Goods & Not So Goods

An overview of railway freight operations for modellers


This web site is a non commercial project, I work for a small charity Disabled Access to Computing which provides IT support for disabled individuals and charities supporting disabled people. We were asked to help with the creation of a very large website and this site served as a test bed for various methods of creating web pages whilst avoiding expense (dreamweaver) or complication (notepad). It isn't very 'pretty' but it is functional and information rich.

I was surprised at the interest shown in the site so decided to leave it in place and add updates as time allowed. I am a one-man-band, so these things take time, the site is therefore a long way from being completed. As the additions and improvements are added piecemeal it is not really practical for me to meaningfully indicate the 'last updated' date.

Printing the Site

Beware - This site printed out resembles the London telephone directory. It currently consists of over two hundred 'web pages' with something over 3000 illustrations, corresponding to well over 1000 printed pages (assuming an A4 sheet size). The overall size of the site is in the region of 130MB, so a better option is to save the lot to disk and burn it on a CD as that way you can use the 'search' facility on the computer to locate any references to areas of particular interest. It is also a LOT cheaper than printing and allows you to download updated versions now and again.

Click HERE for advice on 'off-line browsing'

At some point I will upload an ISO file to allow people to make a CD version, that will also allow me to add live links in the main pages (not currently possible as it complicates people downloading the site using 'web whacker' or similar software). This is not currently possible as we are short of free webspace, the site is already distributed in chunks across several DA2C operated ISP accounts in order to keep costs to a minimum.

Contributions Welcome

Thanks are due to the many contributors who were able to point out errors I had made and who have provided much of the information for the air braked era.

If you wish to comment on the site (feedback and in particular corrections are always welcome) please click on the button below.

Email link button

NB The first word of the subject line MUST be GANSG or the message will (probably) be dropped as spam.
I use a free program called 'Mailwasher' (Click here for the website) which allows me to view my e-mails on the server, deleting the spam before downloading. Highly recommended.

Questions will be answered if I am able and if I cannot answer the question myself I will try the various news groups for further information, this can take some time however.

I have been told to make the index page verbose as this assists search engines when they index the site, however I gather having multiple identical index pages (as the site is hosted on multiple servers) means that they may reject the site. I appologise if you had difficulty finding the site, I have done all I am able to for the moment. In the longer term I will replace the index pages with server specific pages.

Occasionally the site is discussed on a Usenet news group or in a society newsletter, resulting in a large number of visitors. This can lead to parts of the site exceeding their bandwidth limit (notably on the Tiscali hosted sections), so it may 'go down' for a day or so now and again. Nothing I can do about that as I am trying to do all this for free.

As noted above this is still a work in progress, not all the illustrations are yet in place and much work remains to be done on the non-railway sections. Once it is complete in this rough form I will add the figure ID's and cross referencing.

Help Wanted

The site is currently rather lacking in illustrations, if anyone has any photographs of their layout I would be pleased to have a copy to include (if only to break up large blocks of text)

(1) Does anyone know which stations were served by the Speedfreight container service? It may have been only London and Glasgow but I have not yet traced any details.

(2) Does anyone know where I might find the colours used on the stick on traders labels seen in the early BR era? Any information on these would be welcome.

(3) I am still gathering information on lineside industries and shops, if anyone has ever worked in a pickle factory I'd appreciate some notes - Did they have brine tanks outside or were they all indoors? Any information on industries and any old photos of traditional shops I could include would be most welcome.


There is some bias towards N Gauge in the modelling examples as that is the scale my God son and I make models, both by virtue of having been bought 'starter sets' in that scale. The information is however mostly of a general nature and the prototype data applies to all scales.


Various reference are made to Usenet groups, for example uk.rec.models.rail and alt.binaries.images.vintage-engineering. These 'news groups' are similar in many ways to web based forums, however you do not need to register or divulge any personal information in order to participate in them. In general I have found Usenet to be better than the web forums in several ways, for one thing it is much easier to find and follow a particular thread or topic. Low cost ISPs often do not offer access to Usenet, non technical people and those who haven't been to University often do not know it exists and no one makes any money from it, however there are both free and paid-for Usenet services you can access.

Click HERE for a more details on Usenet

Software Used

I prefer had written code for web pages, 'drag and drop' software is quick and easy but the code is often very cluttered and when you start making lots of small changes things can go badly wrong. Most of the work on this site has been done in CSE HTML Validator, initially the free version but I found it so useful I bought a full commercial version (which I consider a worthwhile investment). The site was not designed with any emphasis on style, but it is (I hope) fairly efficient in making the information available. If you are using a high resolution screen the lines may get too long to read easily, however if you have a 'wheel mouse' you can hold down the control key and use the wheel to enlarge the text, which can make it much easier to read.

