Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

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barhamd
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Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby barhamd » Mon Sep 14, 2020 1:22 pm

I'm guessing this question is a bit like 'how long is a piece of string' but I'd like to try and model something which looks right....

So here are my basic premises, I suspect that they might not be correct so please point out where you disagree.

Time period is ~1955

The Stour Valley line had 12 intermediate stations between Cambridge and Sudbury and it looks, from the working timetable, as if a pickup goods worked down from Cambridge and returned from Sudbury (the other end of the line being served, I guess from Colchester). It also appears that the goods could also return from intermediate stations if there was no traffic which needed action further on (the survey conducted by the CURC lists a train departing Cambridge and returning from Clare, presumably as there was no traffic that day for stations further east)

On any given day let's say half of these stations didn't have any wagons to receive and half didn't have anything to dispatch. (these may be the same station).

  • Despatching
  • Shelford 0
  • Pampisford 0
  • Linton 1
  • Bartlow 0
  • Haverhill 2
  • Sturmer 0
  • Stoke 0
  • Clare 3
  • Cavendish 0
  • Glemsford 0
  • Long Melford 2
  • Sudbury 4

  • Receiving
  • Shelford 0
  • Pampisford 1
  • Linton 0
  • Bartlow 0
  • Haverhill 3
  • Sturmer 1
  • Stoke 0
  • Clare 2
  • Cavendish 0
  • Glemsford 1
  • Long Melford 2
  • Sudbury 3

Does this sound plausible? Most of these weren't big places but the yards still seem to have wagons in them during my time period. Would each station have been served everyday if there was traffic or would you ever hold wagons up waiting for a second one to make the shunt more worthwhile? I also can't see any record of a separate coal train so I'm presuming for the various merchants would have been dealt with on the pick-up goods. I'm presuming that a small coal merchant siding like there was a Clare would only need a couple of wagons a week?

Working on the principle that most of the yards were shunted on the outward direction, on arrival at Clare the train would be made up of 11 wagons, the 8 destined for Clare, Glemsford, Long Melford and Sudbury together with the 3 which had been dispatched from Linton and Haverhill. On departure we have 12 wagons because Clare dispatched one more than it received on this day.

The train makes its way to Sudbury, shunts the yard there and returns through Clare with 13 wagons on. The wagon load from Pampisford having done a round trip to Sudbury simply because the yard points in that direction. This all sounds plausibly inefficient.

I'm also presuming that the train is a mixture of fitted and unfitted vehicles and that it would have been arranged in the yard at Cambridge to group wagons for a particular location together within these two classes. Would it be usual to shunt the train maintaining this order as you went down the line?

Does it make sense that the formation would have arrived as:-

Locomotive-(fitted from stations Shelford to Stoke)-(fitted for Clare)-(fitted for Cavendish-Sudbury)-(unfitted to/from stations Shelford to Stoke)-(unfitted for Clare)-(unfitted for Cavendish-Sudbury)-Brake

and departed as:-
Locomotive-(fitted from stations Shelford to Clare)-(fitted for Cavendish-Sudbury)-(unfitted from stations Shelford to Clare)-(unfitted for Cavendish-Sudbury)-Brake

Please let me have your thoughts.

David

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Noel
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby Noel » Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:24 pm

Pick-up goods [Class K in 1955, I think, later Class 9] were always worked unfitted, whatever the status of the wagons involved. Traffic for any given station would normally be kept together, although a private siding, for example, which faced the other way to the yard might sometimes be worked separately for a number of operational reasons.

barhamd wrote:It also appears that the goods could also return from intermediate stations if there was no traffic which needed action further on (the survey conducted by the CURC lists a train departing Cambridge and returning from Clare, presumably as there was no traffic that day for stations further east)


You need to consider not just traffic to stations, but traffic from them [mostly fairly limited, probably, by 1955, admittedly] and the inbound empties to carry it, plus inbound wagons now empties for removal. This virtually doubles the traffic; a few wagons with inbound loads may be emptied at the right time to take an outbound load, but this won't always happen, by any means. This goods would also handle empty NPCCS, such as horseboxes being returned to their holding location, and might from time to time move a few engineers' wagons, where the numbers didn't require a special train.

barhamd wrote: I also can't see any record of a separate coal train so I'm presuming for the various merchants would have been dealt with on the pick-up goods.


