The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 11 (March 1, 1929)
Freight traffic handling to-day forms quite as important a task for the majority of railways as the business of passenger transport. With a view to reducing labour costs and affording more efficient working in the handling of freight traffic, much ingenious equipment is now being pressed into service. In the Homeland, and throughout Europe generally, the most promising development in this direction is the increasing utilisation of the container system of freight handling. This method of operation gives a commercial facility of considerable value to shippers, while enabling the railways to meet, to the fullest degree, the competition of the road carrier and to effect valuable savings in the handling of small packages of miscellaneous merchandise.
On the Home railways there have been evolved four standard types of container, corresponding to the body part of the covered railway wagon and open railway wagon respectively, in full wagon size and half wagon size. The containers are constructed of both steel and wood, the system providing, in simple language, for the body of the railway wagon to be detachable from its wheels. As a general rule, the Home lines supply containers for the movement of consignments of one ton and upwards only, from one shipper to one consignee. Rough traffics, such as bricks, ironmongery, and tiles, are not, at present, given container service, the main types of traffic handled by container being confectionery, stationery and foodstuffs. Very shortly it seems likely that an international container service, covering all Europe, will be set up. This would work on similar lines to what is accomplished in the sleeping car field by the International Sleeping Car Company. The undertaking would be empowered to operate in all European lands, standardised railway wagons and road motors being specially built for the movement of containers. At the present time, a proposal to establish an international concern of this type, emanating from an Italian source, is receiving the careful consideration of the International Union of Railways, the International Chamber of Commerce, and other interested organisations.
The majority of the containers employed in Britain are constructed in the railway shops. This follows a long-established practice, for each of the four group systems build, by far, the bulk of their goods wagons themselves, while much of the passenger stock is also constructed in the railway works.