Goods traffic was highly important, always contributing more than 50% to revenue after 1860. In most years it was over 56%, peaking at 61.5% in 1880 so the much more glamorous passenger traffic contributed less than two-fifths towards profits. In 1913, goods mileage had been 19,800,000, 39% of the total, despite the slower speed of goods traffic. And the company was doing good business: Between 1870 and 1921 dividends usually ranged 6—7½%.
Carrying the goods was never seen as exciting. Locomotives and passenger trains attracted all the attention, yet without the humdrum daily work of carrying goods, industry and daily life across the country would have ground shuddering to a halt.
Formed in 1846, for 77 years the LNWR was the transportation of industry. Before the onset of road competition after the First World War (1914—18), railways in the ‘Classic Age’ had much greater penetration into society than we see today. Almost all the goods in the shops that had to travel any distance were delivered by rail. The scale of operations of early railways as they matured is indicated by the almost military nature of the organisation they adopted, for the Army was the only existing structure of comparable size.
The railways of those days operated under a “common carrier” obligation. This meant they had to accept all reasonable traffic. TheCommon Carrier obligations were removed in 1962 , but that was before the wide-scale pruning of the branch-line roots of the railways by Dr. Beeching. Unsurprisingly traffic plummeted and goods yards across the country closed in their droves. So now most goods traffic has to go by road.