Roland Curling Bond

Back to Index page
See also British Railways engineering

Foreword to Highet

It is almost exactly half a century since, in September 1920, Campbell Highet and I were taken by a member of Sir Henry Fowler's staff office at Derby Locomotive Works to the Brass Foundry, there to be introduced to the foreman of the shop to which we had both been allocated at the commencement of our apprenticeship. We were fortunate in our choice of Derby as the works at which to receive our practical training as locomotive engineers. The Midland Railway alone among the major British railway companies before the amalgamations of 1923, did not require the payment of a premium, commonly £150 per annum, a lot of money in those days, for the facilities which Derby offered. Moreover the training which we received combined practical work in the shops with attendance during working hours on two mornings each week at the local Technical College. There we were given a thorough grounding in the academic side of our chosen profession. The Midland was well ahead of the times in its approach to the training of its young engineers.

It is a far cry to those early years in Derby when the pride of the Midland locomotive stock were the three-cylinder compounds and the ten-coupled banker for the Lickey Incline. Paget's eight-cylinder 2-6-2 still lay under tarpaulin sheets in the Paint Shop hidden from the prying eyes of apprentices who were bold enough to explore the fascinating mysteries of a great locomotive works beyond the walls of their own shop. Our paths have diverged since those days, but we have both devoted the whole of our working lives to the service of the steam locomotive.

One tends to forget the locomotive tests of earlier years in which locomotives, sometimes from another company, were matched against each other. The author describes many of the important tests conducted during the period of his review. But he has not told us of those days in 1924, in the early years of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway, when a Caledonian 4-4-0, No.124, was engaged in mortal combat with Midland Compounds and a 'Claughton' in comparative trials on express passenger trains between Leeds and Carlisle. No.124 made a gallant effort and just about managed to keep time with 300 tons-but never before or since have I seen such a display of fireworks from any locomotive chimney.

I have been fortunate in knowing at first hand some of the more modern locomotives so well described in this book. Residence in Glasgow as an inspector at locomotive building works north of the Border, and nearly two years in charge at St Rollox, gave me opportunities for getting to know and evaluate the qualities of Scottish locomotives. Let me conclude with a word about the Royal Scots which I inspected during construction at the Queen's Park and Hyde Park Works of that great combine, the North British Locomotive Company. All that was best in British locomotive engineering and Scottish craftsmanship were combined in those fine locomotives, which though built after the years covered by Campbell Highet's book may yet stand as a fitting tribute to the long line of steam locomotives built in Scotland.

Own book

A lifetime with locomotives. Cambridge: Goose, 1975.
This is far more autobiographical than the works by Cox. In Cox we learn nothing about Mrs Cox: in Bond we learn of his love for his wife, Jean Holmes, from County Armagh, and sadly of her death prior to his own. Thus his comments upon other people tend to be couched in very human terms.
Extracts: on Sanford; .

Own papers

The Walschaert locomotive valve gear. Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1923, 105, 1137-41. .

Fundamental considerations in the design of locomotives. J. Instn. Loco. Engrs., 1928, 18, 389-401. Disc.: 402-6. (Paper No.231)

Ten years' experience with the L.M.S. 4-6-2 non-condensing turbine locomotive, No.6202. J. lnstn Loco. Engrs, 1946, 36, 182-230. Disc.: 231-65 (Paper No. 458).

Organisation and control of locomotive repairs on British Railways. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1953, 43, 175-216. Disc.: 217-65 (Paper No. 520)

