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The L&NER Delivers the Goods - Vol 1 - General Considerations

Peter Tatlow, Lightmoor Press, 2023, £27.50

Book review

The best introduction to this case-bound book of 152 pages is on the back cover where the author shows that goods traffic was far greater than carrying passengers:

Interestingly, this share may have been true, but glosses over the ever-growing captive market for city suburban services, where other companies had a higher share than the LNER and viewed it as a "milch cow", and that the LNER was quite simply not as wealthy. All the same, a view of the LNER's goods traffic - especially its strong points as conferred by the national geography and distribution of resources and their resultant products - is long overdue and a fascinating account. The subject is so rich that 12 sections are provided:

1 - General and Organisation
2 - Commercial Considerations
3 - Sources of Traffic
4 - Freight Train Working
5 - Operation
6 - Locomotives and Working
7 - Rolling Stock and Distribution
8 - Working of Goods Yards
9 - Motor and Carriage Work
10 - Marine Activities
11 - Effect of Major Events
12 - Conclusion

With many sub-chapters in each, the total number of chapters is just over 40. It’s a veritable encyclopaedia. Chapter 11 is particularly striking and it deals with forthcoming nationalisation. Therein lies a problem for while detail about LNER management of the traffic is excellent, the wider picture of how traffic developed or declined is absent. It's virtually an account of the golden years, so to speak, although that period was actually around 1910-14. An example is the Atlantic deep-water fishing industry (which is not mentioned) and construction of Immingham Dock by the GCR with an eye towards it rather than the North Sea - and ease of distribution from there.

The plain English distinction between carrying passengers or goods is affected by railway terminology and wagon Diagram books, hence the milk traffic is absent on the grounds that it was "passenger" rated (actually carried by goods and passenger trains). like quite a few other traffics, such as fish and fruit. These divisions mean that traffic in these commodities and its development (and the way it declined) is not the whole story.

There is also a lack of clarity in how pick-up goods and through goods were used (the former to and from marshalling yards and the latter between them) and the extent of perishable traffic being distributed by passenger trains because it was faster. This should not be confused with express goods trains (fitted wholly or partially with AVB) which the author describes very well, the Appendix even listing their operational names - most people know of the "Scotch goods" by its nickname but not of 16 other such workings. It is suggested that pick-up goods interfered with the operation of faster trains but it was the other way round. The purpose of classification and headlamp codes was to establish and show the signalmen in particular, the priority of trains on the line. When a train ran late, he could decide which to allow through and which should be held back.

In a related vein, there were separate seasonal working timetables for particular traffics; their long distance pathing; and even priorities over normally timetabled services along the way. This, to me, is one of the beauties of goods traffic and how the LNER managed it and its customers' requirements with high priority goods run as specials and given a clear run while other trains were switched to the slow line or departure delayed (rather than put in a refuge siding). There were even cases of a signalman holding back a train if he knew the crew tended not to be quick off the mark but allowing one whose crew would react with gusto. As the author says, operation of most goods trains was not as time-critical as timetabled passenger trains. Hence the application of priorities was often down to personal interpretation by staff on the ground. Small wonder that a farmer waiting for his livestock to arrive could spend hours in a signal box being plied with tea!

Here are some sample pages:

This is from Section 5 and I've chosen it because modellers tend not to "see" how very different goods trains were and that they had distinct characters. This page shows a pair of Class No 2 Braked or Express goods (which was an intermediate category) and the actual assortment of wagons is plain to see - and the addition of a cattle wagon.

The author has a lot to say about general handling of goods and this picture from a goods yard shows loading via horse-drawn and motorised vehicles (which are covered in a separate chapter).

All told, this is a sublimely interesting book on glossy art paper with many fabulous illustrations. Highly recommended.

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