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Meat trains on the GWR?


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Hi everyone,

 

I was reading about the 3:35pm Birkenhead to Smithfield meat train and I wanted to know more about meat trains in general on the GWR. From what I've read, the meat runs would be treated like an express passenger turns, only stopping to change crews or for examination. These turns would usually powered by a large 4-6-0 Castle or Star, or if the first two were unable, then Halls, Granges, or 47xxs would do the job. For example, Chester's 4013 Knight of St Patrick and 5033's Broughton Castle were often used on the 3:35pm Birkenhead to Smithfield duty.

 

What would the typical makeup and how long would the train be? I assume that the majority of the train would be Mica vans and or Insul Meat vans. There is a picture of 5917 Westminister Hall climbing Gresford bank with a Birkenhead to Smithfield train. From the picture, it looks like there is a few Micas and Insul Vans but the angle is not great for identification

 

In the model world, I can only think of three examples of vans on meat trains (please correct me if I am wrong):

1) Parkside Dundas Mica B X7/Insulated Van 6T

2) Bachmann 38-191B (for GWR days, you would have to change the ends since they are LMS/LNER corrugated ends)

 

Thank you in advance.

Edited by OnTheBranchline
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The Kitmaster/Airfix/Dapol meat van?

 

Ed

 I suspect the majority of meat imported via Birkenhead would have been frozen or chilled, mainly from New Zealand and Argentina, and would require insulated vehicles. Ventilated meat vans, such as the BR type you mention, and their antecedents, would have been used for fresh meat traffic, from Irish Sea ports and mainland abattoirs.

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6 wheeled vans as seen with Palethorpes sausages on them,

Palethorpes vans worked on specific circuits from the factory near Dudley Port. They were part of a deal between the company and the LMS in 1936. The last ran on the mid-1960s. Two almost identical vans were also built by the GWR (2800/01) for the Cardiff circuit which was attached to a Stourbridge Jn to Worcester passenger train in the afternoon. The LMS vans usually went to Dudley Port for Euston and Perth (50' bogie vans) or Crewe for Heysham, (21' 4-wheel), Carlisle, Manchester and Leeds (31' 6-wheel). there were only about 14 vans in total with Palethorpes branding.
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A lot of meat arrived at Birkenhead 'On the hoof' at one time from the USA and also from Ireland.

In the 1880s for instance cattle were slaughtered and butchered on Saturday with the carcasses transported by special GWR train on Sunday to be sold in the Birmingham Smithfield 'Dead Meat Market' on Monday morning.

Later there was a lot of chilled mutton from Australia which would have benn transported in refrigerated vans. 

The 3.55pm from Birkenhead to Smithfield was referred to as 'The Meat' and even acknowledged in GWR publicity. 

http://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/bordesley-named-freight-trains.htm

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The 'Meat' presumably changed locos at Acton Yard; I wonder if it set down traffic there.

A sort-of-related question. I've seen a lot of photos of Fishguard Boat Trains, taken in the 1950s, which had Siphon Js in the formation. What might these have been carrying? I believe some were fitted with meat hooks.

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Smithfield didn't handle containers - no room to lift them - so all traffic for there would have been loaded in vans of some sort.

 

There's a picture in the GWR Engines book by Russell, showing one of the condensing panniers emerging from Paddington Suburban, and there appears to be several containers in the train.  Didn't the containers have doors, and  therefore could be unloaded without taking off the wagon?

 

The picture is dated 1947.

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The last leg of the meat haul to Smithfield was over the Metropolitan railway (inner circle), so the main-line engines were exchanged for condensing tank-engines. The 633 class (0-6-0T) were the mainstay, with Metro 2-4-0T filling in. When the early engines wore out, some time in the 20th century, condensing pannier-tanks were built.

 

I think that the exchange was made at Acton. At any rate, all the special brake vans for the Smithfield traffic were allocated there.

 

Smithfield GWR was a depot for general goods, IIRC, and Smithfield was (is?) a market for more than just meat. Therefore, a train to Smithfield might include wagons other than meat vans. In particular, vans for other perishables, such the various diagrams of fruit vans might go there. This might imply that a train conveying meat vans to Acton, for forwarding to Smithfield, would include other traffic. Or it might be that the meat trains were all meat vans and the other traffics were marshalled in at Acton.

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Looking at the timetables available on the Michael Clemens Railways site around 1950 it stopped for water at Coton Hill, engine change and examination at Oxley and crew change at Banbury, terminating at Old Oak Common some time after 11pm.

 

The connecting service in the 1948 timetable would have been the 11.50 p.m. from Acton although over the years some of the Smithfield trains ran to/from Old Oak.  The Smithfields were limited to a maximum of 25 wagons plus a single brakevan and as the next service didn't leave Acton until 4 hours later (except on Mondays) the logic is that those services which connected into those two trains can't have conveyed more than 50 wagons between them) and of course the Birkenhead wasn't the only train conveying Smithfield traffic.

