Traction

Rememberin­g the UKF trains

Having documented the BOC trains operating out of Ditton in TRACTION 261 and 262, David J. Hayes now turns his attention to the fertiliser workings that once emanated from Ince & Elton.

- by David J. Hayes

It is sometimes mistakenly thought that UKF was an abbreviati­on for United Kingdom Fertiliser­s and I have even seen it used that way in print. It’s an easy mistake to make, but it was actually an abbreviati­on for Dutch company Unie van Kunstmest Fabrieken. The company had its UK manufactur­ing base (originally opened in the mid-1960s under the aegis of Shell/ Armour Star) at Ince Marshes, also known as Ince & Elton, in Cheshire and about five miles south (as the crow flies) of the British Oxygen Company’s (BOC) main production plant at Ditton near Widnes.

Indeed, like BOC, which operated dedicated block trains of nitrogen and oxygen to specific BOC terminals, and also used the Speedlink wagonload network to distribute less than trainload tonnages of liquified atmospheri­c gasses to other parts of the UK, the UKF company did likewise, but for the nationwide distributi­on of its palletized sacks and large bulk bags of fertiliser products.

The UKF company had previously traded as Shellstar which had invested heavily in a new specialise­d fleet of air-braked wagons for its fertiliser business in the late 1960s. The initial batch of wagons were of curtainsid­ed constructi­on with Shellstar company branding and logo. Known as pallet vans, or ‘Palvans’, subsequent new builds were fitted with sliding side doors, as were, later, the initial curtain-sided wagons; all were coded PWA.

The different variants of ‘Palvans’ will be covered in detail in an article by David Ratcliffe’s in a future issue ofTRACTION. The accompanyi­ng map (by Andy Williams) shows the various fertiliser locations once served from Ince & Elton by its Company block trains and by Speedlink.

Early trunk trains

The trunk services operated by Shellstar, and later by UKF, were usually formed of uniform trains of ‘Palvans’, which often consisted of portions for two or more destinatio­ns. Much of Shellstar’s railborne block train output was routed via the West Midlands for a while, with several such services in the early 1970s being booked for electric haulage to Pleck Junction, about a mile south of Walsall station, from where they were diesel hauled via the Sutton Park line to gain the North East to South West main line at Castle Bromwich (situated between Birmingham and Water Orton).

Table One details the loaded Shellstar fertiliser workings from Ince & Elton that were routed via Walsall as of May 1970. As will be seen, all operated on a once weekly basis and, in most cases, utilised the same headcode (6V35) and path to reach the West Midlands. The electric to diesel traction change timings at Pleck Junction were 21:13-21:33 SSuX (20:18-20:38 SO). The return empties (coded 6M54) were electric hauled from Walsall station where they called from 02:25-02:45 MSuX to facilitate the loco change over.

In addition to those services tabulated, the working timetable for that period also shows fertiliser departures from Ince & Elton to Braintree (6E40, dep. 16:30 FO) and to Whitemoor (6E40, dep. 16:30 FSSuX). There was also a weekly departure to Akeman Street (6A30, dep. 12:47 WO), but this was shown as ‘Suspended’ as of May 1970, possibly because this traffic was now to be conveyed as a ‘portion’ by the Horsham train.

Further additions to the Shellstar fertiliser train plan in the early 1970s included block train departures to Carlisle, Darlington, Horsham and Perth. By that time, the electric hauled trains shown in Table One had been amended for diesel haulage throughout, the exception being the Saturday service to Carmarthen, but even this soon succumbed to being diesel hauled throughout.

UKF operations

SHELLSTAR began trading as UKF in 1975 and rail operations remained relatively unchanged, with company block trains still continuing to be dispatched from the Cheshire plant to various destinatio­ns in England, Scotland and Wales just as they had done under the auspices of Shellstar, with most trains, again, conveying traffic for two or more destinatio­ns.

TableTwo shows the UKF train plan as of October 1978 and also gives details of the portions conveyed by these services at that time.The thrice-weekly 6E40 MTWO block train to Whitemoor is particular­ly noteworthy, as it conveyed traffic for no fewer than six destinatio­ns, many of which were also mirrored by that of the Sunday 6E40 block train departure to Braintree. The delivery of some of these portions to their end destinatio­ns was dealt with by utilising Speedlink tripping resources or by trips catering for traditiona­l wagonload traffic or perhaps a mixture of both.

