Ayrshire Potato Traffic

The day to day working of the Caledonian Railway Company, including its constituents and successors.
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David Blevins
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Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:26 pm

Ayrshire Potato Traffic

Post by David Blevins »

How was the Potato Traffic carried by the Caledonian Railway, would it have been packed in sacks, or loose in covered wagons?
There are a number of entries in the CR Appendix and List of Goods Shunting Engines such as "June, 1897.... Goods Traffic of Potatoes from Ayrshire to Perth, Dundee and Edinburgh is brought by Ship to Greenock, and thence by rail at 9.0p.m. for the North. This Train is to Stop at Langloan at 11.48p.m. to leave off Traffic for Airdrie. The Whifflet Shunting Engine goes to Langloan Daily at 5.30a.m. to Special the Wagons thence to Airdrie."
It seems a lot of handling of Ayrshire Potatoes, loading onto a Ship, then unloading at Greenock onto wagons every day for onward travel. Hessian sacks seem plausible but filling them and then getting them onboard a ship seems very time consuming and heavy carrying work.
Any suggestions or ideas are welcome, trying to make my wagon loads look authentic.

David Blevins.
Last edited by David Blevins on Fri May 28, 2021 3:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ayrshire Potato Traffic

Post by Orraman »

https://www.facebook.com/scottishagricu ... 123956453/

https://www.ardrossanherald.com/news/19 ... o-breeder/

These might be of interest,

With the reference to the Ayrshire potato having a delicate skin, would have thought they would been bagged rather than bulk shipped although I seem to recollect seeing an Irish photo showing a railway wagon loaded with bulk potatoes.

Still does not explain the transhipment from ship at Gourock. Is it possible the "ship" was actually Clyde puffers calling at smaller locations not served by rail and where heavy cargoes could be the norm?
David Blevins
Posts: 220
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:26 pm

Re: Ayrshire Potato Traffic

Post by David Blevins »

Interesting article on Scottish Agriculture on the History of Farming and Harvesting Potatoes.
I am beginning to think that Potatoes were classed as "Bulk Loads" and were carried in Open Wagons that were Sheeted (Tarpaulin Covers).

I am listing one or two clues with references:-
1. "Sheeting and Labelling....Full Loads of Potatoes, Grain, Hay, Straw, and other traffic" - General Instructions Goods Manual 1879.
2. "Sacks......are only to be used for the conveyance of Grain Traffic, viz:- Wheat, Oats, Barley, Rye, Peas, Beans, Tares, Indian corn, Linseed, and Rapeseed." - General Instructions Goods Manual 1879.
3. "Traffic in Bulk such as Coal, Coke, Bricks, Manure, Salt, and Potatoes.....must be loaded, as far as possible in Open Wagons" - Appendix General Instructions 1915.

The Potato Merchants had an arrangement of Purchasing Potatoes by the acre (Bulk Purchasing) from Farms, which was then transported by either the G & SWR Trains or the CR by ship and then Train from Greenock to the Central Belt and the North of Scotland. Commercial Competition and not willing to share the profits with another Railway Company, looks to be the reasoning behind this.
When the Bulk Loads of potatoes from Ayrshire arrived at their destination, they must have been unloaded in Goods Sheds for packing into Sacks provided by Potato Merchants, who would forward them by Horse and Cart to the Shops in Local Towns.

The covering of Goods Wagons with Sheets (tarpaulins) I had always thought was to protect the Goods from the weather but in the CR Appendix May, 1915 it states "Sheeting of Wagons - This must be done with great care, the Goods being thoroughly covered so as to protect not only from wet, but also from Fire."
This is also confirmed in the CR Rule Book 1885 - "Guards must not take on wagons loaded with Goods liable to be set on Fire by sparks, or hot cinders, unless such wagons are properly sheeted."

The Sheeting of Wagons was also to protect the Goods and Wagons from Fire caused by Sparks and Red Hot Cinders from Engines, as well as the Rain, etc.

The Modelling plan is to cover my Goods Open Wagons with Sheets, no modelling of New Potatoes from Ayrshire and no prototypical burning wagons!

David Blevins.
Last edited by David Blevins on Fri May 28, 2021 3:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ayrshire Potato Traffic

Post by lindsay_g »

I've been studying pictures of wagons recently (mainly to establish how some items might have been loaded) and was surprised just how many open goods wagons were covered with tarpaulins, a far greater percentage (in the images accessed at least) than I had assumed.

However, perhaps against CR rules, there is a wagon seen behind a brake van stacked high with a straw-like load looking very much a fire risk.

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Re: Ayrshire Potato Traffic


Don't forget that there was a large potato shed at Buchanan Street (see p.4 of the wagon supplement for its location and the probable use of modified pig iron wagons to remove the spoil when it was extended - p.24). I presume that these were potatoes from Perthshire and Angus. School children were given days off school to assist with the howking.


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