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GWR Coal Drops & loading/unloading of coal in towns and goods yards


MarshLane
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While pondering various aspects, while giving some thought to a possible new layout, I came across a superb EM gauge layout set in West Yorkshire that included a recreation of the lovely coal drops around Huddersfield.

 

It set me thinking - did the GWR ever employ anything similar, especially in places like Bristol, Gloucester, Exeter etc. where a substantial amount of household coal would logically have been delivered? Or did they go more for a simple siding and let the local merchant empty it by hand? I can find numerous photos of coal drops on the L&Y, NER and other lines, but I am struggling to come up with anything Great a Western (or related to any of its amalgamated companies). Does anyone have any more details?

 

Even places such as Hockley goods in Birmingham don’t seem to have had specific coal facilities, but there must have been some arrangements?

 

Rich

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1 hour ago, Wickham Green said:

There are decaying structures around Temple Meads that I've always thought might be the remains of coal drops - but I can't confirm, unfortunately : the tracks are certainly a convenient height above street level.

In later years, these structures housed the Road Motor Department; in earlier times, I believe they may have been stables. I can't think of any raised 'drops' on the ex-GWR lines, but one or two 'Landsale' sidings on NCB property may have had them.

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AIUI there were large scale coal handling systems at Swindon (gas works) and Park Royal (power station) which the specialised coal hopper wagons supplied.  Apart from that I don't think any GWR mineral wagons had bottom doors, which presumably would preclude conventional coal drops. Facilities at docks for private owner wagons maybe? The Felix pole wagons were fitted up for end tipping: I don't know what the matching facilities for handling that were.

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Interesting comments chaps. Jim makes a very valid point and one I hadn’t even considered, the need for bottom discharge doors on the wagons. Presumably few (if any) private owner wagons would have had bottom discharge either? That definitely rules coal drops out for what I was thinking! 

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Ah ok - thanks Jason & Miss P for clearing that up for me.  Can I ask a further question then, as I suspect your knowledge (especially Miss P) far exceeds my minimal level!  In a country/small station goods yard, the local coal merchant would have had his hut, a couple of stithies (for want of a better word) to store different types/grades of coal in, and this would have been delivered to a single siding alongside.

 

In something like Bristol or Birmingham, from a GWR view point, how would coal deliveries to local merchants have worked? I cannot see any coal wagons or coal merchants in many pictures - I have looked at various places including Birmingham Hockley (GWR), Birmingham Lawley Street (MR/LMS), Sheffield (MR). So how would it have been delivered, managed/stored and then distributed?

 

Any help would be gratefully appreciated.

 

Rich

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47 minutes ago, MarshLane said:

Ah ok - thanks Jason & Miss P for clearing that up for me.  Can I ask a further question then, as I suspect your knowledge (especially Miss P) far exceeds my minimal level!  In a country/small station goods yard, the local coal merchant would have had his hut, a couple of stithies (for want of a better word) to store different types/grades of coal in, and this would have been delivered to a single siding alongside.

 

In something like Bristol or Birmingham, from a GWR view point, how would coal deliveries to local merchants have worked? I cannot see any coal wagons or coal merchants in many pictures - I have looked at various places including Birmingham Hockley (GWR), Birmingham Lawley Street (MR/LMS), Sheffield (MR). So how would it have been delivered, managed/stored and then distributed?

 

Any help would be gratefully appreciated.

 

Rich

I wouldn't be surprised to find coal being dealt with at a separate location; this happened even at smaller stations on occasion, Hexham being an example that springs to mind. These locations might be in the yards of stations out of the city centre; Montpellier and Clifton Down were two examples in Bristol, where the merchants still maintained facilities (albeit road-fed) well into the 1970s.

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Birmingham may be unusual as there were many local collieries and a dense canal network so even at a late date coal might have been delivered to coal merchants by canal rather than rail. Coventry power station was one late canal customer that I know of, on the Coventry Canal.

This may be rubbish, but it seems to me to be possible. Though it does not apply to places such as Bristol.

Jonathan

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Do you know if they were GWR built or private siding? 

 

I understand that welsh coal tends to be friable so one can imagine end tipping being more favoured, hence the Felix Cole wagons having end doors, not bottom doors.

 

The other thing that occurs to me is that if you have coal drops the wagons get emptied quickly, and into local storage until needed for delivery, whereas otherwise the wagons would tend to be the local storage and emptied straight to delivery. That makes me speculate that the investment in coal drops would be made when there was a need to turn wagons about swiftly. 

It also occurs to me that the bottom doors must have required the last of the coal to be shoveled down the hole. Not a job I would fancy, pretty dangerous i should think unless they closed the bottom doors and shovelled the last out of the side door.

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9 hours ago, MarshLane said:

Ah ok - thanks Jason & Miss P for clearing that up for me.  Can I ask a further question then, as I suspect your knowledge (especially Miss P) far exceeds my minimal level!  In a country/small station goods yard, the local coal merchant would have had his hut, a couple of stithies (for want of a better word) to store different types/grades of coal in, and this would have been delivered to a single siding alongside.

