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Cattle traffic

This used to be a lucrative traffic and here is a preliminary selection of worked-up illustrations, chronologically for developments over time had the greatest effect on the traffic.

Transitions

A key transition, albeit a slow one at first, was from manually braked trucks to automatically vacuum braked (AVB) ones. Construction of the latter had started before the Grouping but in relatively small quantities and both types continued to be built afterwards. Indeed, until the BR era the manually braked cattle truck was the staple. Alas, they are usually impossible to tell between in train pictures!

Another slow transition lay in the continued use of cattle trucks from preceding eras. On the LNER, for example, in 1930 the LNER fleet of cattle trucks was 66% pre-Grouping and in 1939, still 50%.

By the early 1950s the pre-Grouping designs had been eliminated but Big Four designs continued to serve, bolstered by construction between 1949-50 of AVB batches set up by the GWR, LMS and SR. These additions totalled 2,800. The BR-proper design introduced in 1951 was based on the GWR's final one and it can be hard to tell apart; and only 1,300 were built. Small wonder that they are not seen very often in train pictures, even in the 1960s because the 1949-50 builds outnumbered them by 2:1.

The balance over the years

If modelling the Big Four era before WWII, half of your cattle trucks should be of pre-Grouping origin and something like 2/3 manually braked. I don't think this is what most modellers imagine was the case! Fortunately, there are many kits for them. In BR days, once the pre-Grouping designs had been eliminated, around three-quarters of the cattle trucks had been built by the Big Four or to their designs as described above, and AVB became the norm. But the traffic was increasingly being lost to the roads, especially over short distances, and ended altogether in 1975 when BR ceased handling livestock.

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Where there was sufficient traffic, Cattle Specials were worked to and from cattle markets and to slaughterhouses and this first picture is an example from 1908 with GER 0-6-0 No 537 in charge at Brentwood.

Note the use of limewash as a disinfectant (NOT "whitewash"). This lasted until around 1924 when liquid disinfectant was introduced. Use of lime in cattle trucks was banned formally a few years later but the liquid version (based on phenol, a.k.a. carbolic acid) was adopted quickly because it was so much better. Everybody was really glad to see the back of lime. Photo: Ken Nunn Collection.

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Another Cattle Special, this time passing through Guide Bridge behind an unidentified J11. It was normal for the cattle trucks to be provided by the railway company on whose metals the train started and here they are all GCR. Photo: Author's collection.

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New addition - A classic view of a through goods at Tamworth c1922 behind LNWR 4-4-0 "Benbow" class No 1956 Illustrious. Behind the loco are three GER cattle trucks, apparently manually braked although they may have been through piped by now. Cattle trucks were often placed behind the loco whether loaded or empty. Photo: warwickshirerailways.com

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This view from 1925 shows use of liquid disinfectant in a through freight behind J11 No 5219 heading south from Woodford and Hinton with cattle trucks, presumably loaded, placed behind the tender, which was the norm. Only two can be identified: ex-GER and GWR. Photo: Real Photographs.

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An undated picture, from between 1925-33, when ex-GCR J10s operated in East Anglia, shows one on a goods train with Class D "pick-up" lights leaving Yarmouth South Town. A batch of seven empty cattle trucks has been included, and most unusually, all are LNER and of pre-Grouping origin:

4 - ex-NER
2 - ex-NBR
1 - ex-GER

Note how far most of these trucks had originated from, and that most are of the "Medium" size. Manually braked trucks had been common user for some time now and a possible explanation may be that these trucks were being segregated for batch return to the North East or for scrapping. Photo H. Gordon Tidey.

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Revised caption - An unnamed ex-LNWR "Claughton" No 5955 on the ex-MR four-track main line at Elstree in the early to mid-1930s has a train comprising almost entirely cattle trucks. I suspect that this is a northbound working of abattoir empties out of London and most of the trucks are LMS-design, but among them are several of ex-MR, ex-LNWR, ex-NER and SR origin. The second truck, ex-LNWR, was widespread, see next picture for a portrait. Photo: Real Photographs.

