Traffic


The recent completion of a commissioned X2 MICA B in post-1904 livery prompted this entry which otherwise might have been written at a later date. The two photographs illustrate this model.

© Adrian Marks

Located as it is between the dock and Smithfield market, meat traffic will play a significant part of goods traffic passing through the subterranean levels of Basilica Fields, with the GWR shouldering the greatest load. If, like me, you grew up unsullied by Great Western telegraph code nomenclature, and therefore completely in the dark about MORELS, MITES, MACAWS, MINKS, MOGOs and MAGOOS (one of those is a red herring, and that’s nothing to do with fish traffic!), then hopefully you’ll at least have some idea of what a MICA is by the end of this mini series. As these vehicles came in so many varieties I’ll be dealing with each type separately, so this first entry serves as a detailed overview.

Perhaps the most famous of GWR meat trains were those running between Birkenhead and Smithfield via Acton, but there were other services to Plymouth and Avonmouth, as well as one between Victoria Dock and Cardiff via the North London Railway. The Circle & Widened Lines Extension to the docks also gives an opportunity to transport meat from there to Smithfield, and occasionally direct to Acton without recourse to the NLR.

Through the 1890s, beef from the Americas landed live at Birkenhead, and after a short period of recovery from the arduous journey the cattle was slaughtered and butchered locally. Their carcasses were then chilled before forwarding to Smithfield – a process taking up to 20 hours from abattoir to market. Ventilated vans were found to be sufficient keep the meat cool for this journey, and for the purpose of Basilica Fields we need go to back no further than the 110 vans built between 1889 – 1891 which were later diagrammed X1 and given the telegraph code MICA. Ventilation was via hinged bonnet ends that ran the full width along the top of the vans with scalloped bottoms to the sides, and a series of 1ft 8ins ventilation slots along the side of the vans on the third plank down. Construction was double-cased tongue and grooved planking with flush-fitted doors and no exterior bracing. These vans were fully vacuum fitted for running at fast goods speeds.

Contemporaneously, a batch of 13 vans were built at Swansea Wagon Works for the South Wales Railway and later diagrammed X3 with the code MICA A. These were non-ventilated and were used for rushing chilled meats between Victoria Dock in London to Cardiff. They had ice containers installed and used straw for insulation. The vans were diagonally planked with a narrow cupboard door and were fitted with a vacuum through pipe for travelling at passenger speeds.

With the increase of chilled and frozen meat such as mutton from Australasia, a new van emerged based on the X1 design but without the side ventilation slots and having plain bottoms to the ventilator bonnet sides. These vans were fitted with X3-type ice containers which were filled from the inside, and a 3″ air space between the double body sheeting provided some degree of insulation. As such, these 240 vans to diagram X2 could be used either as ventilated or refrigerated, depending on the requirement, and were given the code MICA B. Ten further examples of X2 were built without the end ventilator bonnets and coded MICA A, and another ten X2 were fitted with the end bonnets but had no ice containers and were simply coded MICA.

© Adrian Marks

The liveries of the MICAs throws up a few interesting questions which I’ve not had answered satisfactorily yet, and so I’ll begin with extracts from Slinn’s Great Western Way pp.97 – 102:
Period ending 1903: “It was at the time of the start of the right hand small lettering that refrigerated meat vans began to be painted with white bodies and it is believed that the lettering was black. Photographic emulsions of the time do not differentiate between black and red and no trace has been found in official documents to say which colour was used…”

1904 – 1919: “Refrigerated vans had already appeared painted in white but now their lettering was executed in red.”

  • Question: Right-hand small GWR lettering was introduced c1893, so what colour were the X3 vans between being built in 1889 and 1893?

I had assumed that the red lettering was introduced with the white livery from comments in other sources, such as Tourret et al.

  • Question: Is there any other source to confirm black lettering was used on white-painted X2 and X3 MICA A and MICA B up to 1904, or did small red lettering in fact appear much earlier during the 1890s?

The whole debate over the colour of general merchandise goods stock in the 1890s also throws up one further interesting query.

  • Question: Were X1 MICAs originally painted red?

The floor is open for debate!

