The Importance of Freight

Until 1962, rail companies were required by law to carry any load offered to them. At first coal and other minerals provided most of the traffic, but before long industries were benefiting enormously by having their raw materials arrive at the factory quickly and their finished products delivered to market at a similar speed. As a result, major railway goods depots were built in all large towns and cities. Even smaller stations, at the very least, had a goods yard and Riccall had a goods shed as well.

Riccall station goods yard was always busy as this was the main means by which goods such as coal, building materials, foodstuffs and farm produce like potatoes and sugar beet were transported or delivered. In fact, the nation’s favourite food – fish and chips – would not have existed without the railways providing fresh fish far from the sea!

Until the 1960s, freight traffic was the biggest money earner for the railways. Shortly before World War I trains had been carrying 500 million tonnes each year. After the end of that war thousands of ex-Army lorries were sold off by the government and major competition from road haulage firms began to threaten the railways, so much so that by 1938 the figure had dropped to just 263 million tonnes.  By the 1970s the railways’ share had fallen to less than 10%.

Riccall station goods yard was very busy during World War II because of the needs of the nearby airfields. There was a bomb store constructed at Hollicarrs which supplied many local airfields with their armaments, and this was serviced by Riccall goods yard. Also, the construction of nearby Riccall airfield in early 1942 necessitated bringing in aggregate, cement, tar macadam, bricks, electrical wiring, water piping and roofing materials, much of which passed through the goods yard. After the war many of the bombs were removed by rail.

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