Freight Trains of the Western Region in the 1980s (Amberley)

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The 1980s was a period of great change on the railway, particularly in the rail freight scene where the conventional wagon-load freight network was being phased out, to be replaced by the air-braked Speedlink network.

This is a photographic account from the time comprising of images from across the Western Region, largely the West Country and the Bristol area, and is compiled principally from photographs taken by the author Kevin Redwood, who worked at Bristol’s Area Freight Centre between 1980 and 1986. From coal trains in South Wales to clay trains in Cornwall the selected photographs show a wide range of wagons on various freight services, conveying commodities such as coal, coke, aggregates, china clay, cement, iron ore, coil, scrap and petroleum traffic.

The number of BR owned vacuum-braked and unfitted wagons still in traffic during the early 1980s was high, largely serving coal depots and freight terminals, but the vacuum-braked wagon-load network eventually came to an end in May 1984. As a result of this yards were then closed, or rationalised.

It was in the 1970s that BR first invested in air-braked, long wheelbase goods wagons and by the mid-1970s their air-braked service network covered the whole country. The main axis was the west coast main line and the air braked trains served twenty five of British Rail’s major freight handling depots and soon other freight handling companies were opening their own depots. In September 1977, after further investment, the name Speedlink was first used in connection with air-braked service. The majority of the Speedlink stock was built to cater for palletised loads in air-braked open wagons or vans. The individual wagons would be collected from warehouses, factories or docks and taken to the nearest Speedlink regional centre where they were then assembled into block trains and, hauled by a variety of loco classes, were dispatched to the appropriate regional centre for distribution, where they were sorted and delivered.

Following a short introduction, the pictures are displayed in 2 per page format. Informative captions accompany the 182 colour and black & white photographs. 96 pages.

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