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Fish traffic, EC versus WC routes?


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Am I correct in assuming that fish traffic from Scotland favoured the EC route to London because it was quicker?  Manchester Victoria certainly had a fish dock, adjacent to the Bury line platforms and now the arena carpark(not the multi story). So what fish traffic did other railways have ?

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The LYR and LNWR had a joint line to Fleetwood, a major fishing port on the Irish sea. A LNWR fish-train used to arrive in London in the late evening, passing over the Metropolitan Widened Lines to Cannon Street, that station being a hub for perishable traffic and handy for Billingsgate. The LNWR had open fish trucks and later some fish vans, all painted in their lined, NPCS livery. The LYR had some elegant, louvred fish-vans that were at one time painted a light green and later in a white livery.

 

There were WCJS fish-vans, suggesting that some Scottish fish came down the WCML. If the only source of fish traffic for the WCML was Fleetwood, then the LNWR's wholly-owned vans would have been used. Possibly the WCML was a shorter journey for fish from the west coast of Scotland. 

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Only if the port was served by the LNER. If it was served by the LMS it would go down the left hand side. The NBR built the West Highland Line mainly for the seafood traffic. Not necessarily fish but shellfish.

 

I would have thought that places like Manchester would get most of their fish from places like Fleetwood rather than Scotland.

 

Likewise GWR and SR had the Cornish, Devon and South Coast ports.

 

 

Jason

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Ahrons: "An old friend of mine wrote a letter many years ago to one of the technical journals to the following effect:

  1. London and North Western Railway, Tebay dep. 9.48, Preston arr. 10.55, 53 miles, speed 47.4 mph
  2. London Brighton and South Coast Railway, London dep. 5.0, Brighton arr. 6.05, 50.5 miles, speed 46.6 mph.

The first is a fish and meat train from Carlisle to London, and the other is the fastest and most wonderful of the Brighton expresses, first class only at rather dear fares. Moral: it is better to be a dead mackerel on the North-Western than a first-class passenger on the London Brighton and South Coast... "

[E.L. Ahrons, Locomotive and Train Working in the Latter Part of the Nineteenth Century Vol. 5 (Heffer, 1953; reprinted from Railway Magazine, 1919).]

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It would depend on if you are specifically considering the London traffic. Each of the major cities in England would be served but the London traffic does seem to have favoured the east coast route. You have to remember that Aberdeen was served by the Caledonian and the NB for southbound fish. The split would naturally favour their normal partners (caledonian  to the west and NB to the east) but the NB, via the Waverley Route to Carlisle, could actually reach both. After the grouping the Great North of Scotland traffic would be more closely linked to the east coast route. That would bring in vast quantities of fish from Fraserburgh and Peterhead. Peterhead to this day still lands more fish than all the other UK ports put together. When you take the LNER traffic (ex GNSR plus ex NB) you can see why the majority of the loads went by the east coast route. 

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3 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

Ahrons: "An old friend of mine wrote a letter many years ago to one of the technical journals to the following effect:

  1. London and North Western Railway, Tebay dep. 9.48, Preston arr. 10.55, 53 miles, speed 47.4 mph
  2. London Brighton and South Coast Railway, London dep. 5.0, Brighton arr. 6.05, 50.5 miles, speed 46.6 mph.

The first is a fish and meat train from Carlisle to London, and the other is the fastest and most wonderful of the Brighton expresses, first class only at rather dear fares. Moral: it is better to be a dead mackerel on the North-Western than a first-class passenger on the London Brighton and South Coast... "

[E.L. Ahrons, Locomotive and Train Working in the Latter Part of the Nineteenth Century Vol. 5 (Heffer, 1953; reprinted from Railway Magazine, 1919).]

 

Funny, although he does totally miss the point that, due to their nature, perishables trains, and fish in particular, usually had priority as expresses.

I've a 1960 Freight Trains WTT for the NE Region Main Line, the Aberdeen - KGX Fish have the instruction;

"Takes precedence over all trains except East Coast passenger trains"

So, even had priority over passenger trains other than the East Coast expresses, and the East Coast fish were, famously, regularly afforded 'Pacific' haulage.

The Aberdeen - KGX Meat also had the same instruction.

 

On the topic of traffic levels, there was two daily Aberdeen - KGX fish trains.