Years of transition. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1953, 43, 439-63 + 4 folding plates. 15 illus., 7 diagrs. (Presidential Address) .
This address surveyed the post 1923 period in broad economic/technological terms. It reflects the policies of Bond's former chief  (Stanier). Bond examined six experimental locomotives:
1. Armstrong-Ramsay Condensing Turbine Locomotive.
2. Beyer-Ljungstrom Condensing Turbine Locomotive.
3. Schmidt-Henschel High Pressure. LMSR 4-6-0 6399.
4. High pressure compound with water tube boiler. LNER 4-6-4..
5. Non-condensing Turbine Locomotive. LMSR 4-6-2. 6202.
6. Simple expansion 0-6-6-0 "Leader" Class. Southern Rly:
Of these locomotives the most successful was, I think, the LMSR condensing turbine locomotive No. 6202. It ran 439,931 miles in earning service; and although fuel economy was limited to that which could result from a reduction in heat losses compared with a reciprocating engine working between the same temperature and limits, dynamometer car tests showed a saving in coal consumption of approximately 7 per cent. Certain mechanical troubles were experienced and the availability record of the locomotive was not as a result of the experience gained over a period of 15 years, decided to convert this locomotive to 4-cylinder simple propulsion.

Type Mileage
Eastern Region A1 (then almost new) 93,363
Western Region Castle 87,424
Eastern Region A4 86,614
Southern Region Lord Nelson 81,611
Western Region King 78,987
Southern Region Merchant Navy 75,687
Southern Region West Country 74,650
London Midland Region Duchess 73,188
London Midland Region Rebuilt Royal Scot 70,495
London Midland Region Class 5 4-6-0 56,969

Contributions to discussion sessions

Cocks, C.S. History of Southern Railway locomotives to 1938. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1948, 38, 826. (Paper No. 481)
749-822. Disc.: 823-60
Remarked that as had been the case with the two previous Papers of the same kind, the information disclosed concerning locomotives which, though contemplated, had not been built, was the most interesting part of the Paper. One could indulge in much speculation as to what the position would have been on the Southern Railway had 4-6-2 locomotives been developed directly from the Lord Nelson class and if a 2-6-2 mixed traffic locomotive, of which a diagram was given in the Paper, had been put into service. The Paper brought out very clearly the manner in which Southern locomotive policy had been influenced by two over-riding considerations; firstly, the preponderance of passenger traffic and secondly the rapid growth of electrification. Fortunately Mr. Holcroft's depressing prophesy was not entirely fulfilled and there was still a very buoyant and original outlook on the steam locomotive side of the Southern Region. Concerning the indicator diagrams shown in Fig. 17 obtained from the conjugated valve gear, and the conclusions which the Author had drawn from them, it was perfectly true that the the indicator diagrams gave a better shape for the inside cyclinedr, but this was indicative of excess work. Noting the 225,000 mileages achieved between general repairs by the Urie 4-6-0s Bond queried the amount of work done in shops between general repairs.

Biography

Bond was born in Ipswich on 5 May 1903. He lived in Yarmouth during the First World War where he encountered Driver Ted Burgess on the East Suffolk line: "Come along at Beccles Ted said" and thus his love of steam was kindled. The Zeppelin raid on the gasworks in Yarmouth impressed him He was educated at Tonbridge School.

He was apprenticed to Fowler at Derby from 1920 to 1925, and after three years of inspecting locomotives built for the LMS by outside contractors, he left the railway service for three years to become Assistant Works Manager at Vulcan Foundry. His work included supervising the erection of electric locomotives in India under difficult conditions.

In 1931 Bond returned to the LMS as Assistant Works Superintendent at Horwich, moving to Crewe in a similar capacity in 1933.  In 1932 he married Jean Holmes, daughter of an Antrim solicitor and International rugby player. In 1937 he was appointed Superintending Engineer of the proposed LMS-LNER Locomotive Testing Station at Rugby, but at the beginning of World War 2 he was sent to Scotland as Acting Mechanical and Electrical Engineer in place of R.A. Riddles. In 1941 he moved south again as Works Superintendent at Crewe. Under an ageing Superintendent, both locomotive and munitions work there had fallen short of targets, but under Bond's energetic leadership the works achieved an all-time record of locomotive repairs.

