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Post Nationalisation Wagon Development



British Railways inherited a mixed bag of stock, for example only about 20 percent of the LNER stock was `fitted', that is fitted with a continuous braking system which can be controlled from the loco or brake van. By the end of 1948 British Railways had something like a million assorted 'unfitted' wagons and vans and about a hundred thousand 'fitted' vehicles. Roughly a third of the rolling stock was more than twenty five years old, that is it dated from before the 1923 grouping. There were in the region of thirty thousand 'service' vehicles in departmental use, about twenty thousand containers of various types and about half a million ex-private owner mineral wagons which had been bought from their owners after the end of the war. There were still about twenty thousand privately owned railway vehicles on the system, these being wagons and vans carrying things like salt or lime and rail tanks for oil and other liquids.

The wooden bodied general merchandise open wagons and more particularly vans built by the Big Four continued in service into the 1970's or even the early 1980's for some specialised traffic. During the war painting of goods stock had not been a priority and the Big Four liveries were still occasionally seen as late as the 1960's, albeit in rather dilapidated condition. Amongst the inherited stock there were a range of vehicles for specialised traffic and although broadly similar these differed in detail.

British Railways also received half million or so Private Owner mineral wagons of varied design, age and quality, all of which had been worked very hard during the second world war (most private owner mineral wagons had been requisitioned by the government and pooled during the war). During and after the war it was possible to see former PO wagons from widely scattered areas operating together in a single train. The PO wagons requisitioned in 1939 were purchased from their owners in 1947 as the new British Railways wanted to own all the mineral wagons on the system to avoid the problems encountered in the past with sub-standard stock. Most of these wagons were in a very poor condition by this time, with end-door diagonal lines, plain planks and hasty wartime repairs breaking up what remained of the livery and many were still fitted with grease packed axle boxes. Withdrawals began in the early 1950's and very few grease axle boxes lasted in British Railways service to the end of that decade.

Wooden bodied mineral wagons with more modern underframes lasted a while longer however, and ex PO steel types lasted in traffic into the 1970's. Some of the wooden bodied PO wagons were still wearing the remains of their pre-war livery into the early 1970's. Users such as the National Coal Board, who painted their stock bauxite lettered NCB in white, retained older wagons including wooden bodied types, some with grease packed axle boxes, much longer. British Railways would not accept these elderly sub-standard wagons on its lines but they worked in the collieries into the 1980's.

Initially British Railways carried on building wagons to the standard pre-war designs at the existing ex-railway company works. The wartime pressure on the railways had left a great deal of the stock in very poor condition and in the1950's British Railways embarked on a massive restocking programme with a range of standard designs. The increasing importance of road haulage meant that by the mid 1960's British Railways had more wagons than it needed. Orders for new vehicles disappeared other than for small numbers of experimental types. Older stock was scrapped or converted for special traffics and several wagon building firms ceased to exist. It was in this period than van traffic really began to displace the old wooden open wagons. Based on a study of photographs from the early 1960's you probably need one mineral wagon and one van for each open wagon, bolster wagon or specialised vehicle on the layout. Do note however that particular features on your layout could require additional stock of some particular type. Most of the early British Railways goods stock was of the standard open wagon type but beware of distortions in numbers suggested by British Railways own advertising literature. For example there are several pictures in various books showing short rakes of 'lowfit' ten foot wheel base steel wagons with low drop-sides wagons each carrying a single farm tractor. These were taken in the 1950's and 60's when interest was focused on export drives, these loads were destined for the docks but in reality there were not very many of this type of wagon in service.

After nationalisation British Railways continued to build rolling stock to standard pre-war designs but they established an Ideal Stocks Committee to look into rolling stock design and by 1951 new standard vehicles began to appear. The standard designs were based on the needs of the pre-war railway system and (as with just about everyone else) the Ideal Stocks Committee failed to foresee the changes in the transportation world. The new standard designs were based on a four wheel wagon with a ten foot wheelbase and a payload of about twelve tons (although eight tons would have been closer to the most common requirement). Some of the British Railways standard wagons were very closely based on pre-war Big Four designs. The standard British Railways brake van was basically identical in all but minor detail to the LNER "Queen Mary" van. Corrugated steel ends on wagons and vans, first introduced by the LMS in the 1930's, and also used by the LNER, were adopted as standard for wagons and vans by British Railways. On the BR designed vans hinged doors were generally preferred to sliding types but some standard British Railways van types had sliding doors. The existing trend toward increased use of containerisation was supported with both closed and open container types, again of standard pre-war designs.

