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Identification of cement wagons carrying Sulfacrete from 1987 to 1990


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A bit of a long shot this one but here goes

 

From 1984 to 1990 Swanscombe in Kent produced sulphate resisting clinker, otherwise known as Sulfacrete. Information on www.cementkilns.co.uk states that

 

"concrete exposed to sulfate solutions would sometimes deteriorate by expansion, causing spalling of the surface, and eventually exposing the reinforcement, followed by rapid failure. Typically, this would take place in foundations exposed to sulfate-rich ground waters, or some marine structures....Specially formulated SRPC clinkers have often been used as a basis for Oilwell Cement, used for sealing the linings in oilwells."

 

Cement wagons were sent on an as required basis from Swanscombe to Aberdeen in Speedlink services (as well as the daily Oxwellmains to Aberdeen service) and it would seem logical that this was to transport Sulfacrete for use in the North Sea oil industry.

 

Photos taken by Huw Millington show cement wagons at Hoo Junction with Sulfacrete boards in July 1987.

po-09122-apcm-PCA-Hoo Junction-1987-07

 

po-09226-apcm-PCA-Hoo Junction-1987-07

 

The problem I have is that there seem to be no photos taken after 1987 showing these boards. In addition, there is a photo in Branchlines & Byways - Scotland by Michael Rhodes of Aberdeen Guild Street yard showing six Metalair cement wagons in July 1988. Now the Oxwellmains traffic went to Craiginches Cement Terminal and Metalair wagons were not used out of Oxwellmains at that time. Therefore it is possible that the Metalair wagons were carrying Sulfacrete from Swanscombe but I have never seen a photo of a Metalair wagon with Sulfacrete boards.

 

Basically I want to know whether to put Sulfacrete boards on six of my wagons.

So:

1. Were sulfacrete wagons usually dedicated to that task or could any cement wagon at Swanscombe be used? Paul Bartlett's photo of APCM9226 shows a whole year between two photos with these boards but that might just be coincidence.

 

2. Did the small yellow boards stating Sulfacrete continue to be used after mid 1987?

 

3. If not, were they identified in a different way on the wagon (unloading instructions, a card/plate on the solebar)?

 

4. If not visually stated on the wagon, as the load would have to be kept separate from normal cement would this be stated on TOPS for BR staff purposes so they knew where to stable the vehicle and who to contact when it arrived?

 

Many thanks in advance for any information which may help.

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I only noticed/photographed the boards (and those for “Coarse Ground”) from about 1985 (edit: 1983) despite living in Kent cement country, e.g. photo here of an STS one:

https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/154212-accurascale-pca-sts-wagons/&do=findComment&comment=3508802

Unfortunately I moved away in 86, so I’d be interested to know. 

 

Edit: Sulfacrete I think on these at Strood in November 1983:

42115293_N25_0027crop.jpg.a0cdb5973a229c1a923df00e1ddbf178.jpg744199796_N25_002733210Strood.jpg.df352e085b280edf3ad0f257bc26cce5.jpg

Edited by eastwestdivide
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47 minutes ago, eastwestdivide said:

I only noticed/photographed the boards (and those for “Coarse Ground”) from about 1985 (edit: 1983) despite living in Kent cement country,

 

Edit: Sulfacrete I think on these at Strood in November 1983:

 

The cementkilns site stated that Holborough closed in 1984 and that Swanscombe took over the Sulfacrete production. This may well have occurred in 1983 which would match your photograph.

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With a two blanks headcode I’d guess that photo was a Holborough (Snodland) to Hoo Jn trip working. I’ll have another scratch around for photos, but post-86 would be unlikely in my collection.

Edited by eastwestdivide
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7 hours ago, Flood said:

A bit of a long shot this one but here goes

 

From 1984 to 1990 Swanscombe in Kent produced sulphate resisting clinker, otherwise known as Sulfacrete. Information on www.cementkilns.co.uk states that

 

"

 

 

 

 

Basically I want to know whether to put Sulfacrete boards on six of my wagons.

So:

1. Were sulfacrete wagons usually dedicated to that task or could any cement wagon at Swanscombe be used? Paul Bartlett's photo of APCM9226 shows a whole year between two photos with these boards but that might just be coincidence.

 

 

 

4. If not visually stated on the wagon, as the load would have to be kept separate from normal cement would this be stated on TOPS for BR staff purposes so they knew where to stable the vehicle and who to contact when it arrived?

 

Many thanks in advance for any information which may help.

I'm trying to think back to my TOPS days 1978-85. We in Bristol TOPS had no local cement works, so did not carry out  TOPS loaded release inputs for cement traffic. It was possible to use a six character field to input information in addition to the consignee. For example with coal traffic the grade of anthracite could be described as 'grains' or 'beans'. 

