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Railway Yard and Platform Clutter


There is a discussion of the kind of packaging materials used for railway freight traffic in Appendix One - Packaging Materials & Containers. Information on luggage is however confined to this section under Platform Clutter.

Yard Clutter

With wagons sheeted over, and valuable items shipped in vans or even containers, you can get away with very few visible loads for wagons, but in your goods yard it looks better if there is at least some sign of activity. In the early days of course horse drawn transport was the norm, and horse drawn vehicles probably outnumbered petrol or other mechanised vehicles in goods yards up to the Second World War. Goods loaded onto these vehicles were often not covered with tarpaulins and so they would be very 'visible' on a model.

Traditionally the road cart has been called a waggon and this convention has been adopted here to differentiate these from railway wagons. The railways built large numbers of goods road vehicles, both horse drawn and later motor lorries and vans (for the latter they often purchased the rolling chassis and added the bodywork themselves). Each team of horses might have two or three waggons available so that whilst they were out collecting and delivering with one another could be being dealt with at the goods yard. This policy carried over into the motor era with many of the mechanical horses being supplied with two or three trailers. This has two advantages for a modeller in that it provides some interesting wagon loads and also represents an easy option for clutter in the goods yard.

The horse drawn carts and vans would either be at the shed or parked somewhere close by but out of the way. To avoid damage and provide room for passing traffic the single horse shafts were usually pushed into the upright position (actually leaning back slightly) when the horse was not attached. A light line was often tied from the rear wheel to one of the shafts near its outer end to secure the shafts safely upright. The single pole for the pair of horses was usually uncoupled from the waggon and laid inside the waggon. When the two-horse waggon was being dealt with at the shed or alongside a siding the pole would usually be placed on the floor under the waggon. The sketch below shows both a one and two horse waggon as might be seen 'parked' in a corner of the yard. Waggons of both types are available in kit form from a range of manufacturers.

The LMS trolley shown in the sketch is something a little different that can be modelled fairly easily (discussed below), these would normally only be seen in town yards, but it does make an interesting wagon load for a flat wagon or drop side wagon. In use a single horse would be between the shafts but a second could be attached using traces in 'line ahead'. Similar heavy lift waggons were built with a triangular towing frame in place of the shafts for traction engine haulage. These retained the turntable steering arrangement but later examples intended for motor tug haulage had 'Ackerman' steering with a central rigid tow bar. The triangular tow bars might be seen from the late nineteenth century through to the 1950's, the rigid tow bar might be seen from the 1930s through to about the 1970's, although they became increasingly rare after the early 1960's as motor lorries increased in size and power.

The Scammel trailers are not (as far as I am aware) available separately however the tractor units might form a suitable wagon load for a passing goods train (heading from the railways own workshops to a station on the system). The trailers supplied with the kits do not come with the front supporting leg however this can be added as shown below. The rear of the tractor had two projecting rails, these engaged with the flanged rollers, lifting the trailer body so the lower part of the wheeled leg could fold back as the tractor reversed.

The small flat trolley in the bottom of the sketch is a lightweight parcels trailer, beyond which I know very little. Assuming it used 'Mini' wheels (12" diameter over the rims) I estimate the length as eight feet, the width is probably about five feet maximum. This would be another option for a corner of a goods yard set in the period from about 1955 to 1981.

Fig___ Goods road vehicles

Goods deivery vehicles for a yard scene

The LMS horse trolley is not hard to make, the body is a strip of 1mm scribed card 10mm by 20mm forming the deck, this sits on a 30 thou strip 11mm by 24mm. At the horse end four strips of 20x20 thou form the end of the turntable for the front wheels and the shafts can be bent up from wire. Note due to the low height of the waggon the shafts are slightly longer and rather more bent than the standard type. The white brake wheel could be a wheel from the Ratio oil tank kit, a Taylor Plastic Models etched hand wheel or a 'gimp' pin with the rim and spokes added using white ink ( In OO scale a small press stud would serve for the hand wheel and the road wheels could be Peco N wagon wheels with the rims trimmed off using nails clippers). The best option for the wheels in N would be to cut rings cut from an empty Biro refill, filled with Milliput and with a length of wire set into the putty for the axle. If you lay the filled rings on a bar of soap you can push the wire down through the putty and into the soap, trimming to length when the putty has set. I did once make wheels for a small wheeled truck for OO by painting the end of a pin, drawing the brush toward the shaft over the head left a rim of paint on the head of the pin that formed the 'tyre'.

Low loader trailers were usually associated with heavy loads, steel examples hauled by steam traction engines were in use by the later Nineteenth Century, by the 1930's motor tractors were used (either something resembling an agricultural tractor or, more likely, a shortened lorry with a ballast box behind the cab). Articulated heavy lift lorries were developed in the early 1920's but heavy goods trailers remained a feature of railway freight operations into the 1960's. Having one either close by a siding or in a corner of the yard, either loaded or unloaded, can add to the appearance of activity.