In 1955 the recommendations of the Ideal Stocks Committee formed part of the grand Modernisation Plan for the railways. Under this plan all new rolling stock was to have a minimum wheel base of 10 foot and be fitted with an automatic vacuum brake (AVB) to allow higher speeds. Wood was still the main building material, although steel wagons and van designs were produced. British Railways continued to build a large number of 'open merchandise' wagons, mainly of the five plank type. The standard British Railways five plank wagon resembles the Graham Farish five plank wagon body, but with corrugated ends. You can make one by cutting away the ends of the Graham Farish wagon and replacing them with a section of Slaters corrugated sheeting cut to fit. Alternatively you can trim off the vertical supports on the ends and scribe along the moulded planking using a fairly blunt tool, I would suggest scribing the insides as well if the model is to run unsheeted or unloaded.

Fig ___ Corrugated ends on Graham Farish open wagons

Models of steel ended open wagons based on the Farish five plank wagon



Wagons equipped with a hinged patent tarpaulin support bar were also produced by British Railways, albeit in limited numbers. These were only fitted to five plank and higher sided opens, all of which were coded `Hibar' by BR.

British Railways standard open and closed containers were originally of the pre-war wooden type. From searching through photographs the metal containers which had been produced by the Big Four companies do not seem to have been widely used. Metal containers do not appear to have been built by British Railways until the late 1960's when aluminium became a practical building material.

The official view in 1955 was that the railways should favour vans for general goods traffic and the proportion of vans seen in general goods trains rose steadily over the following years. This was a slow process however and it was not until the late 1960's that vans outnumbered opens in the general traffic stock totals (i.e. not including mineral wagons and specialised stock such as steel carriers). British Railways built a number of plywood sided vans based on the Big Four designs.

Fig ___ British Railways built steel-ended plywood vans Sketches of various BR built steel-ended plywood vans



The steel-ended British Railways standard van was produced in very large numbers, both in planked and plywood versions. The same standard design formed the basis for a series of variants. In the 1940's and early 50's British Railways built ventilated and insulated meat vans (this was odd as by this time almost all meat was shipped by container). The ventilated meat van had standard van sides, as for the Minitrix or Lima vans, but with added louvers beside the doors (at least on some examples). The ends were ribbed pressed metal but they had a vertical row of four vents instead of just the single vent at the top. These vans were originally painted in passenger stock carmine but later re-painted in bauxite. By the late 1960's most of these meat vans were being used for normal traffic.

The insulated van used for meat and other chilled products, had British Railways standard van sides, again as for the Minitrix or Lima models, but with an insulating lining and with no vents on the end. These vans were originally painted white with black lettering. A few of the meat type insulated vans (which had hooks inside to hang the meat on) were painted in Southern Railway 'stone' in the early days (add a little white to Humbrol Dark Earth for this colour). All the insulated stock was re-painted 'ice blue' with white lettering after about 1957. I understand that these insulated vans were also used for fish but I have no definite information on this traffic.

It is possible to convert the Lima or Minitrix van to represent the meat or insulated types but the Parkwood Models range now includes a set of British Railways standard planked and ply-sided vans which includes alternative ends for the meat and insulated vans.

Fig ___ Standard British Railways Vans

Models of N Gauge BR standard vans

Note the Fruit van was an early attempt, the diagonal bracing on the original Peco model was left in place, this should have been removed as the inverted V actually met right under the vented section at the top. A drawing can be found in the section on Goods Rolling Stock Design - Specialised Rolling Stock.

The successful 'VANWIDE' ventilated van introduced in 1959, had a standard 10 foot chassis and the standard pressed steel ventilated fan ends but they had plywood sides and an ingenious design of sliding door. When closed the doors were almost flush and the handles were long steel rods running the full height of the doors. When pulled outwards the handles moved the door out into tracks and opened up about half the side of the van. The ideal stocks committee had recommended hinged doors rather than sliding types but the vanwide door design was so successful it was later used for modern air braked stock.

Fig ___ British Railways Vanwide. Sketch and photo of British Railways Vanwide goods van



In spite of the requirement for vacuum brakes in the 1955 Modernisation Plan British Railways did build large numbers of `unfitted' wagons. Most of these were the nine foot wheel base, steel bodied, sixteen ton mineral wagons discussed below. Vacuum brakes were tried on these wagons but they were not a success, amongst other things they were often damaged by the wagon handling gear at collieries. Later batches were built unfitted and most of the short wheelbase vehicles had the vacuum brakes removed when they passed through the workshops (a few vacuum braked examples lasted into the 1970's). These unfitted mineral wagons constituted the majority of British Railways mineral stock for many years until replaced by the more modern designs of hopper wagon. There were three common types of open mineral wagon; sixteen, twenty one and twenty four and a half tons capacity. The sixteen and twenty four and a half ton wagons were included in the Modernisation Plan, the twenty one tonner was not part of the plan but in the event it remained in production the longest.

The British Railways twenty one ton mineral wagon was a development of the old GWR twenty ton wagons, many of which were inherited by British Railways at nationalisation. Parkside Dundas offer the GWR type (also used by various private owners) and a kit for the British Railways twenty one tonner to run on the Parkside Dundas twelve foot wheelbase chassis is available from Paul Hodgeson. Details of both these models will be found in the section on Available Models in the subsection Kits & Continentals.

