Speedlink

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BR Boy 125

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Does anyone think how interesting BR utilised the old stock for their speedlink services? It's honestly so cool to see an old 60s brake van with the coal sectors logo on it as well as OBAs and all the old Ferry Vans having more modern schemes on them.
 
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Scotrail84

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Back then it probably would have been much cheaper to modify wagons to fit the purpose rather pay to have new ones built, especially since BR was basically skint and SpeedLink wasn't making money. I think there are many variants of wagons that were modified from being specific to one type of freight, converted to be able to carry another. One example I can think of is the timber wagons converted from former rover car wagons (don't know the tops code). Quite clever when you think about it.

Maybe someone with a lot more knowledge of the workings can and explain why brake vans were needed on some MGR's and why they were allocated to the coal sub sector, I do remember seeing a brake van with Fiddlers Ferry on the side of it.
 

Dr Hoo

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Back then it probably would have been much cheaper to modify wagons to fit the purpose rather pay to have new ones built, especially since BR was basically skint and SpeedLink wasn't making money. I think there are many variants of wagons that were modified from being specific to one type of freight, converted to be able to carry another. One example I can think of is the timber wagons converted from former rover car wagons (don't know the tops code). Quite clever when you think about it.

Maybe someone with a lot more knowledge of the workings can and explain why brake vans were needed on some MGR's and why they were allocated to the coal sub sector, I do remember seeing a brake van with Fiddlers Ferry on the side of it.
The brake vans were to facilitate propelling moves, at Warrington, I believe, to avoid double run-rounds.

(This was nothing whatsoever to do with the 'less-than-trainload' Speedlink operation of course.)
 

Irascible

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Speedlink did at least use the lwb airbraked 4 wheelers which were as old as most of the diesels pulling them - I've no doubt there was some actually old swb stock in there but I never saw any in the rare times one went past. Unlike the MOD, who *still* have some iirc.
 

CW2

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Speedlink had two Control / Service Group offices, one in Crewe and the other in York. If I recall correctly, the Crewe office handled the Western Region, London Midland Region, and the western half of Scotland, and the York office controlled the rest. There were Speedlink Controllers on duty round the clock, with a break from Saturday pm to Sunday 2200. THere was a complicated system of monitoring the movements of traffic using the TOPS system, and a manual wagon reservation system. The Speedlink Controller would note what traffic was being released (on TOPS) for movement, and then reserve the traffic onto individual trains, passing that information on to the yards concerned. In the event of any late running, or too much traffic turning up for an individual train, the Speedlink Controller would liaise with the Railway Controllers to see if any alternative traction could be found. In the case of the WCML it was quite frequent that trains booked for a pair of locos would be split and run as two separate trains so as to enable more (length of) traffic to be shifted.
 

eastwestdivide

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Speedlink did at least use the lwb airbraked 4 wheelers which were as old as most of the diesels pulling them - I've no doubt there was some actually old swb stock in there but I never saw any in the rare times one went past. Unlike the MOD, who *still* have some iirc.
Thought most of the LWB air-braked fleet of wagons were built in the 1970s and later, with most diesel loco construction in the 1960s or earlier.
As for conversions, there had always been a lot of wagon conversion as traffics changed, and that continued with the AB stock. Notably the 12T vans VEA converted from 1960s vacuum-braked Vanwides, and the steel bogie bolsters BDA converted from 1950s unfitted BDOs.
 

Cheshire Scot

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Speedlink did at least use the lwb airbraked 4 wheelers which were as old as most of the diesels pulling them - I've no doubt there was some actually old swb stock in there but I never saw any in the rare times one went past. Unlike the MOD, who *still* have some iirc.
Some hyfits were also fitted with air brakes for use on Speedlink, visually identified not just by the air pipes but also a different spring - and presumably suspension - as these were amazingly passed for 75mph running against 45mph pre conversion. These were very much a short term fix pending delivery of hundreds of OBA wagons.
 