Very little doubt on this.

barhamd wrote:I'm presuming that a small coal merchant siding like there was a Clare would only need a couple of wagons a week?


An example of a traffic which was quite seasonal. Domestic traffic would be heaviest in late summer as the coal merchants built up stocks for the winter, and lightest from late spring. Industrial coal traffic would be more regular, but coal for oast houses and the like, for example, was probably limited to late summer, but very dependent on the weather.

barhamd wrote:Would each station have been served everyday if there was traffic or would you ever hold wagons up waiting for a second one to make the shunt more worthwhile?


The daily train would collect and deliver whatever traffic there was on the day. Stations would notify the appropriate authority of their needs in terms of numbers and types of wagons every day, and also notify wagons on hand for removal. Delaying traffic unnecessarily was likely to result in an unhappy customer and a request for reasons in writing.

In general, a Class K could, in theory depart outbound with nothing except the brake van and return with 20 plus wagons, or vice-versa, and anything in between, and no two days would be the same. To avoid boredom, I suggest that some sort of traffic generating system is in order, whether card based or computerised [which was my preference, but then I could write the program!]
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Noel

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grovenor-2685
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby grovenor-2685 » Mon Sep 14, 2020 2:26 pm

I think it unlikely that the train would run with a fitted head, more likely the fitted wagons would run wirh brake pipes unconnected and the marshalling order just be based on the shunting requirements.
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bécasse
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby bécasse » Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:19 pm

There is a superb article by Michael Clifton in the issue no.23 Summer 1997 of the Great Western Railway Journal (Wild Swan) entitled the Kingham Goods in which he describes in some detail exactly how the Banbury to Kingham and return pick up goods was worked. It may be Great Western but the procedures described, notably how the job was always done the easiest way, are absolutely typical of pick up goods workings throughout the British Isles and, given that the subject is clearly outwith your experience (unsurprisingly perhaps given how long ago they disappeared) I strongly recommend that you try to get hold of a copy, they can usually be found secondhand.

petermeyer
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby petermeyer » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:29 pm

I have been pondering a similar issue but for a main line. I have assumed that the up Local Goods would have dropped off full coal wagons. And the down would have collected the empties. But where in the train would the empties be put? Would the rest of the train remain in station order and the empties put at the end (before the break van) or would the empties go at the front which would have been an easier shunt.

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Noel
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby Noel » Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:24 pm

petermeyer wrote:I have been pondering a similar issue but for a main line. I have assumed that the up Local Goods would have dropped off full coal wagons. And the down would have collected the empties. But where in the train would the empties be put? Would the rest of the train remain in station order and the empties put at the end (before the break van) or would the empties go at the front which would have been an easier shunt.


Where ever was most convenient, basically, possibly even in the middle if there was traffic which the rules stated had to be on the van so the guard could keep an eye on it; the rules on how a train was made up still applied, at least in theory. On a main line, incidentally, your assumption may not be correct. David stated that in his case he knew that the line was worked out and back from both ends. However, on a main line it was quite possible for a Class K to work through between two major centres, and then return, in which case the empties would probably be collected by the train that delivered the loaded ones. It wouldn't really matter which yard sorted out the results for onward transmission. Another possibility is two trains, one each way, with the crews swapping over where they met. Diversions up a branch and back were not totally unknown, either. Much depended on local practice.
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Noel

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barhamd
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby barhamd » Mon Sep 14, 2020 7:36 pm

thanks for the feedback.
I hadn't realised that the fitted wagons would just run as unfitted.

I'm now going to display my complete ignorance of exactly how vacuum brakes work. I presumed that the brakes were applied when the vacuum was lost, either by being released out by the driver or by a break in the train pipe. How did you release the brakes when the wagons weren't connect to a source of vacuum?

David

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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby david_g » Mon Sep 14, 2020 8:37 pm

David, you're not alone in being ignorant of the subtleties of vacuum brakes. Until becoming involved as a footplate volunteer on a preserved railway (the Welshpool & Llanfair) I hadn't grasped exactly how they worked either.

In the normal state the vacuum cylinder has an equal vacuum both above and below the piston and the brakes are off in this position. The upper side of the piston is connected to a vacuum reservoir on the vehicle which in turn is connected to the train pipe via a non return valve such that air can only flow out of the reservoir and upper side of the piston, not into it. The reservoir side of the piston is required to hold the vacuum for a certain length of time without leaking off.

