The historical context

The historical context

Following the accident on Loch Ness in 1952 in which John Cobb died while trying to backup an earlier officially timed run of 206.89mph in order to set a new unlimited water speed record, it was often stated that designer Reid Railton was so upset that he abandoned this area of design altogether. In fact, the opposite is true. Research by Steve Holter and Karl Ludvigsen for their respective books about Railton and Cobb uncovered documents relating to a design for a second, more evolved version of the original boat design. A large scale tank test model of this revised boat design was also discovered and is now owned by Richard Noble.

Conversations with Railton’s daughter, Sally Joslin (nee Railton) and Steve Holter, suggest that this revised design is closely related to his original ideas for the boat that became Crusader rather than a completely clean sheet design. That said, it does feature some intriguing design elements not applied to the original Crusader, the purpose of which can only be guessed at pending further research and analysis. The use of modern methods, facilities and computing power makes this a viable option.

part of the correspondence between George Eyston and Reid Railton
part of the correspondence between George Eyston and Reid Railton about a new water speed record project in 1954

Railton was living in the USA working for Hudson when he produced his first design for Cobb and the boat that would become Crusader. Unable to return full time to work on the project, detailed design work to turn his proposal in something that was buildable and operable was handed over to Vospers. Led by vastly experienced naval architect Peter Du Cane, Vospers evolved the detailed design in line with their experience and what they believed was practical and possible while still adhering to Railton’s overall design architecture. Cobb used the services of another former land speed record holder – George Eyston – to coordinate these activities.

It should be recognised that none of the tools and methods we take for granted today for real time dispersed collaborative working were available to them. Instead, they exchanged information, asked questions, responded to questions and documented actions and proposed next steps in a series of letters sent back and forth using the US and UK postal services. These were supplemented by visits to the UK by Railton whenever possible.

For very practical reasons, the boat that emerged from Vospers was not as Railton had originally imagined it – confirmed by Sally Joslin and the Steve Holter research. Reading the exchanges between Railton, Cobb, Eyston and Du Cane, you get a sense of the frustration felt by Railton that this distanced working approach was not to his satisfaction in terms of it delivering exactly what he wanted. Therefore, it is assumed that the revised design incorporates lessons learned from the original Crusader but in a form much closer to his original ideas.

For clarity and for the purposes of this project we have labelled the designs Crusader 1 (the Loch Ness boat run by Cobb) and Crusader 2 (the revised design produced by Railton following Cobb’s death.

Len Newton's Crusader Team Memor
model builder Len Newton’s memorabilia inherited from his father in law who was part of the team at Loch Ness when Crusader ran.