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Tag Archives: Freight Trains

  • Freight in the Peak District by Paul Harrison

    Living on the doorstep of the Peak District of Derbyshire has over the last forty odd years or so afforded me many opportunities to jump on the train or bus and travel to places to photograph and watch the many varied freight train movements and record the details. My first visits to the area were in the early 1980s usually with my parents, brother and often our Uncle, who introduced me and my brother to a lifetime of railway trains. A favourite treat was to ride the diesel passenger train to Buxton on New Year’s Day to visit the town and have a look around the model toy fair in the Pavilion Gardens where our Christmas money could be spent on items for our model railway layout.

    The driver of No. 60047 is about to relinquish the single-line token to the signaller leaning out of the box with his hook. (Freight in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

    Although I have visited the main location of Peak Forest many times since the mid-1990s, I do regret not going up more in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before privatisation of the railways started. Back then it was British Rail and the Railfreight Trainload Sector operations and the local Buxton based Class 37s that ruled the roost with some help from Class 31s and 47s. The new Class 60s were first introduced to the area in 1991 for driver and technical training at first and I quite liked these rugged heavy-duty locomotives even more so as their engines were supplied from the Mirrlees-Blackstone factory in Hazel Grove. Little did I know then that these Class 60s would be the main traction type for my favourite traffic flow the Tunstead to Northwich limestone flow locally known as ‘The Hoppers’. These wagons and the traffic they carried were another reason for my interest in the local freight scene. Along with the various other stone and cement flows and the ‘Speedlink’ feeder service that ran between Warrington Arpley and Peak Forest where the wagons were split into separate portions for onwards dispatch to Hope for cement, Buxton for gas oil and supplies for the locomotive depot, and Hindlow for powdered lime. Plus what I considered to be foreign wagons would turn up sometimes and I would try to figure out what they were being used for. I could happily view these freight trains passing from my bedroom window.

    A double-headed Freightliner train of empty HIA hoppers heads to Tunstead for loading. (Freight in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

    It was during the mid-1990s that I picked up my Dad’s Zenit camera and soon acquired one of my own, another similar Zenit 11, which did the job in taking photographs of the trains passing through Hazel Grove and recording what was going on at Peak Forest. A better Minolta SLR camera with auto-wind on came a few years after and the better optics and focusing certainly helped. By 2007 I had saved up to buy a new Sony A100 Digital SLR which became my main camera having tried several different digital cameras up until then, the best of which was probably the Sony CD camera, which recorded onto mini three inch size CD-R discs and that performed well until the A100 was purchased. And so with the ability to take more photographs recorded onto a memory card I began to take more of the trains and the wagons that they were formed of. I still try and visit the Peak Forest area when time permits and enjoy seeing what has changed since my last visit especially the locomotive colours and wagons.

    After publishing my first book in 2002 on the history of the traffic from Tunstead to Northwich and beyond, I published my own booklet in 2006, which commemorated two railway anniversaries in Hazel Grove where I grew up. It wasn’t until many years later when an acquaintance in the DEMU modelling society had his book on modern wagons published by Amberley Publishing that the thought occurred to me to maybe try getting a book of my own published. And so the idea of a book looking at the Freight traffic in and around the Peak District was born using my own photographic material.

    Paul Harrison's book Freight in the Peak District is available for purchase now.

  • London Rail Freight Since 1985 by Malcolm Batten

    London owes its existence and development to the River Thames. The site was originally chosen as a settlement by the Romans who named it Londinium. The location was chosen as the nearest point to the estuary that the Romans could bridge the river with the technology at their disposal. The building of the first London Bridge then dictated the shape of the emerging settlement. Becoming a barrier to any ships that couldn’t pass under it, which meant that the wharves, warehouses and all other amenities associated with shipping came to be sited along the river to the east of the bridge. For several hundred years after the Romans left, London Bridge remained the only bridge in an expanding London. Other bridges would be added to the west, but it would not be until Tower Bridge opened in 1894 that a bridge was built to the east. This would then remain unique until the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge opened at Dartford in 1991 – still the only bridge across the river east of Tower Bridge, and all because of the need to provide clearance for shipping.

