Fowler’s Fury

Fowler’s Fury by I.F. Carney

Fowler’s Fury by I.F. Carney
Published 2012 by Ian Carney and Noodle Books
ISBN 978-1-906419-70-7
a review by Chris Newman
(taken from his Amazon book review)

The author has done a good job in spinning a fascinating story around this obscure but charismatic locomotive from the limited amount of information that has survived the 85 years since its inception. Its charisma derives partly from the locomotive’s name that seemed to characterize its lethal proclivity and partly from the fact that it has remained shrouded by shadows of secrecy since the beginning of its short and disastrous life.  The author can be congratulated for the painstaking research that he has done in assembling the available information to produce a readable account of a unique and interesting segment of locomotive history. His book makes a fitting companion to William Browns “Hush-hush – The Story of LNER 10000” and Ernie Shepherd’s “Bulleid and the Turf Burner“.

As can often happen with an author-published book, a number of typographical errors have escaped attention; furthermore, the author’s interpretation of some of some the photographs seem questionable.  However, the biggest disappointment, in this reviewer’s opinion, is the authors reluctance to address some of the more complex engineering issues that were faced by the designers and builders of the locomotive.  Of course, the book is aimed at the “average enthusiast”, but surely it is time to encourage enthusiasts to developed their interest by challenging them with more technical detail than they are accustomed to.  It was only the experience of reading David Wardale’s technically challenging ” The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of Steam“, that this reviewer’s flagging interest in steam traction was rescued from near extinction.

Fowler’s Fury was unique (at least in the UK) in being a “semi-compound” rather than a full compound locomotive. It was alswo unique in having three separate pressure vessels – a super-high pressure (1800 psi) closed-circuit ater-tube boiler mounted over and around the furnace; a high pressure (900 psi) boiler mounted over the water tubes and taking its heat from the super-high pressure steam; and a normal pressure (250 psi) fire-tube boiler mounted behind the smokebox and in front of the two high pressure units. The term “semi-compound” derives from the fact that the exhaust steam from the (inside) high pressure cylinder was supplemented by 250 psi superheated steam from the firetube boiler before being fed into the LP cylinders.  Further complexity derived from the fact that the high pressure (900 psi) boiler was fed, not with tender water, but with condensed steam from the 250 psi boiler, pumped up to pressure by the two Knorr-Bremse pumps mounted so prominently on either side of the smokebox, thereby ensuring absence of contaminants.

Whilst going to great length to discuss if and when the locomotive was painted in LMS crimson lake livery, and detailing as far as possible the exact movements that the locomotive made during and after delivery to the LMS, the author skips over more difficult but more interesting questions such as how the high pressure boiler-feed system actually worked, and how the mixing of exhaust steam from the HP cylinder with superheated steam from the LP boiler was accomplished.  He goes as far as to include a diagram of the mixing chamber that was used for the latter purpose, but omits any mention of the diagram or the system’s working from his text.  It would also have been interesting to know how the compound engine arrangement worked, and in particular what angle the engine’s three cranks were set against one another (and thus whether the “puffs” emitted from the chimney were regular or irregular), but such details are not mentioned in the text. It would also have been interesting to have found a discussion of the [thermodynamic and engineering] logic behind the decision to combine exhaust steam from the HP cylinder with live steam from the LP boiler to drive the LP pistons, since it would seem from cursory observation that greater efficiency would have been achieved by fully expanding the HP steam in the LP cylinders without the cost and complication of supplying and adding supplementary live steam.  Schmidt, who designed the system, was no fool, so presumably there was some sound (even if misplaced) reasoning behind the concept.

A more minor point can also be made that, as with William Brown’s book on the Hush-hush, Carney’s book would have been so easily improved by the inclusion of an index and more precise referencing.  Notwithstanding these minor criticisms, this book offers a fascinating read and should be a worthwhile addition to the bookshelves of anyone who has an interest in the history of the technical advances (and failures) of steam traction.

This book may be purchased from Camden Miniature Steam Services and other retailers.