Jump to content

Freight Routes Around London - 30s to 50s


Recommended Posts

What routes did freight get round London - 1930s to 1950s :     a van carrying something from Cornwall to Cambridge or Colchester would surely not have been unpacked, road moved, repacked and put on LNER/BR(NE) stock?

 

So how far for example did such a van get up towards Paddington before being split out and how was it directed around London either to SR metals, or up to NE metals.  

 

I presume for most LMS destinations it would never get anywhere near London and instead break away somewhere closer to Bristol. (unless it was on the LMS Southend line of course).

 

Thanks.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • RMweb Gold

Of course the wagon travelled throughout. That's why marshalling yards were needed.

 

Cornwall to Cambridge/Colchester (if GWR/WR). Probably via Westbury to Southall. Shunted into a cross London freight which would "turn left" at Acton to go via Willesden and the North London to Temple Mills (Stratford) where it would be shunted again into an ER train.

 

Cornwall to Cambridge/Colchester (if Southern/SR). Probably to Feltham for remarshalling and then a cross-London freight to Temple Mills.

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

The van is labelled to the final destination at the yard at which it is loaded, and depending on the traffic is forwarded on the next service going in the appropriate direction.  Assume the first stage to be  from the origin point in Cornwall, it probably goes on a pickup freight to be marshalled into a through train going upline at somewhere like Truro or Launceston, and is forwarded to Southall, Feltham, or perhaps Acton because the marshalling yard shunter reads the label and thus knows where to attach it, having had a consist of wagons on the pickup telegraphed from the origin yard to work from quoting the wagon number and position in the pickup.  At the London marshalling yard, it is remarshalled by the same process on to a cross London freight via either the North London line or New Cross and the 'widened lines' tunnels beneath the river, ending up at Temple Mills.  The process is then repeated to forward the van to Cambridge or Colchester, or wherever.  Exact routes might vary at different times of the day; for instance, if this van gets to Plymouth in the morning and is remarshalled it might be quicker in terms of the overall journey to send if via Bristol for remarshalling and routing via Swindon rather than wait for the overnight 47xx hauled express goods; this is where experience counts in marshalling yard work!

 

When it's unloaded, matters can become more complex.  If it's a 'pool' wagon (the big 4 had pooling arrangements by the 1930s, and of course all BR vehicles were common user unless branded otherwise, then it is either loaded to another destination or taken empty to one for loading if no traffic is available here.  If it is not a common user pool van, however, it must be returned to it's owning company.  This will be indicated by branding on the van, 'return to ....' or, in the case of Southern and LMS, by an 'N' at each end of the body (for Non pool).  This would apply mostly to vacuum fitted wagons or vehicles for specific traffics (fruit, shelves, ventilated, shock absorbing etc) which the owners wanted back; if a load is available, fine, but otherwise the van is returned empty on the next available forwarding service.

 

The pooling and through working arrangements dated in various forms from very early days, and the only transhipping was between broad and standard gauge vehicles, a major hassle that was one of the things addressed by the Gauge Commission and the reason for early forms of containers, including for coal traffic!  It was arranged by the Railway Clearing House, which also managed the inter-railway billing and freight payments from customers where more than one railway was involved.  

 

Your Cornwall-Cambridge van would probably have taken between 36 and 48 hours to complete it's journey; modern road transport can do it in about 10 though 15 is more realistic, but that's with the post 1960s benefit of motorways; rail was plenty competitive back in the day and express door-to-door container traffic was much quicker than the ordinary freight service I've described.  Basically, it's mostly a network of sorting and forwarding vehicles rather than individual through services like passenger trains.  

 

You can see the impact this must have had in the 19th century; prior to the development of such services in the 1840s and 50s such a load would probably not have even been contemplated.  It would have taken weeks, it's arrival would have been less than certain, and was probably easier and safer using coastal shipping than going overland, at least in summer.  Even the previous best, the 2-horse canal 'fly-boats' which had priority over other traffic and carried passengers (of an order that could not afford the stagecoach fares), took 2 days from Birmingham or Gloucester to London, non stop...