 

From a previous post, I note the LNW were carrying fish in open trucks. This presumably ensured no signalman would keep them hanging around at his box

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I believe historically Aberdeen was the premier Scottish fishing port with miles of fish quays right by the main passenger station, even today crossing the road outside the station you can see Oil rig tenders tied up at the Quays less than a block away.  

The NER used double headed Atlantics on the Aberdeen fish on occasions.  K3s then V2s and following the post war steaming problems with V2s, Pacifics were drafted in even A4s.   The V2 tested at Swindon post war was an abysmal steamer, worse than a Std 4MT.   Pre 1935 they may very well have been the fastest trains on the ECML per se.  There must have been seasonal fish traffic flows as the Herring Shoals in particular moved around the British Isles.  The West Highland/ Mallaig and  Highland  lines had processions of fish trans at certain seasons of the year.   There are photos of a Grimsby Fish train on the South Devon main line.   The Grimsby trains initially used the Great Central line to London and the link to the GW Via Banbury for Swindon and the west. 

Presumably Grimsby services would also have served Manchester etc via Woodhead.  West Wales also had fish trains "Trawl Fish" Neyand / Milford Haven? to London which must have passed the Grimsby Devon services in opposite direction between Wotton Bassett and Didcot

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5 hours ago, Ken.W said:

From a previous post, I note the LNW were carrying fish in open trucks. This presumably ensured no signalman would keep them hanging around at his box

 

Open fish trucks were common in the 19th century - the North Eastern and Midland had them in addition to the LNWR; the other main northern companies too, I presume. Also trucks for the carriage of live fish in tanks - the Midland and Great Central had these, photographic evidence shows they were used for traffic from Grimsby, posiibly elsewhere - though these went out as refrigeration (i.e. vans cooled by reservoirs of ice) became more widespread. All these vehicles, together with covered fish trucks or vans, were NCPS - i.e. given passenger stock running gear; the Midland vehicles were marked To be used for Passenger Train Traffic only.

 

One issue that may have influenced the preferred route for fish traffic to London was ease of access to Billingsgate, as @Guy Rixon has mentioned. Fish traffic has been discussed previously, along with the packing of fish in the pre-Grouping period and later:

 

 

 

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I've seen photos of Kyle  and Inverness with a surprisingly large ratio  of GW wagons, suggesting fish traffic went down there. 

 

Certainly at Stromeferry on the Kyle line,  on the 3rd of June 1883, there were disturbances when the sabbatarians tried to stop Sunday unloading of fish ( Inc shellfish)  from the Hebrides. This stopped the fish meeting the London train at Inverness. 

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4 hours ago, DavidCBroad said:

I believe historically Aberdeen was the premier Scottish fishing port with miles of fish quays right by the main passenger station, even today crossing the road outside the station you can see Oil rig tenders tied up at the Quays less than a block away.  

The NER used double headed Atlantics on the Aberdeen fish on occasions.  K3s then V2s and following the post war steaming problems with V2s, Pacifics were drafted in even A4s.   The V2 tested at Swindon post war was an abysmal steamer, worse than a Std 4MT.   Pre 1935 they may very well have been the fastest trains on the ECML per se.  There must have been seasonal fish traffic flows as the Herring Shoals in particular moved around the British Isles.  The West Highland/ Mallaig and  Highland  lines had processions of fish trans at certain seasons of the year.   There are photos of a Grimsby Fish train on the South Devon main line.   The Grimsby trains initially used the Great Central line to London and the link to the GW Via Banbury for Swindon and the west. 

Presumably Grimsby services would also have served Manchester etc via Woodhead.  West Wales also had fish trains "Trawl Fish" Neyand / Milford Haven? to London which must have passed the Grimsby Devon services in opposite direction between Wotton Bassett and Didcot

 

Seasonal trains for fleets following the herring migration: yes. At some parts of the year, there were apparently trains from the west to Grimsby.

 

Fish trains from Grimsby to the west via GCR and Banbury: yes, I think almost all the west-of-England traffic went that way, but not all the London traffic. The GNR also served Grimsby and some of the fish traffic.

 

It's worth bearing in mind that not all fish went by dedicated trains. Smaller ports could sent individual vans by passenger train. At some point in the distribution, fish was presumably travelling as parcels on passenger trains.

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19 minutes ago, Guy Rixon said:

It's worth bearing in mind that not all fish went by dedicated trains. Smaller ports could sent individual vans by passenger train. At some point in the distribution, fish was presumably travelling as parcels on passenger trains.