Prior to the Second World War, and for a time afterwards, solid tyred spoked wheels were common on heavy load vehicles. There are a number of sources for solid tyred wheels for these trailers, the small road wheels from a Second World War German Panzer Three tank (either the Matchbox Pz3 or the Airfix Stug 3 kit) are handy or you can use a Peco 'disk' type wagon wheel. Use a pair of toe nail clippers to clip off the pointed end of the Peco axle and trim the flanges and sand the rim smooth. Where the Peco wheels are to be used underneath a body and pretty much out of sight you can sand the top flat, this reduces the height and also provides a better surface for gluing them in place. Pneumatic tyres are available in 'road lorry' size from the Dornaplas range but if you know an aircraft modeller ask them to donate any wheels from their kits they do not use. The small nose wheels from a 1:144 airliner or a small 1:72nd aircraft are handy in N and even the larger wheels can find occasional uses.

Early heavy lift trailers had no brakes, instead they used flat metal plates attached to chains which could be fitted to the chassis so the plates ended up under the rear wheels. These 'drag shoes' were deployed when the load was being taken down hill, the rear wheels sat on the drags which acted as skids. Brakes on these heavy lift trailers were introduced during World War Two but it was the 1960s before effective braking was developed for heavy road vehicles.

Adding the front leg to the Scammel trailer is not too difficult either. I would suggest bending a length of 20 thou brass rod into a U shape, about 1mm wide, then bending the curve at right angles so it can be glued to the bottom of the trailer body. A small block of 30x30 thou is glued between the legs at the top and below this a length of 20 thou wire or plastic rod is glued across to represent the small roller wheels on their axle. The spoked road wheels at the base of the legs can be represented using hand wheels or (if the model is not going to be highly visible) disks punched with a 'leather punch'.

The lightweight parcels trailer is another simple job, the body is a sheet of 1mm scribed card 16mm long by 10mm wide with 20x30 thou strip glued on edge around the top to form the sides. This sits on a rectangle of 30 thou card 15mm by 9mm which has the 20x30 thou strips forming the tow bar set into it for strength as shown. The long springs are 30x30 thou strip sanded down toward the ends, sitting on cubes of 30x30 thou. The wheels can be from the Scammel tractor that came with the bigger trailer, although these would be about the maximum diameter for such a trailer. Wheels from dress making pins, possibly with a tyre added using paint as described above would be closer to correct scale although less detailed. The sketch was made from a photograph of a 'scrap' unit, there was no sign of a small supporting wheel on the tow bar (as found on caravans) however there may once have been one.

When long timber needed moving, such as tree trunks or telegraph poles, a 'timber waggon' would be used. These had two frames on a long pole, each fitted with a pair of steel posts. The front frame carried the turntable for the steering front wheels and the rear frame could move along the pole to accommodate differing lengths of timber. It was not uncommon to see one or two of these in a larger goods yard, smaller yards would only see them when such traffic was expected. These waggons can be made up using plastic strip with wire for the bolster posts and P D Marsh wheels but I believe Scale link offer a rather neat kit and there are also examples available in the continental ranges. One point to note is that if the waggon is beside a siding the horse shafts would be lowered and resting on the ground to avoid damage when loading. Again some examples were built with a triangular tow bar for traction engine haulage, which leaves you with the shafts for another model. They disappeared rather quickly following the Second World War and were rare by the 1950s.

Fig___ Timber waggon

 Timber waggon for a yard scene

I am not sure if the timber carts were railway owned or supplied by third party contractors, certainly the railways were not adverse to using road haulage firms for collection and delivery work. Pickfords had been involved with the railways since the early days of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in the 1830's (see Historical Background section) and were noted for their heavy haulage work (using steam traction engines and then motor vehicles) from the early twentieth century.

Pickfords involvement with the railways was in part facilitated by one of the owning partners being the Chairman of the South Eastern Railway Company, they were the first company to use road-rail containers and remained closely involved with the railways for many years. By the early twentieth century Pickfords had become a subsidiary of the LNWR but they were also contracted to handle collection and deliveries in London by the Midland Railway (along with Chaplin and Horne, another road haulage contractor). By the time of the First World War the parcels side of the business had been sold to Carter Paterson, while Pickfords concentrated on household removals, storage and moving heavy goods at home and abroad. I understand they were eventually owned by a consortium of railway companies but I have not been able to confirm the companies involved and I believe they formed part of the nationalised road haulage fleet, but the brand name Pickfords and the dark blue livery remained in use throughout.

