love or hate?
Click here for the report :-
"I can only recall seeing them once heading to Chard Junction. I suspect they were never used much".
It rather depends on what you call "much", as during the summer of 1981 Chard Junction Creamery was host to freight movements unseen for several years, as two rakes of milk tanks, refurbished through some sort of EEC funding, carried surplus milk from the Milk Marketing Board creamery, to a similar plant at Stowmarket in Suffolk.
Unfortunately, while providing a spectacle for us local rail enthusiasts, the project suffered from the "dead hand" of BR and local self interest and didn't last long.
I may be a bit thin on remembering detail but as I recall, the working depended on an inspector, signaller, pilotman and shunter being driven in a Transit van the 60 miles from Westbury Shed to enable the mainline loco to access the milk siding and extract/return the tanks. This cavalcade was often late and the MMB shunter, restricted to their private siding and headshunt, was sometimes reluctant to start . Delay was the order of the day and there was still considerable local resentment of BR (W) taking over "our" freight as they scaled down the old Southern route in favour of "their" GWR main line to Exeter.
Having unlocked gates and points and shuffled the rolling stock, the train would eventually be dispatched eastwards, to the relief of Chard Junction Signal Box, who viewed the whole exercise with great scepticism. The full trains took the Southern route to Yeovil Jnc then via Castle Cary to Stowmarket, but returned the empties via Exeter.
The last nail in the coffin resulted from the lack of washout facilities at Stowmarket which meant that the empties spent many hours sitting in the summer sun with the residual milk contents rapidly "going off". On return to Chard, one of the milk dock reception gang was detailed to climb into the tank and clean out the curdled mess with just a brush and hosepipe. For this privilege he was awarded 50p per tank and there was significant resistance to taking on the task, not only from the workers but also from wives burdened with additional laundry. Added to this, the job theoretically took road driving turns away from the Chard plant, so the project was doomed even before the EEC funding ran out and after a few fits and starts eventually ceased later that year.
So Dave is right to say they were never used much, but when they were, we certainly enjoyed the spectacle.
Best Wishes. Brian Pibworth
Many thanks to you Brian for such an interesting report and pictures.
An excellent article on the Chard Junction Creamery. I moved to Chard Junction in 1998 (no milk train then unfortunately) when the St Erth Dairy shut.
I stayed at Chard until 2008 before moving on. In 1998 Chard was part of the St Ivel group, St Ivel sold Chard to Dairy Crest in 2001. Sadly Chard shut its doors for the last time in September 2015. The site has been decommissioned and if the rumours are correct demolishion will start shortly. Another part of the railway history gone for ever.
Great site by the way, I follow it regularly Regards Andy Richards