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Milk Train Operation, West Country.


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Reading a topic on an N gauge BLT with a Dairy I realised I don't know how Milk Tanks operated 

I have read of the Torrington Tanks unloaded overnight at Vauxhall and working down the LSWR line as a 14 Tank wagon train and up as two trains one 8 around 2pm and one of 6 Tanks around 4 pm but don't know if it was one 14 wagon formation working up in the afternoon unloaded overnight and back in the morning to refill for an Afternoon departure or two, one set filling in the morning while the other was returning ECS.

The Penzance just has to be two sets due to distance

But what about the Wotton Bassett, Did the trip loco deliver empties and take away the fulls in one trip?

Does anyone know, or can point me to a suitable website or book?

Thanks in anticipation.

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I believe that the Cornish milk trains collected from a variety of locations on route, so by the time you got as far as Penzance there would be very few tanks, but it would mean that for locations further up the line collected by the same train you might not need the second set.

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When we talk of milk traffic I first recommend an article by R C Riley called "Home with the milk" in Trains Illustrated for March 1959.  It deals with the WR's West Country milk traffic.  IIRC here was an article in the HMRS Journal about the Southern's milk traffic.  It is a very complex subject and it is not always very clear just how it was handled, even with the aid of working timetables.  Demand fluctuated and with it the length and composition of loaded trains.  Kris is quite right about the Penzance trains growing as they headed east, picking up two or three tanks at each calling point.  The fun really started when the train reached London for there were many destinations around the capital to which the loaded tanks were tripped.

 

It would make a fascinating subject for a book!

 

Chris

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As far as the West Country is concerned the number of wagons on a train could vary quite significantly from as little as 4 wagons up to about 15. It has been said that these tanks were quite a drag and they ran to express priority so they were rarely long. Each wagon weighed about 28 tons when loaded.

There were two trains a day from Penzance in diesel days.

There are plenty of photos of up milk trains but a dearth of down trains. I therefore suspect the down trains ran during the night but I don't know.

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All the photos of the Vauxhall workings, and the one time I saw it in action, show the unloading being done after the end of the morning peak, in daylight. The train would stop on one of the Windsor lines, and be coupled to flexible pipes that lived in chests on the platform. Once unloading was finished, and the hoses disconnected, the loco (sometimes an 09, often the train loco) would draw on to the carriage sidings that were where the International station now is to run round.

There is some information about SR milk workings in 'Southern Railway Passenger Vans' by David Gould.

Whilst I saw the Up West Wales milk trains almost every day, I never saw the Down workings, which leads me to concur about them running overnight.

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I recall seeing at least one published photo of the down SR empty tanks coming out of London and it had a lot more than 14 wagons in the formation; sufficient to need a rebuilt Merchant Navy on the front. The Torrington tanks were presumably combined with some or all the ones originating from Seaton Junction, Chard Junction and Semley for the return working.

 

John   

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My parents moved to a house backing onto the District line between Southfields and Wimbledon Park in 1957 and I was 3 at the time. I already liked trains and the Milk Train was the highlight of the day as it was still steam hauled until near the end of Southern steam. I can only remember the down train which went by around mid afternoon.

Sadly the only National Rail traffic on the line now is ECS workings of SWT EMU's with about three a day actually in passenger service but not stopping at the nowLUL stations.

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Thanks everyone, I suppose it comes down to how long tanks took to clean and refill. I guess the unloading had to be choreographed  at some locations as well.  The trouble is the blokes who handled this traffic in Steam days which is where my interest is are over 70 now and their ranks are thinning rapidly.  I may have to get an annual subscription to the Steam museum and do some serious research.

Any further information gratefully received.   

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There are plenty of photos of up milk trains but a dearth of down trains. I therefore suspect the down trains ran during the night but I don't know.

 

It seems that empties were sent back rather haphazardly. While the fresh milk had to reach London before it spoiled, the empties were less urgent and a lot lighter and sometimes (but not always) headed back with other NPCCS, particularly newspaper vans. Some ran during the day since dairies would normally dispatch twice a day and would need a fresh set of tanks for the evening run. Here are an assortment of down empties.

