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Oxfordshire P.O coal wagon movements question.


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Although 80’s BR Blue is my era, I also try and collect P.O wagons from the local area, this Dapol ‘Marriott of Witney’ being one example:

 

post-6818-0-08735100-1529875363_thumb.jpeg

 

Now this recently got me thinking, Oxfordshire is more renowned for green & pleasant rolling countryside than it is Collieries!

Out of interest, where would the wagon above have to go to be filled, was there some central coal depot in Oxfordshire or would it have to go right to the source and end up at a Colliery?

 

Presuming it’s the latter, then I would assume it would be a Colliery somewhere in GWR land (South Wales?)

 

Given the above, the empty wagon would presumably be tripped on the Fairford / Witney - Oxford local goods train where I imagine it would then be marshalled into a bigger train and end up up somewhere like Acton where it would then find itself in a train destined for one of the big yards in South Wales for onward movement to the actual Colliery and once filled, the same journey in reverse would then occur.

 

I suspect i’m not a million miles from the truth but over to the experts! :D

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Thanks, I’ve seen that page, that’s what got me thinking about where the Oxon coal merchants got their coal from and how far and wide a typical wagon from their fleet would have to travel and how it did that.

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House coal could come to Witney from a number of sources, Griff Colliery in Warwickshire was an old established source (used to come down the Oxford Canal).  Forest of Dean and Bristol coalfields also supplied into Oxfordshire.  Anthracite for the breweries would come from western South Wales.  Marriott's probably used all these sources.

Not that there isn't coal beneath Oxfordshire, its just never been worked.

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Concerning "central coal depots", I don't think the UK ever really had those. Almost all traffic was from colliery to consumer, sometimes involving two railway journeys plus a coastal freighter. Latterly there were some "coal concentration depots", but I think these were local to the coalfields, combining the output of several pits and reducing the amount of loading equipment that the NCB needed to modernise. 

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As coal merchants generally bought their coal from the nearest suitable supply, most of the domestic coal used in Oxfordshire probably came from the Midlands coalfield – Coventry, Nuneaton, etc. Earliest market relations were established during the canal era and some survived the arrival of railways.

Edited by wagonman
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Not that there isn't coal beneath Oxfordshire, its just never been worked.

Indeed, there was (probably still is) a display in Oxfords Natural History Museum about the local geology and there was a map showing an extremely large coal seam running down through most of Oxfordshire and into what would have been Berkshire as Didcot was sat right on top of it, which I found quite ironic, as at the time Didcot PS was using coal imported via Avonmouth and previously took coal from the pits in the Midlands / Yorkshire area.

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With useful serendipity, Fairford, the terminus of the Witney branch is in Gloucestershire and thus it is featured in Ian Pope’s book on PO traders of that shire. One trader, Wm. Cobbett Arkell advertised coal from Cannock Chase, Forest of Dean and Derbyshire, which rather confirms what others have said.  There is also a pre-printed delivery ticket from Coventry Colliery to Fairford on behalf of Marriott which shows that coal to the branch was delivered along the GWR line from Leamington to Oxford, although the first part of a loaded wagon’s journey would have been over the LNWR. I suspect that the Forest of Dean coal would have travelled all the way on GWR meals, via Gloucester and Stow on the Wold.  Derbyshire coal might have had a more complicated route, but possibly after the GCR mainline opened through Rugby that might have been the favoured one.

post-189-0-16542400-1529921655_thumb.jpg

Bernard Frost was a company that had a depot at Witney as well as many other stations in the area. Keith Turton (Sixth Collection) notes supplies from East Cannock Chase Colliery in Cannock Chase, Kingsbury, Arley, Griff, Newdigate and Haunchwood Collieries in the Coventry area and others in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields.

It is interesting to note that the majority of coal merchants in Oxford itself were based in the LNWR yard, which meant that most of the coal from places like Coventry for that city travelled on the Premier Line, perhaps because the use of only one railway company was advantageous and/or more economic. Keith Turton in his Second Collection gives chapter and verse on the activities of Stevens & Co, which had a wide customer base in Oxfordshire and surrounding areas, with similarly wide sourcing of coal, with some supplies coming from Baddesley and Donisthorpe.

