I have just returned from a holiday to York, where I visited the National Railway Museum, including its libraries and archives, and was able to unearth quite a goldmine of information. The archives themselves were not quite as helpful as I had hoped (although staff suggested that I try the National Archive in Kew for railway company accounts that might well give much more detailed information), but books in the library and, occasionally, information boards next to actual exhibits provided some invaluable information.
The archives did, however, provide some very detailed information as to the price of various items of passenger coaching stock and freight wagons in the 1920s and 1930s, which I shall address in a future post. The information presented below is currently in no particular order: I shall consolidate it in due course.
In a book on railway economics (alas, I did not take identifying details), an interesting statistic on the relative maintenance cost of railways and canals at 1938 prices: £184/mile for canals, but £1,130 per mile for railways. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether this means route
miles or track
miles. That book also suggested that canals have virtually no variable maintenance cost: i.e., the cost to maintain them does not appreciably vary depending upon their traffic. This will be relevant when variable way maintenance costs are introduced.
Another book, this time on railway economics in particular, and again from the 1923-1948 era, gave rates of net income on railway companies' capital. The Southern it gave as 3.78%, the Great Western, 3.07%, the LMS as 2.63% and the LNER as 2.00%. At the same period, the returns of ten other randomly selected public limited companies were selected, and the returns on them found to be, on average, 14.55%, showing that railways are very slow to turn over their capital.
Manuscript archive material showing a price comparison between the construction cost of a steam locomotive identified only as an "E-Class" between 1910 and 1913 showed that the total cost of construction in 1910 was £1,411-9-3, whereas in 1913, it had risen to £1,605-0-1, an increase of 13.7%. Unfortunately, I omitted to record what sort
of E-class locomotive that this was, but I suspect that it was the South-Eastern and Chatham 4-4-0 locomotive
of that designation.
According to "Mallard" by Don Hale, the eponymous A4 class 4-6-2 passenger express locomotive
cost around £8,500 to build in 1936.
The London and South-Western Railway M7 0-4-4T class
cost £1,846 to build new in 1897, according to the notice next to the exhibit of locomotive no. 245 of that class in the museum.
According to a book (the details of which I omitted to record) specifically relating to the L&SWR T9 class
of 4-4-0 tender engine, these cost about £3,200 new in 1899.
The LMS 2500 class
, a large suburban passenger 2-6-4T locomotive of 4p designation, cost £6,444 to build in 1934 according to its sign-board in the museum. Wikipedia states that later types of this locomotive built from 1935 onwards had only two cylinders and were therefore simpler, implying that they also would have been cheaper,"Evening Star"
, a BR 9F 2-8-0, the steam locomotive ever built for British Railways, cost £35,500 to build new in 1960 according to the notice-board in the museum. It was designed to haul freight wagons at 35mph, although was recorded as having achieved speeds of up to 90mph on passenger trains!
Turning to diesels, the museum's example of a BR Class 31
(originally built as a class 30) states that it cost £78,000 to build in 1957.
According to a book about the BR "Warship" class
of diesel locomotive (the details of which publication I omitted to record), the cost of one of these early type-4 diesel hydraulic locomotives when built in 1957 was £87,500.
According to "British Railways: A business history 1948-1973", the Deltic
diesel locomotives (type 5) cost about £150,000 new at 1959 prices, whilst the average price of diesel locomotives around that time (excluding the Deltics) was £100,000 each (suggesting that type 4 locomotives other than the Warships cost more than £100,000).
The 1955 modernisation report stated that 1,100 electric locomotives (which one presumes are of A. C. type, as the report recommended that all future electrification schemes be of this standard, except the expansion of the Southern Region) would cost between them £60,000,000, working out at an average cost per locomotive of just under £55,000. It also gave the general statistic that new diesel locomotives cost around 2.5x as much as steam locomotives of equivalent power, and stated that 40 years was the normal life-span of a steam locomotive.
Turning to multiple units, the 11th of June 1981 edition of the New Scientist gave the cost of a two-car BR Class 140
DMU (the forerunner to the Class 142
units to be found in Pak128.Britain) as £400,000, whereas the Class 210
DEMU (which were never built in quantity because of their cost) cost £1,000,000 for a three-car set.
A somewhat questionable figure in relation to HST
power cars: a pre-production estimate of costings in 1969 gave a single locomotive with the necessary power the likely cost of £239,000. In fact, as we know, the HSTs were introduced in 1976 and had two power cars each with less powerful engines to make the combined necessary power; this was a more expensive arrangement than a single large locomotive, but produced faster turnaround times and made for lighter vehicles (and thus ones that could travel on a wider variety of lines). It estimated the maintenance then at about 8-9p/mile, although the book later suggests that this was a considerable overstatement, as that equated to over £600,000 per annum in 1969 prices, whereas the entire trainsets (locomotive and 7-9 carriages) only cost £500,000 per annum to maintain in about 1983 (annual mileage is not given).
Before turning away from vehicles, one interesting and unexpected piece of costing information from York Castle Museum: a new horse-drawn hearse in 1908 cost £40 5s 9d. Although, obviously, there are no hearses in Pak128.Britain, one can imagine that the cost of a single specialist horse-drawn vehicle like a hearse would be quite similar to the cost of, for example, the hackney carriage; thus, a comparison can be made between rail and horse-drawn vehicles of the age.
A final section on costs of electrification: A. C. overhead electrification is less expensive both to install and maintain (taking into account power consumption) than D. C. overhead electrification, although by how much is not clear. The 1955 modernisation report gives the cost of electrifying 390 route (not track) miles with overhead A. C. catenary as £40,000,000, and 250 route miles of 3rd rail D. C. electrification as £25,000,000.
Meanwhile, a book specifically on Southern electrics gives the cost (at 1925 prices) of electrifying 67 track
miles with 3rd rail D. C. as £833,000, and a small section of 6.2 route
miles in 1928 as £51,700, although the latter figure is of dubious relevance, as that particular electrification scheme did not involve the construction of any new substations.Edit
: Some information not from the museum itself, but about a railway vehicle exhibited in the museum: Hamilton Ellis's "Railway carriages in the British Isles from 1830 to 1914" gives (at p. 31) the price of a thee-compartment four wheel composite of the Stockton and Darlington Railway
a cost of £230 when built in 1846.