 

https://flic.kr/p/hsQ759

 

https://flic.kr/p/a5GiAg

 

https://flic.kr/p/6KPGSv

 

https://flic.kr/p/g7AJWT

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5146315659/in/[email protected]/

 

https://flic.kr/p/ashNBW

 

https://flic.kr/p/7xJc8B

 

post-887-0-35857900-1485433011.jpg

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Generally Milk trains on the Western were allowed slightly heavier loads for the same class of engine as passenger trains - basically of course because they had slacker timings and lower permitted maximum speeds.  Thus a 'Castle' was allowed 550tons trailing on a Milk Train between Swindon and West Ealing on the 16.30 Exeter to Kensington (compared with only 500 tons for a passenger train and a normal gross maximum load of 530 tons east of Swindon).  

 

Similarly the 15.50 Whitland to Kensington (and other milk trains over the route) was allowed 505 tons trailing, for a 'Castle', between Cardiff and Swindon compared with 455 tons for a passenger train  (train times are as in Summer 1963).  505 tons would equal 17 loaded Miltas plus a van.

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The fun really started when the train reached London for there were many destinations around the capital to which the loaded tanks were tripped.

Many milk trains ran to Kensington Olympia where the flows from the WR and SR would be combined and then sorted into shorter trains for onward working to the various bottling plants that ringed the suburbs of London.

 

It would make a fascinating subject for a book!

It would indeed. If no one writes one before I retire, I may have to try it myself. :)

Edited by Karhedron
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It seems that empties were sent back rather haphazardly. While the fresh milk had to reach London before it spoiled, the empties were less urgent and a lot lighter and sometimes (but not always) headed back with other NPCCS, particularly newspaper vans. Some ran during the day since dairies would normally dispatch twice a day and would need a fresh set of tanks for the evening run. Here are an assortment of down empties.

 

https://flic.kr/p/hsQ759

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There's nice - a picture on the Ealing & Shepherds Bush.  You don't see many taken on that line.

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But what about the Wotton Bassett, Did the trip loco deliver empties and take away the fulls in one trip?

Does anyone know, or can point me to a suitable website or book?

There were a lot of dairies either at the ends of Branchlines (e.g. Hemyock, Wallingford) or on minor routes (Highbridge, Appleby) so it was not uncommon for tanks to be tripped to the nearest major collection point by a local engine where they would be attached to one of the main runs. The tanks from Saltash creamery were frequently tripped to Plymouth for collection behind an auto-train and even behind a DMU once steam was withdrawn.

 

There were also some flows to balance seasonal load. For instance, at times of high production, the Unigate facility at Bailey Gate was recipient of incoming tanks for cheese production. So the picture is actually slightly more complicated than full tanks into London and empties back out.

 

Sadly there isn't a comprehensive book or website on the subject. ChrisF has already mentioned a couple of the best of the published articles on the subject. This is a bit of a favourite subject of mine and I have lots of photos, articles and snippets of information I have collected over the years but the information I have is far from complete. I know a chap who has toyed with the idea of publishing something comprehensive on the subject but like the rest of us, I think he has other calls on his time at the moment.

Edited by Karhedron
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It's worth recalling that not all of the SR tanks went to Vauxhall. There may have been some to Kensington, although I suspect that was GWR province, but a significant cut certainly went from Clapham Junction to Morden, well into the 1970s, possibly even until 1980. Morden milk depot had its own shunting loco, which I used to look out for when on the way to the late lamented model shop in Wimbledon (Platform 5, I think it was called).

 

K

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Long quotation from a correspondent on another forum where this was discussed:

 

"..I've been having a little smile at the posts on this thread .. xxxxxx is most nearly right but things were slightly different ..at least in later days .

 

I actually worked for the Milk Marketing Board in its what now would be called *logistics * area , and in fact was the person who sold the last milk trains for scrap to Berry's yard in Leicester . Milk traffic was basically planned by the MMB regardless of who owned the milk tankers and where they were loaded from , actually on behalf of the Ministry ..MAFF.. who paid for a good deal of the movements . This being in the days pre EU of UK government support for Food .....