For the record, the model was built from a WEP brass kit, pretty much as designed, and given a light weathering. Screw couplings and safety chains from Laurie Griffin. Contemporary photographs show these vans got absolutely filthy, no doubt in part due to their journey to Smithfield on the Metropolitan Line, so this one represents a fairly recently repainted example c1912.

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Just an update on this earlier post with some better photos as promised. This time I was able to use natural light which makes a big, big difference.

© Adrian Marks

© Adrian Marks

 

Twelve examples of the Great Western’s 13 ton AA7 brake vans were built between 1897 and 1898 to Lot 206 for working the company’s trains from Acton over the Metropolitan and (for a short stretch between Farringdon Street and Aldersgate Street) the Widened Lines to Smithfield – they were numbered in the series 56985-96.  Essentially they were a short version of the AA3 vans with a 9ft wheelbase, measuring 16ft over headstocks with a proportionally smaller verandah than the larger vans.

© Adrian Marks

It has been suggested by various authors that the AA7s must have been the among the first fitted brake vans on the GW because of the Smithfield meat trains, which included fitted Micas, but in reality, the perceived volume of meat traffic to Smithfield has been blown out of all proportion, and careful study of the relevant WTTs show that in fact the meat trains made up only a very small percentage of the traffic over the route as Smithfield was also the main general merchandise goods depot for central London and the City. To put things in perspective; in 1912, out of sixteen daily goods trains only four were scheduled for meat traffic, and of these, three were mixed trains of meat and general merchandise. Quite surprisingly, only one single trip each day was solely reserved for the conveyance of meat. It’s worth remembering that Mica’s were vacuum braked to convey chilled and frozen meat between Birkenhead and London at passenger-rated speeds, and it would have been the brake vans on those trains which were first vacuum fitted. It wasn’t until later, maybe much later (post-Grouping?) that vacuum braked stock was required on the Smithfiled trips.

The model is from Big Jim’s wonderful Connoisseur range, and the only major deviation I made was the addition of WEP compensation units rather than a solid chassis. GW paint from Precision, weathering from Humbrol and transfers from the HMRS. Glazing is 0.13mm glass, instanter couplings from CPL and sprung buffers from Slater’s.

This example was built to commission, and is in 0 Finescale, but I have a pair to build for Basilica Fields where meat traffic not only shuttles between Acton and Smithfield, but east from Smithfield to St. Katherine Dock via Basilica Fields on the (Middle) Circle Extension.

© Adrian Marks

No photoshoppery…well, just a little to get rid of a couple of specks of dust, but the colours and lighting is au natural care of the fat old sun.

The Great Northern introduced a 19′ covered van in 1906 and vans for perishable traffics were built to the same design, unfortunately all fall just outside of the Basilica time frame in the strictest sense so will not appear here.

However, there were at least two types of 19′ long refrigerated vans in service at the turn of the century; Diagram 113, for which I have seen neither drawing nor photograph and have limited information (8 tons, 10 meat hooks, 4 end posts and two sample numbers 30127 & 430133), and Diagram 116, illustrated below.

These vans had insulated bodywork lined with zinc sheeting and internal ice boxes at each end into which fresh ice was fed though sealed hatches in the roof. The cupboard doors were fitted with India rubber piping to ensure an airtight seal. All were designed for meat traffic and were fitted with 12 meat hooks on traverse bars.

As before, they were fitted with all the trappings of contemporary fast-fitted goods vans, and as well as the vacuum brake, were fitted with the Westinghouse brake (or more likely a through pipe).

© Public Domain

No. 9494 was built in March 1900, and carried the standard livery of refrigerated vans – white with black (some possibly brown oxide) solebars, buffers and running gear. Sources disagree on the colour of the lettering and shading and it also displays the legend, ‘To be returned to Victoria Dock when empty’.

I would be very interested to learn the dates both Diagrams 113 and 116 were introduced, any examples of running numbers beyond those given in Tatlow, and especially drawings of either type.

Around the turn of the century, the Great Northern elongated their standard 6T covered vans to 18′ over headstocks but changed the design to an inside-framed body with sliding doors to the right hand side. Initial batches of these Dia.117 vans had 3′ 6″ Mansell wheels, opposite hand brakes, and retained the four end posts. Later batches which were rated at 8T, gained ventilators in the ends, losing two of the posts in the process. I would be very interested in the introductory date of these vans, but this entry is more concerned with the 18′ vans for perishable traffics.