 

In something like Bristol or Birmingham, from a GWR view point, how would coal deliveries to local merchants have worked? I cannot see any coal wagons or coal merchants in many pictures - I have looked at various places including Birmingham Hockley (GWR), Birmingham Lawley Street (MR/LMS), Sheffield (MR). So how would it have been delivered, managed/stored and then distributed?

 

Any help would be gratefully appreciated.

 

Rich

 

This sounds like an interesting layout! Typically from what I have seen, GWR coal merchant's facilities in the cities were just like the small ones, only larger and distributed around different sidings in the company's system within that city :). There are some nice shots of larger coal yards in the GWR Goods Services  series, I can PM you a couple later today.

 

You could also have a look at Britian from Above. Here is Acton Mainline in 1947:

 

coal.JPG.531634164bfc35fca7d439d3cd5da03c.JPG

Source: Britian from Above,   https://britainfromabove.org.uk/en/image/EAW006450 (BTW, is that a Jinty in the larger photo? I did check that it was Acton GWR). 

 

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14 hours ago, Fat Controller said:

I wouldn't be surprised to find coal being dealt with at a separate location; this happened even at smaller stations on occasion, Hexham being an example that springs to mind. These locations might be in the yards of stations out of the city centre; Montpellier and Clifton Down were two examples in Bristol, where the merchants still maintained facilities (albeit road-fed) well into the 1970s.

It was more often the practice than not on the GWR for coal traffic in the larger towns and cities to be handled through separate yards from general goods traffic.  One reason was of course the volume of traffic but also it was helpful to keep coal dust, and coal merchants vehicles, away from general goods traffic.  Reading for example had a separate coal yard by the turn of the century (19th/20th) although Slough didn't until very much later.

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Morning all,

Well from little acorns as they say! Thanks to all for the answers, it’s turned into a fascinating discussion, and I have to say i’ve learnt a lot so far! 

 

Mikkle: Thanks for linking to that image of Acton - wonderful. The atmosphere that it’s in there. I do wonder what GWR PW guys would think of the state of the lineside around there today, with its weeds, graffiti and general detritus all over the place, not to mention OHL! But that image shows a clean main line setting, and even more of a clean, tidy and organised goods facility. I’d never thought of looking on the BFA website, so am off to investigate further!

 

Ideas as they say are forming :)

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14 hours ago, Steamport Southport said:

...... here's a smaller station showing coal being unloaded. Straight on to the platform and into sacks.

 

https://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/gwrc12b.htm

Judging by the difference in shine on the rails I'd guess that's a specifically goods platform this side - with passenger traffic on the other track/platform ................. ne'er the twain an' all that !

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21 hours ago, Steamport Southport said:

They were a Northern thing. Mostly Yorkshire and the North East.

 

 

 

Jason

More specifically, the North Eastern Railway. It pioneered the use of bottom-discharge and hopper wagons for coal traffic and provided coal drops at most stations. It has been said that one reason for using hoppers was that a lot of coal traffic was taken to staithes to be tipped into ships (there are staithes preserved at Dunston though with no rail connection now). Tyne Dock was probably the location that saw most of this activity.

 

The NER didn't see any private owner coal wagons. Another feature was that NER stationmasters acted as coal merchants.

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43 minutes ago, D9020 Nimbus said:

More specifically, the North Eastern Railway. It pioneered the use of bottom-discharge and hopper wagons for coal traffic and provided coal drops at most stations. It has been said that one reason for using hoppers was that a lot of coal traffic was taken to staithes to be tipped into ships (there are staithes preserved at Dunston though with no rail connection now). Tyne Dock was probably the location that saw most of this activity.

 

The NER didn't see any private owner coal wagons. Another feature was that NER stationmasters acted as coal merchants.

To pick nits, that's not quite  true, in that the Lambton, Hetton and Joicey, for example,  had running rights over the NER to get to the staithes and had their own wagons (some ex NER). But true, they wouldn't be used to take coals to landsale depots on the NER system. (Some of the colliery systems had their own landsale depots).

Also, and as elsewhere, I suspect there would have been 'foreign' wagons to bring in grades of coal not available from North Eastern pits (particularly anthracite). Certainly there are pictures of GWR open wagons not just on the NER but on colliery railways (from memory one occurs in a picture in one of Colin Mountford's books after a bit of a smash at, I think, Morrison Busty or thereabouts) and I imagine POs may have appeared as well.

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On 19/09/2019 at 17:13, MarshLane said:

Interesting comments chaps. Jim makes a very valid point and one I hadn’t even considered, the need for bottom discharge doors on the wagons. Presumably few (if any) private owner wagons would have had bottom discharge either? That definitely rules coal drops out for what I was thinking! 

No elf &safety then. To be fair, the doors are only part of the floor and could be navigated with a little care. In the NE region where coal drops were the norm, much use was made of hoppers.

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