I seem to remember that in the regular Westbury to Lawrence Hill cement traffic flow there were sometimes wagons additionally identified as conveying a different category of cement, possibly Sulfacrete.

Edit - thinking about it, the other brand of cement from Blue Circle at Westbury that was identified on TOPS might have been Snowcrete. 

 

cheers

Edited by Rivercider
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6 hours ago, Flood said:

 

Basically I want to know whether to put Sulfacrete boards on six of my wagons.

So:

4. If not visually stated on the wagon, as the load would have to be kept separate from normal cement would this be stated on TOPS for BR staff purposes so they knew where to stable the vehicle and who to contact when it arrived?

 

Many thanks in advance for any information which may help.

There would almost certainly have been a specific TOPS Commodity Code for Sulfacrete so the wagon contents could be identified by anyone with access to the TOPS system or by looking at the printed train consist held by the driver / guard / travelling shunter, unfortunately I cannot locate a list of the various codes at present. With regard to the receiving terminal knowing what was in the wagons, they would probably have received advice internally within Blue Circle, either direct from the loading point or via their HQ rail planner/s based at Portland House in London.

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2 hours ago, eastwestdivide said:

With a two blanks headcode I’d guess that photo was a Holborough (Snodland) to Hoo Jn trip working. I’ll have another scratch around for photos, but post-86 would be unlikely in my collection.

Correct, 6T44 1035 (SX) Holborough Sdgs to Hoo Jn, headcode should have been 4G, this was the return working of the 6T43 0905 (SX) Hoo Jn to Holborough Sdgs, which also served the RPC Sdgs at Halling, and could therefore convey traffic from both Rugby Cement and Blue Circle for onward movement via the Speedlink network.

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It's beginning to look like the need for signage on the wagons was unnecessary as TOPS had all the information required.

 

I reckon I'll still choose wagons which previously had Sulfacrete boards (remove any chance of contamination) but not bother with the little boards themselves.

 

If anyone else has more info than that would be great but in the meantime many thanks to eastwestdivide, Rivercider and SED Freightman for their help.

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I have a copy of the TOPS ALPHABETIC LOCATION HANDBOOK AND WAGON FORWARDING GUIDE BR 2489/6

issued December 1978.

Cement traffic came under Building Materials, the relevant commodity codes for cement traffic at the time were.

Cement clinker     code 606  BMCMCL

Cement (in bags)  code 605  BMCMBG

Cement (in bulk)   code 604  BMCMBL.

Note there was no code for any specific brand of bulk cement at that time.

 

I know many of the TOPS commodity codes altered over the years so perhaps an additional code was introduced,

there were additional codes introduced to cater for grades of scrap traffic for example. 

 

I have a handful of wagon enquiry printouts, but sadly none include the additional 6 character additional information that could be input in addition to the nine character consignee information, so I can't illustrate what I mean.

 

cheers

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I have now had the opportunity to speak to a former Hoo Jn TOPS clerk who confirmed that as far as he could remember the TOPS Commodity Codes were as described by Rivercider and that the Aberdeen traffic from Swanscombe was coded 604 / BMCMBL, he does not recall any specific code for Sulfacrete although it was a long time ago.  Futher to my earlier comments it now looks unlikely that the traffic was allocated a specific TOPS Commodity Code and therefore the receiving terminal must have relied on information passed via Blue Circle internal communications in the absence of the wagon signage.  One other thought that occured to me was that perhaps the wagons used were in a designated pool only to be used for Sulfacrete, although this appears at odds with the wagons in photographed at Hoo Jn in 1987.

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On 10/11/2020 at 12:29, SED Freightman said:

... One other thought that occured to me was that perhaps the wagons used were in a designated pool only to be used for Sulfacrete, although this appears at odds with the wagons in photographed at Hoo Jn in 1987.

Cement wagons for Northfleet would also have been stabled at Hoo Junction so once the boards were removed it would be impossible to tell visually which were due to go to/from Swanscombe or Northfleet.

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18 hours ago, Flood said:

Cement wagons for Northfleet would also have been stabled at Hoo Junction so once the boards were removed it would be impossible to tell visually which were due to go to/from Swanscombe or Northfleet.

I may be wrong (again) but wagons for Northfleet would not usually be seen at Hoo Jn. Northfleet dealt primarily with block trains which accessed the site directly from the Dartford direction, any odd Northfleet wagons at Hoo Jn would have most likely been going to or from repairs, although even these tended to be carried out in the Northfleet wagon repair sdgs.

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