When the vacuum in the train pipe is reduced the upper reservoir and upper side of the piston retain the vacuum at the previous level (21" of mercury in our case which I think was the norm for UK railways except, of course, for the GWR who used 25") as air can't get past the non return valve, but the lower side has a reduced vacuum and therefore a higher pressure relative to the upper side which pushes the piston up and applies the brake. This reduction in vacuum is caused either by the driver admitting air via the brake valve or the train pipe coming apart.

To allow vehicles to be moved when no vacuum is available you "pull the strings". These are valves which allow air into the reservoir and upper side of the piston on each vehicle, so there is atmospheric pressure either side of the piston, once again the pressures are equal and the brakes are off. On our vehicles there is an assortment of rods, levers and ball valves to destroy the vacuum in the reservoir, no actual strings are involved!

The Beyer Peacocks have a rather pretty little brass handled valve behind the driver's side cab sidesheet to do a similar job on the loco to allow it to be moved without the vacuum ejector running which keeps the noise down. Our Austrian visitor has a rather more utilitarian flap over the end of a pipe which you lift up to destroy the vacuum in the loco reservoir.
David

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Noel
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby Noel » Mon Sep 14, 2020 8:40 pm

Circa 1955 it is likely that most VB wagons spent most of their time running without the brake operative because it was not connected up. BR were trying to increase the number of express goods, which required VB wagons, either throughout or as a 'fitted head', so under the 1955 modernisation plan BR constructed or converted a lot to increase the number available when needed.

You are correct on how automatic VB works; create vacuum to release brakes, admit air to apply them, which is fail safe [the LNWR before the 1889 Act adopted the simple or non-automatic vacuum brake which applied the brakes by creating vacuum, which indirectly led to a nasty accident at Carlisle, in 1890, ironically]. If you look at the two photographs in https://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/bluebell/pics/480222.html, which are of opposite sides, you will see in both a white star on the solebar, with what looks like a piece of string behind it. Pull the string [which may be a chain, I'm not sure] and air is admitted to the system, so no more vacuum until it's created by a loco. Coaches had this as well.
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Noel

petermeyer
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby petermeyer » Mon Sep 14, 2020 9:04 pm

When all else fails read the instructions. Prompted by this fascinating discussion, I revisited the Working Time Table and noticed that the up local goods (one each LNWR and GWR - mine is a joint line) ran as "express goods" for part of the journey. Does this mean they had to attach the vacuum brakes or did express just mean non-stop in this instance and just a change of headcode?

Rather than hijack this thread further I am minded to start my own on this subject.

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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby barhamd » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:16 pm

Returning to the make up of trains I wondered how intelligent the planning was? Noel pointed out that there would be delivery of empty wagons for loading and removal of empty wagons after unloading. Presumable goods clerks at each yard would tell control what wagons were needed and what empties were done with but would this result in, for example, an empty van released from one yard becoming a empty van delivered to another on the same pick-up goods. I'm guessing in pre-TOPS days there was a lot more mileage of empty stock?

David

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Noel
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby Noel » Tue Sep 15, 2020 6:43 pm

petermeyer wrote:ran as "express goods" for part of the journey. Does this mean they had to attach the vacuum brakes or did express just mean non-stop in this instance and just a change of headcode?


I'm not familiar with GW WTTs, but BR WR ones showed the class of train by means of a letter at the top of each column. I also don't know the GW class letters, but have been able to find https://www.warwickshirerailways.com/misc/headcodes.htm which shows the headcodes from 1918. My expectation is that the non-stop part of the journey was still as an unfitted train; even partially fitted trains were pretty rare pre-WW1, as was VB stock. If it was not running as class K, then I would suggest that it could be class F or class H [both unfitted] in the 1918 list for that part of the journey.
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Noel

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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby bécasse » Tue Sep 15, 2020 7:36 pm

Noel wrote:
petermeyer wrote:ran as "express goods" for part of the journey. Does this mean they had to attach the vacuum brakes or did express just mean non-stop in this instance and just a change of headcode?


I'm not familiar with GW WTTs, but BR WR ones showed the class of train by means of a letter at the top of each column. I also don't know the GW class letters, but have been able to find https://www.warwickshirerailways.com/misc/headcodes.htm which shows the headcodes from 1918. My expectation is that the non-stop part of the journey was still as an unfitted train; even partially fitted trains were pretty rare pre-WW1, as was VB stock. If it was not running as class K, then I would suggest that it could be class F or class H [both unfitted] in the 1918 list for that part of the journey.


