorter the route mileage.

The Grand Crimean Central Railway was constructed by Messrs Peto & Brassey to link the port at Balaklava with the British camp on the uplands. It used inclined plains to reach the hieghts, and locomotives thereafter.

Brian Cooke in 1990 wrote a very short and patchy history of the railway. He states that it had six locomotives, all of which were second-hand to "old LNWR designs" and that they were tender engines, to a design of Bowen-Cooke, probably 2-2-2s. It is blatently obvious he has not read the very well researched paper in The Journal of Transport HIstory, vol 1 (May 1953), pp. 28-43, which provides a complete chronology and detailed history of the railway.

John Goodchild, Wakefield historian, suggests that two tank locomotives, built in Leeds, for a colliery railway in Wakefield (running from what is now the National Mining Museum) to the mainline were seconded by the Government for use in the Crimea, the colliery railway then having to rely on horses. Robbins in his paper on the railway suggests that the first two locomotives were second-hand from a colliery railway belonging to Sir John Lister Kaye (thus confirmed by Goodchild) which were overhauled at the Railway Foundry in Leeds before being sent to the front.

Records from E B Wilson-Hudswell, Clarke  & Co., of Leeds suggest that they supplied two 2-4-0 tank eninges for the Crimea, in 1855. They had 5' 6" diameter driving wheels and a domeless boiler to the design of John Gooch.

The first locomotive, christend "The Alliance" was shipped in September 1855 according to the Leeds Mercury of 8 September 1855. The Leeds Intelligencier states that "The Alliance" was shipped from the Railway Foundry via Southampton to the Crimea in its edition of 8 September 1855. She was "a small locomotive"..."what is a called a tank locomotive so that it carries all the water and fuel it requires on the body of the engine".

The Leeds Mercury of the same date, however, suggests that the first engines sent out came from the Waterloo Colliery, Leeds, and were rather too small for the heavy gradients. They were 2-4-0s (presumably those two sent out earlier in the year)and instead the Railway Foundy, Leeds, supplied two much larger 0-6-0 tank engines. This would make sense as an 0-6-0 has all its weight available for traction, compard to a 2-4-0. However, the 2-4-0 would be better at taking sharp curves, but an 0-6-0 tank engine would be able to run equally well in either direction and not require turning. The Mercury also hints that the locomotives might have been armoured having iron plates to protect the crew. Indeed, the crew were armed with revolvers. The Editorial of the Mercury suggests that the line was being re-laid as it was worn out, but, more importantly had to be relaid with stronger rail due to the weight of the new locomotives on order.

The Leeds Mercury of  16 September 1855 suggests that "Alliance" was in fact second hand:

"…The engine which leaves here for Southampton to-day has had a thorough renovation and repainted at the Railway Foundry. Her "iron sides" are adorned with the English, French, Sardinian, and Turkish war flags, conspicuously painted thereon, and she is called the "Alliance"…"

This elaborate paint scheme, of national flags and emblems is confirmed by the special correspondent of the Daily News, Lawrence Godkin, who says on 28 December 1855:

"three engines are now plying on it [the railway] taking along their waggons, both loaded and empty, their names are "Alliance", "Victory" and "Swan". The first two have four flags painted on each side, the two most prominent being the English Union Jack  and the French Tricolour."

W H Russell in The Times names two locomotives, the "Alliance" and  the "Victory". He also confirms that a third locomotive was called "Swan". The Proceedings of the Institue of Civil Engineers (vol. 152) for 1903 confirms that the locomotives came from E B Wilson-Hudswell, Clarke & Co. of Leeds. It is also clear that the Government put the contract for the locomotives out to tender as "Mr Peacock of Manchester" (presumably Richard Peacock, founding partner of Beyer, Peacock & Co.) submitted a tender for locomotivesfor the Crimea in 1855.

In otherwords, the frist two engines sent out to the Crimea were second-hand 2-4-0s, originally intended for the colliery railway of Sir John Lister Kaye. They were overhauled in Leeds before being sent to the Crimea via Southampton. A further two, larger, 0-6-0 locomotives followed, also from Leeds as the original two locomotives had proved too small.  "Alliance", and possibly her sister "Victory" were therefore 0-6-0 tank locomotives.

According to the Proceedings of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers for 1856 (p. 98) a "portable self moving engine" was used on the wharf in Balaklava and to pull the wagons on the quay side to release horses for the cavalry and artillery and "until the locomotives came out". This engine also came from Leeds, by John Fowler:

Also controversial is matters of gauge. Goodchild indicates that the gauge was 4 feet 8 1/2 inches (standard) as the colliery line in Wakefield had a main line connecton; The Railway Gazette (vol 107) suggests a gauge of five feet six inches because the first two locomotives were purchased second-hand and had originally been intended for the Indian Railways which use that gauge.

