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Courtesy of the MR Study Centre I have a 1922 Midland Railway WTT. This shows GCR trains passing through, which the WTT describes as either 'G.C. Class “A” Goods' or 'G.C. Class “B” Goods'.

 

Can anyone tell me what these labels mean? They don't appear to align with later classification systems.

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There have been numerous changes over the years in freight train classifications and the bell codes used to signal them, and the companies don't seem to have been consistent, though I suspect it would have been discussed at the Railway Clearing House from time to time.  The reason for classification and the changes would be to do with

  • urgency of some traffic such as livestock or perishable foodstuffs
  • the move from grease axles boxes to oil (you didn't want to run too far without stopping because of the risk of a hot box)
  • the gradual introduction of vacuum brakes on freight stock, as the extent to which the train had working brakes would affect how fast it was safe to allows it to run.  Length of trains and proportion fitted would affect ability to stop - so a train could safely go faster if it had a limited load or the first so many wagons were connection to the vacuum brake on the loco 

I don't know about the GCR, but some of the LNER constituent companies classified freight into

 

A Fish, Meat, Fruit Composed of freight stock, or Express freight

B Express Cattle or Express Freight (30 mph)

C Through Freight or Ballast Train (25 mph)

D Ordinary Freight Train stopping at intermediate stations

 

These would have carried different headlamp codes.  Trains composed of vehicles conforming to coaching stock requirements were given higher priority than those formed of ordinary goods stock. 

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Firstly, I don't know. I suspect @Crimson Rambler might be able to give chapter and verse.

 

Looking at the headcodes in Midland Style, in 1893-7 there were goods trains of Classes A, B, and C, the first two having the same code, a lamp at the base of the chimney and another over the starboard or right-hand-looking forward buffer (left hand from the point of view of someone about to be run down), while Class C had a lamp over each buffer only. In 1920, only Classes A an B are given, both with a lamp at the base of the chimney and then a lamp over the port buffer or the centre of the buffer beam, respectively - these were be RCH codes in use from 1 Feb 1903, as witnessed by Midland Railway Study Centre Item 26183

 

The Sharnbrook accident of 4 Feb 1909 involved a Manchester to London express goods train with 18 out of 25 vehicles with AVB (it's not stated if this was Class A; my impression is that it was a cut above) and a Bedford to Birmingham Class B goods train, which was reliant solely on the locomotive's steam brake and the guard's hand brake.

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I'm afraid @Compound2632 credits me with more knowledge than I possess on headcodes, so I think the best thing is for me to refer you all to part of an article that explains this in Midland Record.

 

The Manchester - London express goods that didn't get beyond Sharnbrook was hauled by a Class 2 4-4-0, so it was a Fitted Goods No. 2 - above an ordinary Class A fitted goods as Stephen has surmized. The latter class would be hauled normally by a goods engine - as it was on that fateful night.

 

574943220_FittedI.jpg.a2d6cfdaf7c4ef5ff6ec84fc5e8ea2a4.jpg

 

 

1723320264_FittedII.jpg.aad9d374cd365623ddffa48ea19cc35f.jpg

 

378316485_FittedIII.jpg.88e46d2192dd7f44a4e8e3f3557fdf1e.jpg

 

Regarding the 'G.C. Class “A” Goods' or 'G.C. Class “B” Goods' referred to by Nick Lawson, my interpretation (and it is only that) are that they are Great Central trains hauled by one of that company's engines running on the Midland system and their composition is equivalent to the Midland's Classes A and B.

 

 

Crimson Rambler

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Crimson Rambler said:

I'm afraid @Compound2632 credits me with more knowledge than I possess on headcodes, so I think the best thing is for me to refer you all to part of an article that explains this in Midland Record.

 

Not so. I was confident that you would know where to look for the information, whereas I had completely forgotten that fascinating article.

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1 hour ago, Crimson Rambler said:

just how please does one create the blue 'notification' thingy?

 

Type "@" and the first few characters of the username - a menu of possible members should pop up. Sometimes it doesn't, if one types too quickly for the speed of one's connection.

