GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton
Solihull Station: gwrs271a
Close up of image 'gwrs271' showing the numerous coal wagons
which originated from many sources in Solihull's goods yard. Many of the wagons
have their doors opened indicating that the local coal merchants are
off-loading the coal directly into sacks to be placed on horse-drawn vehicles.
The coal merchants would carry scales to weigh the sacks as they were filled.
Many of the wagons are Private Owner (PO) vehicles with at least one being
based in Solihull whilst two are owned by the LMS and GWR. Wagons only earned
their keep when they carried goods so when they returned empty this was very
costly. Various efforts were made to try to minimise wasted journeys such as
pooling wagons for 'common' use but whilst the common user initiative was
successful for the railway companies it wasn't for private owners. The GWR did
not like common user arrangements because they considered that their's were
built to a higher standard (e.g. all open wagons had sheet supporters).
Robert Ferris writes 'Below is a summary of the Common User
Agreements up to the start of WW2:
13/12/1915 - GCR, GER and GNR - open
wagons (unfitted), three plank and upwards
2/4/1916 - GWR, LYR, LNWR, MR and
NER - open wagons (unfitted), three planks and upwards
5/6/1916 - Scottish
Companies - certain open wagons (unfitted)
2/1/1917 - All British Companies
- open wagons (unfitted), three plank and upwards
14/2/1917 - All British
Companies - sheets
1/8/1917 - All British Companies - ropes (ended 1st
2/4/1918 - Extended to other types of open wagons - principally
Scottish Companies 'end door' types
3/6/1919 - All British Companies -
Covered Vans (unfitted)
1/3/1922 - Certain Companies - four wheel single and
bogie bolster wagons
11/8/1925 - All Companies (except GWR) - cattle wagons
(fitted and unfitted)
4/2/1926 - All companies - end door mineral wagons of
12 tons and under
31/5/1927 - GWR - four wheel single bolster and cattle
wagons 24/7/1927 - All companies - pig iron wagons of 20 tons and under plus
end door mineral wagons of over 12 tons and up to 20 tons 31/12/1927 - GWR -
Cattle wagons withdrawn
14/5/1929 - LNER and SR - double bolster (between
these two companies only)
1/9/1933 - LNER,LMS,Met and SR - cattle wagons
with fitted auto-brake withdrawn
9/10/1936 - LNER, LMS and Met - Open wagons
with fitted vacuum brake
9/10/1936 - LNER, LMS, SR and Met - Covered wagons
with fitted vacuum brake
According to Phillip Bagwell's 'The Railway Clearing
House', in October 1848 Braithwaite Poole of the RCH secured agreement to the
following resolution ' That it is highly expedient to discountenance the
practise of returning wagons empty because it involves an unprofitable use of
locomotive power and opens a door to unfair dealing in those cases in which
wagons may be returned in either of two ways, and that each member be requested
to give the subject his attentive consideration with a view to providing such a
remedy as will prevent the present waste of locomotive power and ensure to the
companies a fair remuneration for the use of their wagons.'
It was however only when there was an acute shortage of
wagons during the first world war that things happened. Following the common
user arrangements of 1915/17 some 300,000 wagons of the twelve principle
railway companies were in the pool and this was considered a success. In 1913,
61% of railway company wagons were running empty and in 1919 this had been
reduced to 20%. Savings were estimated £470,000 per annum and when the
railway companies were returned to private ownership they decided to keep the
common user scheme.
Also during the war, on 26th April 1916, Sam Fay and Walter
Bailey reported to the RCH that they considered the common working of privately
owned wagons was a feasible proposition. This was not to be and although there
was a small scheme on the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway, the best that could
be done was the hire by the RCH of 10,000 PO wagons. The PO wagon population at
this time was estimated at between 600,000 and 750,000, so this was not
considered a success.
In 1925, The Samuel Commission found that there was
excessive waste in the movement of PO coal wagons when compared with other
European countries and concluded that demurrage charges should be increased,
but colliery owners and coal merchants were a powerful lobby group and the
result was a few regional coal wagon pools. These appear to be administrated by
local interests and not the RCH. Only on the outbreak of the second world war
when all non-specialist PO wagons were requisitioned by the Government was
there a real PO common usage scheme.
