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In the good old days when life was simpler and a van was dropped off at the goods shed at town X and the van had goods for the various local businesses, would that van come back to the main station empty?

If there was a industry in the town eg a widget factory, could it been moved from goods shed to the Widget factory to be used to transport goods back to the main station? In this case, could/would a local tractor move vans from Shed to Industry ?
 

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Lots of issues here...


All goods traffic, except "special traffic" (there always have to be exceptions) was moved on scheduled trains. A large and busy station might have several trains in and out in the day. The most minor stations might have only one goods train a week. In between there were (naturally) numerous variations. From the modeller's view point the more likely and preferable pattern would probably be a goods train to deliver and collect in the morning and another in the afternoon - probably timed fairly well apart. This provides activity. However, there would always be a minimum of shunting - two reasons - train crew don't want to mess about and there is a practical need to not waste time - oh - and third - you can't load/unload a wagon wile it is being messed about with - and - other side - there are limitations on shunting a wagon if it is the process of being loaded/unloaded - the load will tend to not be secured.
If there is a large enough yard the am and pm might be doubled up by having a pair for each direction of travel - mainly on a through line. On dead-ends the ingoing train will drop off while the outgoing train will collect - as a broad guide line. There might be a small amount of very local traffic.

Broadly speaking goods vans were not used for "groupage" - known as "LCL" - "less than car load" in the USA. Anything a lot less than a van or wagon load would tend to travel under the heading "smalls" - which could go by passenger train (1 ton "evenly distributed" in an available brake van/luggage van) - or by a "parcels" train. In many ways the railways provided service that achieved pretty much what modern courier road services provide - including the need to wait at home all day not knowing when the delivery would/might show up. There were various means of getting parcels of all sorts of sizes from stations to addresses (of all kinds - from homes to large factories). The railways provided service!

There were increasingly vast systems of wagon movement planning. As far as practical empty running was avoided. Once unloaded at a station a wagon might sit there (so long as it wasn't in the way) or it might be returned to a pre-planned location until it had its next job lined up. As an example - wagons from dead end branch lines might return to the junction - provided there was room for them. On the other hand, when the junction was full (or going to be) empties could be shuffled off down a branch line to get them out of the way. How far they went down the branch would depend on local and current conditions. (Sometimes seasonal traffic would create large collections of "pre-positioned" stock - not always at obvious places). This shuffling could apply to loaded wagons as well as empties at times, with certain types of traffic - subject to the loads not tending to be pilfered.

One interesting option for modellers is as follows...
Where traffic needed to be got out of the way from a large station and forwarded a train could be booked to leave "rough marshalled" at a specific time / in a defined pathway. Somewhere on the route it would then be booked into appropriate sidings/yard (i.e. large enough and clear enough) for the various wagons to be re-marshalled into groups for common destinations. Now this option does provide excuse for all sorts of playing trains!


In the next OP section I suspect there are two parts. First - a non-specific wagon of any kind would be worked away from a station with a load as far as possible - so long as it didn't have to wait long for it. Next option would be for a short trip to where a load was ready/waiting (or would be very soon).
Then we get to specific wagons. Tank wagons in particular tended to return empty - and would often be in specific point-to-point traffic - even when only running as individuals. due to coal being dusty/mucky the same could apply to anything carrying coal and coal products - with specific attachments to collieries, Private Owners or both.

What are the "widgets"? Can they be packed in any van or do they need clean vans, "Shocvans", ventilated vans...? Or any other specific requirements? Securing the widget load might mean that it would be more effective to keep using the same van/set of vans rather than messing about keep securing the load - this might mean a saving on wood packing - which could be repeatedly used - or it could mean special fittings. Any van with special fittings would usually be marked for the specific traffic. Anything on a regular job tended to be marked for it - or at least "return to..."