I suspect that the term "express goods" merely means that they had no stops to set down or take up wagons for that part of the journey. They may not even have run non-stop as, with their slower speed, looping or setting back to allow a faster passenger service to pass may well have been required en route, the booked timings would have made it clear whether that was actually the case.

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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby bécasse » Tue Sep 15, 2020 7:44 pm

barhamd wrote:Returning to the make up of trains I wondered how intelligent the planning was? Noel pointed out that there would be delivery of empty wagons for loading and removal of empty wagons after unloading. Presumable goods clerks at each yard would tell control what wagons were needed and what empties were done with but would this result in, for example, an empty van released from one yard becoming a empty van delivered to another on the same pick-up goods. I'm guessing in pre-TOPS days there was a lot more mileage of empty stock?


By 1955, with almost all wagons in common ownership, Freight Control should have been aware of the number and whereabouts of empty wagons (of various types) that had been unloaded and were thus available for new loads, and also the number of empties required for loading at each location. They would have done their best to match the two minimising unnecessary mileage. Prior to PO wagon pooling, of course, that would have been much more difficult.

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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby Noel » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:34 pm

And for Peter's period, of course, no "common user", so 'foreign' empties had to be returned asap, which usually meant empty.
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Noel

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Noel
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby Noel » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:50 pm

bécasse wrote:They may not even have run non-stop as, with their slower speed, looping or setting back to allow a faster passenger service to pass may well have been required en route, the booked timings would have made it clear whether that was actually the case.


Non-stop in railway usage meant no stops for traffic purposes, but did not imply anything about stops for operational reasons.
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Noel

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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby Paul Willis » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:59 pm

barhamd wrote:Returning to the make up of trains I wondered how intelligent the planning was? Noel pointed out that there would be delivery of empty wagons for loading and removal of empty wagons after unloading. Presumable goods clerks at each yard would tell control what wagons were needed and what empties were done with but would this result in, for example, an empty van released from one yard becoming a empty van delivered to another on the same pick-up goods. I'm guessing in pre-TOPS days there was a lot more mileage of empty stock?

David


Hi David,

You may want to get yourself a copy of Bob Essery's "Train Shunting and Marshalling for the Modeller".

http://www.crecy.co.uk/train-shunting-and-marshalling-for-the-modeller

It's a relatively slim volume but cuts to the heart of the questions you're thinking about. There are even half a dozen "shunting puzzles" to illustrate how trains were made up and broken up for different purposes.

Cheers
Paul
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby hughesp87 » Tue Sep 15, 2020 10:17 pm

David,

The Essery volume is in my bookcase if you want to borrow it.

Geraint
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petermeyer
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby petermeyer » Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:20 am

Coincidently I have been reading this volume this week. All 6 shunting examples regard marshalling trains into station order by a shunter in a yard or marshalling yard. It does not address what happens when the train is on the road and collecting empties.

Is the neat station order maintained or do the empties not get in the way? Are the empties collected on the outward or return journey? And did wagons not have to be cleaned before they could be re-issued?

Some of this is academic because on a model you can not tell if a van on an arriving pick up goods train is loaded for delivery to the next station, is empty to be delivered to the next station for future use or is an empty being returned.

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steve howe
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby steve howe » Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:38 am

david_g wrote:David, you're not alone in being ignorant of the subtleties of vacuum brakes. Until becoming involved as a footplate volunteer on a preserved railway (the Welshpool & Llanfair) I hadn't grasped exactly how they worked either.
David


I was also pleased to read David's account of vacuum braked vehicles as this has always been a source of mystery to me. I always assumed that fitted vehicles had to be marshalled at the front of the train behind the engine, with all unfitted being placed behind. I had heard tales of shunters going along "pulling the strings" to release the brakes but could never find an explanation of how this worked.

Very enlightening, thank you.

Steve

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Will L
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Re: Formation (and size) of a pick-up goods train

Postby Will L » Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:09 am

petermeyer wrote:...Is the neat station order maintained or do the empties not get in the way? Are the empties collected on the outward or return journey?..

Most yards are only shunted in one direction. and are designed that way. I think you will find that for a standard yard shunt done the simplest and quickest way, the empties naturally end up where the full wagons were.


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