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Milk Train Operation, West Country.


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Aha, the Stew Lane one may have gone to the former GWR milk depot at South Lambeth, which stationmaster identified as previously having been served from the GWR via the WLL. [Edit: no, it was a separate location, owned by CWS, off the back of stew land carriage sidings, and was shunted by a succession of odd tank engines - P, an ex SECR crane tank, AS Harris, B4 etc]. Vauxhall and stew lane are very close, but on different lines.

 

Vast amounts of detail here, from guys who worked these trains http://svsfilm.com/nineelms/torr.htm

 

This is interesting too https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clapham_Stewarts_Lane_Depot_geograph-2663029-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg

 

K

Edited by Nearholmer
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Here is Stew Lane milk depot, and the sharp curve into it explains the need for oddities to shunt it.

 

The GWR goods/milk depot called South Lambeth was further north, in the lee of battersea power station, and Vauxhall milk depot was famously supplied from trains standing at the platform in the station.

 

All very near to one another, but distinct ...... vast numbers of people to serve with cow juice.

 

What I haven't yet got nailed is where the milk depots were in southeast London, although I've seen a fleeting reference to new cross or N+ Gate.

post-26817-0-57583400-1485460488_thumb.png

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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?

 

No cleaning of Miltas at Marshfield in my day; I assumed they were cleaned after being emptied at Kensington or wherever else they went in 'That London'.  After the demise of the Westerns, 47s took over the up Whitland duty, which attached the traffic from Felin Fach in the wilds of Darkest Dyfed at Carmarthen.  A passage through Llanelli after school was out at 16.30 is about right; it used to get to Cardiff about 6 and shunt til half past, and then the up Fish arrived, another Western/47 job; times are approximate because it was a long time ago and the business of top link men that I had no cause to poke my inexperienced nose into...  Both trains ran via the Swansea District line

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Here is Stew Lane milk depot, and the sharp curve into it explains the need for oddities to shunt it.

 

The GWR goods/milk depot called South Lambeth was further north, in the lee of battersea power station, and Vauxhall milk depot was famously supplied from trains standing at the platform in the station.

 

All very near to one another, but distinct ...... vast numbers of people to serve with cow juice.

 

What I haven't yet got nailed is where the milk depots were in southeast London, although I've seen a fleeting reference to new cross or N+ Gate.

 

Cow and Gate?

 

Gets. Coat. Leaves. 

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?

 

No cleaning of Miltas at Marshfield in my day; I assumed they were cleaned after being emptied at Kensington or wherever else they went in 'That London'.  After the demise of the Westerns, 47s took over the up Whitland duty, which attached the traffic from Felin Fach in the wilds of Darkest Dyfed at Carmarthen.  A passage through Llanelli after school was out at 16.30 is about right; it used to get to Cardiff about 6 and shunt til half past, and then the up Fish arrived, another Western/47 job; times are approximate because it was a long time ago and the business of top link men that I had no cause to poke my inexperienced nose into...  Both trains ran via the Swansea District line

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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 ;)

 

Now you mention it I think I remember the old tirmers saying that milk was picked up at Marshfield before the MAS went in and the box closed; 1964?, 5?  We propelled loaded at up to 40mph and they seemed steady enough at that.

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Regarding the timing of the down empties, my 1970 WTT shows departures from Kensington to Plymouth at 3pm, Penzance at 7pm, and Carmarthen at 7.40pm.

Again, sounds right, but the Carmarthens were forwarded by class 7 freight train from Swindon, forming part of it's fitted head, and shunted at Severn Tunnel, from where the were booked to be part of a class 7 freight to, I think, Margam, but usually worked as a class 6 straight through to Carmarthen from there due to lack of class 7 traffic.  They got to Carmarthen about 4 or 5 in the morning, with nothing like the sense of urgency that the loaded was always associated with.

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Thanks for an interesting thread of an interesting topic, for me at least. I was quite familiar with the Cornish milks in the steam era although know very little of others further afield. As mentioned, tanks tacked on to the auto trains were a familiar sight at North Road along with the mainline trains from further West.

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Yeovil to Gravesend?!?!