Edited by The Johnster
  • Like 4
  • Agree 1
  • Thanks 1
  • Informative/Useful 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
54 minutes ago, The Johnster said:

.......... on to a cross London freight via either the North London line or New Cross and the 'widened lines' tunnels beneath the river, ............

Anything from the Southern's share of the West Country would have gone to Feltham then 'round the top' of London  -  New Cross ( or Hither Green ) and the Widened Lines would only have handled wagons from the south and south east.

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • RMweb Gold

There were also "exchange yards" where vehicles were exchanged between different companies. These existed in pre-grouping days and were used even after the grouping between different divisions on the LMS. Their use and operation are described in Bob Essery's book on freight operation.

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, jim.snowdon said:

The BTF film "Fully Fitted Freight" is worth watching to see something of this process in action.

 

Jim

 

Stunning recommendation - many thanks.

  • Agree 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess all you have to remember is that, whilst mostly the same routes were available then as now (perhaps even a few more), end-to-end transit times, for individual wagons between different company networks, were excessive (bar fish vans and some other perishables). That was a major reason a to why certain pre-grouping companies (and even post-grouping) made inroads into the turf of the others, especially the Midland, by extending their ownership into otherwise off-piste locations.

 

One thing BR did was improve upon that, especially when TOPS eventually arrived. I recall details of the improvements made historically, when we were training on TOPS, being part of our training course notes. Naturally, I never kept them, but I guess someone must have.

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • RMweb Gold

If it was a full wagonload it would have gone Cornwall to possibly a yard further east (Tavistock Jcn usually) or  on a through Paddington train but in either case to Acton.  There were regular cross-London trips between Acton and various ER yards (all worked by Eastern engines as it happens) so it could have gone over to either the GN or GE - probably the latter for Cambridge and definitely the latter for Colchester.  

 

Transit from Cornwall to Acton would be in the afternoon - for example  using the 1948 Marshalling Instructions the most likely train would probably be the 14.50 from Penzance which gradually collected traffic from the various Cornish branches plus off trips from local mainline stations.  Traffic to the GE section of the Eastern Region would go forward on the 02.35 Acton - Temple Mills (although the connection for the GN section at Ferme Park didn't leave Acton until 12.07).   The wagon would certainly have made Temple Mills by 04.00 so it should be in time for a likely morning train serving Colchester and be there for unloading later that day.  Cambridge would also probably have been served by a morning train from Temple Mills so the wagon would also be there the day after it left Cornwall. (known as Day B arrival - Day A being the day on which the wagon was despatched).

 

If the wagon was loaded too late to catch the 12.50 Penzance it would finish up being cleared out of Cornwall to Tavistock Jcn in the afternoon to go forward on the 00.45 Tavistock Jcn to Hanwell Bridge with Acton traffic being worked forward under Control arrangements.  That would mean a later forward connection across the the Eastern which would inevitably end up giving a day C arrival at destination.

 

If it was less than a full wagonload what happened to it would depend very much on date and volume of traffic but it would either have gone to Paddington to transfer for a wagon through to destination or to Bishopsgate Goods on the GE for reloading to a wagon for final destination.  This wagon would be more likely to end up on the 00.45 ex Tavistock Jcn meaning a much longer overall transit especially with the need for intermediate transfer.  this sort of intermediate transj hipping was a regular feature of goods small (i.e. consignment less that 1 ton) traffic and was very exopensive to handle gradually becoming a major loss maker.  But a lot of rationalisation in the late 1950s and 1960s did reduce costs and very often on some flows could actually reduce transit times giving reliable B Day C arrivals fora. lot of traffic and even managing Day B in some cases.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
  • Informative/Useful 7
Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, jim.snowdon said:

The BTF film "Fully Fitted Freight" is worth watching to see something of this process in action.