The number of trunk services being dispatched, as per October 1978, amounts to eleven block trains per week, equating to two departures each on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and single departures on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Excluding Whitemoor, a total of eight destinatio­ns were served during the week, with portions being conveyed for a further 15 other locations (as well as being served by a direct block train, Plymouth was also served as a ‘portion location’ by the Truro train).

Although outside the main scope of this feature, it is worth mentioning at this point that traffic generated by Shellstar and UKF at Ince & Elton at various times also included inbound and outbound chemicals, such as anhydrous ammonia to Barton-on-Humber (for Associated Chemicals), Normanby Park (for Nypro) and Seal Sands (for Monsanto); nitric acid to British Nuclear Fuels at Salwick and Sellafield; nitric acid fromThames Haven; and phosphoric acid from Avonmouth, Corkickle and Immingham. The majority of these chemical flows operated as block trains, although some were relatively shortlived because certain chemicals used in the manufactur­e of fertiliser­s were later produced ‘in house’ at Ince & Elton.

Akeman Street portioning moves

Probably the best known and most frequently photograph­ed UKF portioning movement on the network was that between Bletchley and Akeman Street, Buckingham­shire, which was a regular Saturday morning runner. As can be seen fromTableT­wo, the traffic was conveyed by Friday’s Horsham bound train (6O48), which, as of October 1978, was booked to call at Bletchley from 21:23-21:38.The service was electric hauled from Crewe Basford Hall (dep. 18:17) to London where it recessed overnight (22:41-06:55) at Acton Lane Sidings before being diesel hauled across the capital on the Saturday morning by way of the West London Line (see features in TRACTION 224 and 252). It was booked to reach its Southern Region destinatio­n at 08:48.

The portioning moves to and from Akeman Street used the now demolished Bletchley flyover, the loaded delivery run being a relatively straightfo­rward operation. Returning the empties to Bletchley, however, was a little more complicate­d. Lack of run round facilities at Akeman Street required the empty wagons to be propelled to Grendon Underwood Junction from where they proceeded to Aylesbury to perform the required run round manoeuvre. It was not unknown for the empty fertiliser vans from Akeman Street to be accompanie­d by empty coal wagons from Aylesbury on the return run to Bletchley.

The Akeman Street UKF empties connected into 6M69, which, again, as of October 1978, ran as the 14:20 SO Horsham to Ince & Elton. This was electric hauled from Willesden Brent Sidings, where it called from 15:45-16:02 for traction change purposes, and made a further call at Bletchley from 16:50-17:38. The last leg of the journey ‘home’ was diesel-hauled from

Crewe station (dep. 21:02).

Fertiliser deliveries to Akeman Street in later years, as with various other UKF fertiliser destinatio­ns, began using a mixture of PWA ‘Palvans’, OCA opens and high capacity internatio­nal ferry vans (used for big bulk bag traffic).The latter were similar to the IPA (later coded IWA) ‘Holdalls’ used for the Norsk Hydro fertiliser business operating out of the former Fisons plant at Immingham (like UKF, this rival company also ran dedicated block trains and utilised the Speedlink wagonload network).