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11 hours ago, Crimson Rambler said:

Regarding the 'G.C. Class “A” Goods' or 'G.C. Class “B” Goods' referred to by Nick Lawson, my interpretation (and it is only that) are that they are Great Central trains hauled by one of that company's engines running on the Midland system and their composition is equivalent to the Midland's Classes A and B.

 

 

Crimson Rambler

 

 

Surely the Midland WTT or any other publication would only refer to trains that meet it's own classification of 'A' or 'B'? Anything else would only create confusion to it's own staff.

 

If a foreign operators train, DIDN'T meet the Midland's standards, then the train would be declassified downwards until it met a suitable Midland classification.

 

No doubt this was a key function of the RCH, to get a set of uniform standards for running, so that any railway would know what to expect, on taking over the running of the train over their tracks.

 

Would GCR locos only be allowed on M.R. metals, on approved routes with running rights, otherwise a M.R. locomotive and guards van, would be substituted?

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3 hours ago, kevinlms said:

No doubt this was a key function of the RCH, to get a set of uniform standards for running, so that any railway would know what to expect, on taking over the running of the train over their tracks.

 

I think that's implicit in the 1903 RCH headcodes, which were pretty universally adopted (Great Western anybody?), which, at least in the Midland document I quoted, refer to Class A and B goods trains.

 

3 hours ago, kevinlms said:

Would GCR locos only be allowed on M.R. metals, on approved routes with running rights, otherwise a M.R. locomotive and guards van, would be substituted?

 

Complete GC trains, loco and brake, would operate where the company was exercising running powers. There are plenty of instances of this. Way back, both the Midland and the Great Northern worked their own goods trains over the MS&L main line between Sheffield and Manchester; once the Dore & Totley line was opened, not only the Midland but also the Great Northern trains switched to that route, to the Great Central's loss in tolls. Whether the GN's switch was primarily due to the Dore & Totley being an easier road, or tit-for-tat with the Great Central over the loss of the Manchester expresses via Retford, I couldn't say. Another example is the Midland's goods trains between Manchester or Liverpool and Hellifield, over the Lancashire & Yorkshire.

 

I'm exploiting this sort of thing to run complete LNWR and GWR goods trains over my Midland line "somewhere in the tangle of lines in the West Midlands"!

 

Whether whole goods trains would be handed over from one company to another to continue their journey I doubt in general - more likely a train off a foreign line would be broken up and re-marshalled as it would contain wagons for various destinations on the home line. There are exceptions, such as the Midland's Bristol-London goods trains worked over the E&WJR / SMJR by that company's locomotives - initially the Midland tried working the trains with its own engines but they proved to heavy for the E&WJ's permanent way.

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1 hour ago, Compound2632 said:

 

Complete GC trains, loco and brake, would operate where the company was exercising running powers. There are plenty of instances of this. Way back, both the Midland and the Great Northern worked their own goods trains over the MS&L main line between Sheffield and Manchester; once the Dore & Totley line was opened, not only the Midland but also the Great Northern trains switched to that route, to the Great Central's loss in tolls. Whether the GN's switch was primarily due to the Dore & Totley being an easier road, or tit-for-tat with the Great Central over the loss of the Manchester expresses via Retford, I couldn't say. 

 

The last vestiges of the GN running powers over the Midland were still evident into the early 1950s. One evening ER freight from Deansgate (the former GN goods depot near to Manchester Central) to Colwich was still routed via the Midland route to Chinley rather than taking the Fallowfield loop and then heading east over Woodhead as the other ER freights off the CLC did.

 

Simon

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2 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

 

...

Complete GC trains, loco and brake, would operate where the company was exercising running powers. There are plenty of instances of this. Way back, both the Midland and the Great Northern worked their own goods trains over the MS&L main line between Sheffield and Manchester; once the Dore & Totley line was opened, not only the Midland but also the Great Northern trains switched to that route, to the Great Central's loss in tolls. Whether the GN's switch was primarily due to the Dore & Totley being an easier road, or tit-for-tat with the Great Central over the loss of the Manchester expresses via Retford, I couldn't say. Another example is the Midland's goods trains between Manchester or Liverpool and Hellifield, over the Lancashire & Yorkshire.