The vacuum braked twenty one ton coal wagons were coded MDV under TOPS and survived into the late 1980's carrying coal or colliery spoil on short workings within Wales and for carrying scrap metal. In the later 1970's a lot of the older twenty one ton steel wagons were re-sprung for heavier loads and re-bodied with no end door and with only a single door on each side. These were intended for coal traffic, and were used in some numbers for that trade, but they were also regularly used for scrap metal.

Fig ___ British Railways Twenty One Ton Mineral Wagons Sketches of BR 21 ton mineral wagons showing liveries



The sheer numbers produced meant that the British Railways standard sixteen tonner dominated the scene and any British Railways layout should have a number of these. Peco have released a very neat kit of the sixteen ton mineral wagon on their nine foot wheelbase chassis although this kit costs nearly as much as many of the RTR models. The Hornby Minitrix range comes with a ten foot wheelbase 'fitted' chassis but they offer both fitted and unfitted liveries. Lima had a model in their range but it was out of scale and even re-mounted on a Peco chassis it did not look very convincing.

The British Railways sixteen tonner was actually based on a series of fifteen ton wagons built by Butterly. The Graham Farish steel open is a Butterly welded and pressed steel design produced for the LMS in about 1945 and the Peco Butterly steel wagon is essentially similar to the riveted version built for the LNER in about 1947. Similar wagons were used by several private owners. Both the Peco and Farish wagons are suitable for use in the period up to the mid 1980's although they both benefit from shortening and the Farish wagon also need lowering slightly to match the Peco 16 tonner kit. Toward the end of the Second World War 10,000 steel bodied end-door mineral wagons with pressed steel side doors were built to the same general design as the Graham Farish wagon but a lot of these were rebuilds on older nine foot wheel base chassis I believe.

Fig ___ British Railways Sixteen Ton Mineral Wagons Sketches showing various British Railways Sixteen Ton Mineral Wagons



Fig ___ shows three variations on the basic design, the wagon at the top is a typical early design very similar to those built for the LMS, note there are no drop flaps above the doors. The wagon shown in the lower left is a British Railways built, vacuum braked, nine foot wheelbase wagon, note the drop flaps above the side doors introduced by British Railways. Although fitted with a vacuum brake and originally classed as XP they proved unstable at speeds above about forty miles per hour and all were subsequently de-classified. The sketch in the lower right is a standard British Railways unfitted wagon showing the post 1957 'boxed markings' (fully discussed in the Livery section).

The sixteen tonner was also regularly used for rock salt, scrap metal, stone and aggregate (crushed stone) traffic, they remained in use into the later 1980's and were coded MCO or MCV under TOPS. Some of the standard unfitted steel sixteen tonners were transferred to the permanent way department for use as 'spoil' wagons in the 1970's and some of these remained in service into the early 1990's. As stone chipping weigh more than coal these have small 'letter box' holes (roughly four inches high by a foot long) cut about half way up the side panels to prevent over-loading.

Fig ___ Sixteen tonner in departmental service

Sketch showing 16 ton mineral wagon with holes in upper sides for use by the engineers


The last coal-hoists, used for emptying end-door wagons into ships, were closed in 1987, marking the end of revenue earning service for the sixteen ton steel wagons (coded MCO under TOPS). A large number of the sixteen tonners were sold to the National Coal Board for internal use at collieries.

The twenty four and a half ton open mineral wagon was intended to replace the ageing railway company 'loco coal' wagons. With the shift to diesel traction they were increasingly used for revenue earning minerals traffic. All the twenty four and a half ton mineral wagons were unfitted and ran on a twelve foot wheelbase chassis similar to the pre-war GWR twenty ton wagons. The wagon body was based on the standard sixteen ton wagon design but had higher sides, generally with two doors on each side. As the contracts for building the wagons went to several suppliers there were variations in details, some had pressed metal doors (as seen on the Graham Farish steel mineral wagon) and some had a mix of welded and pressed metal doors. Some had no side doors at all, being intended for end-tipping, but these were rather uncommon. These high capacity vehicles were used to supply power stations and larger industrial users and were also seen carrying stone and aggregates traffic.

Fig___ British Railways Twenty four and a Half Ton Mineral Wagons Sketches of BR 24.5 ton mineral wagons

Parkside Dundas offer kits of a GWR 20 ton wagon, an LMS 20 ton loco coal wagon and a BR 24.5 ton mineral wagon. The N Gauge Society offer a kit of the BR 21 ton mineral wagon. Peco offer a kit of the standard 16 ton mineral wagon. You can also make your own, the body is a simple rectangular box with some simple strapping, only the end doors require any time and patience. It the illustration below I have tried to show a rage of approaches to making these wagons.

