Coal And Oil
Coal ports grew up near the major coalfields. For instance, Newcastle and Sunderland served the fields in Northumberland and Durham in North East England; Garston served Lancashire, Cardiff and Barry served South Wales, Goole served Yorkshire, Ayr and Troon served the Ayrshire coal fields in west Scotland, Methil served those in Fife (east Scotland).
Most of these ports specialised in coal. The emphasis was on moving it from the pit to the dock and then on to the ship as quickly and efficiently as possible. Railways connected pit and port, and usually carried little else but coal. At the port were large rail yards where coal wagons would be kept until the ship arrived, and empties sorted for return to the pits. The railway lines were laid right on to the dockside. Goole was an exception, as much of the coal it handled was brought in by water from pits that were alongside canals.
Southampton`s coal barge dock, River Itchen
At the dockside, coal ports were characterised by special equipment to load the coal as quickly as possible. At Newcastle and Sunderland, the banks of the rivers were high. Here staithes were built, tall structures along which rail lines were laid. The wagons of coal were pushed along these by locomotives, and the coal tipped down chutes directly into the ships` holds. Other ports did not have this advantage of height. The coal wagons had to be lifted bodily, and their contents tipped into the hold. These coal hoists varied in design, but had to be movable so that each hold of the ship could be filled.
Equipment was designed so that the coal was broken up as little as possible as it fell into the hold. Coal was usually worth less if it was in the form of small pieces or, worse still, dust.