Common Carriers

Once upon a time the railways were known as common carriers. As I understand it this meant they had to transport pretty well whatever the paying public wanted to send by train. And in past times that was almost everything.

This meant that staff at stations had to have tomes of information so that they knew what to charge.

Years ago I was given a 1934 edition of some of this information which runs to two large volumes.

image002Remember you can click any image to see a larger version.

So here we have the two volume book of rates applicable only for merchandise by passenger train or other similar service.

Volume one contains an alphabetical list of every item the railway might carry. Here is just one bit of one page.

I love the way such unlikely items as pianos, street is followed by pickles in jars. The codes that follow are terms and conditions. Interesting to note that potentially dangerous chemicals were not carried.


Alternate pages in this book are left blank and, presumably, from time to time updates were sent which could be stuck in.


We can see here that this book remained in use into the 1950s with further information about what might be carried in the way of Sealtite and also Scrubb’s Furniture Cream in bottles had been added to the list.

Book two tells you the rate to be charged for whatever item the customer brought along. Here’s a sample.


So there you are. If you wanted to send your elephant by train it would cost you 7½d per mile plus more for coping with it at stations at either end.

And of course, railways really did carry these items in small quantities that were never really economic. Once again it was Dr Beeching and his masters who decided this traffic should cease. Maybe they got it right this time.


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