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‘Merry-go-round’ wagon

making power stations more efficient North East,

Railway freight wagons moving along track are in the foreground. In the background are the large cooling towers of a power station.
Merry-go-round coal train at Cottam Power Station, 1970-95. Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

The ‘merry-go-round’ train revolutionised the way Britain was powered in the 1960s by making the delivery of coal more efficient.

First conceived by Gerard Fiennes (1906-85), the Chief Operating Officer of British Railways, a prototype wagon weighing 32.5 tons was built at Darlington Works in 1964. It was designed for use with block trains that took coal to power stations, and had the ability to load and off-load without stopping. This maximised efficiency, and allowed power stations to be built away from coalfields.

Merry-go-round trains played a vital role in ensuring Britain’s lights stayed on as demand for electricity continued to grow. Systems very similar to this are still in use today.

National Railway Museum

North East
Darlington, County Durham
Key Individuals
British Railways,