 

That is fascinating for two reasons:

 

- areas with a few miles of Gravesend were, still are, actually milk-producing districts, so difficult to understand why import would be needed;

 

- gravesend Central station is in a really cramped location, and only had a vestigial goods yard, so hard to understand where the train would be unloaded. Maps don't seem to show a milk depot close to the station either.

 

The only snippet I can find by googling is "......old milk depot at Gravesend Central which was supplied by Southwoods Dairy, whose farm was at Vale Road, Northfleet......." which supports my local supply hypothesis.

 

Anyway, the route of the service would appear to justify running milk tank trains in all sorts of unlikely places!

 

K

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Yeovil to Gravesend?!?!

 

That is fascinating for two reasons:

 

- areas with a few miles of Gravesend were, still are, actually milk-producing districts, so difficult to understand why import would be needed;

 

- gravesend Central station is in a really cramped location, and only had a vestigial goods yard, so hard to understand where the train would be unloaded. Maps don't seem to show a milk depot close to the station either.

 

The only snippet I can find by googling is "......old milk depot at Gravesend Central which was supplied by Southwoods Dairy, whose farm was at Vale Road, Northfleet......." which supports my local supply hypothesis.

 

Anyway, the route of the service would appear to justify running milk tank trains in all sorts of unlikely places!

 

K

I found this reference in Slinn and Clarke's 'G W Siphons'

'Thorney & Kingsbury Halt & Gillingham (Kent) via Yeovil'; three Siphon Js (the insulated ones without louvres) allocated from April 1935. It might not be milk, but something like cream or butter- did someone like J Lyons have a bakery nearby, perhaps?

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Well, there is a bit about thorney and Kingsbury here http://www.cornwallrailwaysociety.org.uk/taunton-to-yeovil.html and I'm guessing it was a milk products factory, so maybe butter or cream, as you say, or perhaps cheese. One possibility is for victualling naval vessels out of Chatham - I bet they took cheese and butter. I will ask my youngest bro to have a think; he lives in the old part of Rochester, and is into the local history of the Medway towns.

 

I still can't work out why bring anything milky all that distance, when oodles of cows live in Kent and are content. Didn't Catherine Zeta jones used to milk some of them?

 

K

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Well, bro suggests that the major food factories around the Medway towns were fruit and vegetable canneries, and the odd large-scale bakery, which might account for a dairy flow, but he isn't convinced. He also suggested military food supply, or possibly even government stockpiling in some of the vast amounts of underground fortifications in the area. None of which is definitive!

 

He even wondered if the milk might have been going to Yeovil, not from.

 

K

Edited by Nearholmer
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He even wondered if the milk might have been going to Yeovil, not from.

I would not have thought so. Yeovil was (and still is) prime Somerset dairy territory. Having said that, a factory that took milk in at either location could explain the flow.

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I might have struck gold, or perhaps sticky stuff ...... the milk factory at Thorney & Kingsbury near Yeovil belonged to Nestles, and made condensed milk ...... so our milk train might have been carrying tins of the stuff. And, condensed milk was indeed a naval stores item, and something that was stockpiled by MAFF.

 

K

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If I were routing a train from Yeovil to Gravesend, I might try to do better than via Tonbridge. Presumably it then went via Maidstone. Can't have been perishable.

 

Anent the Morden South shunting loco. I note it was replaced in 1972. About that time I recall it had failed, and the BR crew were asked to do a bit of extra shunting, or perhaps we had to get a loco to drop in there. The signalman at St Helier, which controlled that section, told me it wouldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding, which seemed kinda apt for a milk depot!

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I would not have thought so. Yeovil was (and still is) prime Somerset dairy territory. Having said that, a factory that took milk in at either location could explain the flow.

 

At one time not all that long ago Chard received considerable quantities of milk from other dairy processing plants (but mainly roadborne) because the milk was surplus to normal needs.  At Chard it was processed into powdered form and at one time in the 1970s there was a stockpile there of tons of the stuff.

 

Loaded miltas were sometimes returned loaded from the destination back to the originating point for various reasons.

Edited by The Stationmaster
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Any idea how Mordern was shunted?  It seems impossibly small to warrant a dedicated shunter.... there's barely room to swing a cat, never mind cuts of full and empty tankers....

The following is an excert from Alistair Nisbet's article "Milk to Morden" published in Back Track some years ago.

