With the (hopefully temporary) dearth of information on Great Northern carriages running into the City, it’s time to turn our attention to the goods services on the Extended Circle and Widened Lines.

Smithfield Goods Depôt was the big GWR depot on the Metropolitan Railway. There had been a livestock and meat market on the site since at least the 10th Century, until the livestock was removed to Copenhagen Fields, Islington in 1852, and slaughtered meat was carted to Smithfield from local abattoirs. In 1860, the Metropolitan Meat and Poultry Market Act was passed allowing new buildings to be erected on the site. Work began in 1866 on Sir Horace Jones’ designs for the East and West buildings which housed 162 stalls. The buildings were completed in 1868, and the Great Western Railway’s depôt directly below the market opened the following year. Additional buildings were added later – the Poultry Market in 1875, the General Market in 1883, and the Annexe Market in 1888. Meat was also imported locally from the Victoria & Albert Dock, though this may not have been until the main depôt there opened in 1902. This traffic was transported across North London via the North London Railway, and brought into Smithfield the same way as meat imported from further afield such as Birkenhead – in a train from Acton Yard over the Metropolitan line.

The 1912 WTT shows that there were about 16 trains each way every day spread over a 24 hour period, though goods trains were banned between peak times (rush hour) in both the morning and late afternoon. I was initially surprised at the relatively few meat trains running into the depôt – in my ignorance of Smithfield I had latched onto the importance of the meat traffic over everything else, but in reality it only accounted for only 25% of trips, and there was only a single dedicated meat trip daily. I discovered that the reason for this was that Smithfield Goods was also the company’s main depôt for general merchandise for central London and the City. Some interesting workings cropped up in the WTT; in 1912 the 12.41 ex-Smithfield went on to work the Old Oak Common – Portobello Hay and Straw train, there were instances of booked double heading trips, light engine movements, and one train had two brake vans – one to be left in the sidings at Smithfield for a later train.

But what have any of these workings to do with Basilica Fields which is east of Smithfield and therefore, on the face of it, largely irrelevant?

The Extended Circle opens up the eastern docks to the GWR like never before. Between Limehouse and Mark Lane, at London Docks, a new GWR goods depôt was opened in 1889. Here, cattle from Holland – Friesians (to upset those people who think they know it all, but really don’t) were shipped in large numbers until 1892 when the government banned further imports of the breed to protect the country against an particularly virulent outbreak of Foot & Mouth on the continent. From then on beef from the Argentine pampas was imported and brought directly to Smithfield via the Extended and Inner Circles. The import ban on Fresians wasn’t lifted until 1914 which is outside of the scope of the layout.

Smithfield also received all manner of general merchandise: butter, eggs, poultry, pigs, calves, sheep, rabbits, and fruit & vegetables (the calves surprised me as I thought they’d all be dealt with at the Metropolitan Cattle Market at Copenhagen Fields, but I found an online reference in the early 1900s to a disagreement over the sale of calves at Smithfield, so that shut me up!). No doubt Smithfield also received limited mineral traffic for the boiler house (neither domestic nor steam coals were sold from Smithfield), manure out and provender in for the stables, and occasionally there might also be a horsebox delivering a new 1HP GG class loco. There was also a linoleum wagon running between Staines and Smithfield which worked through to the GW London Docks depôt carrying exported goods, a second wagon was built in 1905.

In addition, there was the small GWR goods depôt at Artillery Lane, which received and dispatched limited amounts of general merchandise. In busy periods Artillery Lane was used as an overflow for Smithfield, with goods being carted between the two when necessary. Artillery Lane received fish from London Docks (GW) which was then forwarded to Billingsgate market. As the Smithfield depôt could only handle 74 wagons in its loading bays, and store a further 24 wagons in sidings, there was a lot of empty stock working.

From all the above I need to assess my GWR wagon requirements which will obviously include MICAs, various covered vans/MINKs, sheeted opens and so forth, as well as the specialised wagons for the traffic previously mentioned. However, in my mind, the key to success is to keep things mundane – limit the specials to less than 1% of total stock if possible, and major on the covered vans and sheeted opens – the white Ford Transits of their day. Finally, brake vans for the post-1898 period will be the AA7 ‘Acton Shorties’, but I’m currently stymied as to which Toad was used before 1898, considering that train lengths were limited. Perhaps the old 18′ 2″ outside-framed Toads (AA16) as they were only a couple of feet longer than the AA7s?

P.144 of Goods Vol.2A has a snippet which worried me for a while: “All traffic intended for through transit to Smithfield Station must be loaded in vacuum fitted stock…” When I discovered that the linoleum wagons were unfitted, that the GW possessed no fitted mineral wagons, and that the AA7 Toads may not have been built with the vacuum brake, it made sense that this instruction must have related to a later date. The same book informs us that trains were limited to 25 vehicles plus a Toad – however, the WTT states the maximum train should be 20 trucks plus one (brake) van. The joys of research and conflicting evidence!

The photograph shows the 07 Linoleum wagon built in 1890, and was photographed around that date. It was very specialised (only two linoleum wagons were ever built for the traffic, and each to a different diagram), so nothing mundane about this whatsoever. Nevertheless, it adds verisimilitude to the Basilica Fields project.

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