 

Jim

Modern technology has brought many benefits but on watching that footage, there's a tremendous helping of nostalgia which for some inexplicable reason tends to have a very calming effect; and it's not just the trains!

  • Like 1
  • Agree 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

  There were regular cross-London trips between Acton and various ER yards (all worked by Eastern engines as it happens)

 

So what sorts of motive power are we talking - Hall and Castle equivalents like B1s and B2s?

 

Moguls like K1s and K5s?

 

or big tanks like the L1 or Q1s?

Edited by M.I.B
Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

If it was a full wagonload it would have gone Cornwall to possibly a yard further east (Tavistock Jcn usually) or  on a through Paddington train but in either case to Acton.  There were regular cross-London trips between Acton and various ER yards (all worked by Eastern engines as it happens) so it could have gone over to either the GN or GE - probably the latter for Cambridge and definitely the latter for Colchester.  

 

Transit from Cornwall to Acton would be in the afternoon - for example  using the 1948 Marshalling Instructions the most likely train would probably be the 14.50 from Penzance which gradually collected traffic from the various Cornish branches plus off trips from local mainline stations.  Traffic to the GE section of the Eastern Region would go forward on the 02.35 Acton - Temple Mills (although the connection for the GN section at Ferme Park didn't leave Acton until 12.07).   The wagon would certainly have made Temple Mills by 04.00 so it should be in time for a likely morning train serving Colchester and be there for unloading later that day.  Cambridge would also probably have been served by a morning train from Temple Mills so the wagon would also be there the day after it left Cornwall. (known as Day B arrival - Day A being the day on which the wagon was despatched).

 

If the wagon was loaded too late to catch the 12.50 Penzance it would finish up being cleared out of Cornwall to Tavistock Jcn in the afternoon to go forward on the 00.45 Tavistock Jcn to Hanwell Bridge with Acton traffic being worked forward under Control arrangements.  That would mean a later forward connection across the the Eastern which would inevitably end up giving a day C arrival at destination.

 

If it was less than a full wagonload what happened to it would depend very much on date and volume of traffic but it would either have gone to Paddington to transfer for a wagon through to destination or to Bishopsgate Goods on the GE for reloading to a wagon for final destination.  This wagon would be more likely to end up on the 00.45 ex Tavistock Jcn meaning a much longer overall transit especially with the need for intermediate transfer.  this sort of intermediate transj hipping was a regular feature of goods small (i.e. consignment less that 1 ton) traffic and was very exopensive to handle gradually becoming a major loss maker.  But a lot of rationalisation in the late 1950s and 1960s did reduce costs and very often on some flows could actually reduce transit times giving reliable B Day C arrivals fora. lot of traffic and even managing Day B in some cases.

 

All true, but the reliance on Control arrangements for individual wagons (or often a string) between companies and then Regions, was imperfect, to say the least. That continued into TOPS days, and I was often at the end of an irate phone call from customers on the SED, before Region took all that contact over.

Link to post
Share on other sites
50 minutes ago, M.I.B said:

 

So what sorts of motive power are we talking - Hall and Castle equivalents like B1s and B2s?

 

Moguls like K1s and K5s?

 

or big tanks like the L1 or Q1s?

For the cross-London stretch on the North London?   Mostly 0-6-0T locos such as Panniers, J50s, Jinties and the like.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, The Johnster said:

For the cross-London stretch on the North London?   Mostly 0-6-0T locos such as Panniers, J50s, Jinties and the like.  