 

That is discussed in one of the threads linked above.

 

19 minutes ago, Guy Rixon said:

Seasonal trains for fleets following the herring migration: yes. At some parts of the year, there were apparently trains from the west to Grimsby.

 

The North Eastern's open fish trucks were, I understand, hired out to other companies as the seasonal demand varied - a couple are recorded in an accident on the LNWR North Wales line in the 1890s.

 

St Pancras, despite being a West End terminus, was used for fish traffic. There was an accident in 1894 in which an arriving Scotch Express ran into the buffers, having failed to stop owing to greasy rails, a fish train having previously been unloaded at the platform. The inspecting officer, Maj. Marindin, attributed the blame to the driver for failing to observe the instruction to reduce speed to "hand brake speed" before entering the station - no doubt true, the universal adoption of continuous brakes having rendered the rule obsolete in the eyes of drivers; Maj. Mandarin regarded this as a trifiling error, the real object of his ire being corporate negligence on the part of the Midland Railway. S.W. Johnson wrote a stinking letter, copied into the minutes of the Locomotive Committee (now in the National Archives) placing the blame squarely on the negligence of the traffic department in failing to have the rails sanded and swept - an act of negligence of which he had complained on previous occasions.

Edited by Compound2632
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46 minutes ago, Compound2632 said:

One issue that may have influenced the preferred route for fish traffic to London was ease of access to Billingsgate, as @Guy Rixon has mentioned.

I found, in the SECR's 1921 arrangements for parcels handling, another fish train to the South.  I can't remember if I've transcribed this before on another thread, but it's interesting enough to raise again here. Titled Through working of fish traffic --- GCR to SECR, LSWR and LBSCR its entry begins "The GNR will run a special train..."

 

The train goes by the Widened Lines and emerges at Ludgate Hill at midnight. It then explodes into portions for different destinations: some for LCDR stations go to Holborn Viaduct; some for SER stations (and one van for the London traffic) go to Cannon Street; LSWR bits go to Clapham; LBCSR vans go initially to Cannon Street and later to London bridge.

 

Note that this is the GCR's  premium traffic, but its passed to the Sarf on a GNR train. I don't know how far it's travelled  on the GNR; the SECR notes don't say.

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More on the LNWR working I mentioned above. In the 1921 working, it's down as Through working of fish traffic --- Fleetwood (Wyre Dock) (LNWR) to SECR and LBSCR, operates Mondays to Fridays "when there is sufficient traffic to justify the through working" and  uses the "9.30pm transfer train from Willesden to Holborn and Cannon Street", so is almost certainly traffic off the WCML.

 

This working includes vans for many SECR stations; it's not all, or even mostly, fish for central London. Destinations listed are as close as Woolwich Arsenal and as far as Dover.

 

There's a note about small consignments to stations that don't get their own van. These are loaded in the "Holborn and Cannon Street mixed vans" which go to Holborn Viaduct. Then, "after unloading their own traffic, [Holborn] to send vans to Cannon Street on 12.15am fish train from Ludgate Hill". This latter train is the GCR traffic forwarded by the GNR that I mentioned in an earlier post. Note that fish is taken off the train at Holborn Viaduct as well as Cannon Street. Perhaps those boxes go to Smithfield Market instead of Billingsgate?  

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While I have the 1921 document open, more on fish traffic across London. (If a thing's worth doing it's worth doing to excess.)

 

There was a flow from the GWR, noted as from "Milford Haven, Swansea, Penance, Fishguard etc.", to Folkestone Harbour via Reading, Redhill and Ashford. This was broken up at Reading by the SECR into cuts of one or two vans and distributed across a series or morning trains going east. The final destination of Folkestone Harbour is interesting. Was this fish for export, or was it just that the Folkestone fish-market was down in the harbour? This flow ran 7 days a week, with different loading restrictions on Sundays.

 

One fish flow that was explicit for export came from Plymouth (LSWR) via Clapham to Cannon Street and Holborn and then went on Folkestone Harbour for Boulogne.

 

Fish traffic from the Lowestoft and Yarmouth on the GER came under the river via the East London line to Hither Green sidings. Some of the vans were transferred to the LSWR and the rest worked up to Cannon Street, presumably for eventual forwarding on passenger trains. This was a new routing, due to come into operation slightly after the issue of the 1921 notice. The empty vans were worked from Southwark Street depot (between Charing Cross and Cannon Street) to Hither Green before the GER fetched them. The detail of the notice makes clear that the vans were empty on arrival at Southwark Street and were simply parked there until they could get to Hither Green. This is interesting, as Southwark Street was a minute depot with almost no standage. One presume that it otherwise stood empty during the middle of the day.

