TOPS British transport films

Published by Darron Toy on



oh good morning this is topic films that's right we want to get some lights up to knotting them by the weekend yes I've got the details it's film lighting equipment six five kilowatt lamps six five kilowatt valves six we handle just about everything anything that's movable and needs to be moved from one part of the country to another by rail incomplete train loads or individual wagons should suffice for that all ordered from our rolling stock people will collect Thursday morning wagons are the stocking trade of our business they come in all shapes and sizes getting on for 200 thousand of them altogether not that they ever are altogether they're spread out across the country moving from place to place earning their keep keeping track of them knowing where everyone is what it's doing and where it's going could be quite a problem so it was until we got tops the total operations processing system tops for short was introduced in 1975 now if you need to know what anything is all you have to do is ask tops you'll get an answer in less time than it takes to ask the questions and that's only the beginning lazy rolling stock we'd require a van fit for living out to Nottingham on Thursday you arrange race yes I'll order that today for you thank you that's what we're looking for or something like it as long as there's one available somewhere tops we'll see that it gets to Truro by Thursday Toro is down in the southwest of England on the main line running from Penzance to Plymouth Exeter and beyond the complete railway system extends right across Britain linking every city and town of any size it's a complex network and carries a lot of traffic passenger as well as straight more than 20,000 trains a day to make it more manageable the whole country is divided up into 89 areas each with its own freight center that's responsible for all Fred traffic within the area kuroh is in area number 85 which covers the whole of Cornwall it's area freight centre is it a place called some places each area freight centre as a top surface which is able to communicate directly with a top central computer in London instant Blasi the tomps Clark totals up the numbers and types of wagon required for loading in the area tomorrow including the one for Toro and goes to inform the computer he puts in his request directly via the keyboard and the computer does the rest Jack there's a bound there at Plymouth coming down on the 427 Stoke tonight utk out on the trail for that true over place to get it through yesterday okay seven seven eight three three eight that's the wagon number it's printed out by the computer on the top of a small card alongside it a string of letters and other numbers tell us just about everything we need to know about this particular wagon it's time sighs wait where is come from and where it's going to and so on this information is duplicated on the lower part of the card by those punched dots the point about these is that in a language the computer can read and understand these cards there's one for each and every wagon in every Freight area are kept in a card rack in different slots depending on where they happen to be at any given time our wagon the one that tops is sent down to Truro is waiting empty ready to be loaded whenever a wagon is newly loaded or unloaded what is about to be moved the details must be reported to Thomas Freda yeah ban be seven seven eight three three eight light load Nottingham five five three oh one topic film commodity 805 – Tong delivery conditions for that so the computer can keep its own files up to date it reads the wagon card which the clerk has shown it and then waits while he types in the new information it responds to this by issuing a new card printing and punching the latest information onto it and at the same time delivers a neatly printed memo specifying the way our wagon should be routed to Nottingham eight three o is the tops code number for Exeter although there's no train which goes directly from Truro to Nottingham there are several possible ways of getting there the computer knows all about these and has selected the best route it Robeson places responsibility to see that our wagon is put on a train going to Exeter there's one due to leave some plays in this evening so the first move is to get it up from Truro at Shura there are several wagons some loaded and some empties that have to go to someplace e today there Marshall together to form a train the Train consists details of its makeup is telephone through to the tops office its and Blasi engine number 25 one double five and three double O two nine four eight double O double seven eight you need only give the loco and wagon numbers full details of each wagon including its load and destination and the route it's taking have already been entered on the cards held in the tops office they are now taken out of the rack and assembled in the correct running order this pack of cards represents the complete train which is already left true on its greatest and plays a the cards are read by the computer which prints out a list showing exactly what's on the train and how it should be shunted on the rival that's amazing I would you make a provisional train list for the 1954 me please we'll have the Scottish that's in number two and then there's a van coming up from rural behind that please and then