The advantage for the modeller is that the Pickfords livery was so simple. In the early days they used a diamond shaped logo as described in the Historical Background section but by the time of the First World War it was essentially a dark blue vehicle with the word Pickfords in white on the sides and this remained standard into the 1970's. As it was owned by the railways Pickfords was nationalised in 1948, becoming part of the British Road Services road haulage organisation. Pickfords then became part of the nationalised National Freight Corporation when that was formed from the railways sundries business in 1968 but the Pickfords livery and brand was retained. At some point a red band was added to the livery (possibly the later 1980's) and in 1999 Pickfords was merged with North American Van Lines although it continues today to trade under the Pickfords name. The holding company for the merged business is NA Holding Corporation, in which Pickfords' former parent company (National Freight Corporation plc) had a 20% shareholding. In 2000 the NFC merged with Ocean Group to form Excel Logistics, subsequently buying up Tibbet & Britten in 2004, becoming one of the largest and most successful logistics companies in the UK. In 2006 Deutsche Post completed a 3.7 billion takeover of the freight company and merged it with its own DHL Logistics, the joint company now operates in 135 countries.

As well as road haulage companies there would also be the road vehicles of private traders collecting their wares from the yard. In general the horses for such vehicles would remain attached if the trader were collecting from or delivering to a wagon or van on a siding in the open. If the goods were in the goods shed the horse might be unhitched to allow the waggon to be manoeuvred into position for loading (horse drawn vehicles are not reversed, the harness is not designed for it and the animal wouldn't like it).

One common waggon type was the 'tip cart', used for a range of bulk goods and also occasionally used for other traffic. These tip carts are also known as tumbrils and were commonly called Scotch Carts in Britain. Models of tip carts are available, usually sold as 'farmers tip cart' but they were also used by coal merchants, builders merchants and the like. As far as I am aware this was not a type used by the railway companies but they were regular visitors to goods yards, used for coal, manure and even house bricks.

Fig___ Tip cart

 Tip cart

Sometimes a load would arrive in the yard without an appropriate vehicle to carry it away, in this case (assuming it could be left outside) it was normally piled up close by a siding ready to be loaded. If the load were large and no mobile crane was available it would be left within reach of one of the yard cranes. Piles of timber, metal rods and girders and prefabricated metal sections were all occasionally seen. One often finds pictures showing quite large piles of goods beside a siding and covered with tarpaulin sheets. I have no idea what the goods in question were but that is no reason not to have one or two of these piles in your yard.

Goods sent by rail had to be packed securely, they might be transferred from one wagon to another several times en route to their destination and road collection and delivery were often rather brutal. See Appendix One - Packaging Materials & Containers for details of the more common ways of boxing goods for rail transportation and comments on modelling these.

Most items were shipped in light wooden crates and cases, often packed with straw. Cases and chests are technically closed wooden boxes and crates are open wooden frames forming a box shape.

One point to note is that size does not always relate to weight, the sketch below is based on a photo of lady porters during the First World War, the cases are large but apparently not terribly heavy.

Fig ___ Large crate on a sack truck

Large crate on a sack truck

Crates were employed when moving large pieces of machinery, both to protect the item and to provide some means of lifting it without attaching ropes to the machine itself which might have caused damage. In the Historical Background section there is an illustration of a crated engine part loaded on a horse drawn waggon. Crates are easy to make, all you need do is cut slices from the end of Plastruct Fineline square section tube, add a floor of 10 or 20 thou strip inside the resulting frames and add strips of 10x20 thou strip to the sides. When adding the strips to the sides do one side at a time, then lay the crate on a cutting board and trim the ends, if you do all the sides at one go you will find it difficult to do the trimming. The photo shows two such crates being made, all that is required is a load glued inside and ends adding again from 10x20 thou strip. In photographs of town goods yards you often see crates like this that have been emptied, usually with straw in the bottom and hanging from the open end. I have no idea why they were emtied at the yard.

Fig ___ Making crates for a wagon load or yard scene

Making crates for a wagon load or yard scene

Wicker baskets of various sizes were used for regular traffic such as clothing, they are still used today in theatres for storing clothes and small props. Wicker baskets can be made up by forming an oblong shape from Milliput, smoothing this down with a wet knife blade then rolling a scrap of material along the wet sides and top to emboss the 'basketwork' pattern.

A representation of the glass carboys in wicker baskets used for distilled water, acids and other corrosive liquids, can be produced using the flared skirt back-end of a '.177' air gun pellet. Cut off the domed front, fill the cone with Milliput and stick in a bit of wire to form the neck of the bottle. The basket-work was light brown in colour and the straw pale yellow. These were packed in straw in the railway wagon (typically a two or three plank type with no tarpaulin) which virtually hides all the work you did, but they would have been seen awaiting collection in goods yards.

