Monday, 27 May 2019


A few notes on a long running, long distance and very well known freight working following on from a discussion had between a bunch of us when we all met up at a recent, Churnet Valley Railway diesel event...

The Clayliner Clay service started during 1967 (August?) and was fully fitted, so needed no a guards van, but still timed at 45mph. Wagons used were short wheel based wooden bodied, five plank opens fitted with Vacuum brakes and roller bearings, loaded wagons were covered by (flat topped) tarpaulins. NOT to be confused with clay hoods, which were similar wagons, but featured a high bar and tarps with sloping tops, as these wagons rarely left the west county, and were only ever used on local traffic. Some box vans were also conveyed other clay products. All wagons used quickly took on a familiar coating of White.

The regular loaded northbound service was 6M55 from St Blazey, from the mid 1970's, usually through to Longport, some three miles north of Stoke-on-Trent although some trains terminated at Stoke Yard, which was adjacent to the main railway station while most Longport runs called at Stoke to detach.

Throughout the Clayliner years (1967-1982), clay was handled at two Stoke-on-Trent terminals, with returning empties originally returning from Etruria, departing around 0330. In later years, changes saw the return workings starting at Stoke, and (for different reasons) the departure time was later put back by around a hour.

Northbound routing was originally via Westbury, Swindon, Didcot avoider and Oxford to reach the WCML at the bottom of the Bletchley flyover. Once here, northbound loads and southbound empties were timed to meet and WR diesel and LMR electric to switch between trains and each loco to return from whence they came. North of Bletchley, running was usually via Northampton then direct from Colwich to Stone although runs via Stafford are also known. It was engineering work, (singling the Oxford-Bletchley route) that saw the Clayliner diverted via Worcester and Bescot around 1973/74.

The Clayliner was allocated WR Type 4 diesel power south of Bletchley and later Bescot and various classes appeared including Western's. But did any Class 52's ever reach Stoke? Some say 'probably' despite web searches and asking around, no solid evidence, written or photographic have yet been found. North of Bletchley and later Bescot, AC electric power was booked, classes 81-85 inclusive most common, but all Class 86 variants also appeared, but Class 87's never worked these trains, on account of Air brakes only. Class 24's, easily the most common diesel type around the Stoke area from the end of steam were involved in the local trip workings the various between the local terminals, while vice electric turns were inevitable. One such turn, reported on multiple websites, but probably originating in the railway press, has 5022/5038 working 6V53 down to Bletchley and back to the Stoke area with 6M55 on 17-02-1972. During the later, via Bescot days, occasional diesels of classes 40/46/47 have been recorded in Stoke, but as yet, no Hydraulics's... unless you know different?

Coming up, a more detailed description of the local clay trips and terminal's at the Stoke end of this long running operation.

As usual, any comments corrections etc can be posted in the box below.

Many thanks for all your help and support so far.

© 'UD' & 'Clayhead'
Preserving the gen online since 1999...
Keeping you posted on behalf of the RailGenArchive team -

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