The Building and Structure of the Goods Shed
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
The Llanelli Railway Goods Shed is one of few remaining examples of a style of architecture for a functional railway building typical of GWR during the late 19th Century. As such it is on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, Grade 2. (Listed on 5th November 1989 as Cadw Building ID: 11957 ). Despite its listing, the shed, its related buildings and associated yard are in a derelict state.
The South Wales Railway opened the line through Llanelli on the 11th October 1852. An original Goods Shed, possibly designed by I.K. Brunel was built around the same time. Subsequent to amalgamation, GWR undertook an extensive programme of infrastructure investment in the 1870’s, an advertisement for tenders to construct a new shed being published in The Cambrian in November 1873. The new Goods Shed incorporating improved goods handling facilities was completed and opened by 1875. The new shed was probably unique along the GWR main line in both its size, facilities and importance as, it is thought, no investment on a similar scale took place elsewhere. In addition the then existing GWR station site was also redeveloped to accommodate a larger station. These developments may have been linked to the replacement of the broad gauge, but also as a response to the substantial increase in industrial and commercial demand. In the period between 1875 and 1912 the Llanelli area became one of the most important centres for tinplate production in the world.
Throughout an operational period of some 90 years - the shed ceased operation in 1966 - it and the associated office block were re-configured on several occasions to meet changing operational requirements and technical developments.
The Goods Shed has three linked components; the main shed, an open-sided canopied extension and an office block. They are aligned east - west adjacent to the main railway line and are situated in a large goods yard, now mostly disused.
Main Shed - a long single storey structure, approximately 55 metres long and 14 metres wide, constructed of Blue Lias rubble with a slate roof. The northern wall is pierced by 6 loading bays. There are camberedheaded windows set high in both the north and south walls, with rock-faced voussoirs, stone sills and iron glazing bars. There are 15 regularly spaced windows of 2 different sizes in the northern wall and 13 windows in differently sized groups in the southern wall. In addition there are two windows in the northern wall, one at ground floor level related to an office within the main shed, the other to provide illumination for the internal staircase. A brick chimney stack pierces the shed roof at the north-east corner; an indication of the only heating within the main shed.
Most of the loading bays in the northern wall have been altered subsequently at dates unknown. From the west end:
1) the original bay appears to have been the smallest of the six. Subsequently it was infilled to make a large doorway complete with brick voussoirs before being altered again with the insertion of a window for office development within the shed. The original wooden support for sliding doors exists above the infill.
2) the second bay has been infilled with regular stonework and a rectangular window, again in relation to office development within the main shed. The original wooden support for sliding doors exists above the infill.
3) the third opening, a wider loading bay, appears to be unaltered with the original timber lintel, a timber balanced canopy with a corrugated roof and a steel support for sliding doors.
4) the remaining three original loading bays have been altered over time. All have been widened as evidenced by an irregular pattern of standard red brick surrounds in the walls around the openings. They had double sliding doors, the supports for which still exist and the remains of a steel framed canopy. Internally the main shed is a single open space divided into seventeen bays by single span pine roof trusses, double collared, with a mixture of King and Queen posts. The trusses support in a horizontal plane a large centre longitudinal beam with fixings for pulleys etc. braced by diagonal horizontal beams. There is timber under-cladding beneath the slate roof.
Beneath the main shed and extending for most of its length is an undercroft accessed by external stairs. The main floor is supported on brick Jack arches with redundant “Barlow” rails acting as joists and springing points for the arches. In addition there are “Barlow” rails bolted together used as columns supporting the main floor. The platform within the shed above the main floor is raised above road and rail access level and consists of what appears to be an ash surface over thick boards and timber joists.
Within and at the north-west side of the shed are several ground and first floor offices with studded and boarded partitions, most of which appear to have been inserted subsequent to the construction of the adjacent office block. Those at ground floor level are related to the western-most loading bay infills and windows. There is also a staircase giving access to the upper floors of the office block. Canopy extension - constructed in 1907 this extension is a single storey, steel-framed open-sided structure some 37 metres long and 13 metres wide attached to the eastern end of the main shed. It now lacks the original corrugated iron roof and partial walls. It consists of a loading platform of timber blocks on an ash base. The siding leads into and through the main shed adjacent to the southern wall; the western exit of which has an iron lintel.
Office block - at the western end of the main shed and attached to it is a stone built, two storey office block some 16 metres long and 13 metres wide constructed in the early 20th.century. It has a five window range with a corrugated iron roof, sash windows and rock-faced stone lintels. The office block internally is divided into a series of rooms of varying size, of which two, at the ground and first floor level, are large and housed clerical staff in operational days. The other rooms probably had various incarnations over the operational life of the shed, eg. managerial offices, telephone exchange, mess room. The building also has two brick chimney stacks. There is separate access to the office block through a wooden gabled porch of later date.
Goods yard - The shed was located at the south western edge of an extensive goods yard with a total of 10 sidings:
No.1 siding was outside the south face of the shed and ended by cattle pens near the level crossing west of the shed.
No.2 siding ran through the canopied extension and the shed ending in a buffer-stop near the cattle pens.
No.3 siding ended at the eastern end of the canopied extension.
No.4 siding ran north of the shed and ended near The Railway public-house at the level crossing.
Nos. 5, 6 and 7 sidings of different lengths ended in the goods yard east of the canopied extension; No.6 siding being equipped with a loading ramp.
Nos.8 and 9 sidings were the coal sidings north of the shed close to Langland Road.
No.10 siding was distinct and serviced the Meals Store.
A number of separate buildings, stores and facilities were located within the yard :- The Meals Store, a concrete framed building with three south facing doors and short platforms was adjacent to siding 10 at the north-eastern end of the yard. It held animal feed delivered in paper sacks. Coal delivered to the coal yard alongside sidings 8 and 9 was loaded direct into coal-sacks. All such bulky and heavy items were either collected by the local traders or delivered by railway transport or a local agent at an extra cost. In town there was a collection and delivery service for the less bulky items initially by horse transport, the horses being stabled in a building at the end of Langland Road. From the 1920’s it was increasingly the practice to use motor vehicles, especially for more customers. It was usual for road vehicles to be weighed on leaving the yard; drivers being paid more for the delivery of heavy loads. The Cartage Office and associated Police Office were located near the entrance to the yard alongside Langland Road. Valuable goods, cigarettes, were stored securely and separately in a store attached to the eastern end of the Canopied extension.
Bulk loads and other heavier items would be unloaded by a mobile crane outside directly from wagons in sidings 6, 7, 8 and 9. Less bulky goods and parcels, would be unloaded under cover inside the shed from siding 2 running through the shed.
In the post-war period 2 or 3 goods trains would arrive and depart daily. Loaded wagons would be set down in the goods yard and others empty for return or loaded with goods, would be collected in their place to be sent out onto the network. Shunting within the yard would be undertaken initially by the locomotive of the goods train but once it had gone on its way, any further movement of wagons would generally be done by a man using a pinch-bar or wagon lever.