Fig___ Models of BR steel mineral wagons Photo of various models of BR steel mineral wagons


1 is a Peco butterly wagon shortened and with new ends, mounted on a shortened Peco ten foot wheelbase chassis. The side doors have been modified to represent the 'drop flap' upper doors.
2 is the standard Peco 16 tonner with drop flap doors added, modelled in 'well used' condition.
3 is a home made 21 tonner wagon on a cut down Peco chassis. The body was made from 20 thou card, the strapping on the side doors is all 10x20 thou strip, the end door is made up using 10x10 and 10x20 thou strip. The drop flap doors add variety to a rake of 21 ton mineral wagon kits.
4 is the fitted version made in a similar way and again on a cut down Peco chassis. The Graham Farish steel mineral wagon is actually too tall and the ends from that model can be used to make a 21 tonner. The remainder of the Farish wagon can then easily be reduced in height and new ends added to match the size of the Peco 16 tonner.
5 is a home made 24.5 ton body mounted on a Parkside Dundas 12 foot wheelbase chassis, it was modelled without the side doors to add some variety to a rake of Parkside Dundas models.


British Railways also produced a standard steel bodied wagon for iron or other ores, similar in appearance to their standard 'unfitted' sixteen ton mineral wagon but with no doors. It was loaded from a hopper and discharged by being turned upside down in a rotating cage or 'tippler'. If a tippler was not available they could be unloaded by cranes equipped with grabs or, as a last resort, by men with shovels. Peco offer a model of the standard nine foot wheelbase early British Railways iron ore tippler wagon in kit form and drawings of the liveries used have been included in the section on Liveries, under British Railways.

A final variant on the steel mineral wagon was the sand wagon, which was a door-less steel body similar to the iron ore tippler wagon but only half the height. Peco have released a kit of the type but the design of these wagons is simple and they would make a good introduction to DIY wagon building. The body can be made up using plastic card and strip and the relatively cheap Peco ten foot chassis would serve, although the prototypes ran on nine foot wheel base chassis. Sand wagons are considered in more detail in the section on 'Cargo and Wagon Loads'.

Fig ___ British Railways ore tippler and sand wagon

BR ore wagon and sand wagons


The hopper wagon, with it's quick and easy discharge at specially prepared sites, was seen as the way forward for most bulk materials, including grain, sand, ores, china clay and of course coal. British Railways built a range of hopper types for coal traffic and pressed into service hopper wagons built for other traffic. One notable example of the latter is the iron ore hopper available from the N Gauge Society as a kit to go on a Peco chassis (discussed below). In the north east of the country the old North Eastern Railway had built specialised discharge facilities for its wooden bodied twenty ton hopper wagons and British Railways built more wagons to the same design in the 1950's as this was cheaper than modifying the coal drops. British Railways standard hopper types introduced by in the early years included several small mineral hoppers built to designs dating back to the early 1930's but by the late 1950's larger capacity stock was the norm.

Probably the most common British Railways designed hopper was the twelve foot wheelbase twenty one ton open coal hopper. For some time the only model in N Gauge was an etched brass kit from Fencehouses (very nice when well built but tricky with all the little fillets to attach unter the base of the hopper). More recently the N Gauge Society have released a kit of the type along with a separate detailing kit (that produces a very respectable representation of the type) and Dapol have released a ready-to-run model.

Fig ___ Dapol 21 ton mineral hopper Photo of the Dapol 21 ton mineral hopper courtesy and copyright Dapol

The twenty one ton hopper design was derived from an LNER twenty ton metal bodied design dating back to the mid 1930's . The LNER wagons had been produced in some numbers and there were over 3000 in service by the 1940's. The LNER lacked the facilities to build these wagons so they had contracted out the work to various wagon building firms and although all were based on the LNER Diagram 100 this resulted in numerous small variations. During the Second World War the same basic LNER design had been used by the Ministry of War Transport for a fleet of iron ore hopper wagons. These MOT hoppers differed in having thicker plates for the hopper body and were rated to carry twenty one tons but otherwise appear identical. The British Railways liveries for the standard twenty one ton hoppers will be found in the Liveries section, the sketches below show the LNER twenty ton and MOT twenty one ton liveries dating from 1935 and 1947 respectively.

Fig ___ LNER/MOT steel bodied hoppers Sketches showing LNER/MOT steel bodied hoppers



These hoppers and the British Railways built examples were coded HTO (unfitted) and HTV (vacuum brake fitted) under TOPS and survived into the late 1980's carrying coal, road stone and sand. They were used all over the country to supply house coal depots but in their later years they were mainly confined to South Wales. As recently as the mid 1980's they were operated as block trains on inter-regional work but as they were vacuum fitted they could not travel in Speedlink services after 1984. There is an etched kit of the type available from Fencehouses Model Foundry, but that does require some experience on the part of the modeller. The N Gauge Society has now released a plastic kit of the type, supplied with the Parkside Dundas twelve foot wheelbase chassis and Dapol have released a ready to run model. Both the N Gauge Society kit and the Dapol model benefit from adding the end handrails, available as a detailing kit from the Society shop, but my models have these added from florists 'rose wire' re-tempered to make it stiff and with the supports cut from 10x20 thou strip. Liveries for the 21 ton hopper are illustrated in the section Railway Company Goods Facilities - Coal and Heating Oil.

