Important Private Lines in Great Britain
A SMALL TANK LOCOMOTIVE at work on the industrial railway at Beckton Essex, belonging to the Gas Light and Coke Company. The locomotive is specially reduced in height for working over lines with limited head-
SOME of the most remarkable railway lines in Great Britain are little known. No passengers pass over them and, not infrequently, the lines and rolling-
We are familiar on the railways with goods wagons bearing the names of private firms, but we seldom wonder whether their proprietors may have a complete private railway system of their own.
The pioneer steam and horse railways were found in industrial undertakings; public railways did not come until many years had passed. It is fairly well established that a wooden railway, operated by horses, was in use for industrial purposes in England at the close of the Elizabethan era, when even the stage coach was unknown. Very little is known of this hoary “Rail-
In the yard of almost any London suburban station an occasional wagon may be seen bearing the name of the Gas Light and Coke Company. All Londoners know the Gas Light and Coke Company. It cooks their food and heats and lights many of their houses. But they do not connect it with railways. Yet the Gas Light and Coke Company is the proprietor of one of the most wonderful industrial railway systems in Great Britain, perhaps in the world. A glance at a map of the London suburban system of the London and North Eastern Railway will reveal a branch line running down from Stratford, on the Great Eastern Section, to Victoria Docks, Silvertown, and North Woolwich. That branch has, in addition, a loop line between the stations of Tidal Basin and Silvertown. From the loop line a solitary branch runs to Beckton.
Beckton is not a suburb, nor a village, nor a town. It is a gas-
THE “DOUBLE DECKED RAILWAY” at Beckton is often so called because of long viaducts which run above the surface tracks. There are some seven miles of viaduct in the works and altogether over seventy miles of line have been laid within 360 acres. This private system is linked up with the LNER.
The entrance from the main road between East Ham and the Royal Albert Dock affords the most impressive approach. The visitor has considerably farther to walk than if he came into the special terminal station of the LNER, but he gains a far better idea of the vastness of the place. A long avenue, lined with trees, and flanked with workers’ houses, and -
On reaching the inn, which is called the “Friendship”, the visitor is on the threshold of the works themselves, and he begins to realize how that great railway mileage comes to be packed into 360 acres. Running at right angles to the line of vision is a long steel viaduct, while below it, on the ground level, is a complicated triangular railway junction, governed by a large signal cabin. Purely internal railway tracks radiate from the Junction in three directions, while a fourth links it up with the LNER.
The avenue of approach, still lined with trees, continues right into the heart of the works; but now it has three distinct ways, one for a double-
Altogether, Beckton contains thirty-
Some of the engines, saddle-
THE “JUMBOS” is the name given to saddle-
All the machinery of the works at Beckton is repaired and renewed in a workshop which would do credit to a full-
Down on the river front, where the coal is transferred from the incoming steamers, there is another signal cabin of considerable importance, governing the movements of trains running on and off the piers. It stands high above the viaduct level, affording a wonderful view of the works and the railway system. On the Eastern or “No. 1” Pier, electric colour-
There are three complete trains of sixteen wagons each fitted throughout with continuous air-
From this complicated industrial railway let us turn to a short, but none the less notable, line at the other end of Great Britain, namely, the Kinlochleven Railway of the British Aluminium Company, in Argyllshire, Scotland. Kinlochleven is an extraordinary place. Situated among stern mountain peaks at the head of the sea-
TRANSFERRING ALUMINIUM from an electric train to ship at one of the quays at Kinlochleven. On the left is an electric locomotive, No. 2, and in the background an electric travelling crane. This line, belonging to the British Aluminium Company, was the first electrically operated railway in Scotland.
Aluminium, it may be recalled, is produced principally from pure alumina oxide, which is treated with a powerful electric current. At Kinlochleven, the power station that generates the current for the production of the metal derives its primary energy from the Blackwater Reservoir, high up on the verge of Rannoch Moor. Naturally, there is plenty of current to spare for general and special purposes in the aluminium-
AN INDUSTRIAL LINE IN THE HIGHLANDS. A rock cutting on the British Aluminium Company’s electric railway at Kinlochleven, Argyllshire. The gauge is 3 ft. The power necessary for the production of the metal and for other purposes, including the railway, is derived from Blackwater Reservoir on Rannoch Moor.