For large and complex sites I sometimes use Hot Metal Pro as I like its site managements facilities, however due to the nature of my job I often I have to use whatever software the client has chosen. Modern word processors do a fair job of generating web pages, Lotus Word Pro seems to produce the cleanest code, Open Office (or the commercial Star Office) come a close second, and I find Microsoft Word requires the most cleaning-up before uploading.

Index to Main Sections

Historical Background
This section offers an outline history of the railway freight business from 1800 to 2000. There are sub-sections detailing the role of the Railway Clearing House (RCH) and the Common User Scheme, the system of charging for goods on the railways and brief notes on the methods used for heating and lighting railway stock.

Index for Historical Background

  Track and Gauge
This sections covers the history of track and track formations. The various sub-sections cover the development of track systems from early flaged rail on stone sleepers to the modern concrete based PACT track systems, turntables, points and slips, track gauge & loading Gauge, narrow gauge track and associated rolling stock, buffer stops and track maintenance personnel & equipment. The final section discusses model railway track systems, or at least those I have experimented with.

Index for Track and Gauge

  Communications, Control and Signalling
This section covers the evolution of signalling and the associated areas of communications and operational control of the railways. The various sub sections describe Communications & Control Systems, Telegraph Poles, Cable Conduits and Switch Boxes, Bell Codes & Locomotive Head Codes, Mechanical Types & Fog Signals, Ground and Fixed Signals, Power Operated and Colour Light signals, Signal Boxes and Level Crossings, Track Circuits and Industrial Signals and a separate section discusses Basic Layout Signalling

Index for Communications, Control and Signalling

  Rolling Stock
This section deals with the development of goods rolling stock including brakes, couplings, body types and specialised vehicles. Topics covered in the sub sections include- Chassis, Couplings & Hoses, Buffers, Wheels & Bearings, Suspension & Bogies, Brakes, body construction, BR wagon Designs, Air Braked Stock, Brake vans and brake tenders, Departmental Stock, Ferry Wagons, Rail Tanks, PO Stock and Air Braked PO stock

Index for Rolling Stock

  Unit Loads
Unit Loads are containers, pallets and Intermediate Bulk Containers, variations on which have been in use since the earliest days on the railways. There are three sub section, Early container types discusses the history of the container up to the end of the vacuum braked goods services, Pallets and IBCs discusses these post war developments and Modern Containers, Road Railer, Piggyback and Swap Bodies discusses the post air-brake networks

Index for Unit Loads

This section covers the liveries and markings used for goods stock from the pre-grouping era to about the year 2000. Individual sub sections contain details on Goods Locomotives, Traders labels and standard markings used on goods stock), the standard liveries of the Big Four (LMS, LNER. GWR and SR) goods and passenger stock, PO wagons, Tank Wagons, early British Railways livery (1948-1964), the later British Railways livery (1964 - 1975), BR TOPS era (1975-privatisation) liveries, BR Departmental Stock and BR Ferry stock. Separate sub sections deal with the liveries of the early Privatisation Era stock and the liveries and marking required on ISO Containers

Index for Livery section

  Freight Operations
This section deals with operational practice such as the formation of goods trains and their routing through the system. The sub-sections include an introduction and discussion on the categories of goods carried, categories of Goods Train and usage of rolling stock, Coal traffic and Merry Go Round Coal Services, Ore and Metals traffic, Grain and Beer, Road Vehicles, Military Traffic and Farm Machinery, Livestock & Seasonal Traffic, Petroleum Products, explosives, corrosives and compressed gasses with details of the vehicles used for these, vacuum braked and air braked Container Services, the BR Air Braked Network, Speedlink and Enterprise wagon load services and Ferry Services.
A separate series of sub-sections deals with Non Passenger Coaching Stock operations including Fish & Newspapers, Parcels and Mail, Milk (churn traffic and tankers)and Private Carriages and Motor Cars.
A third series of sub sections then details the operational use of Private Owner Stock including an Overview with sections on the coal trade, stone and lime traffic, PO Vans and tank wagons and the modern air-braked PO scene (up to about 2001)

Index for Freight Operations

  Railway Company Goods Facilities
This section deals with marshalling yards and goods yards, including the specialised facilities required for container handling. There are sub-sections on topics such as Shunting Methods, Refuge Sidings, Exchange Sidings and Marshalling Yards, station goods yards and their facilities, a selection of prototype goods yards and wharfs, the facilities provided for coal and heating oil, railway container handling facilities and Railway owned road vehicles.

Index for Railway Company Goods Facilities

  Wagon Loads & Materials Handling
This section covers model wagon loads. A sub section discusses the use of specialised materials handling equipment on the prototype and how this might be modelled. The various sub-sections discuss topics such as Tarpaulin Sheets on Wagons, Minerals and Other Bulk Loads, Metals and Timber, Road vehicles and Farm Equipment with a separate section on Unusual and Out of Gauge Loads. There is also a discussion on the modelling of yard and platform clutter. The materials handling side describes, Platform trucks and trolleys the methods used for, Bulk Minerals Grains and Powders as well as Liquids and Gasses. There is a section on the design and modelling of Hoists and Cranes with a section on Crane Hooks and Lifting Aids. There is a discussion on Unit Loads and a section on railway yard weighbridges.

