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1965 to 1979

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The London docks, a huge enterprise hidden by walls as high as a double-decker bus, collapsed in a remarkably short time in the late 1960s.  The competitive success of freight containers, packed in the country of origin, shipped to a continental port like Rotterdam, transferred to road trailer, brought across the Channel to Felixstowe or Dover, and then by motorway to a distribution depot, destroyed the labour-intensive docks.  Between 1967 and 1971 the St Katherine’s, London, East India and Surrey docks closed, followed by the West India, Millwall and Royal docks 1980-81 1.   Closure of the London docks was a major factor in the reduction of unskilled labour employment.The same containerisation of freight made the large Temple Mills marshalling yards in Leyton, with their hump sorting of trucks, redundant.  Between 1968 and 1975 national wagon-load freight traffic fell from 143 million tonnes a year to 39 million tonnes.  The Temple Mills yards, capable of handling over 4,000 wagons a day, were only dealing with 250 by 1982 2.  Staff in early 1985 were a third of the number in 1981 3.  Though Stratford railway works closed in 1963 the future of Temple Mills Wagon Works had looked promising for a time.  It contributed to the development of new rolling stock for freight  containers (“Freightliner”), for cars (“Cartic”) and for the future Channel Tunnel.  In 1978 the Works had a workforce of almost 400 and extended over 22 acres.  But it closed at the end of 1983 4.

1  Jerry White in ‘London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People’

2  The Illustrated history of British Marshalling Yards, by Michael Rhodes MS (Camb), BM, Bch(Oxf) FRCS(Eng), 1988

3  article in ‘Modern Railways’ of December 1985 by Michael Harris

4  Introduction by the Passmore Edwards Museum, the North Woolwich Old Station Museum and the Great Eastern  Railway Society to their reprinting of the Great Eastern Railway’s ‘Memoranda Connected with the Locomotive and Carriage Works at Stratford and the Wagon Works at Temple Mills’

Employment continued