The gauge is 3 ft, and power is supplied to overhead conductors at 500 to 550 volts DC. The trains, which carry no passenger traffic, are operated by four-
A Ship Canal Railway
The British Aluminium Company has a much longer railway in the Scottish Highlands, running between the new works outside Fort William and the dam at the foot of Loch Treig. This is worked by steam; it is used only for maintenance purposes, and has not the really unique features -
The Manchester Ship Canal is not an undertaking which the uninformed are likely to associate with railways. Yet its works include no fewer than 212 miles of railway route, worked by seventy-
At Liverpool, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board has a network of over 118 miles of railway, and its thirty-
One of the most notable industrial railways in the Midlands is that at the great brewery of Messrs. Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton, Ltd, at Burton-
The word “brewery” is something of a misnomer, since there are three -
The firm was founded in 1777, and in course of time its premises spread out over the town, until they are to-
From the traffic standpoint, the Brewery Railway really consists of two sections, the privately owned tracks, and the running roads constructed by the former Midland Railway to provide access to its system. These latter have a total length of approximately ten miles, much of which is carried on the level through the town itself.
Trains of Fifty Wagons
Until the second half of last century the casks of ale were dispatched from the brewery to the railway station in low, two-
No time was lost, either by the Midland Railway or by the brewery company in setting to work. By 1862 the connecting links had been built, and the Old and Middle Breweries and the cooperage were being served by the firm’s private line. In the following year Parliamentary powers were obtained for the extension of the system so as to reach the New Brewery, which was then under construction, and the building of additional new premises necessitated still further extensions to the Burton lines between 1863 and 1876. As happened to the first public railways, it at once became strikingly apparent that a considerable increase of traffic could be handled with less effort. The greatest load that could be dealt with by a single horse hauling one of the old “floater” carts did not exceed a ton, while the contents of four of these carts could be loaded into two railway wagons, which were, of course, of smaller capacity than the present standard type of vehicle. To-
On the inauguration of the railway, traffic continued at first to be handled by horses (which still carry out a small amount of shunting), but animal traction proved inconvenient, both to the firm and to the railway company. A species of traction engine, which could haul eight loaded wagons, was then introduced. At a later date, before the connecting line between the New Brewery and Shobnall -
The Bass locomotive stud was inaugurated in 1861, by the acquisition of an engine described as a “square top tank”. This pioneer was built at Burton, by the local firm of Thornewill and Warham. Two years later, a second engine was delivered from the same factory. This was an 0-
Both types are capable of hauling from forty to fifty loaded wagons, a considerable total for such small engines, in view of the gradients on parts of the system. The standard livery is most attractive, the engines being painted a bright red, with brass domes and copper-
For a private line of this description, the traffic on the Brewery Railway is exceptionally heavy. On a normal working day, the firm’s locomotives handle an average of a thousand wagons, but this figure is often exceeded. Rather less than half (the number usually ranges between 350 and 400) is represented by inward empties, and about the same number is daily loaded for dispatch, the balance being made up of inter-
So far as possible, train movements are worked to a definite time-
There is, of course, a material difference between the nature of the inward, or arrival, and that of the outward traffic. The former, which handles the fuel and raw materials necessary for brewing, is divided into seven categories. These are the “up brewery” trains conveying malt, the barley trains for the malting department, empties to the ale-
This inward traffic is distinct from the internal traffic, which deals with the conveyance of maltings from the stores to the breweries, the carriage of barley to the maltings, and the carriage of casks from the cleaning plants to the breweries. Inward traffic is operated by “trip trains” working to a fixed timetable and stopping only to deliver at any of the three breweries. Provision is made for four of these trains, which leave Shobnall between 9 am and 2 pm, and have a uniform allowance of thirty-
The normal schedule embraces twenty-
The “Bass Specials” serve various parts of the country, and are made up to as many as forty or fifty wagons. These are booked to leave at fixed times, but do not necessarily run daily. For instance, the “Scotch Special” is scheduled to run three times a week. The working of this train is of particular interest. It runs through from Burton to Leeds, where the engine is changed, and then travels non-
The various types of services in daily operation for inter-
This consists of a head control office and sub-
Another of the duties of the control office is to deal with problems arising out of a wagon shortage or surplus. Every morning a classified return is made out of every wagon standing on the exchange sidings or within the brewery premises, and it is claimed that demurrage has virtually been eliminated.
Signalling control is exercised both by private cabins and by those of the LMS, the latter on those sections where Bass trains have running powers. Telephonic communication is provided between the firm's signal boxes. Signals are installed both within the brewery limits and at public level crossings. The time allowed for train and engine movements at a crossing is one minute, and should there be a delay in excess of two minutes the signalman records the fact, and the matter is investigated by the control office. Such delays are rare, and are normally due to weather conditions, such as fog or frost causing an engine to slip. The possibility of undue detention is lessened by limiting the number of wagons allowed to cross a public thoroughfare on any one journey.