In 1946, on Fairburn's accession as CME, Bond became Mechanical Engineer (Locomotive Works) and later in the same year Deputy CME. At Nationalisation he became Chief Officer (Locomotive Construction and Maintenance), in which capacity he attempted to unify workshop methods on LMS lines. At the abolition of the Railway Execu ive in 1953 he was appointed CME, BR Central Staff, and after a further reorganisation he became General Manager, BR Workshops, in 1965.

Bond was an enthusiastic live steam modelmaker and very friendly with fellow modelmakers even if subordiante railway staff. See Backtrack, 2011, 25, 454 for autobiographical article written by Edward Talbot.

Bond retired in 1970 and died in Maidenhead on 10 December 1980 (Marshall) at the age of 77. He maintained a keen interest in locomotives, and shortly before his death gave considerable help to the writer of Cook's book. He wrote his autobiographical study under the title A Lifetime with Locomotives (Goose & Son, 1975).

Hughes' Sir Nigel Gresley adds a considerable amount to Bond's stature:
Sir Ronald Matthews lived in Doncaster, and was also Chairman of the Sheffield firm of Turton Brothers and Matthews, and had been Master Cutler. Both Gresley and Thompson were his house guests, and evidently close, as Prudence, one of the Matthews daughters, recalls them as 'Uncle Tim' and 'Uncle Ned'. On paper. Thompson should have been the automatic choice to succeed Gresley. but according to Stewart Cox, Sir Ronald made approaches to his opposite number on the Southern, to see if Bulleid could be enticed back, and the LMS, to enquire after the availability of Roland Bond, whom he had interviewed in connection with Bond's appointment to superintend the joint LNER/LMS locomotive testing station. However, Bulleid was engaged in the production of his new 'Merchant Navy' Pacifics, and Bond had just been put in charge of the workshops at Crewe, so neither could be spared. Consequently, here being no other obvious candidates for the post, without further delay, Matthews appointed Edward Thompson as CME of the LNER, the decision being confirmed at the Board Meeting on 24th April, 1941, just 19 days after Gresley's passing.

Reed:  Became works superintendent at Crewe in 1941 in succession to F. A. Lemon, and was the first 'manager' since Charlie Dick who was not a Crewe-trained man, but unlike Dick he was railway-trained, having begun at Derby as an engineering apprentice in 1920.
After two years in India for Vulcan Foundry on the GIPR electric locomotives he returned to the LMSR and was made assistant works manager at Horwich in 1931; he was transferred to the corresponding position at Crewe in 1933 when Riddles went to Euston. In 1937 he was given charge of the design and erection of the joint LMSR/LNER testing station at Rugby. With the coming of the war this work was stopped at once, and Bond was sent to Glasgow to replace Riddles as Mechanical & Electrical Engineer (Scotland), but in March 1941 Stanier sent him to Crewe as works superintendent, where he handled the difficult wartime period with a competence that gained him a reputation as a works man that has not yet died out. He maintained the old tradition of being chairman of the Mechanics Institute and of the Webb Orphanage. On the death of Fairburn (who had succeeded Stanier as LMSR chief mechanical engineer) in 1945 Bond was sent to Derby as Mechanical Engineer (Locomotive Works) to the new chief mechanical engineer, H.G. Ivatt, and was soon appointed also as deputy chief mechanical engineer. In this capacity he brought to conclusion the LMSR limits-and-fits standards initiated while he was at Crewe.
With the formation of British Railways Bond was appointed Chief Officer (Locomotive Construction & Maintenance), reporting direct to Riddles. On the further reorganisation he became the chief mechanical engineer of British Railways in 1954, and in 1958 succeeded John Ratter as technical adviser to the 'general staff' of the BTC. In 1962, after the Beeching reorganisation, he retained that position to the new board until in 1965 he was appointed general manager of the new BR Workshops Division, a fitting end to the professional career of the leading British locomotive works man. He retired in 1968.

Portraits
With S.B. Warder, and their wives, and greeting Bulleid at the Institution of Locomotive Engineers Annual Dinner and Dance on 13 December 1963. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1963/4. 53, 374-6.

Updated: 2011-07-23

Return to index page