Fig ___ Tea chests, wicker baskets & carboys

Something very difficult to scratch build in suitable quantity is the light wooden crates, about a foot square and from eighteen inches to four feet long, used to ship green vegetables such as broccoli or cabbages. Fortunately the railway wagons were generally sheeted over with a tarpaulin, which means we only have to provide for the loading dock. I made up a longer version of such a crate, supposedly filled with cabbages. Cut up two lengths of etched brass laddering, fold them into U shapes and super glue them together into a long `crate'. After painting I stuffed this with the green stuff off the back of a pan scrub. If well used and teased out this makes excellent undergrowth and weeds for your loading dock and may be used to represent the mess after loading a large consignment of fruit and veg. A better representation for cabbages would be scraps of cigarette paper, coloured with 'sap green' watercolours and crumpled into a ball.

Fig ___ Crates for fruit or vegetables
Making Crates for fruit or vegetables



Goods shipped in wooden barrels included liquids and oils but also nails and screws (in small kegs). Steel drums and pails were used for paint, chemicals, cooking and lubricating oils and grease.

A 'drum' is a cylindrical tube with sealed ends and the standard '45 gallon oil drum' or something very much like it has been around since at least the First World War. Although drums are usually associated with shipping mineral lubricating oils they were also used for other materials both solid and liquid. Steel drums are often seen standing on their ends, probably because they were moved about the yard on a sack truck.

Bales were a common method of shipping cloth and fibrous materials such as cotton, wool, jute, sisal and wood pulp. Most of these commodities travelled under canvass on the railway and were often sheeted over on road vehicles. In the goods yard they would generally have been handled under cover where possible but you can make bales quite easily. Start with a length of suitable sized rod, wrap this in some soft toilet paper and add bindings from cotton thread soaked in glue. The size and colour of the bale depends upon the material it is representing but by assuming there is a cloth covering you can get away with light brown for many purposes.

The catalogues of firms such as P & D Marsh, Langley, Fleetline and Knightwing contain many useful items for detailing model railways, many of which are suitable as loads or goods yard furniture. Whilst living in the USA I purchased some 1:144 scale household furniture items, produced for 'dolls houses in dolls houses', which have given my porters cause to sweat occasionally. These would probably not have been shipped in open waggons, for obvious reasons, but in the yard of a furniture firm they make an interesting detail. They were obtained from the American supplier Walthers, who as well as dealing with railways produce a useful dolls house catalogue.

Chairs and tables were sent with their legs attached (flat-pack furniture did not come in until the 1970s), they were usually wrapped in straw and then bound with hessian to protect them in transit. Hence a fairly crude model can be used, with padding added to represent the packing. It was quite usual to see a table wrapped in this way perched upside down on top of a road waggon leaving the yard for delivery.

The illustration below is a composite made from several photographs and shows the sort of clutter visible on the road waggon loading platforms in a goods shed, it must be about the early 1960s as the load of cardboard cases in the centre is resting on a pallet.

Fig ___ Clutter visible through a goods shed door about 1960
Composit photo showing the sorts of Clutter visible through a goods shed door about 1950

Looking through pictures taken in general goods depots one sees a number of long cylindrical packages, wrapped in what looks like hessian material. These are probably bolts of cloth, and possibly a few carpets and rugs.

Pre war Jute (cloth) sacks were generally rather larger than the more modern type, they were loaded usually about one or two layers above the top of a 5 plank waggon, interlocked for stability and covered with a tarpaulin. Modelling sacks is not that easy, you can roll out a strip of Milliput and chop this at intervals with a pair of scissors but it is difficult to get them all about the same size and shape. There are a number of commercially available piles of sacks, usually with a few spare individual sacks in the packet. To load the Graham Farish sulphate waggon I used small sweets called `Ticks' as sacks. Obtained from my local chemist these are about the right size for the job, it was only after carefully loading the waggon (using a false floor) that I realised the load would probably have been sheeted, so I added a paper tarpaulin but folded a corner back (supposedly it has come loose) to show the load.

Fine powders such as flour and cement are difficult to ship in bulk, they leak out of cloth sacks and settle in transit making them difficult to get out of hoppers so most of these materials were originally shipped in barrels and small kegs. The multi-wall paper sack was introduced in 1920's by the English Paper Sack Company, now part of Medway Sacks, and soon dominated the market for shipping materials such as cement, lime, animal feeds and flour. There have been several development which produced visible differences in these sacks. Pre-war examples were tied closed at the top, although they were squared off with well developed `shoulders' to the bag. This can be represented by simply adding a small blob of Milliput or similar modelling clay to the centre of one end on commercial whitemetal sacks. From the mid 1940's until the mid to late 1960's sacks were sewn closed (after the introduction of mechanical filling), hence they tapered at the ends. After this date they were folded and pasted, resulting in a more square end. The now common 56 lb paper sack was introduced during the Second World War, replacing a 1 cwt (hundredweight) type which were considered too heavy for the women working in the factories. Two colour printing was not introduced until the 1950's, so bags would be light brown (white in some cases) with a single colour `logo' applied. In the 1930's and 40's cement was shipped in paper sacks or sometimes in wooden casks, the latter being more common for export cement. It was usually shipped in vans, generally PO stock being employed. During the war, a ribbed steel drum was introduced, which became a popular method of export shipping, these were used up into the 1950's on some trades. Making these up could be a time consuming business, really the only way is to make a `master', then make a silicone half mould and make castings. You could use low temperature white metal, plaster of paris or whatever material you are comfortable with. There would be a lot of white staining of waggons and loading bank areas used regularly for cement traffic, cement has a bleaching action so paints would be lighter in shade in the loading area.