2nd part of 2nd section. Not entirely sure of the meaning... rail vans could not be towed around by a tractor "off track" - not because they couldn't be towed - but because their steel, flanged wheels would wreck any surface - and they would probably bog down.
That said - shunting (on rail) could be done by tractors in various ways. Prior to tractors it could be done with horses - plus, with suitable gradients, it could be done by manpower - sometimes using pinch bars. In larger yards there was also capstan shunting.
I don't know if the OP is aware that wagon turntables remained in use at least to the end of the railways being "Common Carriers" - sometime ???
I don't recall when. Some factories still have traces of their tracks and wagon turntables.

Factories... Tended to be built up close to the railway if/when they would need a lot of rail service. Track could leave the rail companies boundary - either maintained and/or worked by the rail company or privately depending on what was contracted between the parties. Depending on the arrangement(s) the rail company might let their locos into the factory tracks or not. Usually factory locos were not allowed out onto rail company tracks. Naturally other means of locomotion operated as appropriate/as arranged.

Where there weren't factory sidings transhipment would be required. This could be to railway owned/provided (at a price) road vehicles, the factory's vehicles or other contractors vehicles. Another alternative for suitable loads was transhipment to a narrow gauge rail system. These were used for all sort of traffic - sometimes over quite long distances. Minerals, timber, hospital, military supplies among many other things were moved by narrow gauge from local stations. These narrow gauge tracks did not usually (if ever?) run on public roads or unfenced next to them. They tended to cross fields on very limited formations. A few were more substantial - a whole subject in itself. These lines varied in life span, equipment - and a whole lot of things. Before the convenience of internal combustion really got hold they could even be used in the construction of housing estates.

------

One thing...

Stock was not usually put into a goods shed except to unload/load it there or when the load needed to be kept secure (from pilfering) Goods shed accommodation wasn't often large and space was at a premium.

Stock cost money so it would be kept earning money as much as possible. This meant finding a balance between holding it back for a load and sending it to where a load was. "Standage" was chargeable. Using a rail vehicle as a warehouse cost the load owner or shipper money - although it could be arranged - especially for bulk coal.

 

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Another option to rough marshalling for playing trains would be that wagons for a particular traffic could arrive at a station (loaded or unloaded) to be put together into a train for forwarding. Conversely they could arrive in a train and be broken up for onward movement to different destinations. This wouldn't only happen at marshalling yards (which tended to be busy enough) or large junctions but could occur anywhere appropriate with enough space.

As an example, a local station might be a suitable place for wagons to be sorted for a scattering of local industries with private sidings - such as sand pits or brick works. Some of these private sidings connected into goods yards or at least at "stations" with passenger platforms. Others had their connections along the line as "Sidings In Section" which would be controlled form the adjacent Signalbox, often with a Ground Frame. Usually there would be a gate and/or a clear boundary between the rail company and the private track.

 

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To add to the above, tractors could be used to push wagons or vans about a yard - one remarkable one I came across was on the quays at Teignmouth in Devon, where the port company had a Sentinel steam tractor fitted with a large wooden buffer beam on the front used for moving rail vehicles about - this was late 1950s/very early 1960s. (It was called "The Elephant" and is now preserved in the Netherlands.)

Horses were used for shunting well into BR days, the last two surviving at Newmarket until 1967, mainly to move horseboxes about the yard with minimum noise and disturbance to the racehorses inside the horseboxes. But road transport became favoured by trainers and the shunting horses were no longer needed. I have seen models of horse-drawn trams - in that case the tram was pushing the model horse along.

John
 

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Hi Folks Although this example is actually about open wagons used for ball clay in the Dorset area it might also apply to vans. One siding
on the Swanage line faced the London direction and the other Swanage. The short trains of opens, up to about a dozen, were often operated
just for this traffic but there were no loops on the single track where the clay was loaded. The trains for the siding facing London could not
shunt this on the way to Swanage so the train ran past to either Corfe or Swanage and the loco ran round for the return journey more or less
immediately. On return it was able to pick up the loaded wagons and leave the empties for the next day. This has enabled me to run wagons
without any load. as a specific timetabled train. in and out of my BLT. On the Swanage line the other clay siding was treated on the DOWN
working and worked back full as soon as the path was available. Quite why the sidings did not both face London is not clear as the engine had
to do extra work with a loaded train from one of the sidings.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks gents - very informative especially that from Bear - gives me plenty to think about in trying to marry real vs modelling practices.
 

