Pictures from the Upside Hump before and after Modernisation in 1951


A community project 2016 - 2018

supported by Heritage Lottery Fund

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In the following pages, the images marked SSL are from the archives of the wonderful National Railway Museum based in York. They were used in our exhibitions with the kind permission of the Science & Society Library. To use these images, permission should be obtained from the SSL.the images marked SSLnce & Society Picture Library

Hump Shunting The Upside (Southbound) before 1939

At the pit head, empty wagons were moved (often by gravity) from storage sidings to the screens for loading. The screens were designed to 'sieve' the coal to a particular size and collieries might produce several different sizes of coal from different screens, as required by customers. Once loaded, wagons would then be shunted, probably by gravity, into the loaded wagon sidings and only subsequently would they be labelled to destinations all over the country, wagon by wagon, coal size by coal size.

Many coal users scattered around the country ordered coal from a few, specific collieries in quite small quantities. The burning qualities of coal vary greatly depending upon the seam (and the primeval forest!) from which it was taken and customers would not take kindly to the wrong coal being delivered! Every loaded train from the colliery normally had to be shunted and remarshalled at least once between origin and destination.

This excerpt is taken from "Toton Yards and the Erewash Valley" produced by David Copeland for the 1998 Toton Open Day.

This picture was taken near the old Stapleford & Sandiacre Station looking towards Long Eaton. It shows the arrival lines for loaded wagons from the collieries. They look rather empty on this occasion! (SSL) Customers for the coal varied from Town Gasworks to private coal merchants and steam engine depots. Different uses required different sizes and grades of coal. (SSL)
This picture was taken by an official railway photographer from Derby. It shows the through lines of the Erewash Valley Line and on the right the departure sidings for loaded coal trains. (SSL) We are going back a long way here! Look at the old fashioned brake vans with no gallery and not much sign of a stove pipe. Railwaymen really had to be tough in those days.. think of the open footplates provided on early steam.
The wear and tear on coal wagons largely constructed of timber and used in all weathers and seasons was very hard indeed. Thus there were always large numbers of 'crippled' wagons to be repaired and very soon Toton was host to a large number of private and railway repair shops as seen here. The repair shops were mainly located adjacent to the departure sidings for Up traffic (southbound). Here we see the Upside Centre Signal Box and the repair shops looking across the through lines. Errors in shunting, sometimes called rough shunting, were inevitable especially with gravity shunting and this added to the repair list!

Mechanisation of the Upside was carried out by BR in 1950 to 1951. The yards were also enlarged with the aim of enabling an extra 500 to 600 wagons to be handled daily, beyong the then capacity of 2,700 wagons. The modernisation was reported at the time to be the biggest undertaking of its kind ever carried out in this country with little or no disruption to traffic. That Toton never closed to traffic at any time during remodelling is surely a credit to both planners and engineers. The whole of the Up yard required reordering if the scheme was to work. Some 16 miles of track were lifted, ground levels altered and 27 miles of new permanent way laid. Nearly half a million cubic yards were removed making a significant bank behing the new control tower to be used for its vew by many a railway enthsuiast in the years to come. Work to create the new yards was carried out in 6 stages from east to west with last section being nearest the main line.

This picture shows how large the wagons were. Imagine a series of these running downhill and then being asked to run alongside them in order to steady them. This was done with a stout brake stick jammed above the handbrake lever mechanism! After modernisation, 4 retarders were installed to help set the speeds at which rolling wagons entered their destination siding. If the siding was fairly empty the wagon would need to trundle a hundred yards or so. If full, it would soon meet up with a stationary wagon so would need to enter slowly.
Some cuts were bigger than others. Here a cut of 6 loaded coke wagons would amount to quite a tonnage for the retarders to control. You can see the dust flying as the brakes briefly grip the moving wheel flanges. Coke was another use of coal made by heating coal without actually allowing it to ignite. It has a high carbon content. Shunting went on well into the hours of darkness especially in the winter when demand for coal was greatest. Unfortunately for the men operating the yard, bad weather meant even more demand. Many freight trains left the yard in the early hours to beat the passsenger trains which always took precedence over freight where there was any competition for free track.

The Down Hump Room 1956. Note the radiators! All part of the £650,000 British Railways used to mechanise and enlarge the Upside. Normally some 3,000 wagons would pass over the hump on 'quiet' days but by midweek this would rise to 3,900. Thus the Upside dealt with around 1 million wagons per year.

The approach to Arrival Lines:

Freight took the station-avoiding road at Stapleford & Sandiacre, then a bend to the left brought you to one of the 12 arrival lines. Note Bessel Lane on the left which is now the route to the UPS Depot for parcel mail.

Detailed records were kept of the shunting progress each day occasionally disrupted by a derailment! There were 37 sidings in all and interestingly the lines from the West Yard dipped to meet the main lines while those on the east side rose at 1 in 320 to reach the High Level line out of the yards. They dealt with around 70 incoming trains a day and 60 going onwards.