Fertiliser tended to stain the loading area, if you have a lot of this traffic add light grey to white (phosphate) or black (basic slag) stains on the ground where the bags were transferred from rail to road vehicles or stored. For lifting bagged cement or fertiliser at the docks it was usual to use a canvas sling rather than a plain cargo net, at the railway goods yard and at most factories shipping or receiving these products they were simply man-handled.

Fruits, either fresh or dried, sultanas etc. were shipped in small cases and tomatoes were in small wooden boxes or trays, much as seen today. Dates were shipped in small boxes, and incidentally came in several grades, right down to 'industrial' at least some of which went into the manufacture of boot polish up until the 1950's. Foods like oranges, apples, onions and bananas have to be carried under very controlled conditions, onions produce a toxic gas and bananas can suffer a build up of explosive ethylene fumes! If you have unripe apples place them in a plastic bag with a banana, the ethylene gas from this will ripen the apples, conversely do not put apples and bananas in the same fruit bowl or the apples will rot. Bananas were shipped on the stalk, carried in walled off sections of the ships holds and discharged either by human chain or simple elevators/conveyors. More recently they have been shipped in cartons strapped to pallets. Banana oil has no connection with the fruit, it is nitro-cellulose dissolved in amyl acetate and is so called because amyl acetate smells like bananas, it is shipped in drums.

The wooden pallet with the fork lift truck to move it arrived in the late 1950's and came into vogue in the 1960's. BR built vans and converted older types with wide side doors to permit fork lift trucks to unload the contents. More recently they have built and used vans with sliding sides or canvas `curtain' sides which provide access to the whole length of the vehicle. The new range of whitemetal castings from the British firm Knightwing includes a fork lift truck, which will serve well in many layouts. There are white metal single-faced pallets available from Knightwing and Ratio offer a set of pallets barrels and crates, the pallets being of the double faced type (and very nice they are to). Note however that there would not be many of these in a railway yard, only a few for materials delivered to the yard itself and perhaps a single large pile of empty pallets being returned. In the 1980's someone came up with a way of stacking bricks so they formed a solid cube shape with two holes to allow fork-lift handling. This did away with the pallet itself and has become the standard method for shipping bricks. These days the bricks being shipped are as often as not used for decorative purposes and when loaded into standard waggons such as the OBA the cubes of bricks are commonly separated by old motor-car tyres to protect them. The tyres often show above the load in these waggons, short lengths of about 0.75mm cut from the plastic sheathing on 3mm diameter black electrical wire will serve for the tyres and a few of these might be seen piled up in a yard ready for use.




Passenger platform clutter


It should be noted that up to the early 1950s the passenger platforms were liberally decorated with enamelled metal signs advertising various products, by the 1930s poster boards were common bearing both railway and other company paper posters.

One piece of kit seen on most passenger stations was the set of scales used to weigh parcels, these typically sat on the platform beside the entrance to the parcels office. Those I remember from the 1950s consisted of a low platform about two feet (60cm) square with a round pillar at the rear supporting a large dial about two feet six inches (75cm) in diameter with a white face an several concentric rings of markings, the centre of the dial was about five feet off the ground.

Outside the barrier giving access to the platforms was often a machine where people could buy a platform ticket so they could see people off on the train. On larger stations a coin operated machine for weighing yourself was sometimes provided, although these were not common. Much more common were chocolate vending machines, those I remember (in use from the 1950s through to the 1970s) were wall mounted tall and narrow, they offered a single type of chocolate bar (Fry's was a common option). Cigarette machines usually offered a selection of brands, four or five as I remember it, these were again often wall-mounted although on larger stations a floor standing machine was sometimes seen.

Fig ___ Machines seen on passenger platforms

Sketch showing various machines found on passenger platforms

Vending machines are not a new idea, Hero of Alexandria built a coin operated holy water dispenser, but the first modern machines were set up in London in the early 1880s dispensing picture post cards.

Passengers often have luggage and in the days before modern materials luggage tended to be heavy. The railways needed to keep to a timetable so they employed 'porters' to assist passengers with their luggage and provided the porters with a range of barrows and trolleys (see also Wagon Loads & Materials Handling - Platform trucks and trolleys). The railways also offered a service called 'Passenger Luggage in Advance', usually referred to as PLA. This allowed passengers to have their luggage sent on ahead, the railway would even arrange for the collection and delivery. I believe PLA was phased out in the early 1960's as a cost cutting measure but prior to this a porter pulling a trolley loaded with 'unattended' luggage would be a fairly regular sight.