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CW2

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Some hyfits were also fitted with air brakes for use on Speedlink, visually identified not just by the air pipes but also a different spring - and presumably suspension - as these were amazingly passed for 75mph running against 45mph pre conversion. These were very much a short term fix pending delivery of hundreds of OBA wagons.
That being said, the vast majority of Speedlink services were class 6 (60 mph) with only some automotive services running class 4 (75 mph). Obviously if all the wagons on a train were 75mph capable and there was enough brake force available then a class 6 could be reclassified on the day to run as a class 4. The vast majority of wagonload traffic never exceeded 60 mph.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Speedlink had two Control / Service Group offices, one in Crewe and the other in York. If I recall correctly, the Crewe office handled the Western Region, London Midland Region, and the western half of Scotland, and the York office controlled the rest. There were Speedlink Controllers on duty round the clock, with a break from Saturday pm to Sunday 2200. THere was a complicated system of monitoring the movements of traffic using the TOPS system, and a manual wagon reservation system. The Speedlink Controller would note what traffic was being released (on TOPS) for movement, and then reserve the traffic onto individual trains, passing that information on to the yards concerned. In the event of any late running, or too much traffic turning up for an individual train, the Speedlink Controller would liaise with the Railway Controllers to see if any alternative traction could be found. In the case of the WCML it was quite frequent that trains booked for a pair of locos would be split and run as two separate trains so as to enable more (length of) traffic to be shifted.

I speak with some experience of Speedlink. Most trunk trains had a reservation system for the most important traffics , agreed for timetable periods , so that the yard supervisor at say Mossend would know how to plan the priorities for say 6Vxx to STJ , giving priority to "reserved" or priority confirmed traffics if there was a surplus for that particular train. It usually worked very well , and the liasion between the ground staff and the Speedlink / Regional controls worked very well. In a "one" railway , unburdened by track access rights - specials could and would be organized as needed , crews and traction provided. The overnight logs frequently gave examples of good proactive work in the small hours - where all sorts of things were done to keep traffic moving.

Brakevans (air piped ones) were also used for certain dangerous goods flows ,terminal operations and for some "escort" duties (which we won't go into here)
 

Scotrail84

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I speak with some experience of Speedlink. Most trunk trains had a reservation system for the most important traffics , agreed for timetable periods , so that the yard supervisor at say Mossend would know how to plan the priorities for say 6Vxx to STJ , giving priority to "reserved" or priority confirmed traffics if there was a surplus for that particular train. It usually worked very well , and the liasion between the ground staff and the Speedlink / Regional controls worked very well. In a "one" railway , unburdened by track access rights - specials could and would be organized as needed , crews and traction provided. The overnight logs frequently gave examples of good proactive work in the small hours - where all sorts of things were done to keep traffic moving.

Brakevans (air piped ones) were also used for certain dangerous goods flows ,terminal operations and for some "escort" duties (which we won't go into here)
Can you provide even just a little more info? I'm very intrigued as to what 'escort' duties were.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Can you provide even just a little more info? I'm very intrigued as to what 'escort' duties were.

Sometimes provided for "security" - especially bogie brake van S56302 on car trains - stuffed with BTP to arrest vandals / car radio thieves , ordinary brake vans for special traffics.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Thanks, interesting stuff.

Talking of brake vans - we got a pair painted up in the then new corporate LUL livery (with matching barrier vehicles) , specially for the stock moves to and from Crewe / Derby/ Rosyth from West Ruislip - they needed painting in any case and were pretty captive to the flows , which reduced the chance of them being borrowed for other things.
 

CW2

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I speak with some experience of Speedlink. Most trunk trains had a reservation system for the most important traffics , agreed for timetable periods , so that the yard supervisor at say Mossend would know how to plan the priorities for say 6Vxx to STJ , giving priority to "reserved" or priority confirmed traffics if there was a surplus for that particular train. It usually worked very well , and the liasion between the ground staff and the Speedlink / Regional controls worked very well. In a "one" railway , unburdened by track access rights - specials could and would be organized as needed , crews and traction provided. The overnight logs frequently gave examples of good proactive work in the small hours - where all sorts of things were done to keep traffic moving.
The levels of pre-reserverved or "Mandated" traffic flows were agreed between the Speedlink Service Group Managers in Crewe and York and the individual business sector managers. The mandates dealt with both length and weight, since both could be critical on the Speedlink trains. The Speedlink Performance Assistants at Crewe and York would keep a close eye on all the trips into the major yards to see what traffic had been released, and would then confirm the priorities with the relevant AYM. It wasn't left up to the AYMs to do their own thing, as they would naturally try to make life easier for their staff by doing the minimum number of shunts, so if (say) 18 wagons of scrap metal from Corby to Mossend ended up at Bescot instead of just 8, then the load might need to be split over three different services - requiring the yard staff to do a lot more work. If left to their own devices they would put the whole lot on the first available service, bumping other mandated traffic to a later train, potentially upsetting the customer because of late arrivals.