...

My understanding is that the GCR ditched the GNR when it opened the London extension forcing the GNR to make a different arrangement with the MR to gain access to Liverpool/Manchester. The GNR put in a short line connecting it to the MR in the Ripley area and ran its trains down the MR's Butterley branch to Ambergate and then over the Peaks to the CLC.

The GNR's passenger trains to London from Liverpool/Manchester were never really competitive end-to-end but they were a valuable source of traffic for intermediate stations. This value decreased after WW1 and the LNER withdrew them in the depression. It was the goods trains from Liverpool/Manchester that were the real prize and it was this that the GNR was after.

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3 hours ago, PenrithBeacon said:

The GNR's passenger trains to London from Liverpool/Manchester were never really competitive end-to-end but they were a valuable source of traffic for intermediate stations. 

 

I'm not sure that's true back in the day - it may look like a long way round but they ran fast - in the down direction, Ahrons gives the best timings for 1890 as 2 hrs from Kings Cross to Grantham - 105 miles - by the 2pm from KX (but fast running on the GN main line hardly calls for comment). There the MS&L engine came on, leaving at 4:04 pm, non-stop to Sheffield arr. 5:10pm - 57 miles. 58 minutes were allowed for the 41 miles to Manchester, giving just under 4¼ hours overall, 48 mph overall average speed. Sheffield was the only really significant intermediate stop. Grantham being purely for locomotive purposes. The Great Central route was a better proposition for intermediate traffic, going through Leicester and Nottingham.

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But not competitive to Liverpool, nor were they competitive to Manchester after Watkin spitefullly withdrew his support. The Midland couldn't really compete with the LNWR for Liverpool passenger traffic either but the prize for all was Liverpool's international freight not excluding Irish cattle. 

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Thank you all for your responses.
@Compound2632 for clarifying that class A was "fitted", and class B "unfitted". (For some reason I was guessing the other way round!)
@Crimson Rambler For the article expounding the MR's own sub categories of goods train. An interesting read!

  @kevinlms- and  all who weighed in on running rights - no I didn't say, but the WTT relates to the Swinton & Knottingley Joint Railway - a joint venture between the Midland and North Eastern companies. In order to get their Act of Parliament they had to give varied rights to the GC (MSLR back then); GN and L&Y. Yes this was the GC running their own goods trains (as described in MR terms) over the S &K from Wath Junction in the south as far as Milford  (on NER metals) to the north. (I believe they stopped at Milford Yard, rather than turning off the York line at Milford Junction.)

 

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The Midland Railway 1911 General Appendix lists all exceptions from MR headlamp codes for trains of other Railways (and Jointly owned Companies) running over MR lines.  There is nothing noted as an exception in respect of GCR trains indicating that they would have complied with the relevant MR headlamp code including those for Class A & B Goods trains.

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In use by most Railway Companies from 1903, though I have adapted this for my own LNWR interests,

but basically same for others including (within reason?) the Midland...... :jester:

1968052329_RCH1903HeadlampCodes-LNWR.jpg.375a999cfa6dc76d4952a2728c95a521.jpg

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2 hours ago, Penlan said:

In use by most Railway Companies from 1903, though I have adapted this for my own LNWR interests,

but basically same for others including (within reason?) the Midland...... :jester:

 

 

That is the same as the Midland document to which I linked earlier. No. 6 is the Midland's class B

 

6 hours ago, Nick Lawson said:

 for clarifying that class A was "fitted", and class B "unfitted". (For some reason I was guessing the other way round!)

 

I don't think that's quite what I said. I doubt that very many Class A goods trains conveyed many wagons with vacuum brakes  (or Westinghouse on some lines). As the Midland Record article states, the proportion of wagons equipped with the vacuum brake, or through piped, was miniscule. @Crimson Rambler pointed out that the Manchester-London express goods train I mentioned was a Fitted Goods No. 2 (per the article) which was not exclusively composed of fitted or piped wagons - there was an unfitted tail. I think it's clear from these Fitted Goods categories that Class A was not generally fitted, or even had a fitted head (to use later terminology).