Another variant of van used by UKF for a short while were Procor two axle curtain sided PVA types, which were very similar to those used for the Campbell’s Soups traffic originatin­g from Kings Lynn.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Monday 16th June 1986: A classic mid-1980s BR-blue era study, complete with lower quadrant semaphores, at Dawlish Warren (note the camping coaches). 47223 passes through with ‘Palvans’ and OCA opens forming what is thought to be the 6M22 MO Truro to Ince & Elton UKF empties, which may also include empties from Plymouth. The service may attach further empties from Lapford at Exeter. DAVE MCALONE
Monday 16th June 1986: A classic mid-1980s BR-blue era study, complete with lower quadrant semaphores, at Dawlish Warren (note the camping coaches). 47223 passes through with ‘Palvans’ and OCA opens forming what is thought to be the 6M22 MO Truro to Ince & Elton UKF empties, which may also include empties from Plymouth. The service may attach further empties from Lapford at Exeter. DAVE MCALONE
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 ??  ?? (BELOW) Tuesday 20th April 1982: The UKF block trains were once a common sight on the North East to South West main line between Birmingham and the West Country, but not on the section through Tamworth. 45037 heads south through Wilnecote, south of Tamworth, with a raft of ‘Palvans’ (mostly unbranded). Do any readers have any thoughts as to what this service might have been?
IAN CUTHBERTSO­N COLLECTION.
(BELOW) Tuesday 20th April 1982: The UKF block trains were once a common sight on the North East to South West main line between Birmingham and the West Country, but not on the section through Tamworth. 45037 heads south through Wilnecote, south of Tamworth, with a raft of ‘Palvans’ (mostly unbranded). Do any readers have any thoughts as to what this service might have been? IAN CUTHBERTSO­N COLLECTION.
 ??  ?? Part Two in TRACTION 266 will look at block train operations into the early 1990s, the distributi­on of wagonload consignmen­ts using the Speedlink network and the eventual demise of all railway activity at the Ince & Elton plant.
Saturday 19th July 1986: The UKF block trains from Ince & Elton were a familiar sight on the ‘Welsh Marches’ line. 47351 powers through Dorrington with what is, again, thought to be 6V35, the SO service to Carmarthen, which is formed this time of a combined consist of six PWA ‘Palvans’ laden with palletized sacks and a raft of OCA wagons conveying bulk bags. MIKE HEMMING.
Part Two in TRACTION 266 will look at block train operations into the early 1990s, the distributi­on of wagonload consignmen­ts using the Speedlink network and the eventual demise of all railway activity at the Ince & Elton plant. Saturday 19th July 1986: The UKF block trains from Ince & Elton were a familiar sight on the ‘Welsh Marches’ line. 47351 powers through Dorrington with what is, again, thought to be 6V35, the SO service to Carmarthen, which is formed this time of a combined consist of six PWA ‘Palvans’ laden with palletized sacks and a raft of OCA wagons conveying bulk bags. MIKE HEMMING.
 ??  ?? Friday 20th July 1984: Amongst the Scottish destinatio­ns served from Ince & Elton were Aberdeen, Dundee, Elgin, Fearn, Huntly, Inverness, Keith, Lugton, Montrose, Perth, Stranraer, Thornton and Wick. This fine view sees 47041 passing through Dunning, between Perth and Stirling, atop 6O56, the 15:10 Speedlink from Dundee to Dover, which has at least six empty PWA ‘Palvans’ up front making the long journey back to Cheshire. The service will call for traffic purposes at Stirling, Mossend, Warrington, Willesden and Hoo Junction. PAUL D. SHANNON.
Friday 20th July 1984: Amongst the Scottish destinatio­ns served from Ince & Elton were Aberdeen, Dundee, Elgin, Fearn, Huntly, Inverness, Keith, Lugton, Montrose, Perth, Stranraer, Thornton and Wick. This fine view sees 47041 passing through Dunning, between Perth and Stirling, atop 6O56, the 15:10 Speedlink from Dundee to Dover, which has at least six empty PWA ‘Palvans’ up front making the long journey back to Cheshire. The service will call for traffic purposes at Stirling, Mossend, Warrington, Willesden and Hoo Junction. PAUL D. SHANNON.
 ??  ?? Tuesday 11th September 1984: Having just crossed from Cornwall into Devon and with one of the huge towers of the Tamar suspension bridge rising above the rooftops, 47353 re-joins the double track main line, on the approach to St. Budeaux Ferry Road station, with UKF empties from Truro returning to Ince & Elton. The train has also just crossed a bridge spanning the Gunnislake branch. JOHN WHITEHOUSE.
