The Great Northern was quick to gain a foothold in goods services on the Metropolitan, and, as well as facilitating through passenger traffic into the City, it was the sharp rise in cross-London goods traffic taken on by both the Midland and Great Northern that led to the opening of the City Widened Lines in 1868, and the Great Northern’s large goods depôt at Farringdon Street in 1874. The depôt was strategically placed for Smithfields Market – or at least, as well as it could be, considering the Great Western’s 1869 depôt was directly beneath – but an extension to the Farringdon goods depôt in 1894 was located beneath parts of Smithfield, including the newly-completed Fish, Fruit and Vegetable market, thereby giving direct access.

By 1877 the GNR had a daily service of 18 goods trains each way into and out of Farringdon Steet via Kings Cross, and a further 27 trains each way on cross- London services to destinations in south London via Ludgate Hill, a figure which had increased to 46 daily workings by 1897 although just under half of these were noted as “when necessary”. With the coming of the Extended Circle and Extended Widened Lines, the Great Northern was keen to gain access to the London Docks via this route, and a two-story depôt measuring 180′ x 125′ was eventually built in 1890 (the upper story being a storage floor) which relieved pressure of that company’s similar sized depôt at Poplar. As at Poplar, the GNR at London Docks primarily concerned itself with exports, and acted as a storage and redistribution depôt to shipping in the port, and as such, dealt with traffic coming from all over the country, as well as goods for export from the nearby London markets. An inventory of goods held on the storage level at London Docks in 1893 showed similar results to one taken in 1877 at Poplar, and found amongst other goods, bottles, scrap iron, biscuits, linseed oil, grain and meal, rope, earthenware and oil cake. The dock was also used by short sea traders who brought in tobacco, dried fruit, canned goods, ivory, wool and spices. GNR goods traffic through Artillery Lane will therefore reflect these commodities, and trains will be limited to primarily opens wagons and covered vans, with a degree of perishable traffic.

The photograph is of the GW depôt at Poplar, with the GNR lines in the foreground, showing typical ‘mundane’ GN goods stock in the first years of the 1900s – the ubiquitous 4-plank and, by this time, increasingly diminishing bow-ended opens. The goods brake is one of the horizontally planked 18′ 6″ brakes, probably still only 10T at this time, with verandahs at both ends, but doors to these diagonally opposite at the right hand end of each side. The livery is noticeable by its absence – grime, perhaps? The loco is one of Stirling’s ‘500’ series of 0-6-0STs which later became J15 under Ivatt’s reclassification, and J54-55 at Grouping. 603 never made it that far; rebuilt in 1914, she was scrapped in 1919.