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DMU Tail Loads

Class 120 with tail load

The image shows a Swindon Cross-Country unit ascending Old Hill bank on the 9.40am Cardiff - Birmingham Snow Hill via Hereford service on 30th August 1962. It is hauling a pre BR bogie BG which might possibly be an LMS 50' van.

These notes are by Phil Bartlett:-

"I started work on BR in July 1978 at Machynlleth on the Cambrian lines.

The 0415 Shrewsbury - Aberystwyth "mail" was diagrammed for a 3-car unit - mostly a Swindon Cross country set hauling a CCT, this tail traffic returning on the 1900ish corresponding Up service.

Occasionally the tail traffic was a GUV, an SR PMV or at least one occasion, an ex LMS 50 foot BG.

The van was loaded with Newtown traffic at the rear, Machynlleth and coast traffic in the middle and Aber traffic at the front. At Machynlleth we had to throw all our traffic out onto the platform (because it was always late !!) Then reload the Barmouth traffic into the 06.55 service which was diagrammed for 3 x 2 car units.

The daily good service worked by a class 25 diesel was 8J23 in the down direction and 8G?? on the return. Traffic for Machynlleth consisted of some coal, basic slag (in season) and fuel oil for Bates & Hunt. These vacuum braked TSVs and TSFs were shunted into the upside yard with all the other freight traffic, although the Bates & Hunt siding was by the old cattle pens on the Down side. The "goods" loco was then supposed to shunt the Bates & Hunt siding to extract the empties and replace with loads.

As I remember the "goods" was supposed to be worked by a Salop crew to Aber', who then worked the 1010 back to Shrewsbury. This rarely happened though because the "goods" was always late and missed it's path. This meant that the Aber' men had to work the 1010 to Mach' then start work on their own job. Because of this the Bates & Hunt shunt was often ignored if possible which left an irate customer. Many times I recall the chargeman (now no longer with us - God rest his soul) pleading with a spare driver to use a DMU set to do a shunt in the "pens".Even though it was illegal to shunt with a DMU - a 3-car set formed of two power cars would have the power for the move. We, however, only used to have a spare 2-car power-trailer set at certain times of the day so this was the unit to be used.

Towards the end of my time down the Cambrian the bridge at Barmouth was considered unsafe for locos due to an attack of marine beetles. A number of visits were made by one of the Chester based DPUs to recover all rolling stock from the Cambrian Coast as well as to deliver certain equipment.

The Newtown parcels was worked by a Salop crew to Newtown, where, after the unit was emptied it returned to Shrewsbury or Chester. This working was amended so that the Salop crew brought the DPU empty to Mach', picked up conductors (because the Mach' men didn't sign DPUs) then set off up the coast to collect the marooned wagons. Some of the first forays involved fetching the CSV gunpowder vans out of Penrhryndeudraeth which normally loaded explosives out of Cooke's works to various locations on the BR network. I vaguely recall about 7 vans per trip, which later involved BR vanfits and vacuum fitted mineral wagons also.

One of my last memories is of the DPU coming down "light" one morning to collect a bogie bolster with a huge timer baulk on it, which was worked over to Barmouth for part of the bridge repairs.

Sadly I have no photos of any of this, and have seen very few photos from anyone else. I vaguely recally some ballasting being undertaken on the coast using catfish (ZEV) or dogfish (ZFV) hauled by DPUs but cannot be certain.I also vaguely recall the temporary "depot" created at Pwllheli to maintain the units which were stranded for a few months while the Barmouth bridge was undergoing a shutdown for extensive repairs."

Phil also notes that in the book 'LMS Branch Lines' by CJ Gammell there is a photo on page 89 dated 28th December 1966 at Bedford St John's showing a two car Derby Lightweight set departing for Cambridge hauling a 12T fitted van. It appears that a 350hp shunting engine had shunted the van onto the rear of the two car unit, as that remained in the platform after the railcar departed.

Geoff Dabbs recalls seeing a DMU shunting a couple of vans and the odd coal wagon in Whitby yard in the 1960s, apparently a regular Friday event.

Do you have any recollections or photos of tail traffic? Please let me know!

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