Shunting at through stations

johnWM
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Shunting at through stations

Postby johnWM » Wed Oct 08, 2008 10:50 pm

When you read a typical line history, the information that is often thinnest is how the railway was actually run. There are exceptions, but you often don’t know which books contain this type of information before you buy. There have also been some memorable articles in both MRJ and in the Scalefour news over the years.
I thought it would be a good idea to start a list, identifying good sources of information. You never know it might cast some light on some of our model railway “Urban Myths”, and perhaps give us a bit more fun when operating.

In starting this thread I have in my mind my own 4 favourite snippets of information. Perhaps others can add their own to the discussion.
My number 1 (in no particular order, and I might come back to others later)

I remember reading that single line secondary routes had their goods yards laid out in the same direction for a reason. The author went on to explain that a goods train would shunt the yards while going one way along the line only. The train would pick up and set down along the way as necessary. When it reached the other end, any wagons needing to return to the original end would then be run straight through with no shunting in the opposite direction. The claim was made for cross country secondary routes.

Well it seems a perfectly reasonable argument. It is very logical. It seems so logical I am inclined to believe that it was the norm; probably for many branch lines as well as cross country routes. The evidence from track plans in line histories certainly suggest that this was the intention when many lines were constructed; goods yards along a route often being laid out in the same direction.

However the first hand evidence in “TheGolden Valley Railway” by W.H Smith (Pub Wild Swan) shows that, at least for this line, from Pontrilas to Hay on Wye, this restriction was not in place. Even though shunting would be awkward and inconvenient at times, trains were shunted as and when necessary in both directions. The evidence is from Charlie Smiths diary, a driver who describes in a great deal of detail his first train on the line (26th May 1924), a mixed train of a six wheeled coach, two four wheeled coaches, eight loaded and five empty wagons. The account describes the drop off and pick up at each station along the route, and clearly describes shunting in both directions (p55-56). In fact the whole book is filled with gems like this. Was this line the exception that proves the rule? I suspect not.

Has anyone else come across direct references to this aspect of operation?
Was shunting by trains in one direction only on single track routes the norm, an operational preference or a modellers assumption based on the perceived evidence of track plans?

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Rod Cameron
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Re: Shunting at through stations

Postby Rod Cameron » Thu Oct 09, 2008 6:37 am

Interesting subject John. Certainly on the line from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton and Eastbourne on which I have done the most research, the freight WTTs and sectional appendices include instructions as to which end of the pickup goods to assemble wagons to facilitate shunting at the various stations on route. I think also that for Eridge at least, whose goods yard was on the down side, only down trains stopped for shunting and up trains passed through to Tunbridge Wells - any wagons to and from Eridge would be handled on the next down train.

However, whilst it would have been difficult to shunt an up train, it certainly wouldn't have been physically impossible - once reversed from the up to the down side there were loops and headshunts to hide in so as not to disrupt passenger services.

I don't know though how the reality might have been different from the plans and how rigidly the appendices notes were adhered to.
Rod

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Bob Ellis
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Re: Shunting at through stations

Postby Bob Ellis » Thu Oct 09, 2008 6:56 pm

This is a complicated topic and I don't think there was any hard and fast answer. I have just made a list of the thirteen stations that had sidings on the single line Hawes branch of the NER, the line I know best, and discovered that seven had yards on the Down side, four on the Up side and two on both sides. In addition to that, there were six sets of private sidings, of which five were on the Up side and one on the Down side. One reason for the differences was that the line was built in stages over a period of 30 years and by four different companies, the York and Newcastle Railway, the NER, the Bedale and Leyburn Railway and the Midland Railway, each of which will presumably have had its own policies about such things. Another reason was the situation of the companies using the private and some of the public sidings. From Appendices to WTTs and other official documents, I know that the NER, the LNER and BR all preferred to shunt on the outward trip with a straight run through on the return trip, but there were exceptions. For instance, when there were markets at Hawes (every Tuesday), Leyburn (every Friday) or Bedale (alternate Wednesdays), shunting took place in both directions because wagons containing goods and livestock for the markets needed to be collected on the way and wagons containing goods and livestock purchased at the markets needed to be delivered to their destinations on the way back. Like I said at the outset, if the Hawes Branch is anything to go by, there was no hard and fast rule.
Best wishes,
Bob Ellis
Bob Ellis

Modelling Hawes (NER/MR) c.1905

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Tim V
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Re: Shunting at through stations

Postby Tim V » Thu Oct 09, 2008 9:06 pm

Great Western Journal 23 contains an excellent article on the Kingham goods, some yards are shunted down and up.

