Coley Central Goods




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Reading Central Goods
Coley Branch
(Destination Code: COY)


The justification for having a railway yard south of Reading was brought about by the growing number of local businesses on the south side of Reading requiring easy rail access for their supplies or forwarded goods. It soon became apparent that transporting increasing loads of goods through the narrow and busy streets of Reading to the railyards located on the northern outskirts was cumbersome and very inefficient.

The location chosen was an area of land between the Holy Brook and Kennet rivers, encompasing an old wharf used by the Kennet and Avon Canal company and an existing timber yard. Entry to yard was from Willow Street or Fobney Street. One obstacle to overcome was the relocation of an existing Masonic Hall.

Constructed by Messrs H. Lovatt & Co. of Woolverhampton for the Great Western Railway (GWR), it was offically opened on May 4, 1908. Using standard guage track, the branch line ran for approximately 1.61 miles (2.5 km) from Southcote Junction through open meadows until heading under the purposely built Berkeley Avenue road bridge and into the Reading Central Goods yard at Coley. The track laid was of a higher load capacity than similar branch lines of the time. This meant that the only engines that could not use the line was the larger GWR King class steam locomotive.

Click to enlarge ...
Unidentified class '2251' 0-6-0 tender locomotive approaches
Southcote Junction on the Coley Branch in May 1964 (Photo by Ian Nash)

The yard had 12 sidings divided into pairs which could accommodate approximately 300 wagons. It had a decent sized goods shed and offices. Spread around the yard were numerous fixed and mobile lifting cranes to facilitate the easy loading or loading of wagons. In addition there was a larger 10 ton lifting crane and a 20 ton weighbridge. Further sidings serviced the CWS Preserve Works, Esso Petroleum, Gascoignes and Simonds Brewery. In its heyday, the main traffic to and from the yard was Beer, Bricks, Coal, Timber, and Preserves. Later, more modernised mobile cranes ran on caterpiller tracks.

Reading Central Goods c1919 (L&RGP)

Signal Posts were installed at three locations. One was positioned on arrival from Reading, where the single line first split into two tracks. The next was positioned prior to the entrance to the yard. The last was positioned prior to rejoining the single line before departing for Reading.

Initially a water tank was provided with its own short siding just prior to the Berkeley Avenue road bridge and the entrance to the main yard. It lasted twenty years or so before the water tank and siding were removed as newer locomotives had enough water capacity to easily make the trip from Reading and back.

Ex GWR class '2251' 0-6-0 tender locomotive
No. 2245 at Coley Depot on November 3 1956 (Original Photo by Hugh Davis)

Some traffic was still carted by river using the Kennet & Avon Canal, and was loaded and unloaded at nearby Bear Wharf where a railway siding and goods shed was provided. Goods were transported by narrow canal boats and slowly made their way to their destinations. Eventually the canal traffic was surpassed by the speed of railway transportation with only smaller loads being moved by canal. Due to canal traffic becoming increasingly unpopular, Bear Wharf along with its goods shed and siding eventually closed on March 20 1969.

Fireman throwing out the tablet at Southcote Junction
Photo by Colin Churcher - June 1961


At exactly the same location as the picture above, an unknown British Railways Class 08 Shunter waits patiently for departure from the Coley Goods Branch at Southcote Junction in 1968, whilst an unknown Beyer Peacock Class 35 'Hymek' rattles past on the UP main line towards Reading with a motley rake of empty coal wagons.

Photo: D.E.Canning

A number of companies were located or had offices at the railway yard, including H & T Timber Ltd. and Charles and Giles Ayres (C&G Ayers) coal merchants. On the east side, Builders W.W.Hall had a supply depot with a lot of their goods arriving by rail, especially roofing slate from Wales. On the west side Fyffes had a banana warehouse and Baynes had a timber yard.

In 1961, a special excursion train visited the yard with railway enthusiasts being transported by M7 class steam locomotive number 30051. The train consisted of just two coaches but was packed with excited train buffs. This locomotive was scrapped in the mid 1960's but was however immortilised when Hornby Models based their Drummond M7 0-4-4T on this very loco.

A Hornby model of 30051

Central Goods was closed on July 25 1983, with the track connection, rail and sleepers being removed in January 1985. In later years the yard was completely obliterated when the Inner Distribution Road (A33) was diverted under the existing Berkeley Avenue railway bridge into Reading.


Do you have ???

Any local information or photographs of the old Reading Central Goods at Coley,
or associated local companies, e.g. Simonds, C&G Ayers, CWS etc. ?

If you do, please email the address at the foot of this page ...




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