    Coming off the North London line and passing through Stratford, Class 47 No. 47476 Night Mail heads a Ford 'blue train' returning to Dagenham on 25 March 1999. (London Rail Freight Since 1985, Amberley Publishing)

    When railways first came to London, each line was built by a different company seeking to link their area to the capital. There was no through service from one side of London to the other, and indeed the railway companies were prevented from entering the central area of the City and West End. The traffic congestion that developed eventually led to the building of the world’s first underground railway, opened in 1863. The Metropolitan Railway ran from Paddington to Farringdon, linking the Great Western Railway’s Paddington station with the Great Northern Railway’s Kings Cross station and passing close to Euston station, built by the London & Birmingham Railway. When the Midland Railway opened their station at St. Pancras, next to Kings Cross, this was also served by the Metropolitan Line. But also significantly, the Great Western made a connection to the Metropolitan at Paddington and this allowed through freight trains to run to Smithfield Market until 1962. The Metropolitan would eventually be joined to the District Railway, opened in 1868, to form a Circle Line linking many of the main line termini.

    Class 60 No. 60025 Joseph Lister prepares to tackle the bank with the Langley-Lindsey return empty tank wagons, also on 19 July 1994. (London Rail Freight Since 1985, Amberley Publishing)

    While this enabled passengers to connect between the lines of different railway companies, albeit with changing trains, what of freight traffic from one line to another? In order to transfer freight traffic from one company to another, the various London railway companies to the north of the Thames made links to the orbital North London Railway which ran from Broad Street station in the east to Richmond in south-west London. The NLR also had a freight line into the east London docks. But when freight needed to cross from north to south London or vice versa, the railways came up against the same problem as the roads – no bridges to the east of London because of the need to provide clearance for shipping. There was a railway tunnel to the east of London Bridge – Brunel’s original Thames tunnel from Wapping to Rotherhithe opened in 1843 as a foot tunnel. This was converted to a rail tunnel in 1869. This did carry some freight traffic until the early 1960s, but its usefulness was limited by the fact that access on the north bank was from the west. Any freight trains wanting to enter the tunnel would have to reverse in the busy Liverpool Street Station first – not very practical. This tunnel is now used by the very intensive London Overground network and does not carry any freight. Until the 1960s some cross-Thames freights were routed by what is now the Thameslink route from Farringdon to Blackfriars and over the bridge there. But this involved a steep gradient, and the line now carries an intensive passenger service so no freight trains are now routed this way. Most cross-Thames freight (and passenger) traffic was normally routed via Kensington Olympia and the river bridge at Chelsea. This remains the case today, including traffic to and from the Channel Tunnel. When this line is unavailable due to engineering works, trains use the river crossing at Barnes Bridge – even further west.

    Shunting the yard to the west of the station on 25 September 1987 is No. 47376. The towers in the background, the nearer one of which is residential, are a local landmark. (London Rail Freight Since 1985, Amberley Publishing)

    While the one-time mass of transfer freights and trip workings between marshalling yards had long gone, as had the pick-up freights from local goods yards, there was still a reasonable amount of freight to be found in the 1980s and 1990s. This has declined somewhat since. Economic depression, the further losses to road transport and the closure of some sources of traffic have been factors. The regular Ford ‘blue trains’ have ceased with the end of car production at Dagenham, although there is still some rail traffic emanating from there. The Channel Tunnel has not generated the amount of through rail traffic that was at first anticipated. Instead, lorries clog the motorways to Kent to join the tunnel shuttle trains (or ferries) to cross to Europe. However the ever-present building work around London has kept the stone and aggregates traffic busy. The building of Crossrail led to a major rail freight flow, transporting the extracted spoil from the tunnelling site at Westbourne Park to Northfleet, where the spoil was loaded onto ships for land reclamation further downriver. Freightliner traffic from the ports of Felixstowe, Tilbury and the new Thames Gateway port, which opened in November 2013, is another major part of the London freight scene.

    This book takes the freight routes around London geographically, in an anti-clockwise direction, starting in East London north of the Thames and ending in South East London. The varying types of traffic, and the various locomotives and liveries used on these trains are depicted over a period of forty-plus years.

    Malcolm Batten's new book London Rail Freight Since 1985 is available for purchase now.

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