At Clutton, the yard would be easiest to shunt from a down train, but the timetable says to shunt it from an up train. This would involve running round the train. I have decided to ignore what the timetable says :!:
Tim V
Scalefour News Editor

johnWM
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Re: Shunting at through stations

Postby johnWM » Thu Oct 09, 2008 10:16 pm

It is interesting to speculate what the reasons might be for the practice on a particular line. Perhaps the psychology that after a hard days work a straight run home encouraged good time keeping. Perhaps in some cases a gradient within station limits meant that an engine leaving a train on the through line facing down gradient was not a good idea. Market days do seem to have been very important indeed in rural areas and led to longer working days for train crews.
On the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton many of the stations seem to be laid out to allow convenient shunting from either direction.
A typical station of this type is Hermitage. Plan below.
Attachments
HERMITAGE.JPG
HERMITAGE.JPG (8.19 KiB) Viewed 9281 times

Martin Nield
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Re: Shunting at through stations

Postby Martin Nield » Mon Dec 01, 2008 10:10 am

I would have thought that the way goods yards were laid out at through stations depended upon the local geography (access to the nearest town or village) and topography (the lie of the land). The operating convenience of the railway company was surely a secondary consideration.

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Tim V
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Re: Shunting at through stations

Postby Tim V » Mon Dec 01, 2008 5:51 pm

johnWM wrote:It is interesting to speculate what the reasons might be for the practice on a particular line. Perhaps the psychology that after a hard days work a straight run home encouraged good time keeping. Perhaps in some cases a gradient within station limits meant that an engine leaving a train on the through line facing down gradient was not a good idea. Market days do seem to have been very important indeed in rural areas and led to longer working days for train crews.
On the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton many of the stations seem to be laid out to allow convenient shunting from either direction.
A typical station of this type is Hermitage. Plan below.


What makes you think this would be shunted from either direction? I see a one ended yard, it would need running round to shunt from the other way.
Tim V
Scalefour News Editor

johnWM
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Re: Shunting at through stations

Postby johnWM » Tue Dec 02, 2008 10:52 am

Hi Tim
My only bit of evidence is a bit flimsy. Hermitage (previous plan) has the loop split almost in half by a cross over leading into the yard. I was speculating that this allowed a goods train to be in the loop clear of the station and to drop a wagon off the front of the train across this cross over straight into the headshunt, possibly to be shunted by a train in the opposite direction later in the day.
hermitage.JPG
hermitage.JPG (9.9 KiB) Viewed 9030 times

By the same means wagons could have been left in the headshunt for collection by a previous train in the opposite direction ready for pick up by a train running in the less convenient direction. See sketch above)
All speculation.

Sutton Scotney
sutton scotney.JPG
sutton scotney.JPG (9.32 KiB) Viewed 9030 times

another station on the same line, does not have the long loop, is this a significant point local to the station, or was it just that longer trains were expected to pass each other at Hermitage. In other words was the cross over halfway along the loop an operational design feature at Hermitage or a decision based just on topography? I dont know but its fun speculating.

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Tim V
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Re: Shunting at through stations

Postby Tim V » Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:31 pm

Without working timetables, sectional appendices and dimensioned track plans, this is speculative.

There is an account of shunting at Burghclere in Burghclere Signalman by Kevin Robertson, that was post war, while I think your trackplans are pre 1942 improvements.
Tim V
Scalefour News Editor

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Russ Elliott
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Re: Shunting at through stations

Postby Russ Elliott » Wed Dec 03, 2008 1:23 am

Dimensioned track plans are given in the Wild Swan book. I don't think there was a standardised way of shunting the stations on the line - loop lengths varied considerably, even after the WWII improvements. The diamond on some (but not all) of the stations on both the northern and southern parts of the line was replaced by a single slip in the WWII improvements, which would have made a difference to the shunting patterns at a particular station. It was not uncommon on many DN&S stations for goods trains to leave a wagon or two on the loop roads, those wagons being horse shunted, or pinch barred, or gravity rolled, to get 'into' the yard. Horse box traffic was always heavy on the line, sometimes entailing passenger trains wiggling backwards into the yard or loading dock for their pickup, but I get the impression that the odd horse box being detached from the rear of a train would have been left uncoupled in the platform road, and dispersed to its loading dock as above.


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