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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Hockley Station: gwrhd1647

Booklet giving information on the GWR's new service of 'Railhead Distribution for Speed and Satisfaction'

In the late 1920’s the Great Western Railway introduced a new system for handling Goods traffic to speed up the delivery of small consignments and offer a following-day service which could compete with long distance road haulers. This involved the concentration of wagons in large urban areas to a single ‘Railhead’ from where the company’s lorry fleet could deliver consignments direct to customers within a twenty to thirty mile radius. Previous to this, the individual wagons were sent to marshalling yards, sorted and then redistributed to the nearest station goods yard by local goods trains, where commercial cartage was available for onward distribution. The use of railway wagons for bulk transportation between cities and road lorries for local distribution proved a successful combination.

The Railhead system was initially pioneered in 1927 at the Ladbroke Grove Goods Depot, where it was used for distributing Frys chocolates directly to their stockist in London, from their factories in Bristol and Somerdale. A general railhead system was subsequently successfully trailed in South Wales using Cardiff and Swansea as the Railheads and 45 firms were regularly using these services within the first year. The general Railhead Distribution scheme was extended in 1929 to Bristol and Exeter and in 1932 to Birmingham. It was especially popular with companies who wished to deliver multiple small consignments through out an area as the Great Western Railway would consolidate these and offer cheaper truck-load rates. This benefited national brands and in addition to confectionary manufacturers (Frys, Cadbury, Macfarlane Lang & Co. biscuits, Kemps biscuits, etc.), cigarette companies were significant users, in particular; Wills and Players whose factories were based in Bristol and Nottingham respectively.

Robert Ferris