The 21 ton hopper was used as the basis for a number of specialised wagons, several were fitted with tarpaulin rails for the carriage of materials such as grain (discussed below) and powders that had to remain dry. On Paul Barteltt's web site (see App-6 contributors and bibliography) there are photos of sheeted 21 ton hoppers used in the North East in the later 1970s and early 1980s by Electro Furnace Products. The height of the tarpaulin support bar is similar and it seems likely the grain wagon tarpaulin was to a similar size. The sketch below is based on the EFP wagon photos but the style of sheeting should be about right for the grain traffic, which would probably have carried the 'to be retained' branding in some form. These may have been the vehicles modified in this way for grain traffic in the later 1950s, under EFP branding they were used either for imported magnesite (magnesium carbonate) to make magnets or (more likely) for taking waste aluminium oxide compound to Universal Abrasives in Stafford.

Fig ___ Electro Furnace Products Hoppers
Sketch of sheeted 21 ton hopper wagon

It seems likely that the sheeted 21 ton hopper was used for other duties, adding a card rectangle 'sheet supporter' and a blue tarpaulin with very faded markings would allow you to add this unusual vehicle to a rake of general goods wagons on some unspecified duty.

The 21 ton hoppers took a lot of hammer in everyday use an in the early 1970s a large number were re-bodied with simplified side strapping, the N Gauge Society kit is the best bet for a modification to represent this type.

Fig ___ BR rebodied 21 ton Hoppers
Sketch of rebodied 21 ton hopper wagons



A larger twenty four and a half ton mineral hopper was built on the same chassis. The overall appearance was very similar to the original 21 ton hopper wagons, although the hopper itself was slightly higher, but this type was never as common as the twenty one tonner.

At the other end of the scale British Railways also built a fleet of rather small hoppers on a ten foot wheelbase chassis with a capacity of 13 tons. Most were scrapped in the later 1960s but some survived into the 1980s, mainly in the Yorkshire area. As well as coal they were also used for stone and iron ore traffic. My model, shown below, used the sides and vertical ends of the N Gauge Society iron ore hopper kit with detailing added from wire and strip and a Peco ten foot wheelbase chassis.

Fig___ Model of the BR 13 ton coal hopper
Model of 13 ton coal hopper based on the N Gauge Society ore hopper kit

The British Railways designed twenty five and a half ton 'ore' hopper was produced in some numbers. A kit of this wagon is available from the N Gauge Society which fits onto a standard Peco ten foot wheelbase steel chassis. These wagons were also used for sand and limestone.

Fig___ Models made using the N Gauge Society ironstone hopper kit
Various models based on the N Gauge Society hopper kit

This kit can be built as the fitted version (1) or the unfitted version (2) and can also be converted to represent an LMS designed hopper (3), again intended for iron ore but also used for other bulk cargo such as crushed stone. A variant of this LMS vehicle was produced with a peaked roof for lime traffic (4). If you make either of the LMS wagons the unused parts of the kit can be utilised to make one of the smaller types of BR standard thirteen ton coal hopper (5). All these conversions are considered in the section on Kit Bashing.

The fitted example of the BR hopper shown above has been covered with a tarpaulin sheet, it is carrying a cargo of 'spent grain' from a brewery to a cattle food works. Open hoppers of various types have occasionally been specifically converted for other traffic by the simple addition of a roof with loading hatches, or just a tarpaulin and its supporting rail. The vacuum braked version of the twenty five and a half ton iron ore hopper wagon, fitted with a frame carrying a plastic tarpaulin, formed the basis of a powder wagon which saw intensive service in the Widnes area carrying chemicals. There were several experimental conversions of this nature based on the standard twenty one ton mineral hopper but most were one-off's.

The ten foot wheelbase 'anhydrite' hoppers on offer as a kit from the N Gauge Society were an open hopper fitted with a bright yellow tarpaulin, the material they carried is used in the manufacture of sulphuric acid. They are often mentioned in railway texts but this is mainly because they were one of the regular sights on the popular Settle & Carslile line. In fact these wagons were confined to regular workings between Billingham on the North East Coast and a quarry on the Settle & Carslile line to an ICI works at Widnes in the Mersey estuary in Cheshire.

British Railways kept some pre-war wooden and steel bodied grain hoppers in service into at least the 1960's. In the late 1950's they built more vacuum braked steel grain wagons to the same basic design as the LMS wagons but with 'T' section side strapping. I believe these remained in service until the mid 1980's. BR also added a sheet rail to some 21 ton mineral hoppers and used these for grain (and other) traffic. The only photo I have seen of a 21 ton grain hopper had no sheet in place but the tarpaulin on these wagons would have been similar to that shown above for the Electro Furnace Products hopper.