For the first hundred and fifty years of railway travel passenger luggage remained largely unaltered, most of the major visual changes occurred in the last fifty years of the twentieth century. One item that was once commonplace was the hat box, any middle or upper class woman spending more than a day at her destination would be likely to have at least one of these in her luggage. Hat boxes used for travelling were not the light card type used for home storage, they were stoutly made of leather or wood with a canvass covering, well able to stand up to the hazards of the baggage compartment. Hat boxes came in two standard shapes, the basic cylindrical drum and a rather more asymmetrical tapered oval shape further complicated by having a saddle back top. The former are the easy option, a short length of tube of suitable diameter with details added from either paper or thin plastic strip will suffice. Suitable diameter however requires a little more definition. During the first half of the nineteenth century men often wore bigger hats than women however these were tall rather than broad, so a 2mm or 3mm length of 2mm diameter tube would suffice. By the end of the century however women had adopted vary large hats, anything up to two feet in diameter, for which a 2mm or even 3mm length of 4mm diameter tube would be required. The size of women's hats (other than those for special occasions) then diminished, by the time of the First World War there would be very few large hat boxes and not very many small ones. Women continued to wear hats through the inter-war years and 'Gentlemen' (the VIPs of the time) continued to wear the silk 'top hat' up to the later 1930's, for which a box was certainly required. The tapered type of hat box was a much more standardised affair in terms of size but a lot more difficult to model, especially in N. One option would be to find some 2mm diameter rod and sand the last 2mm down at one end, cut the end from the rod and then use a hammer and anvil to induce the rather distinctive oval shape. A rat-tailed file could then be used to make the 'saddle backed' dip in the lid, this would however be fiddly to say the least. The examples below have been sketched from photographs, the one on the left was a very dark red (almost black) leather, the one on the right was a buff colour as shown, either leather or possibly canvass with leather reinforcing.

Fig___ Hat boxes

Hat boxes

From the early days of the railways up until the later 1930's 'trunks' were popular for luggage. They were made by building a timber frame and covering this with canvass (leather for the wealthy) and reinforcing wood strips, usually of half round section, were added to the outside. A small proportion were all wood but these were of course much heavier (technically I believe these were chests rather than trunks). In the early part of the nineteenth century the most common type of trunk or chest had domed or 'barrel' tops, I am not sure why these became fashionable, possibly it was felt they would be less susceptible to crushing. They were sometimes referred to as a 'Noah's Ark'. By the later nineteenth century the fashion had shifted back to flat topped trunks, usually with half-round reinforcing staves running along the top and sides. By the turn of the century the external reinforcing was often in the form of flat metal strips.

The 'traditional' barrel topped type were still occasionally seen into the 1930's, however not all these trunks were what they seemed to be. Wicker baskets are light weight and inherently robust but they are not water proof, the solution was to cover them in a waterproof cloth, usually something like 'oilskin' (cloth proofed with an air drying oil such as linseed). These covered wicker chests generally resemble the wooden 'pirate chest' but they were often quite strongly coloured (Oxford blue seem to have been a fairly common colour) and sometimes had panels of a contrasting colour (yellow or red in the case of a blue base colour) and apparently remained popular into the 1940's.

Uncovered wicker hampers were used as well, they were popular amongst travelling sales reps for carrying their wares. An example of an un-covered wicker trunk is shown in the centre of the top row of the sketch below. This shows a number of trunks with a figure to establish the scale, the trunks themselves are from photographs and are intended to give some idea of the colouring used.

Fig___ Typical trunks

Typical trunks showing colourings used

Trunks were widely used well into the 1930's, they were standard kit for people travelling abroad, some even opened up to form a wardrobe with hanging space in one side and drawers in the other. The standard shape for a trunk was a square ended shape, the term 'steamer trunk' actually refers to a half-height trunk designed to accompany a passenger in their cabin. Wall trunks were a type of steamer trunk fitted with a lid hinge inset slightly so the top could be opened when the luggage was pushed up against a wall in the cabin. These can be distinguished by the diagonal join where the lid meets the body at the ends.

The rectangular 'suitcase' with reinforced corners and a single handle on one side is actually a modified form of trunk, they appeared in the 1890's at about the time a firm called Globetrotter developed a vulcanised fibre board (in 1897) that was light weight but almost as hard wearing as leather. The Globetrotter, with its wooden frame and strong sheet cladding was a success and spawned numerous imitations, generally using inferior materials and commonly referred to as 'cardboard' suitcases. The term suitcase for such a travelling bag originated in about 1902, when the idea of having matching jacket and trousers ceased to be associated only with uniforms and became fashionable for every day wear. The simple but hard wearing Globetrotter remains today the favoured choice of people who must travel for a living. It should be noted that the most common suitcases prior to the 1970's were not terribly big, many people could comfortably go away for a couple of days with a case little bigger than a brief case. Large suitcases tended to be associated with the wealthy and with people travelling long distances for long periods, there was a shift toward larger suitcases in the 1970's as car ownership increased and another development in that decade was the soft 'vinyl' suitcase (a fairly rigid frame with soft (usually 'leather look') sides.