 

Finally, fish was moved from Whitstable Bay to London. This was internal the SECR, but it gets a special not in the Parcels instructions because some vans were transferred from the South Eastern to the Chatham section.

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Point to remember - different ports fished for different types of fish, so eg cod from the Grand Banks wasn't necessarily landed at the same port as herring from the North Sea, or mackerel and pilchards from Cornish ports. I seem to remember Hull was mostly trawlers (cod, haddock and other deep water and bottom dwelling fish), and Grimsby more drifters (near surface fish like herring). So, rather like different grades of coal, you might have the, on the face of it bizarre, situation of fish being brought into an area famous for fishing (albeit in smaller quantities). And of course the South eats cod; the North notoriously favours haddock, so you might need some shuggling around of supplies. This is why Billingsgate was a market for much more than just London demand - a proportion of the fish that came up to Town went back out again. Although I guess if someone in Mallaig really wanted Dover sole this probably went as a parcel, not in an Insulfish; similarly salmon, when it was wild, seasonal and as dear as prime beef, not today's farmed, flabby and cheaper than chips version. As noted above re herring, some fishing was seasonal.

 

Irrelevant aside - why don't we eat hake in this country?

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  • 7 months later...
On 19/06/2020 at 23:15, sulzer27jd said:

It would depend on if you are specifically considering the London traffic. Each of the major cities in England would be served but the London traffic does seem to have favoured the east coast route. You have to remember that Aberdeen was served by the Caledonian and the NB for southbound fish. The split would naturally favour their normal partners (caledonian  to the west and NB to the east) but the NB, via the Waverley Route to Carlisle, could actually reach both. After the grouping the Great North of Scotland traffic would be more closely linked to the east coast route. That would bring in vast quantities of fish from Fraserburgh and Peterhead. Peterhead to this day still lands more fish than all the other UK ports put together. When you take the LNER traffic (ex GNSR plus ex NB) you can see why the majority of the loads went by the east coast route. 

Just an addition....Also the SR/ Southern Region at places like Brighton /Hastings/ Folkestone and Dover were served by fish vehicles coming across on Kings Cross to London Bridge  and Kings Cross- Victoria ( via the Widened Lines and Snow Hill ) freight services.. Also at the same time, late ,50s a regular weekend working ( one van ) from Grimsby with fish for Paris too.  A lot of fish was transported around the country , like 'taking coals to Newcastle' , as species varied in different parts of the UK coastal waters . 

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On 20/06/2020 at 04:38, The Border Reiver said:

There were two southbound fish trains through Carlisle in the 1950s and early 1960s. The first was around 2140 and the second one followed around 10 minutes later just before the Condor came through. I remember one always had Palethorpe Pork Sausages wagon(s).


Just out of interest - did they use the goods lines, or did they run through Citadel?

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4 hours ago, Michael Hodgson said:

Not just Scottish fish for London.  I remember seeing crates of fish caught in the Wye being loaded onto express passenger Fishguard - Paddington service for Billingsgate at Chepstow in the 1960s.

 

Or, indeed, fish landed at Grimsby - which I think gave the ex-GCR route a slice of the action? (Or at least, did in GCR days.)

 

One shouldn't overlook the consumption of fish elsewhere than in London.

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58 minutes ago, Compound2632 said:

 

Or, indeed, fish landed at Grimsby - which I think gave the ex-GCR route a slice of the action? (Or at least, did in GCR days.)

 

One shouldn't overlook the consumption of fish elsewhere than in London.

 

I seem to remember thinking into the past when I had family living at Old Clipstone (Notts) in a cottage backing onto the line to Mansfield there used to be a daily fish train heading south probably heading for the GCR route. 

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1 hour ago, johnd said:

 

I seem to remember thinking into the past when I had family living at Old Clipstone (Notts) in a cottage backing onto the line to Mansfield there used to be a daily fish train heading south probably heading for the GCR route. 

 

Yep, used to be the highlight of the day in the latter days of the GC, early evening through New Basford. Immingham Britannia on the front and definitely not hanging around!

You could smell it for some time afterwards on a still summer evening.

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