The letters page of the July 1971 Railway Magazine produced some interesting snippets, but most fascinating was the style. Letter writing was still an art – no email, Fa(r)cebook or Twitter.
This month’s letters had an exchange of views on whether the exhaust beats of a Mallet or Garrett locomotive, with two sets of cylinders and motion, were synchronised or not. One protagonist was the famous O.S. Nock. We complain about the aggressive exchanges on the internet. These extracts from two long letters show that the polite insult goes back a long way. A.E Durrant, from Western Australia, writes….
Sir – I read with some interest Mr. O.S. Nock’s article on the subject of Garratts and Mallets, and now that the postal strike has ended am able to comment. The idea that the two unots of a Garratt or non-compound Mallet, “get in step” and stay synchronised is utter nonsense…..
By his own words, Mr Nock’s Garratt experience is little more than vestigial, and certainly not in line with his authority on British express train running….. My own extensive Garratt experience started in 1955…..
In the stillness of the African dusk, supping a “sundowner” at my local pub, a Garratt would depart on the immense climb to Uplands, slowly but surely ascending the grade. Similarly, dawn in the game park, near Athi river, wondering whether that dark shadow would materialise into a lion or just a bush, usually coincided with a main-line freight from Mombasa, with a “59” class…..
Mr Nock’s musings concerning cylinder positioning are as naïve as his attempts to justify the non-existent synchronisation phenomenon…..
O.S. Nock replies……
Sir, Mr Durrant should be a little careful in suggesting that other people are talking “utter nonsense” when the argument he is trying to sustain is in flat contradiction of the experience of senior engineers in many parts of the world who have lived their lives with Garratts. This is the experience of men who have designed, tested and run Garratts, rising to positions of the highest responsibilities in the process – not the results of lineside and carriage tape recordings, and background music to the pleasure of a “pint at the local”!…..
I hesitate to suggest that some of those sundowners Mr Durrant enjoyed were stronger laced than he realised and contributed to the syncopated effects! So there you are, Sir. A “dusty” letter invites a letter that is a bit dusty in reply.
Mee-owww! I’ve seen people defriended on Facebook, or leave a forum after an exchange like this! There was no further correspondence on the subject in 1971.