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QUOTE (Adrian Swain @ 6 Nov 2018, 15:03) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Hi Folks Although this example is actually about open wagons used for ball clay in the Dorset area it might also apply to vans. One siding
on the Swanage line faced the London direction and the other Swanage. The short trains of opens, up to about a dozen, were often operated
just for this traffic but there were no loops on the single track where the clay was loaded. The trains for the siding facing London could not
shunt this on the way to Swanage so the train ran past to either Corfe or Swanage and the loco ran round for the return journey more or less
immediately. On return it was able to pick up the loaded wagons and leave the empties for the next day. This has enabled me to run wagons
without any load. as a specific timetabled train. in and out of my BLT. On the Swanage line the other clay siding was treated on the DOWN
working and worked back full as soon as the path was available. Quite why the sidings did not both face London is not clear as the engine had
to do extra work with a loaded train from one of the sidings.


A fine example


Sidings In Section like these was fairly common. The connections brought revenue to the railway company. This had, of course, to be cost effective. That, however, could be just one part of the situation - at the least when planning to add a connection.

Two clear elements would effect the planning. The first and possibly most awkward would be land ownership. Particularly any mineral extraction - which could hardly be relocated - could be away from the railway's Running Line (or nearest yard) and not immediately accessible without a long, probably private, line. This should not be a great problem - provided the land was owned by the extraction company - or a deal could be done with the landowner. A rather classic example is what is now the Foxfield Steam Railway. As I understand it - due to an awkward landowner the connection to the coalmine top didn't take the easy route round the hills but climbed very steeply over them. Immediately away from the exchange siding this meant a short and very sharp climb. This brings us to the second possible issue - geography. The Foxfield got around the problem of a big lump of planet being in the way by blasting short rakes of (empty) wagons up a very steep gradient. It's not so bad when the gradient is against the empties... However, taking loads downhill isn't necessarily so easy...

Lumps of planet n the way aren't the only potential problem though. Watercourses and/or just drainage problems can impact on where connections are made - or not. This might be more a consideration of first cost - avoiding expensive formation or even a bridge. In earlier years when the pace of traffic was slower (also the line might have lacked traffic and needed the extra facility/connection) and wages were lower the additional cost of extra shunting may not have been considered an issue. Later a lack of financial viability might have closed the connection - if not the whole line - although, without the connection the line might have subsequently died a death.

Which way the traffic is moving loaded also makes a difference when shunting. It can be convenient to let stock roll in or out of a siding as appropriate. (There will be a minimum of a Trap Point separating the private track from the railway company's track - probably a gate and possibly a sand trap or similar "catch" arrangement if needed).

The Swanage example is to a dead end which makes a difference. I don't recall if the line was originally double - which also makes a difference. Obviously everything on a dead end goes in, turns around and comes back out again. Depending on local conditions (gradients in particular - and space available to shunt) there need not be a lot of difference between working a siding on the way in or on the way out.
On a single line that is a through line it would be a straightforward matter of working the siding in the most convenient manner - which would normally be by the loco drawing past the connection, setting back in and drawing stock out. This would also apply to drawing past and then pushing stock back in. (The sequence would be stock out first and then stock in when there was only one (or limited) siding space inside). It might then be necessary to take the stock forward to the next available sidings/yard where they would be left for a train in the opposite direction to take them on through to a destination/place that the original train that had worked the siding had come from. A factor applying here is that a siding might originally be laid in to work traffic (for example) to the north but then the traffic switched to going south. Changing the connection would be expensive - but not as bad as if this were to occur on a Double Track Line.

