Memories of an Old Railwayman

Well, that’s me. I’m nearly 50 you know! Random memories occasionally pop into my head. Does anyone remember these international rail freight operations:

Transfesa Onion Traffic From time to time when I was driving around my sales patch in the mid 1980s I would come across one of these wagons, usually sitting in complete isolation in the middle of an otherwise empty freight yard. I think they were two axle affairs, coloured Transfesa blue and with slatted sides. Unusually these included gaps to allow air to circulate. They contained sacks of onions from Spain. Over a matter of days a chap in a van, presumably working for a vegetable wholesaler,  would arrive and take out a few bags.  When empty the van would make its way back to Spain.

I often wondered how this business was managed. Presumably someone in Spain had a list of British Rail terminals and would despatch a wagon and inform his customer. In those days Speedlink could transport the wagon from the Trainferry to the terminal.

Dry Ice The UK railway industry has been very backwards in offering services to carry refrigerated goods – although now there are a few new services carrying fresh fruit and veg from the continent via the Channel Tunnel. In the 1980s I seem to remember that chilled goods were transported from the continent and sometimes back to the continent in specialised wagons. These had no chiller units or temperature control. Instead they included a compartment which was filled with dry ice at the start of the journey. Hopefully by the end the product was still cold.

Nowadays chilled or frozen goods have to be continuously monitored and if the temperature falls outside a tight margin the product is considered unsaleable. Again, its hard to imagine that such a service worked, but it did.

Lastly – a quick apology. Sorry I haven’t posted for such a long time. But there is plenty to come in the next few weeks.


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