As an aside there were attempts to reduce railway company
costs in dealing with PO wagons: - The yellow double 'C' motif introduced in
1926 stood for Commuted Charge and indicated that the PO wagon owner had paid
an annual levy (1 Shilling per wagon) to cover the cost of shunting and siding
storage. - The yellow five pointed star positioned adjacent to the double C was
introduced in 1933 and indicated that the PO wagon owner had paid a standard
charge for this wagon to be returned to its parent colliery. These bulk payment
arrangements reduced the amount of bookkeeping at the individual stations (and
can provide a useful dating tool for historians).'
A Commentary on the wagons seen at Solihull by Keith
This image taken between the wars at Solihull shows a rake
of coal wagons in what is undoubtedly a siding devoted to inwards coal traffic.
That only the wagons can be seen suggests that the image was taken on a Sunday,
when no unloading would have taken place. Several of the wagons have been
partly unloaded and their doors left open, an open invitation to thieves.
However, the open situation could have been a deterrent.
Many of the wagons can be identified, although the running
numbers are not always clear. from right to left:
- Kingsbury Colliery. This appears to be one of the wagons
which formed the basis of the Kingsbury fleet, transferred from the Hockley
Hall Colliery when its operartions was the foundation of Kingsbury
- Thomas Hood Truelove and Sons of Knowle and Solihull
no.7. Truelove operated a small fleet of wagons, of which ten were registered
with the Great Western Railway between 1897 and 1909: No's 10 to 16 were built
by the Birmingham RC&WCo, No.25 by S.J. Claye Ltd. and no's17 and19 by
Thomas Hunter. No. 7 is not included, either it was registered elsewhere or
purchased second-hand. A much later recorded Truelove wagon no. 233 arrived in
1924, built by Wright of Nottingham.
- Arley Colliery, one of the first batch delivered by the
Gloucester RC&WCo. in 1913.
- East Cannock Colliery, from Wednesbury in the Cannock
Chase coalfield.. This would have arrived on the GWR and commenced its journey
on the L&NWR in a trip run to Bescot yard and reached the GWR via
- Great Western Railway, showing that railway
company-owned wagons were often pressed into service carrying coal.
- Possibly Smithurst. That the door is down precludes
positive identification but the letters SMI....RST are clearly identifiable.
The only known wagon owner with this name was based at Ruabon in north Wales,
and it's presence is a mystery. One explanation is that it could have been
carrying gas coal for the local gasworks, several other gasworks in the general
area purchased coal from north Wales collieries and the direct route via the
GWR was very handy. A gasworks was in operation in Solihull at the time, but no
re cords of its existence have survived.
- An LMS 5-plank open wagon with its doors closed.
- AR Banks of West Bromwich. This appears to be one of a
1927 order built by the Birmingham RC&WCo. They were beautifully turned out
in a light grey colour with white lettering shaded black and most ironwork
- The remaining wagons cannot be identified.
What is most surprising is the tidiness of the siding. The
photograph was enlarged from a section of image GWR271 and if taken in a normal
working week would have included a hive of activity, horse, carts, lorries,
coalmen and coal scattered on the ground. The open doors are also an indication
to shunters and other railwaymen that the wagon has not been completely
unloaded. Remarkably there is no beris (beris horse bits are anatomically
designed to fit the horse's mouth as part of a harness - Ed) or rubbish in
sight. The circumstance of the image prove that it as not definitely staged for
From my own well-remembered childhood observations at the
land sale sidings of the Blidworth Colliery in Nottinghamshire doors were also
left open when the wagon was empty, telling the daily shunt that they were
ready for removal, Consequently, when a loaded wagon was broached, the coalmen
started at the head of the siding to minimise shunting movements. A maximum of
three wagons were worked at any one time. Despite the war time coal shortage,
there was little theft.
'Hansard' October 7th 1942
'coal stacking at Solihull. List of merchants trading at
Solihull who had authority to stack coal within the station yard: Gerge
Harwood, F.Foster & Co, Proctor and Lavender, Evesons(Coals) Ltd, J.A.
Burton & Son, R.W. Proctor,, J.F. Fryer, W.H. Gray, T. H. Truelove &