'The Strategic Steam Reserve'

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The_Rail_WAy

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Quite an amazing conspiaracy and a cause of great debate amongst enthusiasts and the general public alike the notion of the 'Strategic Steam Reseve' caused much conspiracy and debate amongst enthusiasts and the general publc alike.

However, in 2012 the rumours and conspirecies are all but quashed. And here are a few of the main factors against its ever existence:

What was the need to keep it a sceret when the soviet russia, sweded and other countries made there ssr's quite open. Britain was open about its strategic food reserve, green godesses, 'dad's' army etc. A nuclear/natural disaster would of all but ripped up any infrastructure anyway thus any locomotive wether it be steam or diesel would struggle tomove around anyway.

The growing preservation movement of the late 70's early 80's was unknowingly our ssr - such lines had the locomotives and knowledge to maintain such that they were 'it'. Added to this the NCB's use of austerity tanks until the early 80's and the army's continued training of steam locomotives that if such an occurence was to take place these factors indeed would be our SSR.

Added to the fact the sheer complexity of maintaining steam locos undergound or in a tunnel for such a long time was practically impossible and the fact that the rumoured location - next to Box Tunnel was never ever proved to be such a location for a vast amount of steam engines.

Yes a believe there was a back-up plan for the railways, but in this age we can finally acknowledge that the Strategic Steam Reserve was indeed a myth and thank god the situation never did arise to have one. I was wondering what other members on the forums opinion on this amazing debate are.

Fire away, The_Rail_WAy:
 
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BestWestern

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Quite an amazing conspiaracy and a cause of great debate amongst enthusiasts and the general public alike the notion of the 'Strategic Steam Reseve' caused much conspiracy and debate amongst enthusiasts and the general publc alike.

However, in 2012 the rumours and conspirecies are all but quashed. And here are a few of the main factors against its ever existence:

What was the need to keep it a sceret when the soviet russia, sweded and other countries made there ssr's quite open. Britain was open about its strategic food reserve, green godesses, 'dad's' army etc. A nuclear/natural disaster would of all but ripped up any infrastructure anyway thus any locomotive wether it be steam or diesel would struggle tomove around anyway.

The growing preservation movement of the late 70's early 80's was unknowingly our ssr - such lines had the locomotives and knowledge to maintain such that they were 'it'. Added to this the NCB's use of austerity tanks until the early 80's and the army's continued training of steam locomotives that if such an occurence was to take place these factors indeed would be our SSR.

Added to the fact the sheer complexity of maintaining steam locos undergound or in a tunnel for such a long time was practically impossible and the fact that the rumoured location - next to Box Tunnel was never ever proved to be such a location for a vast amount of steam engines.

Yes a believe there was a back-up plan for the railways, but in this age we can finally acknowledge that the Strategic Steam Reserve was indeed a myth and thank god the situation never did arise to have one. I was wondering what other members on the forums opinion on this amazing debate are.

Fire away, The_Rail_WAy:

Well, I don't know about the reserve but I'd love to visit a country called 'Sweded'! :D

Just kidding, I think it's a fascinating conspiracy story that some people like to keep alive, but as you say it's been done to the death and there is no evidence that such a thing every really existed. But it is a nice story!
 

Yew

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I think in a previous thread my thoughts where that the steam engines would have been maintained until the part they where cut up, in case their diesel replacements had major problems, howeve the possibility of lobos being hidden and maintained is unlikely.

These days I imagine after a disaster any thing that still worked would run, possibly with locos hauling emu's if there where problems with electricity
 

ChiefPlanner

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There were many rumours back in the 70's - the best being a rail connected shed at Craven Arms reputed to have 10 or so GWR County Class engines locked up. Turned out to be ahsed full of ex GWR coaches for a post nuclear "control centre" - most of which ended up in Didcot.

Sweden had a lot , and even Italy had functioning water tanks and greased up locomotives at various places such as Trento , Venice and Verona - just in case of holocaoust or a mundane major power failure.
 

34D

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I thought every britannia apart from the two preserved ones was on a special siding off box tunnel?
 

scarby

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The strategic reserve is not steam - as obviously makes sense it is diesel, and consists of 19 "class 29" diesels - the very reliable re-engined class 21s re-fitted with Paxman Ventura engines.

Only one of these was scrapped, while the other 19 were "scrapped" at Glasgow Works; in fact they formed the strategic reserve.

One of these was spotted passing through Stoke-on-Trent some time in the 1980s. Only the MOD knows where they are (and they admitted in a "Rail" magazine article in the 1970s that they kept a diesel strategic reserve). They may be in locked sheds at MOD Long Marston or elsewhere.
 

tsr

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I have heard there are still some locomotives and articles of important heavy machinery stored in a bunker in the West Country. I'd share the name and nearby towns/cities if such details hadn't escaped me! It is no longer deemed a top secret facility, and I have no idea if any of the locos/equipment still work, or indeed if they are definitely still stored there.
 