Robbins suggests that the gauge may have been 5 feet 6 inches as  two engines, one of which was called the "Balaklava", the other "Fortuna" [sic, Portena?] were shipped to Beunos Aires,  the first steam engines to run in Argentina. They were still running in 1883 between Buenos Aires and Tigre. The only problem with this is, is that  "La Portena" is not a 2-4-0 but an 0-4-0 saddle tank.She  was preserved on the orders General Peron in the 1950s. I suppose its possible she was converted from a 2-4-0 to 0-4-0. She does look rather truncated at the front; Today she is preserveds as a 2-2-0, obviously at some point having lost her coupling rods!

Another problem is that "La Portena" has wheels of 4-feet (48 inches) diameter, not the 5 feet 6 inches recorded in the E B Wilson-Hudswell, Clarke & Co order book: however, the refernce to 5 feet 6 inches for the wheels may relate to the gauge.

The Morning Chronicle (26 April 1856) says that the several railway companies had submitted tenders to purchase either part or the entire Crimean railway: the Heraclean Colliery Ltd offered to buy the entire ralway and infrastructure and indeed The Standard  carries an advertisement selling the railway in lots.This, therefore, would support the claim that locomotives, rolling stock and track found their way to Argentina.

The Times in  1927 states that "La Portena" arrived in Buenos Aires along with rolling stock and track from the Crimea; the five passenger carriages were described as looking like "London Omnibus carriages". The Times of 12 November 1940 notes that two of the engines sent out to the Crimea were still in existance, in Buenos Aires. They were purchased second-hand by Peto and Brassey for building the Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway in  1857. According to The Times those two engines had a gauge of 5 feet 7 inches and were also rumoured to be originally intended for India, but a gauge of 5 feet 6 inches is far more likely. E B Wilson-Hudswell, Clarke & Co later supplied locomotoves for Buenos Aires, to a guage of 5 feet 6 inches, which was the same as used in India. Perhaps it is the similarity of the guages that led observers to think the first engines sent to th Crimea were re-directed from India. This, however contradicts the Times of 1940 which suggests the locomotives for Buenos Aires came from Lancashire! That locmotives from the Crimea went to Buenos Aires is confirmed by a paper in The Locomotive (15 June 1909) which suggests that the first steam locomotive to run in Argentina was one of the Crimean engines. The Railway, Wagon and Carriage Review (vol 14), 1908 confirms "La Portena" and her sister were supplied by E B Wilson-Hudswell, Calrke & Co. having been used in the Crimea. The Railway Gazette for 1907 suggests "La Portena" and her sister "La Argentina" being the first locomotives in Argentina defined the gauge of railways in that country: the track was layed to suit the gauge of the engines (5 feet 6 inches).

Cooke suggests it is not known how the track bed was formed; despite him citing documents in the National Archive which say it was a "baulk road" in otherwords with longtitudinal sleepers and cross-bracing a la Brunel. Cooke, however, bases his interpretion of how the track was laid on Fenton's photographs and illustrations from The Illustrated London News., the latter showing the traditional sleeper arrangement. Sir Francis B Head, writing to The Times states catagorically the track was laid on a foundation called a "plank road" whereby planks were laid on a raft of timber or brush wood longitudinally and then transverse planks were laid on top. A method reputedly used by Peto & Brassey for crossing boggy groun in Canada.

So to sum up, a quick trawl of my literature and of the Leeds Newspapers contradicts Brian Cooke's book The Grand Crimean Central Railway: The Railway which won a war.  Whilst Cooke has used the archival material in the National Archives he has not read contemporary newspaper accounts, technical journals nor consulted the archives of the major railway locomotive constructors.  Therefore,  there is scope for a new book, or at least a paper, identifying the locomotives used in the Crimea.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Wakefield Man in the Crimea

Letter from Private John Burgoyne, 23rd Regiment (Royal Welch Fusiliers), to his father who was ‘well known’ in the town.[1]
Inkerman, December 7th[1854]
My Dear Father,
After a Long delay I take up my pen. I will tell you all that has happened since I left England. After we landed in Turkey, we soon commenced our marching. We first went to Bulgaria, and there in the place we lost most of our brave men by sickness, but thank God I enjoyed very good health. After a long and painful stay we got on route to Russia when our men gave three hearty cheers. We landed in Russia (the Crimea), on the 18th Sept. quite safe.  One the 19th our Regiment marched in front of the army with Sir George Brown at our head. At 12 o’clock we met the enemy but our appearance put them to flight, and they were pursued by our artillery, which gave them what they did not like. We lay there that night, and next morning we commenced our march. Sorry I am to say it was the last march for many a poor fellow. At 12 o’clock we halted, and got orders to prepare for the enemy; General Saint Arnand [sic, Marshal Saint Arnaud[2]] came with the news. We all rose and gave three cheers. At half-past one we met our foe mounted on the heights miles above our heads, their cannons pouring upon us, but we advanced coolly with General Brown[3] at our head. He said – “Now Royal Welsh, let them see what you can do!” We gained the day. Our army lost 1400 men. The poor 23rd suffered the most. We lost 210 killed and wounded. We buried the dead, and in a few days commenced our march again. We took a fort and 200 prisoners. At last we came in front of Sebastopol. It is a most beautiful place. We are hammering at it every day, but have not yet commenced work properly. On the 5th of November the Russians sallied out with 40,000 men. There was only about 200 of our regiment and about as many more of the 7th Regiment[4]. They came on the high hills, and we were in a ravine. We kept them in play for three hours, until the French came up to our assistance, when we made a complete massacre of them. We took 400 prisoners, and the French took 9000. We lost very few men, and 1 officer and 12 men made prisoners. If they would only let us go at them we would finish matters very soon. There have been several of the Russians have given themselves up to us, and they say that they are very badly off for provisions in Sebastopol. We are having winter clothing served out to us. It rains very much here. We have to engage every second night. We cannot tell the moment that we shall have to make a rush, but the Royal Welsh will do their duty, you may depend upon it.