I suspect that the conveyance of Welsh coal along the GWR mainline via Swindon was not a major part of that company’s business, the greater distance involved probably making it more expensive for normal use, although many grades of Welsh coal had a specific use and therefor a market in the South East (steam coal and anthracite).  The vast majority of Welsh coal left the valleys by ship, and major clients in London, which might include the power stations such as Battersea, would have their coal delivered that way, except during wartime, when sea travel was slightly more hazardous.  I believe that much of the rail-borne coal traffic from the valleys was directed via Cheltenham and Gloucester, and during the Second World War the Stratford and Midland Junction Railway via Towcester was upgraded to take the additional traffic generated, relieving the busy main lines further south.  

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Well, Bangerblue, if you are interested, here is a plan and section of the Oxfordshire coalfield that I drew up many years ago now for a lecture I gave on the subject:

post-31802-0-24091400-1529953330_thumb.jpg

post-31802-0-61162400-1529954419_thumb.jpg

Doesn't extend as a workable proposition as far south as Didcot, but several workable seams in the Banbury area.

Anyhow, just been checking through Stanley Jenkins history of Witney.  James Marriott's were major Blanket makers, with Mount's Mill by the Witney Goods station as well as being coal merchants, farmers and dyers.  So a lot of their coal traffic would have been for their own use in their blanket mill's boilers.

 

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Thank you gents for the very informative replies, amazing what info and responses you get on RMWeb from a random musing.

Nick mentions ‘Stevens & Co’ from Oxford which as it happens, I also have one of their wagons which happens to sit right next to the Marriott’s wagon:

 

post-6818-0-32021200-1530006300_thumb.jpeg

 

Alan

 

That’s great, I’ll show that to the FiL when I next see him, he’s a retired Mining Surveyor who worked on the South Yorkshire pits. I wonder why some of those seams were never exploited? Perhaps even in the days long gone, even a small Colliery working would have been considered ‘unsightly’ but then again there were mineral & ironstone workings in the North of the county around Banbury and at Brymbo near Hook Norton. Maybe they were more lucrative than the coal?

Edited by Banger Blue
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Thank you gents for the very informative replies, amazing what info and responses you get on RMWeb from a random musing.

Nick mentions ‘Stevens & Co’ from Oxford which as it happens, I also have one of their wagons which happens to sit right next to the Marriott’s wagon:

 

attachicon.gifDAAA3163-217E-4FC2-9D49-A8F4A41A4178.jpeg

 

Alan

 

That’s great, I’ll show that to the FiL when I next see him, he’s a retired Mining Surveyor who worked on the South Yorkshire pits. I wonder why some of those seams were never exploited? Perhaps even in the days long gone, even a small Colliery working would have been considered ‘unsightly’ but then again there were mineral & ironstone workings in the North of the county around Banbury and at Brymbo near Hook Norton. Maybe they were more lucrative than the coal?

Most likely the depth at which they were to be found; anyone sinking a shaft would have to go through a lot of other material (and a lot of money) before seeing any payback. It would be interesting to see when the Coal Measures were first recorded in Oxfordshire or if , initially, they were implied from the presence of other strata associated with the Coal Measures elsewhere.

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Thank you gents for the very informative replies, amazing what info and responses you get on RMWeb from a random musing.

Nick mentions ‘Stevens & Co’ from Oxford which as it happens, I also have one of their wagons which happens to sit right next to the Marriott’s wagon:

 

attachicon.gifDAAA3163-217E-4FC2-9D49-A8F4A41A4178.jpeg

 

Alan

 

That’s great, I’ll show that to the FiL when I next see him, he’s a retired Mining Surveyor who worked on the South Yorkshire pits. I wonder why some of those seams were never exploited? Perhaps even in the days long gone, even a small Colliery working would have been considered ‘unsightly’ but then again there were mineral & ironstone workings in the North of the county around Banbury and at Brymbo near Hook Norton. Maybe they were more lucrative than the coal?