Friday 15th July 1988: The morning 6T19 Speedlink trip from Mossend, powered by 37251, positions ten OCA wagons of bagged fertiliser from Ince & Elton into the siding at Lugton. The rest of the train is formed of government stores for Giffen. PAUL D. SHANNON.
Tuesday 11th September 1984: Having just crossed from Cornwall into Devon and with one of the huge towers of the Tamar suspension bridge rising above the rooftops, 47353 re-joins the double track main line, on the approach to St. Budeaux Ferry Road station, with UKF empties from Truro returning to Ince & Elton. The train has also just crossed a bridge spanning the Gunnislake branch. JOHN WHITEHOUSE. Friday 15th July 1988: The morning 6T19 Speedlink trip from Mossend, powered by 37251, positions ten OCA wagons of bagged fertiliser from Ince & Elton into the siding at Lugton. The rest of the train is formed of government stores for Giffen. PAUL D. SHANNON.
 ??  ?? Saturday 14th September 1985: The 6V35 service to Carmarthen is seen again, some three months later, at Shrewsbury behind 47102, this time with a raft of UKF ‘Palvans’.
MIKE HEMMING.
Saturday 14th September 1985: The 6V35 service to Carmarthen is seen again, some three months later, at Shrewsbury behind 47102, this time with a raft of UKF ‘Palvans’. MIKE HEMMING.
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 ??  ?? (LEFT) Saturday 15th November 1986: Six PWA ‘Palvans’, hauled by 31159, traverse the Oxford to Bletchley line at Newton Longville, forming 6B20, the 10:20 SO UKF empties from Akeman Street to Bletchley, where they will be collected later in the day by the empty Horsham to Ince & Elton UKF train. MARTIN LOADER.
(LEFT) Saturday 15th November 1986: Six PWA ‘Palvans’, hauled by 31159, traverse the Oxford to Bletchley line at Newton Longville, forming 6B20, the 10:20 SO UKF empties from Akeman Street to Bletchley, where they will be collected later in the day by the empty Horsham to Ince & Elton UKF train. MARTIN LOADER.
 ??  ?? (RIGHT) Saturday 15th June 1985: Although perhaps not immediatel­y apparent, this is the 6V35 SO UKF fertiliser train from Ince & Elton to Carmarthen at Redhill curve, Herefordsh­ire, behind 47015, on the North & West ‘Welsh Marches’ line. The train is formed entirely of OCA opens laden with bulk bags. PHIL BALDWIN (COURTESY OF ANDY BALDWIN).
(RIGHT) Saturday 15th June 1985: Although perhaps not immediatel­y apparent, this is the 6V35 SO UKF fertiliser train from Ince & Elton to Carmarthen at Redhill curve, Herefordsh­ire, behind 47015, on the North & West ‘Welsh Marches’ line. The train is formed entirely of OCA opens laden with bulk bags. PHIL BALDWIN (COURTESY OF ANDY BALDWIN).
 ??  ?? (RIGHT) Saturday 30th August 1986: Another N&W image, this time just south of Shrewsbury at Bayston Hill. 47326 is atop the 6V35 service to Carmarthen, but on this occasion formed of a uniform raft of fourteen ‘Palvans’. MIKE HEMMING.
(RIGHT) Saturday 30th August 1986: Another N&W image, this time just south of Shrewsbury at Bayston Hill. 47326 is atop the 6V35 service to Carmarthen, but on this occasion formed of a uniform raft of fourteen ‘Palvans’. MIKE HEMMING.
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 ??  ?? Saturday 21st November 1987: The 6M69 UKF empties from Horsham (dep. 14:28 SO) to Ince & Elton passes through Clapham Junction (due 15:30) behind 33017. The train is taking the connection to Latchmere Junction to access the West London Line extension to Willesden where a change of motive power to electric traction will take place. The service will then continue north and call at Bletchley (17:01-17:55) to attach additional UKF empties from Akeman Street. 6M69 will revert to diesel haulage from Crewe (dep. circa 21:00), the loco swap taking place in the station (with thanks to Adrian Nicholls for additional details). DAVID FORD.
Saturday 21st November 1987: The 6M69 UKF empties from Horsham (dep. 14:28 SO) to Ince & Elton passes through Clapham Junction (due 15:30) behind 33017. The train is taking the connection to Latchmere Junction to access the West London Line extension to Willesden where a change of motive power to electric traction will take place. The service will then continue north and call at Bletchley (17:01-17:55) to attach additional UKF empties from Akeman Street. 6M69 will revert to diesel haulage from Crewe (dep. circa 21:00), the loco swap taking place in the station (with thanks to Adrian Nicholls for additional details). DAVID FORD.

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