Five ton perishable vans to 18′ retained the outside wooden cross frames of the 16′ designs and sported a variety of ventilator positions depending on the designated use. Diagram 110 was designated for fruit and milk traffic, and Diagram 111 for fish, the former having louvres in the tops of the cupboard doors, the latter having plain sliding doors to the left and right. All had clerestory louvred roofs with three torpedo vents each side.

© Public Domain

Fish van no.8148 of 1899, built for traffic between Grimsby and London, exhibits all the contemporary standard fittings for GN vans designed for fast perishable goods; two foot boards, tall vacuum brake standard, screw couplings, safety chains, oil axle boxes, carriage-type swing-links to the springs, Mansell wheels, long spindle buffers, either-side brakes and carriage-style shaded lettering on the GNR brown oxide paintwork.

I’d be very interested to find out the date in which both diagrams 110 and 11 were introduced.

Following closely on the heels of the last post, I am interested in more information on the GNR 16′ covered vans for perishable traffics.

There were a number of van types which appear to have been based on the 16′ outside framed van with 9′ 6″ wheelbase and four end posts, but with alterations to the roof (louvred clerestory and torpedo ventilators), to the body (various louvred openings) and fitted with the automatic vacuum brake and Westinghouse brake or through pipe, screw couplings, side chains, oil axle boxes, and sometimes, but not always, Mansell wheels. On release to traffic two step boards below the centre doors were also fitted.

Ventilated van 19319, to Diagram 114, with a load capacity of five tons was one of a number of vehicles built for the conveyance of lard and butter between London and Liverpool and may have been built (or repainted!) in April 1900. I understand it is recorded on page/block 16/7 of the official GN book of wagon illustrations.

Three other types of five ton vans, possibly similar in design to the lard van, are also of interest, two of which I’ve not been able to ascertain a GNR diagram for, neither have I seen a photograph or illustration of them:

A (non-diagrammed?) meat van, page/block 16/12 of which No.9213 was built in 1899.

A clerestory fruit van to diagram 115, page/block 17/13, one running number known is 19328

A (non diagrammed?) clerestory meat van page/block 18/17, of which No.9115 was built in 1901

Any information and/or corrections to the above vehicles greatly appreciated.

I’m also keen to hear comments on the livery. Despite the large GN initials being introduced in on goods stock in 1898,covered vans for special traffic obviously continued to have been lettered with small shaded figures.

August flew past without a single entry to the journal – not sure how that happened, but it has been very busy here of late.

Time to pick the collective brain of the readership; Great Northern general merchandise vans are nicely illustrated by Peter Tatlow in Part One of his history of LNER wagons (Wild Swan), but whereas the section on the Great Eastern (which, in my opinion, is unnecessarily shorter than the Great Northern and Great Central sections) gives the reader various dates of introduction of the types, the Great Northern section is decidedly mute on the matter. All very well I suppose, if you’ve no more than a casual interest or your modelling is set during the Grouping (a census of types taken in 1922, 1940 and 1947 is given in each chapter), and I admit the book is pitched predominantly at those with an interest in the LNER period, but is less useful for those of us modelling earlier decades.

So, on with the queries.

This type isn’t mentioned or illustrated in Tatlow, so I assume was extinct by Grouping. It’s not unlike Diagram 118 (LNER code 4082) which was an express, dual fitted van, though the latter omitted the diagonal ironwork. The number of planks suggests it is also 16′ long. It retains the original single lever acting on a single wheel brake block, and despite the June 1900 date on the solebar (which may indicate the date of the photo, rather than the repaint date), shows the pre-1898 livery in quite a dilapidated condition. One wonders why (an apparently official) photograph was taken of this particular van in such a condition, unless the type was to become extinct in the near future?

So, my questions for this van are:

1. When was the type introduced?

2. When did the type become extinct?

3. (Very long shot) is there a drawing of it?

More Quirky Questions to follow

There is now a follow up post to this query here.

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