The LSWR introduced the Pacific tanks for this traffic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LSWR_H16_class

They worked into the early 1960s. I do remember being at a school sports ground near Hendon when a memorable 4F tender loco 44441 went by. By the mid 60s diesels were operating - Class 15s https://PaulBartlett.zenfolio.com/brmainlineloco/e52ba6618, Class 20s, the class 24s https://PaulBartlett.zenfolio.com/class2425/e5f8a4356  https://PaulBartlett.zenfolio.com/class2425/e5f8a4fa6  even electro-diesels https://PaulBartlett.zenfolio.com/brmainlineloco/e6de78c4

 

Paul

  • Agree 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • RMweb Gold
3 hours ago, Mike Storey said:

 

All true, but the reliance on Control arrangements for individual wagons (or often a string) between companies and then Regions, was imperfect, to say the least. That continued into TOPS days, and I was often at the end of an irate phone call from customers on the SED, before Region took all that contact over.

But Acton to/from the GE was not by Control arrangement as there was a considerable service of booked freights.  For example in the 1948 STT there were 7 booked freights daily each way between Temple Mills and Acton (plus two others if required) and even 5 between midnight and 07,00 on a Sunday morning.  there were also booked services to/from Channelsea, Stratford, Devons Road, Plaistow, Ferme Park, Clarence Yard, Cricklewood, Brent, and Willesden plus the various booked trains to & from Victoria Docks and Poplar.

 

Don't forget that up until the mid 1950s and the consequences of the big ASLE&F strike in 1955  there was very little change to freight services and they were the Railway's bread and butter with considerable attention being paid to running connections as booked.  The severe rationalisation that started in the mid-late 1950s then ran forwards as a continuous series of reductions both in services and in manpower at yards, terminals, and Control Offices (of which there were quite a few more back then).   But even in the early 1960s Stratford's various new, and not necessarily successful, Type 1 diesels were a regular sight at Acton after they had replaced steam.

 

A lot of the steam working over the North London to/from the WR was small tank engines and 0-6-0s although larger engines were used by the SR on trips over the West London Line to/from Old Oak Common (Acton marshalled traffic to/from the North London Line, Old Oak Common marshalled the connecting traffic to from the SR yards via the West London Line.

2 hours ago, 31A said:

East Anglia was also connected to the LM and W Regions by through freights vis the Cambridge-Bletchley-Oxford line.  Usually Class 5 LM locos.

 

In the 1948 STT there were two Cambridge services which started from Yarnton (LMR) yard and which conveyed goods traffic but they would have been well off route for a wagon originating in Cornwall.

  • Thanks 1
  • Informative/Useful 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

But Acton to/from the GE was not by Control arrangement as there was a considerable service of booked freights.  For example in the 1948 STT there were 7 booked freights daily each way between Temple Mills and Acton (plus two others if required) and even 5 between midnight and 07,00 on a Sunday morning.  there were also booked services to/from Channelsea, Stratford, Devons Road, Plaistow, Ferme Park, Clarence Yard, Cricklewood, Brent, and Willesden plus the various booked trains to & from Victoria Docks and Poplar.

 

Don't forget that up until the mid 1950s and the consequences of the big ASLE&F strike in 1955  there was very little change to freight services and they were the Railway's bread and butter with considerable attention being paid to running connections as booked.  The severe rationalisation that started in the mid-late 1950s then ran forwards as a continuous series of reductions both in services and in manpower at yards, terminals, and Control Offices (of which there were quite a few more back then).   But even in the early 1960s Stratford's various new, and not necessarily successful, Type 1 diesels were a regular sight at Acton after they had replaced steam.

 

A lot of the steam working over the North London to/from the WR was small tank engines and 0-6-0s although larger engines were used by the SR on trips over the West London Line to/from Old Oak Common (Acton marshalled traffic to/from the North London Line, Old Oak Common marshalled the connecting traffic to from the SR yards via the West London Line.

In the 1948 STT there were two Cambridge services which started from Yarnton (LMR) yard and which conveyed goods traffic but they would have been well off route for a wagon originating in Cornwall.

 

I completely accept all that. My own recollections and tales from others I worked with obviously related to the late fifties, through the sixties, onwards.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • RMweb Gold
19 hours ago, Mike Storey said:

 

All true, but the reliance on Control arrangements for individual wagons (or often a string) between companies and then Regions, was imperfect, to say the least. That continued into TOPS days, and I was often at the end of an irate phone call from customers on the SED, before Region took all that contact over.