BestWestern

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The strategic reserve is not steam - as obviously makes sense it is diesel, and consists of 19 "class 29" diesels - the very reliable re-engined class 21s re-fitted with Paxman Ventura engines.

Only one of these was scrapped, while the other 19 were "scrapped" at Glasgow Works; in fact they formed the strategic reserve.

One of these was spotted passing through Stoke-on-Trent some time in the 1980s. Only the MOD knows where they are (and they admitted in a "Rail" magazine article in the 1970s that they kept a diesel strategic reserve). They may be in locked sheds at MOD Long Marston or elsewhere.

If it's diesel, why keep a reserve fleet?!

I was under the impression that the point of using steam was that it required no internal electronics to work, which could in theory be 'knocked out' in the event of certain types of attack, and could be adapted to use a range of different fuels as opposed to a combustion engine which would be far harder to work with if the supply chain failed?
 

Murph

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If it's diesel, why keep a reserve fleet?!

I was under the impression that the point of using steam was that it required no internal electronics to work, which could in theory be 'knocked out' in the event of certain types of attack, and could be adapted to use a range of different fuels as opposed to a combustion engine which would be far harder to work with if the supply chain failed?

Old diesel engines don't have electronics to be knocked out by EMP, in terms of the actual IC engine itself. Modern diesels do have significant control electronics to provide greater control/diagnosis and fuel efficiency, but the old ones are typically mechanical/hydraulic/pneumatic control systems.

Additionally they can run off a wide variety of fuel oils, such as DERV, AVTUR, heating oil, paraffin/kerosene, the wide range of marine fuel oils (but would require a fuel heating system for the heavy grades), etc. It's very likely that they would be able to use the fuel oils stored in the nationwide fuel bunkers on the Government Pipelines and Storage System (GPSS) for the airfields and naval bases.

That's all in terms of diesel IC engines themselves, not accounting for the loco as a complete system, but I can't see it as being too difficult for a pre-electronic-era loco to survive EMP reasonably well.
 

MarkyT

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Old diesel engines don't have electronics to be knocked out by EMP,

I have a wiring diagram for an original series EE class 20. It's so simple it fits easily on a single A3 sheet, and there are no semiconductor devices in it at all, just relays, solenoids, cam controlled switches, contactors etc. Can't see EMP seriously affecting the power and control systems of this generation of locos.
 

Tiny Tim

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The tunnels at Box are empty, and have been since WWII. Other non-rail connected stone mines are still kept for government storage (at Westwood, for instance) but not presently used. Even the Naval Stores at Copenacre are now abandoned. With all these facilities actually existing it's easy to see why conspiracy theorists might believe a strategic steam reserve existed. But it didn't.

The idea that the fleet of heritage steam locos would form a strategic reserve is a bit unlikely, there wouldn't be enough of them of a type to be of much use.
 

DXMachina

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why is it that fruitcakes come outta the woodwork in a sensible forum like this,and this rubbish keeps even coming up? referring to scarby's post above in particular....
 

davesheps1

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The strategic reserve is not steam - as obviously makes sense it is diesel, and consists of 19 "class 29" diesels - the very reliable re-engined class 21s re-fitted with Paxman Ventura engines.

Only one of these was scrapped, while the other 19 were "scrapped" at Glasgow Works; in fact they formed the strategic reserve.

Sorry to show it, but here's fairly conclusive evidence of what happened to at least one of the supposed Glasgow works victims...

http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/[email protected]/2345930907/

I'd love to think there were some 29s out there, but I'm afraid I don't. The tantilising prospect of sweeping away the history we think we know is, perhaps, what keeps the rumours alive on this topic. It certainly keeps them interesting. But on the 29s people are surely wrong...
 

MCW

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Sorry to show it, but here's fairly conclusive evidence of what happened to at least one of the supposed Glasgow works victims...

http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/[email protected]/2345930907/

I'd love to think there were some 29s out there, but I'm afraid I don't. The tantilising prospect of sweeping away the history we think we know is, perhaps, what keeps the rumours alive on this topic. It certainly keeps them interesting. But on the 29s people are surely wrong...

agreed... could have been worse he might have said Claytons! LOL
 

tbtc

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why is it that fruitcakes come outta the woodwork in a sensible forum like this,and this rubbish keeps even coming up? referring to scarby's post above in particular....

One great thing about the internet is that its a lot easier to disprove conspiracy theories. In olden days you could claim something like "I saw a Class 29 at Stoke that was supposed to have been withdrawn at Glasgow a few years earlier, but that was part of a cover up" and people might believe you.

Nowadays there's no way you could keep anything like that hidden - you could easily corroborate stories with other enthusiasts - so daft ideas like "there's a secret tunnel full of seam engines somewhere" can be discounted much easier.
 

LE Greys

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Besides, what use would it be? In a country bombarded with nuclear weapons, would it really be worth having any rail transport at all? The nearest thing to a safe course of action would be to escape the country as quickly as possible. With a more limited exchange, mainly aimed at taking out our bomber bases and ports but some targeted on the capital, there would probably be enough left of the diesel fleet to keep going with what we had left.