Banger Blue - can give you a more detailed explanation when I'm back home, but basic reason is, nobody looked in the right place!  Coalfield was not found until British Geological Survey drilling near Witney (in 1967 I think, but will have to check the date).  The seams are rather sulphurous, so not of best quality for some purposes.  As the section shows, they are within 200m of the surface, so well within late 19th Century mining technology if they had been known about. Although they would have had to sink through water bearing strata, it would have been no worse than many successful pits in Yorkshire and County Durham - technology of the time was quite capable of dealing with it.

Edited to add: Apley barn borehole at Witney was drilled in 1960/61, results published in 1969.

Edited by eastglosmog
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Banger Blue, I lived at Bloxham when the North Oxon boreholes were sunk one each side of the village, the Banbury Guardian made much of it and I seem to remember local retired "colonel blips" and many other high falutin folk getting very wound up about coal tips despoiling the countryside! Many years later when I was living in North Wales I met a guy who had been on those very drilling rigs at Bloxham and he said the seams were very deep underground but very thick seams and good quality. I have no way of proving what I was told and hope others can shed light on the topic. Be nice to have a fresh traffic flow  for your GWR branch or main line. Wythicombe Barn Colliery or Ells fm Pit have a nice feel to them.

     Regards Mick

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If you are interested, the Logs of the various boreholes can be found here:

Apley Barn, Witney:
http://scans.bgs.ac.uk/sobi_scans/boreholes/320043/images/10613760.html
Steeple Aston:
http://scans.bgs.ac.uk/sobi_scans/boreholes/330989/images/10628016.html
Withycombe, Banbury
http://scans.bgs.ac.uk/sobi_scans/boreholes/332209/images/10630146.html

There was serious consideration given to working the coalfield in the 1970s, but general decline in coal mining and concerns about the environmental effects put a stop to it.

I you want to bend history and assume one of the earlier explorers for the field had looked in the right place, then Steeple Aston would be a good place to sink your pit, with a short branch to the Oxford - Banbury line at Lower Heyford, perhaps.

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A major route for coal from the North Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Derby /Notts / S. Yorks coalfields - including coal for gasworks from the latter - would have come onto the Great Western from the Midland System at Bordesley Junction. In BR days at least, 8Fs worked some of this traffic through - I'm not sure how far south.

 

In addition to the local merchant's own wagons, deliveries could also be made in the collieries' wagons or in the wagons of coal factors - brokers between the colliery and merchant. None of these necessarily owned their wagons - they were often on long-term hire from the wagon building firms, for whom wagon leasing was as big a business as wagon building.

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17 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

A major route for coal from the North Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Derby /Notts / S. Yorks coalfields - including coal for gasworks from the latter - would have come onto the Great Western from the Midland System at Bordesley Junction. In BR days at least, 8Fs worked some of this traffic through - I'm not sure how far south.

 

In addition to the local merchant's own wagons, deliveries could also be made in the collieries' wagons or in the wagons of coal factors - brokers between the colliery and merchant. None of these necessarily owned their wagons - they were often on long-term hire from the wagon building firms, for whom wagon leasing was as big a business as wagon building.

Depends on how late as a lot of coal from those areas came onto the GWR off the GCR via Woodford and Banbury - hence the busy Up yard at Banbury.  The coal for Kensal Green gas works - which was put off at North acton for onward tripping - came off the GC route for many years.

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28 minutes ago, The Stationmaster said:

Depends on how late as a lot of coal from those areas came onto the GWR off the GCR via Woodford and Banbury - hence the busy Up yard at Banbury.  The coal for Kensal Green gas works - which was put off at North acton for onward tripping - came off the GC route for many years.

 

Yes, I can see that the Great Central route could become the favoured route for coal from the East Midlands / South Yorks coalfield - such as that gas coal for Kensal Green - but the Midland route via Bordesley would presumably have remained the preferred route for North Warwickshire coal; possibly Cannock Chase too, though those collieries connected to ex-LNWR lines may have been exchanged in the Black Country - Dudley? Princes End? Coal from these coalfields was, I believe, valued for domestic use. 