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13 hours ago, Penlan said:

In use by most Railway Companies from 1903, though I have adapted this for my own LNWR interests,

but basically same for others including (within reason?) the Midland...... :jester:

1968052329_RCH1903HeadlampCodes-LNWR.jpg.375a999cfa6dc76d4952a2728c95a521.jpg

So when was the system changed, that made it unnecessary to carry 3 lamps for 4, 8 and 9?

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3 hours ago, kevinlms said:

So when was the system changed, that made it unnecessary to carry 3 lamps for 4, 8 and 9?

Don't think the S&DJR ever changed even after it lost its separate identity

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4 hours ago, kevinlms said:

So when was the system changed, that made it unnecessary to carry 3 lamps for 4, 8 and 9?

The preface to the Signalling Record Society's Research Note 11 - Headlamp Codes:- "A significant change came in 1918 when the separate code for ECS trains was abolished and the arrangement of lamps for the lowest three codes simplified - no doubt resulting in some economy in the stock of engine lamps kept by the companies. The GWR altered its "H" code at about the same time."

The table showing LNWR/GWR Joint headcodes for 1917 shows the older configurations. There is an interesting note that railmotors and motor trains would carry red-painted lamps, to act as tail lamps when running in reverse. A pencilled note on the 1925 LNWR lines table records that the alteration to the codes for classes 4, 7, 8 & 9 was effected in May 1918.

Returning to the original question, the same preface also notes that, after 1903:- "Alone of the large companies, the GC continued with its own ideas." (The southern companies are ignored!)

It is interesting to note that George Dow gives some details of MS&LR headcodes, which includes the note "MS&L trains on foreign companies' lines must carry the headlights prescribed by the respective companies." (Sadly he doesn't reference GCR codes.) This procedure is noted in various other companies' listings, such as L&YR, but in 1911 the Cambrian, which didn't have its own system of codes, noted that GCR trains would carry their unique codes, including three lamps for express and slow passenger specials.

Edited by Nick Holliday
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15 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

 

That is the same as the Midland document to which I linked earlier. No. 6 is the Midland's class B

 

 

I don't think that's quite what I said. I doubt that very many Class A goods trains conveyed many wagons with vacuum brakes  (or Westinghouse on some lines). As the Midland Record article states, the proportion of wagons equipped with the vacuum brake, or through piped, was miniscule. @Crimson Rambler pointed out that the Manchester-London express goods train I mentioned was a Fitted Goods No. 2 (per the article) which was not exclusively composed of fitted or piped wagons - there was an unfitted tail. I think it's clear from these Fitted Goods categories that Class A was not generally fitted, or even had a fitted head (to use later terminology).

The Midland 1911 GA makes no mention of fitted wagons in Class A or Class B Goods etc train.

 

Class B is described thus -

Fish, Meat, or Fruit Train composed of Goods Stock, Express Cattle, or Express Goods Train,  Class A :-

 

Class B is described thus -

Express Cattle, or Express Goods Train, Class B, or Ballast Train conveying Workmen and running not less than 15 miles without stopping: -

 

I have copied the original punctuation but the manner in which the item is constructed might indicate that the difference between Class A and Class B Express Cattle and Express Goods Trains had something to do with the distance they were allowed to run without stopping which in turn would reflect the type of axleboxes permitted in such trains.

 

2 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

 

Assuming the Great Western was following the RCH recommendations there were revisions in 1918 and 1936: https://www.warwickshirerailways.com/misc/headcodes.htm.

The '1918 code is as printed in the 1920 reissue of the GWR GA.  The 1936 code is as printed in the 1936 reissue of the GA but we should not overlook the fact that codes were altered between dates of GA reissue so the 1920 code may not have supplied intact until 1936.  The 1936 code definitely didn't survive as originally printed until 1949/50.t

 

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