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GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Bordesley Station: gwrbg2278

Ex-GWR class 38XX 2-8-0 No 3864 with a block oil train on the Down Main Line at the southern end of Bordesley Station in 1965

Ex-Great Western Railway class 38XX 2-8-0 No 3864 with a block oil train on the Down Main Line at the southern end of Bordesley Station in 1965. The locomotive is carrying a class F headcode denoting an express freight train without a continuous brake. This block oil train is likely to have originated at Shell Haven refinery and be heading to the Shell Mex and BP Distribution Depot at Cakemore Road adjacent to Rowley Regis and Blackheath Station on the Stourbridge Extension Railway.

Block trains for oil distribution had been introduced by the Petroleum Board during the Second World War to supply industrial centres and aerodromes in the strategic south and east coast ‘Pink Belt’. The block trains carrying approximately 400 tons of fuel were required to bulk supply distribution points in this area during daylight hours. After the war the majority of distribution reverted back to individual tank wagons in mixed goods trains and in 1954 there were only 80 block oil trains running each week. With the introduction of the Freight Charges Scheme in 1957, oil companies were encouraged to enter into long term contracts using their own rolling stock and by 1965 there were 300 block oil trains running each week.

The wagons in this train are thought to belong to BP and Shell Mex who operated a joint distribution business between 1932 and 1975. From 1962 they started to use 40 ton Gross Loaded Weight (GLW) monobloc tank wagons with a 15 foot wheelbase. Large diameter butt welded tanks sat on transverse cradles between the solebars and were permanently anchored to the underframe thus becoming an integral part of the wagon. The large diameter tanks meant conventional side ladders would be out-of-gauge, so dual ladders at one end of the tank gave access to the two parallel tank top walkways. The wagons were fitted with roller-bearing axleboxes on eyebolt laminated springs and were allowed to run at speeds up to 60mph. This was indicated by two white stars painted on the bottom right of the tank. The 40 ton GLW monobloc tank wagons were built for three different products:
1) Bitumen, which required lagging and internal steam heating pipes
2) Fuel Oil - Class B (flashpoint above 23 degree C)
3) Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG)

The 40 ton GLW monobloc tank wagons for Fuel oil (class B) could carry a payload of 27 tons. These tank wagons were painted black and had large square Shell and BP logos on separate metal sheets mounted adjacent to each other on the left of the tank.

Robert Ferris