The only situation I can think of where a steam fleet might be of use would be if another country blockaded us and bombed all our oil rigs and refinaries. Then, stealing the preserved loco fleet might be one way to keep things going, but it would mostly be used to haul freight, especially coal from the reopened pits to power stations.
 

matchmaker

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If there is a diesel strategic reserve (there's not - it's steam :) ), then it wouldn't consist of the paragon of reliability that was the class 29 - so reliable that many trains were double-headed so that there was at least a fighting chance of them arriving at their destination.............:roll:
 

DXMachina

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With modern petrochemical processes, particularly the Fischer-Tropfh technique, I imagine the result of a military blockade would be that coal and gas would be converted to liquid fuels for diesel trains rather than used directly in steam engines, at least after a period.

Although as i keep saying to my more euro-sceptic friends, this sort of thing is hardly likely in the modern context as our neighbouring states are too mutually interdependent and generally friendly
 

michael769

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I was watching a documentary about the cold war a couple of months ago. In it it showed some of the early government films about surviving the blast, and about their civil defence and monitoring contingencies. It then went on to show footage from nuclear tests on fake cities, footage never shown to the public that showed complete vaporisation of buildings and their population

It then went on to reveal the the government of the day knew well fine that the advice was fundamentally flawed and that most of the contingencies did not exist! The reality that the government knew was that in the event of an attack it was almost certainly game over for for the UK, with any few survivors (probably only miners trapped underground as their lifts failed, or the odd farmer in a remote valley in wales or the highlands) would soon succumb to radiation being deprived of power, drinkable water and medicine.

All the films and most of the claims and rumours were nothing more than an attempt by the government to look like they were doing something about the threat and to provide a false sense of reassurance, and to hide the reality that they had no plan beyond cowering and slowly going insane in an underground bunker.

With that background it should be clear that an SSR simply did not exist.
 

DXMachina

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I think it should remain absent, along with the wits of the ideas proponents and the hopes of a post-apocapytic past
 

ainsworth74

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I wonder if people aren't perhaps overestimating the power of all but the largest nuclear weapons? I'd suggest having a play around with this tool and you'll quickly begin to see that to really 'glass' the UK or otherwise wipe out all life it would have taken a fantastic amount of weaponry, far more than we would be worth in an exchange. Now I'm not suggesting we'd get away unscathed only that the likelihood is is that there would still be a lot of people left around after an exchange (though for how long is open to debate). That is something that both the TV shows Threads and The War Game both assume and I'd suggest they aren't wrong.

Nuclear weapons are incredibly powerful but it takes a hell of a lot of them to really wipe out entire nations in one fell swoop.
 

michael769

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One has to remember the paranoia of the age - the view that the USSR could and would annihilate Britain was perfectly credible during the more tense periods.

Of course in calmer times it is easier to take a more measured view. Whatever might have happened, the reality is that the UK did not have a contingency plan beyond a favoured few hiding underground with entirely inadequate supplies.
 
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So there's strategic reserve of steam locomotives.
Who is going to operate these machines if required?
Who is going to carry out the maintenance of these machines when required?
A steam locomotive is like a two year old child. It needs constant attention and real skill from a highly experienced person to make it do what you want it to. You just can't put a key in, turn it on and have 2,000 hp on tap five minutes later.
 

michael769

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I didn't really expect the post to be taken literally.

Problem with a web forum is that when you cannot hear someone's tone of voice or see their body language, it is impossible to work out who is having a laugh and who is being serious.
 

MP33

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There was an article published in a railway magazine in the early 1980's, in the April issue no doubt.

In it, someone who was a passenger on a train fell asleep and ended up in some carriage sidings. Awaking, out of the window they saw hundreds of mothballed steam locomotives. Not only that, the types were the ones at the very top of the preservation movements' list.

It was surprising that they did not see a load of GWR broad gauge locomotives as well.
 

WelshZ

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My personal view on the "strategic reserve" is mixed. reserves of steam engines existed into the 1980's in Scandinavia and the USSR for the express purpose of nuclear war. In my opinion the reserve would have been a diesel one but it would not have existed long-term. It would be created when war was imminent by dispersing rolling stock and BR staff across Britain to places such as the far north line and HOW and other location. Fuel for the locomotives would be scattered with other reserves for government use on the eve of war. The soviets of course did target Industrial areas because of this, even my local valley (the Rhondda) had been targeted by low-yield warheads to cripple the rail infrastructure. (and thus cut off access to the coal)

So the end result would of course be a mess, initially coal supplies would be cut off due to damage to the major fields and the rails that could get the coal to a power station being twisted radioactive strands of metal. junctions would have to be built elsewhere and in quite a few cases entirely new lines to avoid contaminated rail lines, unless box tunnel had some lead-lined class 37's tucked away somewhere.

This is just my personal opinion on the matter
 
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