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New addition - My apologies for the quality for despite my attempt to improve it, this copy of an LNWR official is not great. However, it does show an LNWR Large cattle truck with manual brake and, at least as yet, no through pipe. A numerous type that became common user after the Great War and can be seen in many train photographs. Photo: K. Taylor collection.

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The Dornoch Branch on the former Highland Railway is well known for the operation of mixed trains and in this view from 1936, ex-HR 0-4-4T No 15053 is at The Mound with a fine example. Behind the (ex-MR?) 6w passenger brake van is an ex-HR lavatory composite.

The goods part of the train contains five cattle trucks:

- LMS
- LNER ex-GER
- LNER ex-GER
- LMS ex-MR
- SR ex-LSWR

They would appear to have come from afar, but if manually braked, they'd have been in the common user pool and thus capable of serving anywhere. They could have come from somewhere quite close. Photo: Author's collection.

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New addition - This picture has been dated as 1946 and 1939 and shows ex-GCR B7 No 5469 passing the laybye at Staverton Rd. (the signal box is out of shot) with an up Class A through goods for the yards at Woodford Halse, the cattle trucks for Banbury. At the head of the train are 10 GWR cattle trucks, possibly being taken back after a sale at Banbury market. The wagon liveries are a mixture of the large and the later, smaller letter schemes. Almost certainly empties, they had been placed behind the loco all the same. Photo: Gordon Coltas.

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It's July 1950 and B1 No 61002 Impala of St. Margaret's shed is at an unknown location with a Class 10 "pick up" goods train, almost certainly empties. The whole train cannot be seen as it passes under the bridge, but it's possible to count approximately 23 cattle trucks. The vast majority are to LMS designs, especially the heavily-braced ones whose construction started in the 1920s and continued with detail differences into WWII. The final version can be seen in the third wagon along, and many more like it further back, which had a simpler body, a steel underframe and steel angle diagonals. BR sanctioned its construction in 1949 to BR Dia 1/350, which was given B-prefix numbers. These two LMS designs, old and new, dominate this train. You have to go to the 10th wagon along to find something different, a GWR design; to the 13th for a SR design; and the 15th for an LNER design. Further back there are more LMS designs but the detail is increasingly blurred and hard to resolve. In short, the identifiable designs are approximately:

17 - LMS
1 - GWR
1 - SR
1 - LNER

For a further perspective on this clearly visible state of affairs, the 1949 build to the LMS-design ran to 1,350 vehicles which was twice as much as the LNER had built during the whole of the 1930s. BR Dia 1/351 comprised 150 wagons to a SR design, also built in 1949, followed by 1,300 in 1949-50 to Dia 1/352, which was based on a GWR design. This addition during 1949-50 of 2,800 new trucks to what was now the BR-owned fleet enabled old and unsatisfactory designs to be weeded out, especially the ex-LNER ones, which that company had been culling anyway. Photo: G.W. Sharpe.

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In this 1956 view at Pontypool Road, 2-6-0 No 6369 from Severn Tunnel Junction has what appears to be a load of cattle empties. They may have been returning from an abattoir or a positioning move for a weekly market. The mixture of types that can be identified includes one BR design - the rest (something like 90% of the train) originate from the Big Four companies: ex-LMS, ex-GWR, ex-LNER (one of which is visibly down at heel), and ex-SR. Photo: author's collection.

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This picture from c1960 speaks volumes. It's at Lockerbie where a cattle market operates to this day. Ex-Caledonian Railway 0-4-4T No 55260 is shunting the yard and presenting cattle trucks to the cattle dock, against which a cattle lorry is parked. Note what looks like a paddock by the cattle pens. Around 16 cattle trucks can be seen of which the nearer ones show ex-LMS and ex-SR lineage, although as mentioned above, both types were built by BR.

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It's 1961 and 9F No 92181 has a fully fitted down freight near Potters Bar with four AVB cattle trucks at the head. These are ex-SR, ex-LMS and ex-GWR or BR (with the same caveat about construction in 1949-50). Photo: R.S. Carpenter.

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LNER cattle trucks are here.

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