So - Double Track with Siding In Section.
On a Single Line any connection is always going to end up Facing in one direction or the other. It will be put in "as appropriate".
On Double Track Sidings In Section are almost always put in as Trailing connections. This saves a whole lot of cost. It can mean that a connection is inevitably "not the best way round". It is rare for a connection to cross one line to reach the other - because that gets really expensive. Working such an arrangement will also block both lines and be a nuisance to traffic flow.

A general principle for working Double Track - the railway wants to involve both lines at the same time as little as possible - simple reason - if the move stops or, worse, falls off - both lines get blocked. This can impact on when and where run-rounds get made as part of shunting activities. generally it is preferred to keep (at least) as much of the shunting to one side as possible. If we consider it - any need to run round at the start (and probably then the end) of any shunting means leaving the body of a train standing on one line and occupation of the other line to get round it. While crossover moves should not be an issue there is always some risk of derailment - especially if stock is being propelled in the movement in addition to the loco moving.

Anyway - those are a few more things to consider...

 

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Another factor was the 'common carriage' rule - whereby if somebody had 2 crates of eggs and asked the railway to transport them, legally the railway had to provide that transport - which was hugely uneconomic - but provides the background to the pick-up freight single wagon scenario.

On the second query - in relatively-small railway-served towns - most of the industry would be grouped around the railway - so a smallish railway van or even a horse and cart would deliver to the good yard. Larger concerns would get their own private sidings.
 

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Until a date I never recaak (sometime in BR days) the railways were "Common Carriers". However, while they had to accept ;oads they could demand an "appropriate" price. IIRC there were a few traffics that had restrictions on how much could be charged - but don't quote me on this.
As for a "couple of bxes of eggs"... These were both perishables and claased as "smalls" - consequently they would travel by passenger train or parcels train. Eggs in particular ran by regular schedules - more than train timetables - they would travel between origin and destination at the same times on the same days of the weeks. Spmewhere in the pile I have waybills for "egg empties" - the (possibly wicker) containers that shuttled to and from being returned to the point of origin. Again these would be very regular traffic. At the various stations involved - start, junction and termial the staff would have the necessary barrows organised - and even know what to do if the regular schedule was disrupted by train or weather issues. When a delay got into the system messages would be telegraphed backwards and forwards as necessary. At the route ends a platform "lad" might well be despatched to tell the producer or shop not to come at the regular time and/or when the load would be expected.

 

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Thought I had last evening...

I don't recall ever seeing notes for modellers about wagon labels.

I have no idea when wagon builders (private and rail company) began to put sprung metalclips on the solebars of wagons that wagon labels could be placed behind and kept securely. At least prior to that and for some time after wagon labels were tacked to solebars or wagon sides. Naturally - you can't do this with a metal solebar or wagon side. Presumiably clips may have started with iron or steel frames?

Meanwhile...
The eventual standard size label IIRC was about 5"x7" made of a firm but flexible card. There was a whole set of standard cards - especially for sending wagons for repair - and for "Red Carding" them when they had an issue that meant they should not be moved. A Red Card would mean a "Repair in Place" job. A huge variety of cards were printed for standard/common/frequent routes. These meant that yard staff and guards had very little writing to do - which saved time and error. It also meant that where a wagon was going could be seen and read fast whenever a train was being marshalled - staff knew what to look out for - and where on the wagon.

Marshalling and what stock had what load was not restricted to wagon labels. Every consignment had a waybill. Waybills were generated at the start of an order and progresed with the load right though to delivery. (If they didn't there was a "bit of a problem". They would normally travel with the guard - usually in the brakevan of a train. At any junction of station that a consignment stopped at - en route or when it arrived - the paperwork would go to a designated office - taken there by the guard or shunter/porter. No one wanted lost paperwork! Once the load had been delivered - and signed for - the waybill would progressto "Clearing" - which worked in exactly the same way that cheques got to be cleared by banks - because the two systems developed together - which was first being a bit of a chicken and egg question. Just like the banks there were thousands of railway clerks processing the paperwork.