The northbound loads over Shap and Beattock were critical for the WCML services. From memory (and feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken) the trailing loads were:
Class 81 - 86 610 tonnes, but could be authorised for 650 tonnes.
Class 87 650 tonnes, but could be authorised for 710 (?) tonnes
Any tandem pair 1100 tonnes
Pair of 86s or 87s in multi 1100 tonnes, but 1300 tonnes if authorised and wired out by RCO Crewe (which was a daily occurence).

I do recall one night when there had been a strike the previous night, and there was a huge backlog of traffic. I managed to get every northbound train that night to run as two separate trains, to increase the overall trailing loads and lengths available. Again from memory that was:
6S73 Dover - Mossend (from Warrington)
6S74 East Usk - Mossend (from Warrington)
6S80 Warrington - Mossend
6S82 Bescot - Mossend
6S97 Gloucester - Mossend
A fantastic example of co-operation from the Regional Control Offices and yard staff to keep the traffic moving.
 

Merle Haggard

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Sometimes provided for "security" - especially bogie brake van S56302 on car trains - stuffed with BTP to arrest vandals / car radio thieves , ordinary brake vans for special traffics.

The vandals assumed that, if they bricked a car train, there couldn't possibly be any consequences for them.
Were they surprised when not only did the train of Cartics pull up quite sharp, but a group of BTP appeared and rounded them up.
A sad irony was that 56302 was torched, leaving only the framing. There was the intention by RfD to rebuild it but sadly abandoned.
 

kemal

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Does anyone have any loco and train consists from the speedlink era especially with class 81, 85 and 87 please?

Thank you
 

CW2

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Does anyone have any loco and train consists from the speedlink era especially with class 81, 85 and 87 please?

Thank you
A lot of the TOPS machines of that era used heat-sensitive paper for silent printing. As a result they would fade very badly after a few weeks. I doubt there are any left now.
 

ChiefPlanner

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The vandals assumed that, if they bricked a car train, there couldn't possibly be any consequences for them.
Were they surprised when not only did the train of Cartics pull up quite sharp, but a group of BTP appeared and rounded them up.
A sad irony was that 56302 was torched, leaving only the framing. There was the intention by RfD to rebuild it but sadly abandoned.

What the vandals did not know , is that on the trip from Bordesley to Bescot conveying all sorts of high quality cars , was that apart from having a motivated train crew who helpfully pointed out before departure the risk areas, The brake was (on the one time I went out for the sport) , was 2/3 down the train - so the train crew put the brake in as soon as they spotted the vandals and to the latter's horror - they were driven off.

S56302 was torched at Garston by the locals , a sad end to a vehicle which had done some sterling service. A vehicle I got rescued from the potential scrap line at Tennyson Road , Selhurst. (we used it on Dagenham - Garston car trains - not always manned - but a good deterrent in any case - Woodgrange Park - Forest Gate Junction which for a while was real bandit country) - off topic - in a later job , going out on the "Q" trains was great fun - a 121 on the Upminster - Barking - GOB - NLL - DC was good fun. Yes we delayed the services with the odd chase and questioning - but good for morale , if not for the miscreants. They never expected a humble bubble cart to come to a grinding stand and the Law to a appear in persuit.
 

Cheshire Scot

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That being said, the vast majority of Speedlink services were class 6 (60 mph) with only some automotive services running class 4 (75 mph). Obviously if all the wagons on a train were 75mph capable and there was enough brake force available then a class 6 could be reclassified on the day to run as a class 4. The vast majority of wagonload traffic never exceeded 60 mph.
Class 4 operation was not restricted to automotive traffic.