 

Also, I'd have thought that at least earlier in the 20th century, the Great Western would have preferred exchange in the Birmingham area than nearer at hand, as giving the greater mileage over its own lines and hence a greater proportion of the revenue.

Edited by Compound2632
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20 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

 

Yes, I can see that the Great Central route could become the favoured route for coal from the East Midlands / South Yorks coalfield - such as that gas coal for Kensal Green - but the Midland route via Bordesley would presumably have remained the preferred route for North Warwickshire coal; possibly Cannock Chase too, though those collieries connected to ex-LNWR lines may have been exchanged in the Black Country - Dudley? Princes End? Coal from these coalfields was, I believe, valued for domestic use. 

 

Also, I'd have thought that at least earlier in the 20th century, the Great Western would have preferred exchange in the Birmingham area than nearer at hand, as giving the greater mileage over its own lines and hence a greater proportion of the revenue.

Most Companies would run traffic as far as they could on their own lines thus anything originating on Midland served collieries would go as far south as possible on the Midland - including right into London for tripping across to Acton - to minimise the 'foreign' mileage and maximise the home Company mileage.  The Company which made the choice of route was normally the originating Company and not the receiving or intermediate Company and thinsg only changed when pooling of receipts existed. 

 

With coal merchants wagons running out empty to collect a load exactly the same principal would be applied and equally it could also depend on the relationship between the Companies involved.  The coal merchant would bear too things in mind - the price of the coal at pit head and the cost of transport (pus any restrictions the hire purchase agreement for his wagons might impose - most likely relating to availability of repair facilities as no hire purchase lender would like what amounted to his property being repaired by someone else at a cost which might come back to him).  

 

Certain grades and origins of coal were undoubtedly favoured for different purposes but again provided what he was selling kept his customers happy the merchant would always look to maximise his profits and obtain his coal at minimum cost to himself.  For many years for a merchant in Oxford, assuming he was based in a GWR yard and not an LNWR yard, the choice would be between South Wales and the Midlands and the GWr might well offer inducements to grab the traffic from a Welsh pit.  I haven't checked the mileage but in effect, especially with direct trains from Aberdare/Pontypool Road to Oxford, the GW would be in a pretty good competitive situation compared with the Midlands where transfer between Companies would increase the overall cost.

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1 hour ago, The Stationmaster said:

Most Companies would run traffic as far as they could on their own lines thus anything originating on Midland served collieries would go as far south as possible on the Midland - including right into London for tripping across to Acton - to minimise the 'foreign' mileage and maximise the home Company mileage.  The Company which made the choice of route was normally the originating Company and not the receiving or intermediate Company and things only changed when pooling of receipts existed. 

 

Indeed, my favourite bit of early film shows a Bracknell coal merchant's wagons heading south on the LNWR main line - presumably to be worked from Willesden via the N&SWJ to the LSWR. I'm not quite so convinced that the Midland, LNWR, or Great Northern could offer a competitive rate routing via London for traffic to a place as far north as Oxford, though. 

 

1 hour ago, The Stationmaster said:

compared with the Midlands where transfer between Companies would increase the overall cost.

 

I don't see why exchange between companies should increase the cost?

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1 hour ago, Compound2632 said:

 

I don't see why exchange between companies should increase the cost?

A lot of extra accountancy work is need.  All coal class traffic moving over Company boudaries had to be detailed in the regular RCH Heavy Abstract to enable the 'on company' amount to be separated from the invoice total details and this had to be done by both (or more) Companies involved in the transit.   What the RCH then did - or some of its many thousand staff did - was to reconciile the two lots of abstracts for every station to check that they were correct and they were also audited against RCH Numbertakers' records.  Don't forther there was an RCH Numbertaker at virtually every (if not all) places where traffic was exchanged between Companies plus, usually, each Company's own Numbertaker.  And each railway Company contributed to RCH accountancy etc costs according to the amount of use they made of them - also readily expressed as the wagons passing between them.  Thus overall the overhead cost of sending coal between two places on the one Company's network was a lot simpler than it was for traffic passing over boundaries.