Yes but Hanwell Bridge to Acton Yard wasn't (and since I had it put back - isn't)  as it's only 3 miles and back in those days Hanwell Bridge had 15 hours of pilot coverage which clearly had plenty of time for trips with only 3 or 4 sidings to shunt.   Plus it was all under one Control Office which, together with the shift supervisors at acton were well used to working forward to Acton trains put off at Hanwell Bridge and West Ealing which both served as refuge points when Acton's reception roads were busy and the traffic was fully segregated on so shunting was simple.  Not really comparable with the sort of world we were working in by the 1970s when although we still had proper segregations on freights for marshalling purposes the whole situation regarding connections was far more fluid and we had considerably fewer resources at our disposal.   Although we had much less traffic of course - in the early 1970s we regarded one yard where I worked as 'busy' if we handled over 6,000 wagons a week.  Margam hump yard had been designed to sort 4,500 wagons a day and it wasn't the busiest of the hump yards on BR

 

Going forward from Acton to Temple Mills was simple - traffic was simply shunted onto the next trip being made up so no need for any Control involvement except to put on a Byrag (by arrangement) etc to prevent traffic being forwarded if the yard was too busy.

Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

 

In the 1948 STT there were two Cambridge services which started from Yarnton (LMR) yard and which conveyed goods traffic but they would have been well off route for a wagon originating in Cornwall.

 

I don't have access to WTTs, but suspect that the trains I'm thinking of were introduced by BR.  Indeed in "Oxford to Cambridge Railway", Vol. 1 Bill Simpson says that a new week day express freight was introduced in 1956 between Ipswich and Cardiff via Cambridge leaving Ipswich at 7.10pm often behind a K3 or J39 and handing over to the WR at Yarnton at 1.30am.  In "Cambridge Station - its development and operation as a rail centre" (Rob Shorland-Ball) a chapter is devoted to traffic surveys carried out by members of the Cambridge University Railway Club, and includes as an extract from the survey of 27.10.1961 a table giving "Up starting freights from Cambridge".  This lists a 1924 Ipswich-Cardiff via Cambridge and the LNW line, which on that day left Cambridge 30 minutes late at 2235 behind K3 61801 and comprised "German vans, vans, containers; 19 for Cardiff, 1 Severn Tunnel Junction, 29 Bristol".  I don't recall seeing that one (I would have been well tucked up in bed by then) but remember seeing what was probably the opposite working, but only remember seeing Black 5s on it (but am probably thinking of a few years later).

  • Informative/Useful 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

Yes but Hanwell Bridge to Acton Yard wasn't (and since I had it put back - isn't)  as it's only 3 miles and back in those days Hanwell Bridge had 15 hours of pilot coverage which clearly had plenty of time for trips with only 3 or 4 sidings to shunt.   Plus it was all under one Control Office which, together with the shift supervisors at acton were well used to working forward to Acton trains put off at Hanwell Bridge and West Ealing which both served as refuge points when Acton's reception roads were busy and the traffic was fully segregated on so shunting was simple.  Not really comparable with the sort of world we were working in by the 1970s when although we still had proper segregations on freights for marshalling purposes the whole situation regarding connections was far more fluid and we had considerably fewer resources at our disposal.   Although we had much less traffic of course - in the early 1970s we regarded one yard where I worked as 'busy' if we handled over 6,000 wagons a week.  Margam hump yard had been designed to sort 4,500 wagons a day and it wasn't the busiest of the hump yards on BR

 

Going forward from Acton to Temple Mills was simple - traffic was simply shunted onto the next trip being made up so no need for any Control involvement except to put on a Byrag (by arrangement) etc to prevent traffic being forwarded if the yard was too busy.

 

So good you answered it twice?