Index for Wagon Loads & Materials Handling

  Available Models

This section covers the various ready to run models and kits of goods vehicles. The suppliers discussed include Peco, Graham Farish, Bachman-Farish, Dapol, Lima (discontinued in late 1980's), Hornby Minitrix (discontinued in early 1990's), Kits and Discontinued Kits as well as Continental Models suitable for British use.

Index for Available Models

Kit Bashing

NB This section is currently being worked on, the illustrations may change once I dig out the models and see how I made them

This section contains drawings illustrating the construction of various N Gauge models mentioned in the other sections. These are all 'train set' models rather than 'model railway' standard but they serve to fill in gaps in the available ranges of models and to break up long rakes of RTR or kit built models.

Index for Kit Bashing section

Lineside Industries

NB This section is currently being worked on, the sections currently uploaded are essentially rough drafts and many of the illustrations are missing or require additional work. I have tried to cover as many industries as possible with reference to a possible railway connection.

Index for Lineside Industries section


Appendix One - Outside the Fence
This section deals with 'set dressing', general background information on the environment in which the railways operated. There are a great many sub sections detailing everything from uniforms worn by the authorities and civilians, the development of river, canal and road transport etc.

Appendix Two - Selected Pre Grouping and Joint Companies
Brief details of the history and goods rolling stock of various pre-grouping (pre-1923) railway companies. The listings are not exhaustive but include all the major players and also any companies I felt had modelling potential. Where possible I contacted the relevant association or society to confirm the details, contact details for these are appended to each company entry. Companies described include the three big joint lines; Cheshire Lines Committee, Midland & Great Northern, Somerset and Dorset Joint Rly and the various constituents of the Big Four-
LMS -Caledonian Railway, Furness Railway, Glasgow & South Western Railway, Garsatang & Knott End Railway, Highland Railway, Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, London & North Western Railway, London Tillbury and Southend Railway, Midland Railway, North Staffordshire Railway)
LNER - Great Central Railway, Great Eastern Railway, Great North of Scotland Railway, Great Northern Railway, Hull & Barnsley Railway, North British Railway and the North Eastern Railway,
GWR - Pre-grouping Great Western Railway, Brecon & Merthyr Tydfil Junction Railway, Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway, Barry Railway, Cambrian Railways, The Cardiff Railway, Midland & South Western Junction Railway, Rhondda & Swansea Bay Railway, Rhymney Railway and the Taff Vale Rly.
SR - London Brighton and South Coast Railway, London and South Western Railway, South East & Chatham Railway, The Metropolitan Railway and the diminutive Plymouth Devonport & South Western Junction Railway.

Appendix Three - Passenger Rolling Stock
Not my main are of interest but some notes which may be useful to a beginner. Also in this section is a discussion on push-pull passenger workings and an illustrated listing of all the various multiple units used on British lines.

Appendix Four - Freight Locomotives
Alan Cox has re-written the sub section on diesel locomotives, the remainder are my own notes. I believe I have now covered every diesel and electric locomotive type and have made a start on the steam engines (the BR standard classes are described and illustrated). Completion of the coverage of the steam engines is a big job which remains to be completed. If anyone has a model of a steam locomotive which they feel captures the look of the original I would be pleased to use a photo as this means I do not have to do a drawing for each of the thousand or more types of engine.

Appendix 5 - Hale Station - Cheshire Lines Committee
A small double track station with substantial goods facilities and an interesting track plan that lends itself to modelling. I have done a little research and this may provide an interesting insight into the working of such a small station

Appendix Six - Contributors and Bibliography
The original version of this web site had several shortcomings, for one I had rather lost interest in the railways following the introduction of Corporate Blue and hence knew little of developments that followed. Several people have corrected and amended my notes on this era, for which I am grateful (although I still prefer the green diesel era for modelling). Specialist areas such as recent developments in signalling were also something of a weak point, in this instance Keith Norgrove stepped in and provided all the required information.

Appendix Seven - Links to Useful Websites
Not comprehensive but the best I could manage. If anyone has any recommendations I would be pleased to hear of them.

Appendix W - Some notes on the FTLR and Snugly compact layouts built for children
Brief details of the 'Fettling on Sea to Tethers End Light Railway' (FTLR) and a smaller layout 'Snugly' built from redundant parts following a change to the original FTLR

Appendix X - Simple, and cheap, wargame scenery and terrain
I was not intending to include this on the site but a couple of people said it might be of interest with regard to scenic modelling. It contains details of bits and pieces I made to go with a child's toy soldiers. The sections on trees, ponds and buildings might be of interest.

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All material Copyright © Mike Smith 2003 unless otherwise credited