 

Incidentally just having a look through various stuff on accountancy some of the Welsh Valley Companies offered a considerable discount per ton mile on the standard rate although it's unclear if the GWR also did that although they did do it in England for some coal traffic.   There were also differential and Preferential rates that could be found applying to Coal class traffic within a Company.

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40 minutes ago, The Stationmaster said:

A lot of extra accountancy work is need.  

 

Ah yes of course, I'd forgotten that the RCH would be involved.

 

Even so, there's plenty of evidence for merchants shipping in coal from places off the home system, if that particular coal was what their customers wanted. Just one example, there's a photo of Vastern Road yard, Reading, c. 1905 to which I have often referred. Prominent in this is a line of wagons from Wyken Colliery, on the LNWR Coventry - Nuneaton line. The eastern South Wales coalfield clearly couldn't supply all the types of coal Reading customers wanted.

 

As an aside, when my boys were of CBBC age - 15 years ago now - there was a programme whose characters were digits who lived down the back of a sofa. The dastardly villain who was out to capture a different number in each episode was The Numbertaker.

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2 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

 

Ah yes of course, I'd forgotten that the RCH would be involved.

 

Even so, there's plenty of evidence for merchants shipping in coal from places off the home system, if that particular coal was what their customers wanted. Just one example, there's a photo of Vastern Road yard, Reading, c. 1905 to which I have often referred. Prominent in this is a line of wagons from Wyken Colliery, on the LNWR Coventry - Nuneaton line. The eastern South Wales coalfield clearly couldn't supply all the types of coal Reading customers wanted.

 

Yes, I had also wondered about the Nuneaton - Coventry  line, as many of the collieries to the south of Nuneaton such as Griff, Wyken, Keresley linked on to that line rather than Arley and others to the north which linked to the Midland (Birmingham to Leicester).

 

Would the route via Coventry, Kenilworth, Leamington and then on to the WR from those collieries have been used - and then on to Banbury and Oxford? You're only about 45 miles from Oxford at Leamington.

 

Conversley at Nuneaton, there was a large marshalling yard used largely for coal as the Coventry, Birmingham and Shackerstone lines all provided connections from multiple collieries. 

 

Presumably these wagons for Witney, as mentioned by the OP would be transferred by a local trip working. 

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23 hours ago, MidlandRed said:

 

Yes, I had also wondered about the Nuneaton - Coventry  line, as many of the collieries to the south of Nuneaton such as Griff, Wyken, Keresley linked on to that line rather than Arley and others to the north which linked to the Midland (Birmingham to Leicester).

 

Would the route via Coventry, Kenilworth, Leamington and then on to the WR from those collieries have been used - and then on to Banbury and Oxford? You're only about 45 miles from Oxford at Leamington.

 

Conversley at Nuneaton, there was a large marshalling yard used largely for coal as the Coventry, Birmingham and Shackerstone lines all provided connections from multiple collieries. 

 

Presumably these wagons for Witney, as mentioned by the OP would be transferred by a local trip working. 

Either via Leamington (which appears to have had quite extensive exchange sidings or via Bletchley to either Oxford or Yarnton Junction.  Oxford had very limited exchange sidings and Yarnton appears to have been used to exchange traffic at one time.  It partly depends on the agreed mileage split between teh LNWR and GWR

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On 25/06/2018 at 20:21, eastglosmog said:

Well, Bangerblue, if you are interested, here is a plan and section of the Oxfordshire coalfield that I drew up many years ago now for a lecture I gave on the subject:

post-31802-0-24091400-1529953330_thumb.jpg

post-31802-0-61162400-1529954419_thumb.jpg

Doesn't extend as a workable proposition as far south as Didcot, but several workable seams in the Banbury area.

Anyhow, just been checking through Stanley Jenkins history of Witney.  James Marriott's were major Blanket makers, with Mount's Mill by the Witney Goods station as well as being coal merchants, farmers and dyers.  So a lot of their coal traffic would have been for their own use in their blanket mill's boilers.

 

The above map is very interesting and lines up with a map of the Probable Thames Valley Coalfield dated 1872. See attached document.

Thames-Valley-Coalfield[1].pdf

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