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Palethorpes vans worked on specific circuits from the factory near Dudley Port. They were part of a deal between the company and the LMS in 1936. The last ran on the mid-1960s. Two almost identical vans were also built by the GWR (2800/01) for the Cardiff circuit which was attached to a Stourbridge Jn to Worcester passenger train in the afternoon. The LMS vans usually went to Dudley Port for Euston and Perth (50' bogie vans) or Crewe for Heysham, (21' 4-wheel), Carlisle, Manchester and Leeds (31' 6-wheel). there were only about 14 vans in total with Palethorpes branding.

 

That is surprising considering how willingly some manufacturers made the models for sale.

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That is surprising considering how willingly some manufacturers made the models for sale.

To me , it seems to suit the manufacturer's criteria perfectly; a small group of vehicles that ran over a limited area, and, if possible, painted in a colourful livery. Examples that come to mind are the various bogie well wagons that all major manufacturers seem obliged to list, despite the total number of such vehicles being tiny, or Triang-Hornby's attempt to model a BR ventilated van, back in the 1960s. Did they make one of the 1994 Vanwides with end vents and plain side doors? No- they did one of the six-strong fleet that were built with door vents, no end vents, and used for perishables traffic from Cornwall.

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While a lot of Irish beef was exported on the hoof, while Ireland already had an established bacon processing industry and meat processing geared up in the 1960s, with a high proportion of traffic transported by rail from plants in the Irish South and Midlands to the ports of Dublin & Waterford for shipment to the UK in BR insulated or chilled containers.

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To me , it seems to suit the manufacturer's criteria perfectly; a small group of vehicles that ran over a limited area, and, if possible, painted in a colourful livery. Examples that come to mind are the various bogie well wagons that all major manufacturers seem obliged to list, despite the total number of such vehicles being tiny, or Triang-Hornby's attempt to model a BR ventilated van, back in the 1960s. Did they make one of the 1994 Vanwides with end vents and plain side doors? No- they did one of the six-strong fleet that were built with door vents, no end vents, and used for perishables traffic from Cornwall.

The Palethorpes vans were five different types, the most of any version being four LMS 6-wheelers. The Hornby version is loosely representative of the LMS and GWR versions but isn't quite either and is 6mm short. Six vans in four of the versions are needed to accurately depict the sausage special as it passed through my layout area so a lot of cut'n'shut, new underframes and John Isherwood's transfers will be needed when I get round to it. 

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The connecting service in the 1948 timetable would have been the 11.50 p.m. from Acton although over the years some of the Smithfield trains ran to/from Old Oak.  The Smithfields were limited to a maximum of 25 wagons plus a single brakevan and as the next service didn't leave Acton until 4 hours later (except on Mondays) the logic is that those services which connected into those two trains can't have conveyed more than 50 wagons between them) and of course the Birkenhead wasn't the only train conveying Smithfield traffic.

 

 

Hmm. Smithfield is a wholesale market. That means that not all the stock sold there has to ascend to the trading floor. Samples could go up and the bulk of the stock could stay in the warehouse downstairs.

 

By extension, it's conceivable that some of the meat traded at Smithfield could be held at Acton and delivered from there to the final customer. This is purely hypothetical, mind. I have no evidence that this was done, nor do I know how the wholesalers at Smithfield would have organized the delivery.

 

I mention this because the owners of (old) Covent Garden market were taken to task for not operating this way. They had all the stock delivered to the market halls; this was considered inefficient and bad for the traffic flow around the market.

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My Father was a wholesale butcher in Smithfield. He was a firm believer in "Satan makes mischief for idle hands" and so every school holiday I had to work for him at the shop.

 

I can assure you that no buyer would be dim enough to buy large quantities of meat from a sample hung in the shop. If we left meat in the wagons we were charged demurrage and storing it cost storage so it was all in and out Apart from which the "Lord mayors man" a public health inspector could descend and examine your stock at any time and he would want to see the lot.

 

The depot was a gloomy place particularly in the early hours of the morning, with rats as big as cats and cats of a sabre toothed disposition. Most fresh meat came in in ventilated meat vans which had hook rails inside on which the meat was hung (we are talking sides and quarters of beef not joints) I think they may well have had asphalt floors. Vans without hook rails were useless for this traffic, would you buy meat off the floor of a van which could have been used for anything before?

 

In Winter the super cooling caused by the draught in a ventilated van meant the meat was often covered in ice and after dealing with a ten ton wagon load hands ,shoulders and arms were numb.In Summer you worked very quickly if it was hot. Of course being the bosses son it was considered fair game for a disgruntled Humper to drop a hind quarter on me and leave me pinned under it. Not pleasant in Winter as you froze. 

 

Our containers were delivered to us on drawbar trailers by I think Union Cartage.

 

CAT

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