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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 9 (December 1, 1936)

The Making of the Goods

page 33

The Making of the Goods.

A goods train hauled by a “K” locomotive, leaving Auckland. (W. W. Stewart collection).

A goods train hauled by a “K” locomotive, leaving Auckland.
(W. W. Stewart collection).

By day a string of ill-assorted wagons; at night a glaring head-light and a procession of dark monstrosities. So the goods train.

Contrasted with the symmetrical swiftness of the express, the goods train is drab, work-a-day, yet she has a glamour of her own when one learns of the work entailed in her making. Her making is the story of the coordination of the efforts of the community to transport the country's goods.

The first place to which one goes to learn of the railway goods service is, of course, the goods shed. But, perhaps, to-day the word “shed” is a misnomer—so far as the Wellington shed is concerned. The huge concrete building is far from being a mere shed. Inside is the same platform as of old, but vastly enlarged, ample railway tracks, and an overhead travelling electric crane. Into the building road vehicles drive to discharge their loads, under cover and in comfort, either directly into railway wagons or on to the platform, as circumstances decree.

And the loads entrusted to the “goods”! “Everything for everywhere” would be as good a description as any. It is a bewildering assortment that a busy city sends to the goods shed every day. A bundle of pipes for some wayside station, a truck of fruit for a thriving mid-country centre, a load of someone's treasured furniture, a case of crockery, in fact, everything the community can transport. Throughout every day the varied consignments arrive at the shed in a constant stream, and no two days are alike excepting, paradoxically, that they are always changing. Every consignor is keenly interested in the prompt movement of his own lot—the goods service must be interested in all, rigidly adhering to timetable yet treating each consignment as though it were the only one requiring attention.

With an air of dumb patience the railway wagons stand in the shed arranged in the order in which they will eventually travel. To each wagon goes the loadings for the station for which the wagon is allocated. Checked and signed for, each loading is then attended to by the “stowers.” Expert men these, whose work ensures that the goods in the wagon shall not shift during transit. A load moving about in a wagon travelling through the country at thirty miles an hour might do more than a little damage! Stations which do not require a wagon to themselves are catered for, in the case of those nearer the consigning point, by wagons designated “road-siders.” These wagons take consignments for the smaller stations and travel on passenger trains as well as by goods train. Small stations further afield have their loadings attended to by wagons which will be sorted for distribution at larger stations near the final destination.

A goods shed, however, is not the only care of the goods service. Certainly, it handles an average of two hundred tons of miscellaneous goods per day, but even so it is but a part of the work. At a siding outside the shed a travelling steam crane deals with anything too heavy for the electric crane in the shed, and with the motor cars which go forward by rail. Again, the loadings differ each day. Some days there will be no consignments coming under the heading
A typical scene in the Railway Goods Shed at Wellington. (Rly. Publicity photo.)

A typical scene in the Railway Goods Shed at Wellington.
(Rly. Publicity photo.)

page 34 page 35 of “heavy lifts,” or there may be several, and the motor cars may number ten, twenty, thirty. At the wharves a boat from the “Coast” and another from Newcastle are putting coal into railway wagons as fast as grab and chute can do it; while probably another with, say, hardwood from Australia, is filling yet more wagons. All part of the day's work, this. Should bad weather interfere with the working of the ships, and the first fine day find four coal boats where there should be only two, the goods service is expected to, and does, cope with the situation. One would expect that such an occasion would find the service arranging for something to “wait its turn,” but that doesn't seem to enter anyone's head.

Comes the end of the day, and those wagons in the shed which have not gone forward earlier are finally prepared for their journeyings. Open wagons are carefully sheeted with heavy tarpaulins, checked by means of a painted mark on the pillars of the shed to ensure ample clearance in tunnels, doors of box wagons are secured, and all are taken to be marshalled with their brothers from siding and wharf to form a goods train.

The work is not yet finished, however. Throughout the day a clerical staff has been preparing waybills and keeping a careful check on the weights loaded. In addition, the wagons from the wharf have been weighed, and thus the exact tonnage to be hauled is known. The locomotive people are concerned now. What engine power are they providing? Perhaps it's an “Ab” which will haul 310 tons, or a “K” which will “walk away with 490.” According to tonnage, so engine power is arranged. Sometimes one engine of either class will do the job; sometimes a double-header train (two engines) will go; and if the tonnage requires it, a complete extra train will be sent. As the daily circumstances arise, so are they met.

And all the while the same service has been exactly reversing the process with goods travelling in the opposite direction. The shed has handled all the inward goods for the city, while wagon loads of exports have been placed, at the exact times required by the consignees, in the exact position required by the ships which will take those exports overseas.

The next time a goods train rattles past, forget her unloveliness, and speculate on the varied contents of her wagons which have an equally varied destination. Remember she is not “only a goods,” she is performing work as important as that of any train.