Fig ___ British Railways Grain Hoppers Sketches of British Railways Grain Hoppers

In 1952 British Railways introduced a standard twenty four and a half ton payload hopper with a solid roof for granular powders which they coded 'COVHOP'. Production of the type continued until the early 1960's by which time there were well over a thousand in service. They had a ten foot six inch wheelbase with an overall length of about twenty five feet and were built in three version, with hand brake only, hand brake and vacuum through pipe and fitted with a full vacuum brake (TOPS codes CHO, CHP and CHV respectively). They were seen all over the country carrying a range of granular materials including soda ash, sand, Perlite (a white, granular insulating material) and even sugar beet. Soda ash is a very effective paint remover and wagons in this traffic often had little paint left on them. The COVHOP wagons used for sugar beet traffic were sometimes repainted light blue. Unfortunately the COVHOP is not available at all in N Gauge and represents something of a challenge for the model maker.

Fig ___ British Railways COVHOP standard covered hopper Sketch of the ritish Railways COVHOP standard covered hopper wagon

The Covhop had a long life, in the 1970s some were piped to run with air brake stock and appeared in rakes of British Industrial Sand PGA covered hoppers into the mid 1980s.

In the early 1950's 'air fluidisation' systems were developed for handling fine grained powders such as cement. Air-fluidisation simply means that air is blown into the powder, forcing its way between the grains and loosening them. The powder then behaves much like a liquid and can be pumped or drained from the wagon with relative ease. In the mid to late 1950's British Railways built their 'Presflo' wagons for cement traffic. The Presflos had a few problems, the cement tended to stick in the square corners, but they have also been used for fullerís earth, slate powder alumina (in Scotland feeding the aluminium works at Braefoot Bay), sand, silica, salt (in a batch of specialised ICI liveried vehicles) and flour. From the mid 1960's some of these Presflo wagons were purpose built and used by British Railways to carry fly ash from power stations to land fill sites in block trains. Graham Farish have released Presflos in a suitable plain livery for fly-ash traffic and these can also be re-lettered as the original British Railways livery 'BULK CEMENT' Presflos. Alternative lettering includes PRESFLO ALUMINA (used in North East Scotland) and PRESFLO SALT. Presflos were coded CPV under TOPS and those used for power station fly ash were coded CSV, this changed CSA after they were fitted with air brakes in 1968. A small number of the standard vacuum braked presflo wagons were modified for channel ferry traffic with an air pipe added and securing lugs fitted to the chassis, these were coded CSW under TOPS (I understand they were intended to carry Fullers Earth). The discharge valve and associated air pipe couplings were on one side of the wagon only. Assorted liveries for these wagons have been included in the section on Livery.

Fig ___ BR presflo wagons Sketches showing various Presflo wagon liveries



British Railways then adopted a twin-silo design which they called the 'Prestwin', building a fleet of these from 1960. The first batches, Diagram 1/274, were built on a standard British Railways ten foot wheelbase chassis. The last batch of 100 wagons to Diagram 1/277 had a nineteen foot six inch long chassis with a twelve foot wheelbase and with lower but larger tanks. These wagons remained in use until about 1983.

Fig ___ BR prestwin wagon Sketch of BR prestwin cement wagon

Something similar to the later design was available in the Lima range but fitting this on a cut-down Peco fifteen foot chassis with the ends cut back improves the look and running characteristics. You may find second hand Lima models or other manufacturers continental liveried versions of this wagon but a re-paint in plain bauxite is all that is really required. The chassis on the Lima model is too high (all Lima models suffered from this) and the underframe on the BR wagons had a V hanger and brake handle. Also on the BR Prestwin the footboards at the top extend to either side of the top of the tank forming a rectangular 'frame' around the tops of the tanks, but otherwise the continental models are pretty close. The model shown in the photograph is a standard Lima type on its original chassis.

Fig ___ Lima prestwin (still on its Lima chassis) Photo of the Lima N Gauge 'prestwin' wagon model



The bauxite liveried BR operated Prestwin wagons were used for cement, lime, hydrate of aluminium, soda ash, fertilizers and chalk but were mostly transferred to sand traffic in the late 1970's when the cement firms started buying or leasing private owner air-fluidised wagons. BR standard livery was bauxite with white markings, a sketch of the BR bauxite livery showing the lettering has been included in the section on Available Models under Lima.

In 1960 a fleet of long wheelbase 'cemflo' wagons was ordered, these had a cylindrical aluminium tank with the lower ends cut away at an angle (under which the vacuum cylinders were fitted). They ran on a 15 foot wheelbase, 21 foot over headstocks chassis whith a brake wheel rather than brake lever. Hornby produced an OO model at the time but no one has yet produced an N example as far as I am aware. The body is not too difficult, a length of dowel with the ends cut away wrapped in post card and some fuse wire for the side mounted pipe, but the chassis is more difficult. The chassis can be produced using a Peco 15 foot wheelbase chassis but the ends have to be brought in by cutting a V section 4mm deep, also later examples had holes in the chassis to further reduce the tare weight, making them even more difficult to model. When new they were supplied with a very light grey chassis and natural metal tank bearing the cement company logo. By the 1980s they were plain silver tank with a black patch to the right bearing the TOPS info panel as shown on the end detail inset. Note the yellow Cc panel, still in use in 1982.