The forerunner to the suitcase was the 'portmanteau', this was usually a leather case that opened into two equal sized half sections, secured with leather straps. By the 1930's these were the preserve of the wealthy. There were also a number of cloth and/or leather soft bags, usually reserved for 'hand luggage' or for short overnight stays. The generic term for these soft bags is a 'valise'.

Carpet bags, technically a type of valise appeared in about 1830, these were a cheaper option than the portmanteau having sides made from carpet, usually with leather ends and often with a leather protective strip at the bottom. The 'holdall', a simple cloth bag with two handles, has been around in various forms for many years. I have one purchased by my father from Flights of Catterick in the 1930's when he joined the army. Made of heavy canvass and reinforced with leather it remains my favourite 'overnight' bag. Judging from photographs however they did not become popular, other than for carrying sporting equipment, until the 1980's (when people realised that wearing sporting clothing did not necessarily require them to engage in sporting activities).

With the withdrawal of porters in the 1970s passengers had to carry their own luggage. In the mid 1990s this problem was addressed by providing luggage trolleys. To discourage people from leaving them outside (as there were no longer any porters to collect them) these were fitted with a coin-in-the-slot system. To take a trolley you have to put a pound coin in the slot, to get the money back you have to push the trolley into the stack where a chain on the next trolley releases the coin.

Fig___ Passenger operated luggage trolleys

Typical Passenger operated luggage trolleys



Passenger Platform 'Goods' Clutter

Not all `goods' were handled in the goods yard. Goods trains are generally rather slow, even today speeds on a goods-only branch can be as low as 15-20 MPH. Some goods were therefore shipped in stock attached to passenger trains and loaded or unloaded at the passenger station. Sometimes this involved additional goods only stock, parcels vans, fish vans and milk churn waggons, attached to a scheduled passenger train. Special 'perishables' trains were run with no passenger coaches at all, but often the guards compartment in a brake van or brake end coach would be used for deliveries of the odd parcel or box of fish down a branch line.

One standard item in the days when stations still had staff was the platform trolley, provided to move luggage and other goods. These are discussed in more detail in the section on Wagon Loads and Materials Handling - Platform trucks and trolleys. Shire scenes offer a useful range, they have SR/LSWR platform trolleys (three types) LNER/GNR trolleys, plain 'platform trolleys' and BR type platform trolleys.

Milk was moved twice a day, morning and evening, fish tended to set off in the early mornings but mail and most parcels travelled by night. Milk, fish and parcels were usually moved in special trains comprised of specialised rolling stock; milk moved in tanks or milk churn vans, fish was normally shipped in boxes and moved in specially reserved waggons or vans, and parcels and newspapers travelled in parcels coaches, 'goods utility vans' or GUV's and covered carriage trucks (usually referred to as CCT's).

To handle this kind of traffic at the stations the station staff made use of four wheeled flat trolleys, often seen parked in the shade with a load of full churns on them (see also Wagon Loads & Materials Handling - Platform trucks and trolleys). Access had to be provided so the churns could be placed on the platforms, often this was a set of gates in the platform fence, opening onto an approach road to allow the farmers carts direct access to the platforms. Regarding the cast milk churns note the conical seventeen gallon form was the original type, the cylindrical form with the round `mushroom' lid appeared in the early 1930's, gradually replacing the older type by about the end of the Second World War. There were several accidents where staff were hurt handling the full churns and this may have been the reason for the change to the ten gallon type when the mushroom lid was introduced. Smaller cans with no 'mushroom' on top were used for cream, these tended to have a wire handle but I have not been able to confirm their capacity of details of their usage. I believe they were in use with both the conical and later cylindrical milk churns. The seventeen gallon churns were often stacked two high on the platform but I believe this was only done with the empties as the weight of a loaded churn was considerable.

Fig___ Milk churns and cream cans

Milk churns and cream cans

Milk churns were originally delivered to the railway by the farmers, quite a few horse drawn farm waggons would be seen outside the station in the morning and evening. The full churns were either placed on four wheel trolleys in the shade to await the train or loaded directly from the delivery vehicles. The empty churns were stood on the platform or on the ground to be collected by the local farmer with each churn's ownership being checked by the station staff. From the mid 1920's the railways started collecting the churns with their own petrol lorries but it was into the 1930's before this became the norm.

