Archive for the ‘coal trains’ Category

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Bristol by Colin G Maggs which is a very good book which I bought from a secondhand bookstore. This book is of course part of the Rail Centres series of books about important destinations on the rail network in Britain. Bristol was at one time the second biggest city in the British Empire. It was on an important junction between London & South Wales & between the South West & the Midlands. Temple Meads the main station had the biggest marshalling yard in the country. The first railway company to use Bristol was the Bristol & Gloucestershire Railway Company which linked up some of the local coal mines with Bristol. At first these were horse drawn and later they used steam engines. Later this company merged with the Great Western which many would identify with Bristol. Much of the coal from South Wales would pass through Bristol and when many of these mines were closed it had an affect. Bristol was a very important port. In 1972 Bristol Parkway was built to try and alleviate the traffic that passed through Temple Meads.

In case you’re wondering I’ve not done a post for a number of days due to changing my broadband provider instead I have done posts in word & then copied & pasted them. The book I read to research this post was A History of Coal Trains by Brian Solomon et al which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. The industrial revolution really took off in britain in the 1820’s & in the 1830’s the USA was sending people to britain to both find out about this new technology & buy things like steam engines to send home. Initially the train network became both the largest transporter of coal & the biggest user. As electricity took off the power stations became the biggest consumer. Much coal was also sent to the various ironworks & later steelworks like the one at bethlehem. The first railroad was a 9 mile long gravity fed one where pack animals pulled the trucks up & they coasted back down. The transport of coal became the railway networks top form of revenue. Initially trains used anthracite & this was characterised by a shallower firebox but later trains used bituminous coal. A problem as more & more coal was used became smog & often sulphur dioxide was produced which is poisonous but nowadays due to legistation low sulphur coal is used more & more. The early cars which transported coal only had an 8 ton capacity but nowadays they typically have a 90 ton capacity also staffing levels have been reduced because one driver can control more than one train. Another interesting development is that the percentage of total coal output at the top 20 mines in the USA is gradually increasing. Some of the steam locomotives used to pull coal were some of the biggest ever produced. Between 1840 & 1860 coal production increased tenfold in the USA. Later on diesel & electric locomotives were used to haul coal & the last of the steam locomotives was finally phased out in 1960.
I am interested in the history of coal mining because my dad worked as a coal miner in shropshire in the UK for 17 years & one of my uncles was one for 42 years at the same colliery. Nowadays in britain most coal mining is opencast & most collieries have been closed down.