Fig ___ Cemflo showing tank end arrangement and original livery Sketch of a BR era Cemflo wagon showing end detail


It is perhaps worth noting that the three-to-a-wagon cement carrying L type containers continued in service into the mid 1980's as well (in later years they were used to carry (I think) limestone to steelworks). These Conflat L wagons are described in the section on Unit Loads and modelling them is discussed in the section on Kit Bashing.

More recent privately owned and leased designs of air-fluidised powder stock look like tank wagons. Peco's Rugby Cement wagon is a good example, although this should have some external pipe work on the non-ladder end. This type of cement wagon entered service in the later 1960s. As well as cement these air-fluidised vehicles are used for a range of chemical powders and both Peco and Graham Farish have released examples their modern image air braked range. Farish also offer the later 'depressed centre' cement tank wagon, introduced in the mid 1970s (the idea had been trialed on a small batch produced in the late 1960s). These came in various forms, the early examples had a fifteen foot wheelbase four wheel chassis but in the 1970's Blue Circle invested in 102 ton GLW wagons with two separate depressed centre aluminium tanks on a single bogie chassis. The tanks on these bogie vehicles were plagued with cracks and by the 1980's they had switched back to two axle designs for new vehicles. The bogie vehicles were coded PDA and they remained in service into the late 1980's and possibly the early 1990's.

In the 1950's the pallet and the pallet handling fork lift truck became increasingly popular. British Railways had to look at ways of dealing with palletised cargo. An early success was pallets of bricks originally seen in Scotland, later throughout the UK. British Railways modified existing medium sided (equivalent to three plank) wagons, removing the sides and fitting a frame at each end with drop-in side panels. These were coded 'PALWAG' but in the 1960's purpose built vehicles to an essentially similar design appeared coded 'PALBRICK'. You can model these using either a Graham Farish or Lima ten foot chassis, notes on this will be found in the section on 'Kit Bashing'. See also the section on Unit Loads.

Fig ___ Palbrick wagon models

Models of palbrick wagons




Existing vans were not suited to carrying palletised loads. British Railways experimentally modified a few ex LMS vans, fitting them with larger doors. The next design was a modified version of the pre-war GWR standard ventilated van. Introduced in the late 1950's these were fitted with larger than normal double doors off-set toward one end of the body. These vans, coded PALVAN, had rollers mounted on the floor to allow the pallets to be moved along the wagon. The Parkwood Models range includes a kit for one of the early designs with two alternative sets of side doors to ad variety to the rake.

In about 1960 British Railways produced an all-plywood pallet van, again with large double doors offset to the left hand end on each side of the vehicle. A shock-absorbing version was also produced having plywood sides but the standard British Railways corrugated steel ends. About 2,000 plywood bodied British Railways palvans were built and they were seen all over the system throughout the 1960's. All of these palvans were originally rated as suitable for express goods trains and branded XP. In use they were found to be unstable at high speeds and were later de-rated. Never a great success, mainly due to the riding characteristics, most had been withdrawn and condemned by the mid 1970's.

Fig ___ Drawing of early British Railways pallet vans Sketchs showing various British Railways pallet vans



There were several alternative designs for pallet vans produced in the 1960's, one of the more successful is shown in the sketch below. Unfortunately this had an eleven foot wheelbase and a body rather longer than a standard van so when I tried to model the thing using a Peco refrigerated van as a basis the result was not terribly convincing. The plywood bodied open wagon also shown in the sketch was one of a number converted from old Plate wagons to carry palletised beer barrels. These varied a bit in the layout of the doors on the sides. They can be modelled on a Peco long wheelbase chassis with a plastic card and Microstrip body.

Fig ___ Later pattern British Railways pallet van and palletised 'ale' wagon Sketches of later pattern British Railways pallet van and palletised 'ale' wagon



Palletised beer was also apparently shifted in some unmodified 'tube' wagons. Presumably these were the drop-side twelve foot wheelbase type coded SOV under TOPS, a model of which is available from Parkside Dundas.

I built a few pallet vans prior to the arrival of the Parkwood Models range, and these serve to brake up a rake of Parkwood vans.