From the mid 1930's the number of milk churns seen on railway platforms decreased as dairy companies built creameries in the country and larger farms invested in bulk handling equipment. By the end of the Second World War they would have been much less common on station platforms but would still be regularly seen elsewhere into the 1960's. See also Freight Operations - Non Passenger Coaching Stock - Milk.

Fish traffic was loaded on sidings at the dockside sheds where the catch was sold. In some ports a raised platform was available, in others long planks and light wooden bridges were laid into and between the fish vans. In large towns and cities there would often be separate facilities to handle the fish quickly, at smaller stations it would be delivered to the passenger platform in wooden boxes,typically eighteen inches wide, two foot long and about nine inches thick. he Roco Minitanks range of models includes 'ammunition boxes', these come with separate lids and you get 28 long boxes 13mm x 2mm x 3mm and 28 rectangular boxes 8mm x 3mm x 5mm, the latter serve for fish boxes.

Fig ___ Roco ammunition boxes

Photo of Roco ammunition boxes showing variations possible for loads



Parcels and mail were generally loaded and unloaded at the passenger station platform on branch lines and smaller stations. In larger stations a specially reserved platform might be used or even a separate parcels depot close by the passenger station. Newspapers were delivered in bundles tied with string and were usually transported in the guards compartment of passenger trains and handled at the passenger platform. Usually these would only be seen in the mornings (possibly an evening edition might appear but these were by no means common outside the towns).

Live chickens were routinely shipped (in parcels trains) in light wooden hutches with 'chicken wire' mesh on one side, with a hole for putting in feed and water.

Fig ___ Chickens in crates

Sketch showing Chickens in crates



Rabbits were once a popular food source. They were trapped in the country areas and tied together (dead) in two's by their back legs. These were then draped over a wooden bar run along the centre of a light wooden crate and one or more of these crates might be seen on country station passenger platforms ready for loading into the guards van. These crates were quite small items, perhaps four foot long, about eighteen inches high and roughly ten inches wide. Unfortunately the height and width do not fit with either N Gauge or OO laddering, although you could trim two lengths of the latter down using a razor blade to get a straight cut and glue them onto a strip of 10 thou card for the base. I would suggest leaving the base over long to give you something to hold whilst painting. The ends of the crate can be added using 10x20 thou strip. The central rail could be a length of brass wire bent into a square 'paper clip' shape and glued to the centreline of the base. Before gluing the wire in place lay 2-3mm lengths of grey thread over the wire and soak in Super glue to represent the pairs of rabbits. Paint the ends of the wire and the remainder of the crate with 'dark earth' and When dry add the wire with its load of 'rabbits'.

Fig ___ Cases for rabbits

Pigeon racing has been a popular sport since the later nineteenth century, when the railways made it practical to transport the pigeons to the start point for the race. The first club (the National Homing Union) was formed in Leeds in 1897, the sport was taken up by the Royal Family and Royal was eventually added to the organisations title (the Royal Loft at Sandringham still races today). Pigeons were used by the British forces into the 1950's (during the second world war of the 53 Dickin medals presented for animal bravery, 31 of them were presented to pigeons) and they are still used today by many armies. By the early twentieth century pigeon racing was an international sport, a system of clocks activated by a ring on the birds leg was devised in the early twentieth century to accurately record the arrival time (this did entail catching the bird first) and at the Festival of Britain in 1951 one of the 'events' was a mass release of several thousand homing pigeons for an international race. From the railways point of view pigeon racing called for large numbers of small wicker baskets to be loaded into well ventilated vans, typically former milk churn vans which had been transferred to parcels duties were used for this traffic. A race might involve the release of several thousand birds, requiring entire trains of vans to be employed (called 'pigeon specials') and the scale of the trade for the railways may be judged by the fact that the LNER built a special brake van (Brake Gangwayed Pigeon or BGP) in the early 1940's to attach to these trains. This van is now preserved and operational on the Great Central Railway and I understand they plan to use it for its intended purpose on special occasions. It is currently in maroon livery (it has been used as the brake van on their 'mail trains' for some time) but there are plans to put it back into LNER teak. I understand that most of the releases were done at passenger stations although I have seen a couple of photographs of a rake of vans in a siding with the baskets being opened on the ground beside them. The clubs would send people along to feed and water the birds but I believe railway staff often assisted with the release. From a modelling perspective the occasional 'pigeon special' justifies running a rake of louvered vans into even a minor branch line station, possibly shunting these into a bay platform or siding. The birds were I believe held overnight at the start point to rest before the race so platform clutter generated would include food (in sacks) and water (probably in buckets). Immediately prior to the release there would be large numbers of baskets on the platforms and these might have stayed there for some time if the vans had been shunted out of the way. Pigeon fanciers (as they call themselves) received a serious shock when the railways decided they would no longer transport the pigeons (I believe this was in the early 1970's, the fuss made the TV news at the time but I cannot now recall the date). Since that time they have had to rely on road transport and I gather this has proved less satisfactory.






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