the clay from drilling mill that's in number one and the empties fracture on the back thanks very much incent Blasi the yard supervisor has decided what should go forward on the next train to exeter the 7m 86 the computer is told it reads to cards memorizes the details and prints out a full list in the correct running order with a summary at the end giving the overall length and weight of the Train our wagon has arrived from Truro and is being transferred to the Exeter train hello work as the 1745 Jareau shunted us for illicit 1845 the to break bands are in the shed Road okay whenever the Train is shunted or a wagon is moved from one part of the yard to another the details are reported to the top surface so that the clerk can keep his yard file up-to-date whenever a train moves from one area to another a message is sent to the central computer which in turn lets the receiving area know what to expect the Train number the time it left and when it's due to arrive details of the locomotive and its crew the serial number and type of each wagon and its position on the train where it's come from where it's going to what it contains and the name of the con tiny this information is printed out on a new set of cards one for each locomotive and every wagon coming into the area these are checked and then filed in a slot reserved for incoming trains until the train arrives in the yard our wagon was taken off the 7m 86 at Exeter and transferred to the 7m 67 850 Exeter the best got left right time Thank You Arthur best cot was away right time Charlie the 7m 67 we'll take it via Taunton Bristol and Gloucester as far as biscuit in the Midlands best cut is one of the largest marshalling yards in Britain the meeting point of several major trunk routes on the freight network our wagon is one of 50 or so that have just arrived here from the southwest on the 7m 67 tells you what he switched their Nottingham location to somewhere near Stoke don't that's right can we get those lights diverges you must be joking the left yesterday heaven knows where they are now see what you could good evening British Rail this is topic films wondrous you can help me we sent some equipment by rail to Nottingham yesterday yes going to Nottingham to Stoke yes because the wagon numbers seven seven eight three three eight could you let me know yes certainly by oh this is true here I've just had topic film company on the line and they would like to divert a wagon from Nottingham over to Stoke no problem you may not have the slightest idea where that wagon is but tops we'll even though it's at the other end of the country there it is just arrived at six five seven double-o that's the tops code number for biscuit hello this is lazy van double seven eight three three eight which is knowing your location just a moment seven seven eight thermal three eight we've received special instructions from the customer thorough if phone is now destined to Stoke well I'll have to look for the wagon can you hold them on please okay thank you baskets a large place we know it's here all right but where exactly it came in on the 7mm 67 just into Nottingham so it should have been placed in one of those sidings with any other wagons going in the same direction tops has a record of how the train was shunted and the clock should be able to find out where any wagon ease simply by checking through the cards in the yard file ah that's the one we're looking for hello oh we found your wagon uh-huh so what do you know I used to get it reduced in all right just four three two one two three – thank you very much oh that's implies young and they want to divert a van you've got in 12 Road in your tokens yeah now I found the card can you go get it shunted out yes Pat you see that car there will you get it six released two four three two one two please so it won't be going to Nottingham after all it'll be put on a neck strain from basket to Stoke oh that's marvelous and you can arrange to have the equipment delivered I'll give you the address the details are forwarded by tops to the Stoke area freight office so they'll know exactly what to do with it when it arrives arrangements have been made in advance for our wagon to be sent on to the local freight depot at long Port that's just a few miles up the line from Stoke and close by the delivery point any freight turn to stoke yes long pork Freight here ten trip has arrived and we placed all the wagons on number six at ten o'clock well that's it at least as far as this particular job is concerned just one of thousands we have to deal with every day tops office a long pause right here again I've got five VV B's to release to you the first one is not required at long port and the following four are required to reloading okay first one B double seven eight double three 8 B 7 seven eight three three eight yep yep righto don't our business is never-ending there's always something that will need moving somewhere knowing what is wanted and where and being able to supply it is where we start from and that's where tops comes in tops not only knows where everything is but what it's doing at any moment it helps to keep things running smoothly and efficiently that's not only good for us but for our customers also and that's what matters hello long cord your releases seven seven eight three three eight release two one one six one four thank you very much okay bye-bye you