There was a pair of class 4s each night on the Mossend Willesden axis, southbound 20.xx from Mossend and by running at 75 there was no requirement to be recessed for anything as it was behind the last daytime trains, kept pace with Freightliners, and was well ahead of the overnight passenger trains. It arrived in Willesden early enough that traffic could be tripped to Home Counties terminals to enable morning deliveries by road. This to provide the Day A - Day B service which many customers required and which the competing road hauliers routinely offered where required.
 
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ChiefPlanner

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Does anyone have any loco and train consists from the speedlink era especially with class 81, 85 and 87 please?

Thank you

I think there are a couple of books by M C Rhodes on Speedlink , which have sample consists.

A rather splendid train was 6F86 - about 0900 or so from Willesden Brent to the north , which often conveyed a wonderful and lengthy load , often a "sweep up" of stuff that had not managed to get the overnight trunk services - someone said that a "fully fitted freight" had run in that path from about 1880.
 

topydre

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Here's a really fascinating video of [apparently] speedlink

A class 40 locomotive (absolute giant, heavy and powerful) hauling 2 small 4 wheeled vans. 4 staff in the 40 (2 in each cab) (I think) during the coupling. Class 08 shunter comes along with 2 small 4-wheel wagons, a larger wagon and a brake van. Presumably 2 staff in the 08? Vans coupled (no through braking, clearly), and 40 takes it away

No wonder Speedlink was criticied as unprofitable!!
 

ChiefPlanner

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Speedlink was about 30 years too late - I came over from the Freightliner side in about 1983 , and I was quite appalled really as to how low the rates for traffic was, and how high the costs were for movement and tripping.

This is no critisicism of the hard work that staff did to move the traffic. Their tasks were appreciated.

Too much of the traffic was green fields to green fields - stuff that no road haulier would touch - e.g fish food from Norwich to Fort William , (no back load of course) -timber traffic from the West Highland line to Workington / Chirk in penny packets - (revenue about £90 a wagon) - and one of the best (unrenumerative) flows was yoghurt - once a week from Portfield to Manchester , which called for a sole 33 and full crew to trip one van to Eastleigh , and then to be delivered by road from a terminal. Revenue about £200 - so we gave it to Millbrook Flt - and they laughed at the rate. Did it for a while and it was lost to road. Grainflow - 2/3 wagons a week - seasonally - from East Anglian branch lines like Dereham. Drinks traffic from well known retail brands -which had about 50% of the revenue swallowed up in transfer and road delivery costs (with - again - no back loads)

There were some good flows - but a lot was pickings from a well served table. Of a revenue of about £60 million - the loss was about half that. Regrettably , there were more losses than gains over the years. In the same period - the Freightliner domestic traffic was shed for Deep Sea and European traffic.

By the way - private owner wagons on Speedlink - the empty ones - got a free ride !
 

Scotrail84

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You just have to look at some of the old videos on YT, Single loco, Driver, second man and sometimes a guard or shunter just to move 2 or 3 wagons. All that diesel and wages for the crews and minimal revenue. Madness.
 

Dunfanaghy Rd

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Back then it probably would have been much cheaper to modify wagons to fit the purpose rather pay to have new ones built, especially since BR was basically skint and SpeedLink wasn't making money. I think there are many variants of wagons that were modified from being specific to one type of freight, converted to be able to carry another. One example I can think of is the timber wagons converted from former rover car wagons (don't know the tops code). Quite clever when you think about it.

Maybe someone with a lot more knowledge of the workings can and explain why brake vans were needed on some MGR's and why they were allocated to the coal sub sector, I do remember seeing a brake van with Fiddlers Ferry on the side of it.
The Rover Hi-cubes (KSA-A) were not converted until the present century, and then only 10 of them. (Quite why TOPS still has them as the same design code (KSE835) as the unmodified ones is a mystery.) There is even a code (unused) in the UIC list for them (3623 Rfnoos) which matches with the other (German) converts (3523 Rnoos). RSL had their eyes off the ball, there!
Pat
 

Dr Hoo

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Does anyone have any loco and train consists from the speedlink era especially with class 81, 85 and 87 please?