 

Latterly the milk traffic worked as *block *trains to London ..so that is what ought to be behind you Castle or Royal Scot ...but again its a bit more complicated than that ......"

 

It's public domain, but I've taken names out.

 

I see the gentleman who wrote every few weeks, so will torture him with questions next time!

 

Kevin

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To get back slightly OT to the Whitland mik tanks, one of my link jobs at Canton in the early 70s was the 'Marshfield Milk' which involved collecting the lds from the small yard at Marshfield between Cardiff and Newport, accessed by means of a ground frame released from Cardiff panel box, and propelling it back to Cardiff Central where we stabled it on the fish dock siding ready to be attached to the rear of the up Whitland; AFAIK this was the last attachment to this train, but Mike may be able to correct me if I am wrong.  A Hymek was used and, after the trailing crossover was 'rationalised', the train ran to Newport High Street and the loco ran around.  One of our drivers set back a little enthusiastically on one occasion at Marshfield and pushed several loaded tanks up the bank of the road bridge; he had to suffer years of comment reminding him what it was no use crying over, and the place stank for weeks afterwards.  Milk work ponged a bit anyway; the glass lined insides of the tanks were cleaned, but nobody ever bothered about the spillage on the outside.

 

The reverse of this working, which was done at about 4 in the afternoon, was to take the empties left in the fish dock earlier out to Marshfield at about 09.30 IIRC and return light engine, again with a Hymek which then did the Pontypridd parcels.  37s took over after the demise of the Hymeks.  I do not think the timings of these trains had been changed since the Severn Tunnel opened.  The Whitland was a Western or 47 turn, Castle in steam days, as was the Milford Haven Fish train.  Marshfield was not directly connected to the nearby dairy, and the milk was delivered to it by road tankers.  An anomaly of milk work was that the loaded tanks were allowed to run at 55mph, but the empties were restricted to 45mph; ours came down in a freight train.  By my time milk trains were run as class 6 freights, with no brake van and the guard riding on the loco, but pre 1969 would have had passenger rated brake vans, and these had to be steam heated in the winter, which affected the composition of the trains.

Edited by The Johnster
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My former colleague, Stephen Poole, wrote a little about his work as a Milk Train Controller at Paddington in 'Beyond The Crumbling Edge'; this was right at the end of regular milk trains. 

I spent my formative years in Llanelli, South West Wales, the latter part at the Grammar School, which had excellent views of the main line to Carmarthen; the passage of the first milk train was just after the end of the school day, so a quick cycle down to the lineside at Pwll was an essential prelude to the journey home. Until I left, in 1973, this was a regular 'Western' duty. I'm not sure what happened after that.

I recollect watching the plants at Carmarthen steam-cleaning the empty tanks; what happened at Marshfield? I don't remember there being any facilities there; were the tanks cleaned at the receiving depot?

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Iirc, the shunting loco at Morden 'lived' in the little headshunt at the eastern end, and shuffled wagons between the unloading apron and outside, one or two at a time. The BR loco merely pulled the empties out from the sidings, and shoved the full ones in. Memory is an imperfect thing, but iirc, the typical daily train consisted of no more than about half a dozen tankers. But, yes, a capstan could have done the job that the loco did.

 

The loco I recall was, again memory depending, a pale blue RH 88DS [edit: actually, looks like it was a 48DS] not the one in the photo above, which looks like a late hunslet to me....... I've mislaid my IRS book for the area, but when I find it, I will confirm what locos were there when.

 

K

Edited by Nearholmer
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To get back slightly OT to the Whitland mik tanks, one of my link jobs at Canton in the early 70s was the 'Marshfield Milk' which involved collecting the lds from the small yard at Marshfield between Cardiff and Newport, accessed by means of a ground frame released from Cardiff panel box, and propelling it back to Cardiff Central where we stabled it on the fish dock siding ready to be attached to the rear of the up Whitland; AFAIK this was the last attachment to this train, but Mike may be able to correct me if I am wrong.  A Hymek was used and, after the trailing crossover was 'rationalised', the train ran to Newport High Street and the loco ran around.  One of our drivers set back a little enthusiastically on one occasion at Marshfield and pushed several loaded tanks up the bank of the road bridge; he had to suffer years of comment reminding him what it was no use crying over, and the place stank for weeks afterwards.  Milk work ponged a bit anyway; the glass lined insides of the tanks were cleaned, but nobody ever bothered about the spillage on the outside.

