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Fully Fitted Freight (1957)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

British Railways owns 1,124,812 goods wagons, which if laid end to end would stretch from Plymouth to Wadi Halfa. They are vital for filling the nation's shopping baskets. Tomatoes are shipped in from Guernsey, cider from Hertfordshire, fur-lined boots and heavy-duty tyres from south to north, and sweets from the Fry's chocolate factory: the logistics are fuelled by customer demand.

Bristol is an important centre for freight logistics, dating back to before the days of Renaissance explorer Sebastian Cabot. Goods wagons are marshalled at Midland Road freight depot, where Superintendent Wilcox requests another trailer in order to meet a customer order.

Temple Meads is the largest goods depot in Britain, with 5,000 feet of platform served by fifteen rail tracks and accommodation for 400 wagons and a thousand tons of goods at any one time, being sorted and served out to the city, the surrounding country and on to smaller depots elsewhere.

The 4:48 Bristol-Leeds fast freight train is assembled and fully fitted with fifteen wagons, all carrying vulnerable materials like cigarettes, tobacco, wines, spirits and chocolates. A policeman supervises the sealing of the wagons. Each wagon is fitted with vacuum breaks and screw couplings, to allow for the fact that the train moves as fast as a passenger express. The guard, Thomas 'Sunny Jim' Tudor is given his instructions. He performs the necessary safety checks and the train departs.

The signalman rings the control room to confirm its departure on time. Successive signalmen ring to indicate progress, and to confirm that the train is still complete (indicated by a tail-lamp on the end). As the train heads further north, the rural, craft-based economy shifts towards a more industrialised one. At Derby, the crew and some of the wagons are changed in a strictly regulated 40-minute session. The train passes through steel country (Sheffield and environs). Railway workers, lit by lanterns, step aside to let the train pass. The train arrives in Leeds.

This is just one of the many freight trains that run on Britain's railways. Beer is transported in stainless steel demountable tankers, chemicals in ebonite and rubber-lined containers, insulated containers for meat and frozen foods, and so on. After travelling from Leeds to their final destinations further west and north, assorted products appear in shops and markets. Britain's never-ending demands ensure that this will remain a continuous operation.