Punctual and efficient working is ensured by an elaborate organization that is comparable, even if only on a small scale, with that of a main-
Another great brewery railway is the system owned by Messrs. Guinness at Dublin, which includes both narrow-
Great quarries form the situations of many very remarkable railways, and one of the most noteworthy in the British Isles is the system in operation at the great Dinorwic slate quarries near Llanberis, in North Wales. This is really not so much a system as a series of systems, for a huge mountain-
A PASSENGER TRAIN on the Dinorwic Slate Quarry Railway, North Wales. On the quarry terrace a light 1 ft 11½ in gauge line serves the working face, but a 4 ft gauge line, seven miles long, leads to Port Dinorwic. A six-
On each of the terraces of the quarry a little 1 ft 11½ in gauge serves the working face, the track being portable to facilitate rapid alteration to the layout as the workings change.
Welsh Quarry Lines
Small tank engines provide the motive power. These weigh about six tons apiece, and can be moved from terrace to terrace by means of inclined planes, which are also regularly used for the transfer, by cable, of the slate trucks between terrace and ground level. From the transfer planes, a 4-
Another remarkable Welsh quarry railway is that on the Penmaenmawr Mountain, Caernarvonshire. Here again the inclined plane system is well exemplified. Visitors to Cornwall, too, will find a noteworthy example of the plane and terrace system at work in the vast slate quarries at Delabole, close to the most westerly section of the Southern Railway, from which they are clearly visible. The Delabole quarries have been worked since Elizabethan days, and probably earlier.
But the Londoner, with little opportunity for travel to Wales or Cornwall, may see a lesser, but very complete and interesting quarry railway system within about forty-
A QUARRY RAILWAY SYSTEM in Surrey which operates in the chalk pits and limeworks of the Dorking Greystone Company. A standard gauge line connects the kilns with the Southern Railway’s siding at Betchworth, while the narrow-
The quarries and their railway are additionally easy to observe at close quarters, because an ancient right of way runs right across the workings, passing over the railway on a brick bridge midway between the lime kilns and the quarry itself. A standard-
For the transfer of wagons to and from the high level an interesting process takes place. There is a steeply inclined plane connecting the two levels, while more or less parallel to it there is a gentler incline. A line of rollers runs between the summits of the two planes, over which a wire rope is passed. When wagons are to be hauled up, that section of the wire rope which comes down the steep incline is coupled up to them. A locomotive, which normally remains on the lower level, then puffs up the easier incline, and is coupled to the other end of the wire rope. The locomotive now begins to haul and, with the gradient in her favour, moves steadily forward, causing the wagons to run, in the reverse direction, rapidly up the steep plane. To bring down loaded wagons, the process is reversed. The locomotive hauls in the first instance, and acts as a powerful brake on the descending loaded wagons in the second.
The engines at Betchworth, though of rather old design, are admirably suited to their particular kind of work. One of them is something of a curiosity; she has a vertical boiler, which has earned her the name of the “Coffeepot”. This name is now in official use. The cylinders are also vertical, and are connected to the driving axle by gear wheels The “Coffeepot” was built in 1872, and at the present time is the spare engine on the standard gauge line. The other engines are ordinary 0-
As might be expected in Great Britain, the colliery companies and ironworks to-
The ordinary colliery locomotive is of a straightforward tank engine design, able to negotiate sharp curves, and exceptionally powerful for its size. But sometimes, as we shall see below, an unusual type of locomotive makes its first appearance on an industrial railway.
The “Garratt” type of locomotive is exemplified in Great Britain by one engine on the LNER and by thirty-
THE FIRST “GARRATT” LOCOMOTIVE put into service in Great Britain. The engine -
Another unorthodox type of engine, the use of which has been practically confined to industrial railways, is the fireless steam locomotive. In chemical works, petrol refineries, and other places where flying sparks would be very dangerous, this type is of inestimable value. In appearance, it recalls an ordinary locomotive without a chimney. The boiler is replaced by a steam container, surmounted by a dome and safety valve, which supplies steam to the cylinders continuously for several hours. The steam container is filled with water at a high temperature to about three-
[Read the second part of this series]
You can read more on the Beckton Gas Works in Wonders of World Engineering