 

The reverse of this working, which was done at about 4 in the afternoon, was to take the empties left in the fish dock earlier out to Marshfield at about 09.30 IIRC and return light engine, again with a Hymek which then did the Pontypridd parcels.  37s took over after the demise of the Hymeks.  I do not think the timings of these trains had been changed since the Severn Tunnel opened.  The Whitland was a Western or 47 turn, Castle in steam days, as was the Milford Haven Fish train.  Marshfield was not directly connected to the nearby dairy, and the milk was delivered to it by road tankers.  An anomaly of milk work was that the loaded tanks were allowed to run at 55mph, but the empties were restricted to 45mph; ours came down in a freight train.  By my time milk trains were run as class 6 freights, with no brake van and the guard riding on the loco, but pre 1969 would have had passenger rated brake vans, and these had to be steam heated in the winter, which affected the composition of the trains.

 

There were gas heated brakevans (supposedly) available for use on Milk Trains.

 

I'm fairly sure that at one time - when the 'box was still open - the through train attached at Marshfield but later, as you say, the Marshfield Miltas were tripped to Cardiff.  I'll have a look around in an old ServiceTT and see if it offers any information about through Milk Trains being booked to call.  And probably a good job in other ways that 5 mph was trimmed off the speeds for Miltas as loaded ones tended to misbehave rather jerkily if subjected to a hard brake application and release ;)

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Morden ...... I was right on both counts (a first!). There was an RH there from 1954 to 1972, then the Hunslet from 1972 to closure in 1978/79.

 

How I recall the RH, goodness knows, because I didn't think I first travelled that line until after 1972, but I sure do recall it, so I must have!

 

The setup would make a cracking little model, would it not? Some interesting old EMUs, the odd ballast train, and the milk operation.

 

Another picture of the Hunslet https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/16461770692

 

And here is the RH in colour! http://mikemorant.smugmug.com/keyword/morden/ It was definitely paler than that when I saw it, probably ten years of fading!

 

I think the Hunslet was pale (deliberately, not faded) too.

 

K

Edited by Nearholmer
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There were gas heated brakevans (supposedly) available for use on Milk Trains.

 

I'm fairly sure that at one time - when the 'box was still open - the through train attached at Marshfield but later, as you say, the Marshfield Miltas were tripped to Cardiff.  I'll have a look around in an old ServiceTT and see if it offers any information about through Milk Trains being booked to call.  And probably a good job in other ways that 5 mph was trimmed off the speeds for Miltas as loaded ones tended to misbehave rather jerkily if subjected to a hard brake application and release ;)

The SR trains employed stove-fitted brake vans, at least the Express Dairy ones from Seaton Junction that I regularly observed did, so didn't need to consider the steam pipes.  

 

At various times, ex-LMS Stove Rs, SR "Queen Mary" bogie brakes and stove-fitted Van Bs (or should that be Vans B) were used.

 

John

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And, LMS 50ft BG.

 

I remember seeing the train come up to Waterloo, behind an 08/09, and was so inspired that I bought a Wrenn 08 and a couple of tanks. At the time, I don't think there was a r-t-r BG, and HD six-wheel stoves were rare and expensive, so I used to run it with an ordinary BR standard goods brake.

 

K

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It's worth recalling that not all of the SR tanks went to Vauxhall. There may have been some to Kensington, although I suspect that was GWR province, but a significant cut certainly went from Clapham Junction to Morden, well into the 1970s, possibly even until 1980. Morden milk depot had its own shunting loco, which I used to look out for when on the way to the late lamented model shop in Wimbledon (Platform 5, I think it was called).

 

K

 

Yes indeed - in 1970 there were SR milk portions from Kensington to Clapham, to Morden, two to Stewarts Lane (for Vauxhall presumably), and also Channelsea.

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