So... going back to the OP - "what wagons went where" - they went where their waybills and wagon labels directed.

There could also be chalked instructions on wagon sides - but - obviously - chalk could be washed off by a storm so this were additional to the labels and bills. Chalked marks could also produce a problem if not crossed out or scrubbed off - if anyone depended on them and didn't check the lales.

Stock in fixed/block working/merry-go-round would still have their labels - but, latterly a bit more when something special was required rather than for every trip. In some cases specific instructions were stencilled onto the wagon sides - especially with tanks and anything else in "captive" specific service.

At the end of a wagons life a circle with an X in it roughly hand painted on the side marked it for scrapping. Toward the end of wooden stock and any time a whole range of stock was going out of use whole trains of such stock could be seen being taken for scrapping or set aside waiting to go. Sometimes the word "condemned" was also splattered on the side - or abreviated to "cond".

 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks again Bear for more info.
 

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Recalled an interesting odd van movement that occurred during at least the 1970s and 1980s. (No idea if it still happens - haven't spotted it for ages).

Some OTMs (On Track Machines) such as ballast cleaners that needed moving around the system would be run with a number of long wheelbase vans (similar in size to 4 wheel ferry vans). The vans provided additional brake force so that the train could be run at higher permitted speed. I have no idea if the vans had any weight/ballast inside to help increase their braking effectiveness. I only ever saw four wheeled vans used for the job. Usually there would be a Crompton (Class 33) followed by tow or three vans, the OTM and then a matching number of vans. Everything usually looked in reasonable condition for the period.

 

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Not sure if this has been mentioned but most small towns would have a weekly salt van delivery for use by the local Baker, Butcher and slaughterhouse, the latter might have their own delivery if large enough and not part of the local Butchers. Medium sized Town yards such as Epping and Ongar for example (up to the early 1950's when LT took over the line Ongar still handled up to 100 wagons a week in its yard) would have a weekly Van from Boots of Nottingham and / or Timothy Whites to supply the local chemists, these vans could normally remain in the yard for up to 5 days until their demurrage charges began. The salt wagons were non pool (not common user) into BR days so not subject to the demurrage charges which cost BR so much so that when they began to charge merchants took their custom to the roads. Seasonal traffic should be accounted for too, there were the well known 'Broccoli Express' workings from places like Helston on the GWR/WR where cattle wagons were loaded with Broccoli for haulage to Covent Garden usually by a Castle at express goods speeds, the cattle trucks were used for ventilation and they were of course all fitted vehicles too. Open wagons were provided in train loads in East Anglia for the Sugar Beet season and could be seen filling otherwise little used sidings at places such as Shippea Hill (between Ely and Thetford) , Vans for potato traffic likewise - incidentally there were many narrow gauge 'potato railways' in East Anglia and Lincolnshire running in may cases alongside the main line into the yards from the fields. Coal was still delivered from specific collieries for specific merchants even following pooling of coal wagons - Epping had deliveries for Charringtons and Aveys for example as well as for the local Gas Works and a wagon a week for a local engineering company (British Matthews if memory serves). I can remember this lasted right through to the Diesel era with a Class 15 shunting at Epping as the tube ran past into the station.
 

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Recalled an interesting odd van movement that occurred during at least the 1970s and 1980s. (No idea if it still happens - haven't spotted it for ages).

Some OTMs (On Track Machines) such as ballast cleaners that needed moving around the system would be run with a number of long wheelbase vans (similar in size to 4 wheel ferry vans). The vans provided additional brake force so that the train could be run at higher permitted speed. I have no idea if the vans had any weight/ballast inside to help increase their braking effectiveness. I only ever saw four wheeled vans used for the job. Usually there would be a Crompton (Class 33) followed by tow or three vans, the OTM and then a matching number of vans. Everything usually looked in reasonable condition for the period.

