What's the Goods Word?
The running of goods trains, especially at times of scarce resource, is apotentially contentious issue. On the face of it there does not appear to be much of a return on the costs involved. But let us consider what it is the Bluebell Railway is setting out to preserve and thereby share with our customers.
Back in the day most stations had a small goods yard, the remnants of which are now generally the station car park. At a time when car ownership was not the norm and goods could not be ordered online, these small yards served the needs of the local community well.
Typically, houses were heated by a coal fire and the coal merchant worked from the goods yard, emptying the coal wagon bit by bit and delivering“in sacks scented with “essence de coal tar”“to homes via a horse drawn cart or Bedford OB lorry.
All manner of other goods were delivered or collected by rail using the ubiquitous van, vented or otherwise, with cattle wagons shifting livestock from the cattle dock and bricks delivered in open wagons. It was a way of life that facilitated the economy, albeit at a slower pace than today, but one that was veiled by the attention-seeking passenger trains. The shunting went all but unnoticed as indeed did the demise of these industrial backwaters, a demise that undermined the very existenceof the rural railways and their passenger trains.
So, there is an important story to tell here. The story can only be fully appreciated by a high degree of re-creation, but it has the potential to enchant, educate and fascinate our visitors. Indeed, failure to tell this story would constitute a significant omission from our presentation.
Picture a summer’s day at Kingscote: after the passenger train has left,a “pick up goods train” shuffles in, parks its guards van, drops off a few wagons, picking up the empties on its way back to the guards van. A quiet sojourn is enjoyed before following the next passenger train to Horsted Keynes.
And what of the cost of telling this story? Wagons need to be acquired, maintained and overhauled, likewise locomotives need to be available, fired up and crewed. All this at a time when the Locomotive Works and the Carriage & Wagon Works are busy and hard-pushed to deliver all that is required to run our passenger trains.
It sounds rather daunting, but consider for one moment how we are placedto rise to this particular challenge. We have a dozen or so wagons of various types and a couple of guards vans already in our collection. Thewagons are relatively simple beasts, ideally suited to being maintainedby volunteers, and we have a re-vitalised wagon gang ably led by David Rhydderch.
Suppose we run the goods trains on days when there is a Wealden Rambler service, so we can use the locomotive off this short turn of duty and hence do not need a locomotive specifically for the job. Suddenly the costs are marginal for telling such an important story and the goods train becomes a low cost, high return proposition!
So, spare a thought for the humble wagon that was once so important to our way of life, and, if David Rhydderch can get sufficient support frommembers, look for more re-creations of those historical scenes.
If you feel inclined, come to Horsted Keynes C&W Works and help us maintain the wagons that tell the story. We look forward to welcoming you!
By Bob Pamment, Rolling Stock Director