Thank you
Paul Shannon's book 'Speedlink', published by Ian Allen in 2014 has some sample consists ('composition' by wagon type, not vehicle numbers) with the odd early electric such as 81011 on 6M28, 2115 Mossend-Willesden on 19 August 1987. Not many like that, though, and hardly any photographs of the classes.

A few odds and ends with brake vans for propelling or dangerous goods purposes for the OP too.

The books has a lot of 'traffic' detail but less good on the economics.

Like ChiefPlanner I worked hard in many roles - both at local level and at BRBHQ - to make Speedlink work but somehow those lengthy trips with the odd couple of wagons on occasional days were never going to make a profit even before you started to consider infrastructure costs on minor branches and in yards.
 

CW2

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Class 4 operation was not restricted to automotive traffic.

There was a pair of class 4s each night on the Mossend Willesden axis, southbound 20.xx from Mossend and by running at 75 there was no requirement to be recessed for anything as it was behind the last daytime trains, kept pace with Freightliners, and was well ahead of the overnight passenger trains. It arrived in Willesden early enough that traffic could be tripped to Home Counties terminals to enable morning deliveries by road. This to provide the Day A - Day B service which many customers required and which the competing road hauliers routinely offered where required.
I don't remember those. Are you sure they were in the Speedlink era? Can you refresh my memory with some headcodes?
 

Cowley

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When doing research for my model railway I found some absolutely bonkers mixed trains on the Barnstaple branch.
In one or two photos of just the one type of consist there were cement wagons and Polybulks for Barnstaple, ship parts for Appledore dockyard, logs, and Cargowaggons for Lapford and some VGAs for god knows where.
It must have taken an enormous amount of work to split, shunt and dispatch all of it to the correct places?
 

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When doing research for my model railway I found some absolutely bonkers mixed trains on the Barnstaple branch.
In one or two photos of just the one type of consist there were cement wagons and Polybulks for Barnstaple, ship parts for Appledore dockyard, logs, and Cargowaggons for Lapford and some VGAs for god knows where.
It must have taken an enormous amount of work to split, shunt and dispatch all of it to the correct places?
I think the only locations with goods traffic on the branch were Lapford and Barnstaple itself, together with the Meeth line. Lapford was, I think, mostly worked by a trip from Exeter Riverside (I am pretty certain that was how they worked the UKF wagons), although a goods to Barnstaple could shunt it. Barnstaple was just shunting the yard.

Outward traffic or empties would probably be sent from Riverside to Severn Tunnel Junction, unless it was to go via Bescot, in which case it might go in the clay. Earlier there had also been an Exeter-Acton. (All these thoughts from around 1980-1982.)

One of the early trains from Barnstaple, a bit after 07.00, could run as a mixed if the previous evening’s service was up to the maximum. One morning I saw the mixed: Class 25, BCK and SK (or possibly a SO or TSO), four or five BR-design CCT, and about a dozen loaded and sheeted clays (UCV).
 

Cowley

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I think the only locations with goods traffic on the branch were Lapford and Barnstaple itself, together with the Meeth line. Lapford was, I think, mostly worked by a trip from Exeter Riverside (I am pretty certain that was how they worked the UKF wagons), although a goods to Barnstaple could shunt it. Barnstaple was just shunting the yard.

Outward traffic or empties would probably be sent from Riverside to Severn Tunnel Junction, unless it was to go via Bescot, in which case it might go in the clay. Earlier there had also been an Exeter-Acton. (All these thoughts from around 1980-1982.)

One of the early trains from Barnstaple, a bit after 07.00, could run as a mixed if the previous evening’s service was up to the maximum. One morning I saw the mixed: Class 25, BCK and SK (or possibly a SO or TSO), four or five BR-design CCT, and about a dozen loaded and sheeted clays (UCV).
To prevent us dragging this thread off course I started a thread on that subject a while ago that you might find interesting @Gloster.
 

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Used to love watching the speed link trains on the overnights on ECML. Early Evening ones I remember 3 in quick succession, 6S96 Whitemoor to Mossend, mainly grain tanks but could be mixture, 6S93 Wisbech to Deanside pet food, 6S71 Whitemoor to Mossend right mixture often had cars on
 
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