As promised some of the images of the sheer variety of freight wagons etc available on the railways in the 1950s. There was no assumption back then that railways were only suitable for certain very specialised loads - the railways could and would carry anything. The idea that railways were some sort of inflexible mode for niche freight was a POLITICAL idea, not an economic one. As Warren Buffet says once you've got your track and equipment in place almost every dollar goes to the bottom line.
From these pics it looks pretty clear that in the 50s this weird politics had not yet infected the railways, and that they were there to do a job.
What happened to all these wagons, and all these jobs? No doubt scrapped, with the traffic, still growing, forced on to ever more crowded roads!
But remember, in Europe and even in the transport backwater of the USA MOST freight, even before the energy crisis, goes by rail. In Switzerland all large lorries in transit have to switch to rail. In the poor old UK the majority of freight is still moved in inefficient, polluting and lifespan-limited lorries, clogging our roads and leading to the ludicrous situation - as at Pensford or on the A34 - of a slow-moving road clogged with lorries running alongside CLOSED railways!!
The deliberate running down of the rail network to favour the pockets of one 'man', Ernest Marples, will soon be seen as the criminal act it was. And soon, in the teeth of severe climate change and the end of cheap oil, the railways will once again be free to do the job they do so well, carrying the nation's freight.