Tanks for the memories

The once extensive network of fuel oil deliveries is now reduced to a few as required workings. David Ratcliffe looks back at the history of these services, which peaked in the early 1970s.

Tanks for the memories
A pair of unidentified Class 47s head east through Manchester Victoria in May 1989 with the 6E48/07.09 Stanlow to Jarrow Shell company train. Whilst motor spirit and diesel comprised its main load, the train also included four loaded fuel oil bogie tank wagons seen marshalled immediately behind the locomotives. All photos by the author unless stated
FUEL oil, one of the heavier and less volatile of the petroleum fractions obtained during the cracking of crude oil, was primarily used for heating and power generation – and, in the early 1970s, it was a major source of rail traffic, with British Rail handling almost 10 million tons per year.

This source of traffic would decline in the years following the 1973 oil crisis, as companies switched to cheaper sources of fuel, but it remained a significant part of the railfreight business until almost the end of the century.

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