John Speller's Web Pages Sir Felix Pole

John Speller's Web Pages

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Sir Felix John Clewett Pole (1877-1956), the son of a schoolmaster, joined the Great Western Railway as a telegraph operator at Swindon in 1891. He soon rose through the ranks and Sir James Inglis, the General Manager, put him in charge of the Publicity Department, where he was responsible for some very imaginative advertising, including the promotion of the "Cornish Riviera" as a tourist location. He was later Chief Clerk, and then in 1921 he was appointed General Manager. In June 1927 Sir Philip Dawson, M.P. (18661938) operating from St. Stephen's House, Victoria Embankment, Westminster SW1 prepared a report, addressed to Sir Felix J. C. Pole, General Manager, Great Western Railway, Paddington Station, W2 entitled Electrification of the Main Line Taunton to Penzance and Branches West of Taunton (In 1938 Sir James Milne proposed implementing this, but it was shelved due to the Second World War). To the post of General Manager Sir Felix added that of Chairman of Associated Electrical Industries in 1928. He was much too progressive to work well with the conservative Chairman of the GWR, Viscount Churchill, and relations eventually became so strained that he resigned in 1929. This was one of the worst things that ever happened to the Great Western Railway, since Pole was probably the best administrator the company ever had. One of his last actions as General Manager of the GWR was to inaugurate the world's fastest train, the Cheltenham Flyer. His path at AEI was far from easy also, and he had to cope with much internecine strife between the two halves of the company, British Thompson-Houston and Metropolitan Vickers. In later years Sir Felix became blind, and he found it necessary to resign as Chairman of AEI in 1945, although he remained on the Board as Deputy Chairman.
Sir Felix J. C. Pole (1877-1956), General Manager of the Great Western Railway 1921-29 and Chairman of Associated Electrical Industries 1928-45
The Great Western Railway's premier express passenger class, the 60xx "King" Class had its genesis in 1927 in response to an instruction from Sir Felix Pole to produce a locomotive with a tractive effort in excess of 40,000 lb. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. For a neat video showing a trip on the footplate of No. 6024 "King Edward I" from Exeter St Davids to Taunton see here. This includes my old trainspotting location of the late 1950s at the crossing between Rockwell Green and Wellington. On summer Saturdays I must have seen more steam trains in those days than anyone else in history. I was there in 1957 when the most trains in history passed by. (This was before British Railways decided to shoot thmselves in the foot by taking off summer Saturday specials. Alas, if you are a nationalized industry, it is very easy to take the easiest course even if it isn't the most lucrative one.) How I wish that I had taken some photographs!
Sir Felix Pole remained in contact with the GWR after his resignation, and one result of this was the streamlined diesel railcars with AEC engines first introduced in 1934 and nicknamed the "flying bananas"
Gas Turbine Locomotive No. 18100 was ordered from Metropolitan Vickers by the Great Western Railway, but not delivered until after Nationalization. A second gas turbine was ordered from Brown-Boveri in Switzerland. In France the PLM had been experimenting in the late 1930s with the "Velox" boiler which operated on pulverized coal and compressed air. It is thought that the Great Western Railway was eventually hoping to develop a gas turbine that worked on pulverized coal, which seemed a more attractive option than adopting diesel locomotives, which would have undermined the South Wales coal industry that constituted the GWR's largest customer
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