Hi, when I worked for 'Trainload Freight' before Privatisation and for 'Mainline' and later 'EWS' afterwards arranging the movement of OTM's was one of my jobs. Much depended on where the OTM was being used relative to its home, for example working from Willesden to say Hemel Hempstead one would work on its own or in pairs to the sidings at Hemel, similarly stuff at Bescot would travel most of the West Midlands on its own, but going to Rugby loco haulage was preferred as it reduced line occupancy with greater speeds, also the problems of a bouncing OTM causing Track Circuit/Signal failures was reduced. As with everything there were exceptions and nowadays most if not all OTM moves on its own as most of it can travel at 60mph. Another interesting move which we used to plan from Eastleigh was to 'bring home' all our outbased 08's for Christmas, whilst odd ones would travel on their own the Christmas move used a freight train and the sight of up to 6 08's in a train, each separated by a couple of wagons, was interesting to see, they ran with their rods on but out of gear meaning, if memory serves, a maximum speed of 45mph, the reason for the move was to remove them from the temptations of the Amateur Decorators on holiday from Uni or whatever. There were all sorts of trips and probably still are, for example the Eastleigh DSL (Diesel Shunting Locomotive) fuel trip was one of the oddest as it ran as and when the DSL's outbased at various places needed fuel and were run as untimetabled moves, the signalmen hated them for obvious reasons.
 

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Until a date I never recaak (sometime in BR days) the railways were "Common Carriers". However, while they had to accept ;oads they could demand an "appropriate" price. IIRC there were a few traffics that had restrictions on how much could be charged - but don't quote me on this.
As for a "couple of bxes of eggs"... These were both perishables and claased as "smalls" - consequently they would travel by passenger train or parcels train. Eggs in particular ran by regular schedules - more than train timetables - they would travel between origin and destination at the same times on the same days of the weeks. Spmewhere in the pile I have waybills for "egg empties" - the (possibly wicker) containers that shuttled to and from being returned to the point of origin. Again these would be very regular traffic. At the various stations involved - start, junction and termial the staff would have the necessary barrows organised - and even know what to do if the regular schedule was disrupted by train or weather issues. When a delay got into the system messages would be telegraphed backwards and forwards as necessary. At the route ends a platform "lad" might well be despatched to tell the producer or shop not to come at the regular time and/or when the load would be expected.

The Railways were common carriers and required to transport at a fixed price until well into the 1950's it was Richard Beeching who finally managed to get the rules changed to ensure the Railways could get rid of the carrying a box of eggs at a pittance nonsense and start to charge economic rates of carraige for freight. Dick Hardy's book about Richard Beeching gives an excellent insight into this period of Railway History and debunks many of the myths too.
 

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Local movement of goods vehicles provided a very interesting scene of activity between the express passenger services with Doncaster's finest doing their marvellous thing. Beyond the 'anonymous' traffics concealed within general merchandise vans and sheeted opens, and the truly numerous wagons shifting bulk coal and coke, there were well over thirty more specialised wagon types regularly to be seen working in and out of the various rail served industries around the two main line yards and along the two still active branches that ran from Hatfield via Welwyn Garden City and out East and West to Hertford and Luton and Dunstable respectively.

As a boy at the time I had no idea of how this constant movement of goods consignments various would collapse so quickly in the 1960s. Some hung on though; in 1960 my future - and now late - FiL was busy designing and having constructed an offloading facility to efficiently handle the contents of Covhops, which facility would continue to receive rail deliveries until the remaining spur of the Hertford branch was closed to traffic in about 1976.

... Charringtons ....
This was the visually dominant coal merchant on the ECML when BR's coal concentration scheme was implemented. There were suddenly impressive block trains of freshly painted 21T steel hoppers branded 'Coal Concentration CHARRINGTONS' running. Our little gang cycled out to Knebworth (I think) to see one such in disarray, derailed on the up side. (Didn't take notes, none of us had a camera, so from my memory alone.)
 
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