 

The full milk tanks arrived at Morden South around 3am and the locomotive ran forwards to St Helier on the down line in order to cross to the up line for it return to Wimbledon West Yard. Coal was also brought in for use in the dairy's heating system.

 

About midday, another locomotive ran light engine from Wimbledon West Yard to Morden South where it entered the dairy's private sidings to collect its train which would have been marshaled by the captive shunter.

 

When the signalman was ready for it, the train would run up and past St Helier box where the engine would uncouple. It would then run onto the the second crossover just short of the Forest road underbridge and and eventually reverse into the up platform. From here it would again run forwards on to the empty tanks before setting off again the way it had come up through the station. Just before Wimbledon stations, the train would run across the whole layout to the ex-LSWR up fast line to reach Clapham Yard.

 

Love this shot. Does anyone know what livery the Morden Shunter wore? I have heard it suggested that it was in the same light blue Express Dairies livery as contemporary lorries but I don't know if that was a recollection or a supposition.

Edited by Karhedron
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At one time not all that long ago Chard received considerable quantities of milk from other dairy processing plants (but mainly roadborne) because the milk was surplus to normal needs.  At Chard it was processed into powdered form and at one time in the 1970s there was a stockpile there of tons of the stuff.

 

Loaded miltas were sometimes returned loaded from the destination back to the originating point for various reasons.

Ad-hoc workings between creameries were not uncommon; they could be because of over-production or shortages in one region, or because of breakdowns or planned maintenance (boiler overhaul, for example) at one plant.

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Karhedron

 

If you follow one of the links I gave earlier, you can see that, when first there, the 88DS was quite a dark blue. The Hunslet was pale blue, and the 88 DS either faded, or got repainted pale blue, because when i saw it, it wasn't anything like as dark as the colour in the photo.

 

K

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Resurrecting this thread.  One thing I haven't found much on is how Milk/Creamery depots were laid out in terms of plumbing.  Pictures and drawings of this are quite rare.  There is one very good picture early in this thread.  I'm wondering if anyone can flesh out this aspect.

 

John

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Are you talking about the internal pipework or mainly the plumbing used to get the milk into the tanks?

 

Assuming the latter, when milk churns arrived at the creamery, they were first tested for freshness and tuberculin. Assuming they passed, the milk was then pasteurised, chilled and pumped into a storage tank ready to be loaded into the rail tanks. Pont Llanio had this tank mounted on the creamery roof and I would hazard a guess that gravity was used to empty the milk into the rail tanks. Many creameries were at least 2 stories meaning this arrangement may have been used elsewhere. You can see the storage tank in this shot of Pont Llanio.

 

https://singingthelineintoexistence.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/old-pic-of-llanio.jpg[/img]

 

You can see the same arrangement here at the Express Dairy at Seaton.

http://www.umborne.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/image0-002.jpg

 

Now we come to the thorny topic of filling. Some people in the industry swear blind that tanks were only filled from the bottom because filling from the top would cause the milk to foam. They say that the top hatches were just for cleaning and were not used for filling. Others insist that top filling was perfectly normal and the tanks had baffles to prevent foaming.

 

I wasn't there of course but in 10 years of researching on-and-off, I haven't seen any photos that definitely show bottom filling. I have however seen plenty of shots of tanks that certainly look like they are being filled from the top. I can't imagine why tanks would need their top hatches open during filling just to vent pressure when a valve would do the same job without risking contamination. Have a look at the photos below and draw your own conclusions. Personally I think that top-filling was certainly a common practice although bottom-filling may also have taken place.

 

St Erth

http://www.cornwallrailwaysociety.org.uk/uploads/7/6/8/3/7683812/3297982_orig.jpg

 

Seaton Junction
http://www.umborne.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/image0-001.jpg

 

Dolcoath siding
http://www.cornwallrailwaysociety.org.uk/uploads/7/6/8/3/7683812/_5483164_orig.jpg

Edited by Karhedron
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At the London end, tanks were emptied with flexible hoses connected at the bottom. These hoses fed into fixed pipework similar to that seen at Vauxhall on the first page of this thread. Photos of the inner workings of bottling plants are pretty few and far between. Most show only shadowy hints of what went on inside so Vauxhall is the best we have to go on. The milk was then pumped out and into the bottling plant where it would be bottled and sent out on milk floats.

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