 

But on the last item, that was the cause of many of my problems. We were crying out for empties (primarily BDA's and SPA's, but also bogie POA's, car flats, Autics, Cartics and, occasionally vans) but these were often the lowest priority on trips (probably rightly overall), and that meant screaming customers my end!! Fortunately, Region took over most of that official customer contact role as time went on, but at the sharp end, we got the uncensored version of their thoughts on the matter. The direct trips from Willesden and Acton, and occasional moves of car wagons from Dover, helped cut out the frequent log jams at Hoo, but not entirely.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • RMweb Gold
14 hours ago, Mike Storey said:

 

So good you answered it twice?

 

But on the last item, that was the cause of many of my problems. We were crying out for empties (primarily BDA's and SPA's, but also bogie POA's, car flats, Autics, Cartics and, occasionally vans) but these were often the lowest priority on trips (probably rightly overall), and that meant screaming customers my end!! Fortunately, Region took over most of that official customer contact role as time went on, but at the sharp end, we got the uncensored version of their thoughts on the matter. The direct trips from Willesden and Acton, and occasional moves of car wagons from Dover, helped cut out the frequent log jams at Hoo, but not entirely.

I quite agree in later years.  Even in TOPS days getting back wagons from our stone sets which had been marked-off on the SR in particular wasn't always easy and the best way of doing it was to get our traincrew to make sure they had a nice friendly chart with the Shunter at the other end as supposedly official channels either took forever or didn't work at all (until I took over the freight Control Offices on both Regions - or rather what had been the two Regions - after sectorisation came in;  then any problems with either Control and I was a single point of contact for both).

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • RMweb Gold

In the '60s, as the traffic ebbed away to road, some of the Cross-London trips suddenly got sexy names! It gave the freight sales reps something "New" to sell, for which they had printed glossy leaflets to offer customers. The two I knew in 1967 were the 13.01 Brighton - Temple Mills "North East Freighter" and 15.35 Norwood - Willesden "Midlands Merseyman". These two interchanged traffic at Streatham Common en route. I think there might have been a Solent Freighter or similar from Southampton. 

 

MIke Storey mentions shortages of empties. Back in 1974 I was required to write a Training Report for Cedric (Mike knew him well) about poor supply of empties for an internal SED service, gypsum from Mountfield to Belvedere, I think. The required vehicles were minfits, which of course were also wanted for use up country to refill with coal. So if the Region was under the cosh from Board HQ to deliver a pool payment, Divisions were required to send whatever they had. So the empty minfits coming back from Crabtree Sidings would get as far as Tonbridge - and be snaffled for something Cross-London. Failure to provide the customer with the wagons he needs does rather pull the rug from under an otherwise profitable and viable service. 

  • Like 2
  • Informative/Useful 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Oldddudders said:

In the '60s, as the traffic ebbed away to road, some of the Cross-London trips suddenly got sexy names! It gave the freight sales reps something "New" to sell, for which they had printed glossy leaflets to offer customers. The two I knew in 1967 were the 13.01 Brighton - Temple Mills "North East Freighter" and 15.35 Norwood - Willesden "Midlands Merseyman". These two interchanged traffic at Streatham Common en route. I think there might have been a Solent Freighter or similar from Southampton. 

 

MIke Storey mentions shortages of empties. Back in 1974 I was required to write a Training Report for Cedric (Mike knew him well) about poor supply of empties for an internal SED service, gypsum from Mountfield to Belvedere, I think. The required vehicles were minfits, which of course were also wanted for use up country to refill with coal. So if the Region was under the cosh from Board HQ to deliver a pool payment, Divisions were required to send whatever they had. So the empty minfits coming back from Crabtree Sidings would get as far as Tonbridge - and be snaffled for something Cross-London. Failure to provide the customer with the wagons he needs does rather pull the rug from under an otherwise profitable and viable service. 

 

Ah, Cedric! Did the report go over his head?

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.