Simplex Locos

What developments might eventually have ensured this, and, what footholds Dorman might have been able to secure in the British aircraft industry by virtue of the Adams' engine must sadly remain forever unknown, because a period was fast approaching when many hopes were to be dashed and many plans to be changed.
   
When the First World War broke out, in 1914, Dorman had a labour force of rather more than five hundred and were contractors to the Admiralty and War Office and could boast a modest but profitable European and Colonial export trade. By 1915 this labour force had risen to seven hundred: by the Armistice two thousand. In the course of the war Dorman had become contractors not only to the Admiralty and War Office, but the Indian Office and Crown agents for the Colonies, the Air Ministry, the War-time Ministry of Munitions, and various governments and private manufacturers abroad. The locations where Dorman equipment had seen active service included France, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Palestine, and German East Africa, not to mention the oceans of the world and the skies over the battlefronts.

  As recently as October 1913 the War Department had carried out trials, in lorries, of engines manufactured to its official specification, among which the new Dorman 4JO had passed with the official seal of approval; now, in August 1914, the works was called upon to produce literally thousands of these engines for three and four ton W.D. lorries almost immediately, and thanks to a reorganisation which had already been set in motion during the last days of peace, was able to do so. Later the 4JO, and its two cylinder variant the 2JO, were to appear on land and sea as mains or emergency generating plant; but perhaps the most notable contribution of these sturdy Dorman workhorses to the war effort was the Simplex locomotive produced by the Motor Rail and Tram Car Co. Ltd., of Bedford.

   Once it had become clear, by early 1916, that a complex system of light narrow-gauge railways between the main line railheads and the front line itself would be necessary not only to supplement the road networks, but, in the extensively shelled areas, to substitute for it, large orders came to be placed for




Simplex narrow gauge locomotive, fitted with Dorman engine, transporting the late King George V on a tour of inspection, on the Western Front.

Simplex narrow gauge locomotive, fitted with Dorman engine, evacuating wounded on the Western Front during the 1914-1918 War.

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electrics were also designed for converting into mobilepower plants being produced complete with plug, cable and take off points for the supply of about 30 kW.

  Generally speaking the Simplex locomotives were the most popular of all those used by the British on narrow gauge and ran continuously until well after the Armistice, carrying essential supplies into the heart of the forward areas, ferrying troops out to rest from the roadless wilderness of the worst battle-fields and ultimately repatriating refugees and aiding reconstruction. At one point of the conflict, the 40 bhp engines for these locomotives were being produced at the rate of one an hour, and the thriving connection between Dorman and Motor Rail which the war initiated continues to the present day; meanwhile many of the Simplex as supplied for the war effort either remained in France to carry loads of agricultural produce along the narrow gauge rail networks which served from 1914-1918 up until some forty years later and numerous others ended their days pursuing similar duties in the Argentine after their purchase as war surplus by an astute railway concern in Buenos Aires.

narrow-gauge locomotives suitable for carrying outthis type of work. The numbers eventually produced, for the War Office, by British makers were in the ratio of about 975 petrol-engined locos to about 750 steam-engines; this numerical superiority in favour of the petrol engined variety arose from their flexibility and versatility in use, their great edge over the steam engines in the time taken to ready them for service, and not least in importance, the fact that they did not broadcast their presence to enemy observers by the steaming, whistling smoke and sparks of their steam engined rivals. When this figure of 975 petrol engined locomotives is broken down, Dorman have cause for nothing but pride, for of these not quite 770 had Dorman engines, some 590 of these being in Motor Rail's Simplex locomotives, the fast light models, for forward area work, employing the 20 hp 2JO engines and the larger, usually armoured versions employing the 40 bhp 4JO. These could pull loads of up to ten and twenty tons respectively. The 4JO engines were also installed in an estimated 176 petrol-electric locomotives produced by other makers with a pulling power of up to thirty tons, although far more slow moving than either type of Simplex. These petrol-


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