[1] ‘Letters from the Crimea to Wakefield’, Wakefield Journal & Examiner (29 December 1854).
[2] Marshal Armand Jacques Leroy de Saint Arnaud (1801 -1854) Commander-in-Chief of the French army in the Crimea; he died on 29 September 1854 shortly after the battle of the Alma and had previously relinquished command to General Francois Certain Canrobert (1809-1895).
[3] General Sir George Brown (1790-1865), commander of the Light Division (First Brigade (General Codrington) 33rd, 23rd and 7th Regiments; Second Brigade (General Buller) 77th, 88th and 19th Regiments). He was disliked for being a stickler for regulations, making his men wear the hated leather stock and whiten their cross belts even when in the trenches.
[4] 7th or ‘Royal Fusiliers’ part of the Light Division under General Sir George Brown; the 7th were commanded by Colonel Lacy Yea (1808-1855) who was killed in the Crimea.

Wakefield Voices from the Crimea

New book of soldier's letters

Letters sent home from Wakefield Soldiers during the Crimean War

A collection of letters sent home from Wakefield men to their friends and families from the Siege of Sebastopol, from both the Army and Navy.

Oddly this collection includes no letters from Yorkshire Regiments, such as the 19th (Green Howards) or 33rd (Duke of Wellington's). There are also only two sets of correspondance from an Officer, which contradicts the assumed levels of literacy of the Other Ranks, that they did not or could not write home and also challenges the assumption that it was largely the officers who wrote home. This collection of letters from Wakefield and a cursory study of letters published in the Leeds Mercury and the Huddersfield Chronicle suggests that the ORs (from Private to Colour Sergeant) were frequently writing home to their families, detailing their daily lives and experiences in often graphic detail as well as criticisng their officers and also newspapers such as The Times, often coming to the defence of Lord Raglan (whom The Times portrayed as hauty and out of touch with his men). Uniquely there are letters from a bandsman.

The scope of the letters includes the army in Bulgaria, accounts of the battles of the Alma and Inkerman, the winter 1854-1855 and also the fall of Sebastopol. The letters of the Barnsley-born Sergeant James Wallis cover his arrival in the Crimea, the Alma, Winter 1854-1855, the first attack (18 June 1855), the final assault and mopping up during winter 1855-1856; the letters of 'An anonymous young [Naval] officer' give a fascinating insight into the daily life of a naval officer and how officers of differant services viewed each other.

Below are the details of the men, their units and place of residence in this collection:

Name Rank Regiment Town
John Ainsley Private 68th Durham Light Infantry Wakefield
William Baines Private 30th (East Devonshire) Wakefield
John Burgoyne Private 23d (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Wakefield
Robert Crawford Private 28th (North Gloucester) Wakefield
James Evans ? Rifle Brigade Barnsley
Samuel Evans Private Scots Fusilier Guards(1st Battn) Wakefield
George Firth Private 4th (Kings Own)
Henry Firth ? ? Dewsbury
James Greenwood Bandsman 34th (Cumberland) Barnsley
Hincliffe Sergeant 2nd Battn. Rifle Brigade Wakefield
William Hamlet Floyd Private 23rd (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Wakefield
George Haigh Bombardier Royal Artillery Wakefield
William Leache Private Royal Sappers and Miners Barnsley
David Maguire ? ? Barnsley
John Murray Private 23rd (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Wakefield
Edwin Peat Gunner Royal Artillery Barnsley
William Pegman Private 54th (West Norfolk) Barnsley
Selby Sergeant 50th (Kent) Barnsley
William Shelley Corporal 34th (Cumberland), Light Company Wakefield
John Sidebottom Private Royal Marines Wakefield
"BS" Private 39th (Dorsetshire) Wakefield
John Swift Corporal 34th (Cumberland) Barnsley
James Wallis Sergeant 2nd Battn. Rifle Brigade Barnsley
Samuel Weale Corporal 30th (Cambridgeshire) Wakefield
Anon Officer 21st (Royal North British Fusiliers) Wakefield

There appears to be strong recruiting links between Wakefield and the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 34th (Cumberland) Regiment and Barnsley.

I hope to follow up this volume with "White Roses Before Sebastopol: letters fromWest Yorkshire men in the Crimean War" based on letters in the Leeds Mercury, Huddersfield Chronicle, Sheffiled Independent and the York Herald.