Steve Martin (Auckland)
Since we last were in contact the footbridge is now firmly in place on the platforms and work continues to recreate the station environ as it would have been in the late fifties.
I focused my attention on the stone waiting room on Platform One recently. In my research activities (including a lot of useful photos in the archives of the CRS site) I was surprised at the evolution of this humble and seemingly unaltered building. I had taken photos during my visits to St Erth in 2005 and 2007 with the intention of these being the basis of a model to be produced.
However, once into the research phase I suddenly found that the building had actually been modified considerably in the last 30 - 40 years.
I have attached a few photos which explain the situation.
The first photo shows the former waiting room on platform 1 as it exists today. You can see how the wall at the end is nowadays constructed in dressed granite with the chimney housed within the outside walls of the building.
The second and third photos are my from my 2mm scale model taken from a similar angle. One can see that I have had to model the building as it would have been in the 1950's through to some time (at a guess) in the 1980's. In this period the waiting room actually had a chimney of red brick construction on the outside of its end wall. This wall and the one at the rear were of rubble design and construction. There was also a canopy in place in the 1950's and it must have been removed sometime in the early 1970's as well.
I'm unsure when the waiting room became redundant, it could be as early as when the large wooden shelter was built further along the platform adjacent to the footbridge sometime after the 1920's. This can be seen in my model shot as well. In one of the model photos a Hall locomotive can be seen drawing into the station with an up train comprising Hawksworth and Mk 1 passenger stock.
For many years (I'm not sure of dates and to the best of my knowledge) it has been used as a storage room for gardening equipment etc.
I'm fascinated that the railway would go to such lengths to preserve this redundant building at a time when perhaps costing cutting would have been the order of the day. I would guess that the rubble design wall was declining in condition and it's possible that the railway or a governing body determined that these had to be replaced and more importantly the building retained and preserved.
I would be interested to hear from any readers who witnessed any of these modifications and could perhaps add a little more historical detail about when they occurred. Kind Regards, Steve Martin
Many thanks Gareth
2 days were spent photographing the railway between Minehead and Blue Anchor together recording the failure of 34098 'Templecombe' running dry at Blue Anchor.
St Erth Milk Depot Vivian and Andy Richards (Father and Son)
Andy writes:- I started working at St Erth in 1981 unfortunately by then the milk trains had long gone and if I remember correctly St Ivel had started to rip the track out.
I have had a chance to talk to my dad (Vivian Richards) regarding the loading of milk trains at St Erth, it was quite a busy operation in its day. My dad was employed on the milk tanker loading during the 70's. After a long conversation with him and a lot of reminiscing on his part here is a summary of the going on's at St Erth.
The primary purpose of the milk tanker loading operation at St Erth was to despatch milk to the larger dairies. Typically milk would be sent to places such as Wood Lane, Vauxhall and Ilford - all in London. Occasionally St Erth would also receive surplus milk from the larger dairies for further processing.
St Erth had two sidings which were connected by a head shunt (the dairy end), the head shunt was two tanker lengths and was not easily visible to the public. Both sidings had a slight downhill incline towards the St Ives branch, I'm assuming there must have been a catch point. All loading took place in the siding directly adjacent to the dairy, this siding could accommodate 13 tankers. Any tanker movements in the sidings once the mainline loco had gone would be carried out by an electric pulley system. Interestingly, the motor for the pulley system was originally steam driven.
There were two loading points which were approximately three tankers lengths apart. One loading point we can clearly see in the picture with the gentleman on top of the tanker, the other one was further back towards the St Ives branch. If you look at the picture of the gentleman (Harry Worth who I had the pleasure of working with) standing next to the electric pulley motor there is a "No engine and wagons past this point board", just to the left of that board is the second loading point. All tanks were cleaned by climbing down inside of them on a rope ladder and manually scrubbing them. In later years an automated cleaning system was put in place.
A typical day's operation would be:-
Early in the morning a light loco would deliver empty tankers to the dairy which would have been ordered late in the afternoon the day before. The loco would split the tankers between the loading siding and the holding siding. In the loading siding there would be enough tankers to make up the 1pm departure. The tankers for loading would be pulled right back into the head shunt by the pulley system. Then two tankers would be uncoupled from the rest of the tankers and free wheeled forward. The two tankers would then be split and place under the two loading points and loaded. There were no flow meters, they used a dipstick to measure when the tank was full. Both full tankers were then sealed and then free wheeled down the loading siding as far as possible and coupled back together again. This operation was repeated until all tankers were loaded. All tankers were set in motion by putting a pinch bar under one of the wheels and pushing, the only way to stop them was with the hand brake. A rule was introduced that when a tanker was ‘free wheeling’ someone had to be adjacent to the handbrake handle (by walking beside the tanker) at all times. If orders went up prior to the 1 pm departure empty tankers would be pulled from the holding siding into the headshunt, freewheeled forward, loaded and then coupled to the rest of the train which was ready for collection.
At 1 pm a loco would arrive with more empty tankers and drop them in the holding siding. The loco would then draw forward and then back onto the full tankers. Once coupled up the loco and the full tankers would draw forward, reverse back onto the empty tankers and then drop enough empty tankers into the loading siding to make up the 5 pm departure. If the train was running late quite often the empty tanker move to the loading siding would not take place. This would result in the dairy having to take two tankers at a time from the holding siding and move them to the loading siding via the head shunt using the pulley system.
The whole loading process would then start again resulting in a full train of tankers ready for collection at 5pm. The light loco would arrive, couple to the full tankers and depart for the main line via the St Ives branch. Interestingly the 5pm loco would not deliver any empty tankers, the empty's would be delivered the following morning and the whole process would start again.
I hope the above article explains the going on's for you at the St Erth milk loading sidings in enough detail.
My dad was saying if that operation survived into todays world the health & safety people would have a field day. Especially with fully loaded tankers running around with nothing to stop them but a bloke pushing down a handbrake handle.
P.S. From Andy I never really thought about how the tanks got cleaned as today in modern cleaning systems for road tankers (milk & Cream) everything is automated and a sealed system. I'm still working in dairy but dairy desserts at Evercreech (an old Unigate/St Ivel site).
Many thanks Andy.