21 Comments

Peter Beresford · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

I am always amused when people, who were presumably in their prams, or not even born, when this sort of system was in use, point out how primitive, inefficient and generally worthless they were. They forget that – in their day – they were the latest thing, and the typical viewer of this film would have been thoroughly impressed by the modernity, efficiency and value of – in this case – TOPS. In 50 years time people will no doubt laugh at all the primitive systems of the year 2019.

Ian Dixon · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

So in Australia, as we were an English company (tip top bread) we used Tops system in the late 80s early 90s. So that's where system came from changed 98 to Bahn and boy was that a thrill implementing that.

Michael Cawood · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

Dr Beeching stopped all wagonload freight, he would only permit trainload freight.

Roger Smart · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

So what was the cost to Topic Film for their change of mind? Or did the taxpayer pick it up? And how rude was the lady at Topic Film? Not a please nor thank-you.

6yjjk · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

I bet the guys who made this film never dreamed that someone in Finland would watch it 40 years later on a hand-held slab of glass with more computing power than TOPS.

SJPAllnighter · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

15:40 – Is that Donald Trump working at Bescot?

Mister Smith · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

Does anyone else think the thumbnail image is Mark Lammar? Lol

woodbury22uk · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

An interesting insight into a major employer and huge business involving its ground level staff in things to do with computers. All this was being done at a time when most people did not have bank accounts, were paid in cash, did not have credit cards, or even a telephone at home. It was a completely different world where almost nobody did anything in their daily lives which came remotely near to a computer. Difficult for people who were not alive then to understand how different the world was 40+ years ago.

Richard Courage · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

I started at Southampton TOPS 86520 , we had cards then ..had fun in the short time I was there ….

Daniel Eyre · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

@2:33 So THIS is where David Brent started out?

Nigel Harding · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

Fascinating film. All of that card printing certainly wasn't helping to save the planet!

Barnem13 · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

Online amazing
This is brilliant

mistofoles · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

Is there subtitles ? They all sound like extras from "STRAW DOGS" !

mistofoles · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

"Ok, all the wagons are loaded and ready to go! – Oh, Sh*t ! We forgot to hire a train driver!"

mistofoles · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

Guy @2:37 was quite rude – no "Hello" or "Good morning", just "We need this, can you arrange it?" He didn't even say please!

mistofoles · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

"If you want to know where anything is, just ask TOPS !" "Oh, yes, good morning. I'm afraid I've mislaid my Kevin Keegan underpants that I bought the other day…"

Georgeasaurus2001 · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

My God 47555 does get everywhere lol

1978ajax · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

Fascinating. I'd like to know how it was all organized before TOPS – seems an impossibly complicated job without it. I wonder too how long the cargo took to get there. I guess the next step was to have computer-linked optical readers on the line to read a code on the truck as it passed?
Far too easy for people to make the obvious criticisms of inefficiency compared to present day – then was not now, and I'd hazard that these people were more efficient in their work than is generally the case now, when so many seem to rely on computer programs as a substitute for personal skill.
Nice to see plenty of people still employed too, rather than expensive machines put in their place, which machines accountants love as capital assets to replace wages – which they hate!

Edward Byard · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

A friend of mine helped introduce TOPS. His story is that the main computer system arrived on 35 lorries…and he wasn't wrong! Brilliant film, I will let him know about it. Thanks!

Alejandra y Alan Bowman · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

I started with TOPS at Dagenham Dock at the beginning of the cardless system. TOPS enabled BR to reduce the fleet of wagons by two thirds simply because, for the first time, we knew where wagons were.

This all looks so antiquated by modern standards but, don't forget, this was at the very early stages of having a computer system that operated nationwide.

AndreiTupolev · July 31, 2019 at 9:07 am

I love the way Bert (the one sitting opposite Donald Trump) pushes his glasses up in resignation when his boss claps his hand on his shoulder and says "Bert!" "I suppose he's going to ask me to shunt the whole ***** lot again. Do you know how long it took me to shunt all those *****ers nice and ****** neat? Well, they can have it in ***** Nottingham and they can sort out what to *** do with it"

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