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Visiting London next week and want to see freight trains.

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Railroadbaron

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Hello UK railfans!

I will be visiting London next week from the United States and wanted to see English freight trains. We'll be staying at the The Royal Thistle Trafalgar. Are there any rail yards or locations nearby or relatively nearby where we might be able to see freight trains operating? I understand that you guys have "open access" in the UK so you have many freight operators over your rail lines. Where would be the best place to see them?

Thank you for any help you can provide.

Mike
 
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najaB

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Are there any rail yards or locations nearby or relatively nearby where we might be able to see freight trains operating? I understand that you guys have "open access" in the UK so you have many freight operators over your rail lines. Where would be the best place to see them?
Welcome to the forum. While we do have an active freight market, there are really only four operators of any large volume: Direct Rail Services, Freightliner, GB Railfreight, and DB Schenker (formerly known as EWS). There are a few others e.g. Devon and Cornwall Railway but their operations are comparatively limited.

Our operating model is quite different to the US as it is mainly fixed rakes of inter-modal containers, with some bulk aggregates and coal. As a result we don't have the marshalling yards* that you might be familiar with from America.

*I guess you would call them classification yards
 
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PeterC

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The Barking - Gospel Oak closure means that Thameside services will be going through Stratford which will concentrate traffic there but a lot will be overnight so use Real Time Trains to plan visits rather than turning up on spec.

For Stratford you will need to be on the passenger platforms so you may need a paper ticket. A (cheaper) journey made with Oyster or contactless card will time out if you spend too long watching the trains.

I don't know if there are suitable roadside locations at Willesden or Acton. Willesden Junction station will not give you the clearest views of freight traffic but there is a lot of activity visible in the distance.
 

Springs Branch

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When I've been visiting London and had an hour or two spare to go watching trains, I've headed to South Kenton station and sat on the platform there.

South Kenton is a small, quiet local / Tube station alongside the busy West Coast Line a couple of stops north of Wembley with a good view up and down the adjacent main lines.

If your hotel is near Trafalgar Square, it's easily accessble via the Bakerloo tube from Charing Cross Underground station (as mentioned above, a paper ticket will avoid potential problems with a "timed out" Oyster journey).

In the past, when I've been at South Kenton in the middle of the day there's been a steady stream of freight trains passing on the slow lines, interleaved between frequent suburban EMUs and the longer-distance Pendolinos etc. I have to say there wasn't a huge variety of freight traffic - mostly intermodal container trains and very short by US standards. But considering the frequency of the passenger trains, you will see a lot of British trains there.
 
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