Fig ___ Pallet van models

Photo showing models of BR pallet vans

One problem with traditional designs, and the BR Palvans was that the pallets had to be moved about inside the van when loading and unloading. Two methods of getting round this were developed, the first was the 'curtain sided' van. These had canvass sides and on early types there was a set of hooks along the chassis to allow the sides to be roped down, by the mid 1970's this was replaced by a series of short straps (originally developed for road lorries where I believe they were marketed as 'tautliner'). The problem was that loads were often not secured very well to the pallet and if the load shifted the side of the van would bulge out, taking it 'out of gauge'. This problem persisted until securing loads to pallets became the norm in the mid 1970's, even then the entire pallet might shift, especially on a part loaded vehicle. BR developed a simple aid for palletised loads in the form of a ring of steel with serrated edges, the serrations were bent in opposite directions, one 'up' the next 'down', these discs were laid on the wooden floor of the vehicle and the pallet placed on top. The teeth on the top and bottom edges bit into the wooden floor and pallet and held the load fairly secure.

The next idea for pallet carrying vans was the 'sliding wall van' in which the side of the van is made up of (typically) two sliding doors. One door is pulled across allowing full access to one end, then the doors are both moved along to the other end allowing full access to the opposite end. The 'pallet van' model offered by Peco is a British Railways built sliding wall van introduced for Ford motor company parts traffic in the early 1960's. Over a hundred of these vans were built, unfortunately this model uses the standard Peco underframe and is rather short (see entry in Available Models - Peco).

British Railways was open to requests from good customers for specialised rolling stock and Metal Box Ltd (now Carnaudmetalbox plc) was one such customer. They regularly shipped empty cans (and lids) to soup factories and British Railways built a hundred vans with no side doors and doors in only one end for this traffic. You can model a couple of these using a Parkwood Models kit and a Peco ventilated van kit. The Parkwood Models kit comes with 'spare' ventilated ribbed steel ends, if you have a set with an end vent left over you can replace one end of the Peco kit with the Parkwood ribbed steel type. Add a strip of 20x30 thou, trimmed to a diagonal shape, to the Peco sides to represent the diagonal steel corner plates and sand this down to about 10 thou thickness. Carve and sand the details from the other end of the Peco van body and scribe in the end door plank details, adding strapping from 10x20 thou strip. You need to cut away the section of the body with the doors and fill in the resulting gap where the doors used to be with scribed card and add a vertical T section strap using 10x20 thou strip with a 10x10 thou strip down the centre. Filling in this gap is best done after the body has been mated with the chassis. Mount the modified body on a Peco chassis. Trim any rain strips from the Peco roof and add four shell vents. Prior to the arrival of the Parkwood Models kits I made a couple of these van using one end of a Peco van and one end of a Lima van with the resulting body mounted on a Peco chassis. Using one Peco van and one Lima van you get two of these tin can vans. These were fitted vans painted in standard British Railways bauxite livery. The patch of colour on the side of the van in the sketch is a 'traders label', these are more fully discussed in the section on Livery.

Fig ___ British Railways end-door van used for delivering empty soup cans Sketch showing BR end-door only van with photos of model in N Gauge



In the late 1950's it became apparent that British Railways had more wagons than they needed and the practice of ordering large numbers of new wagons was discontinued. Wagons not required for service were now destroyed or sold for scrap rather than being stored and British Railways started to make more use of conversions of existing vehicles for new traffics.

By the time of Mr. Beeching's report on the railways in mid 1960's the ten foot wheel base four wheeled wagon carrying perhaps ten tons remained the standard but the profile of the rolling stock had changed. The number of vans had increased whilst the proportion of open general merchandise wagons had been reduced. There were now nearly fifty thousand assorted containers in use (the wagons for which amounted to about one in fifteen of the rolling stock total) including many specialised types for particular traffics. The pre-war open container had virtually disappeared but most closed containers were still the built to the pre-war wooden bodied designs. The number of vacuum fitted vehicles on the system peaked at just over three hundred thousand in 1961.

By the end of the 1960's the British Railways wagon fleet had shrunk to a total of about four hundred thousand vehicles, about half of which were fitted types and negotiations with the Unions were under way to do away with the brake van on the rear of fully fitted trains. The service vehicle fleet had remained stable at about the thirty thousand level but by the end of the 1960's these were increasingly purpose-built vehicles in which steel construction was replacing the damage prone wooden bodies.

British Railways focused their efforts on larger customers who might be persuaded to ship by the train load in Mr. Beeching's 'company trains'. The British Steel Federation predicted a major demand for steel carrying wagons and to meet this predicted demand British Railways spent a lot of money on building and upgrading the steel carrying stock.

There were a large number of conversions or upgrades based on older types of wagon for steel traffic. The Bogie Bolster A was a conversion based on ex military 'rectank' wagons, only thirty four feet over headstocks, not many of this type were built. The Bogie Bolster B was actually based on two different types of wagon, both originally built for wartime military use. Both were over forty feet long, some were 'Warflat' wagons others were bogie well wagons formerly coded 'Warwell'. Parkwood models offer both the warflat and the warwell in their range and Bachman offer a bogie well wagon which would serve as a reasonable basis for the forty seven foot Warwell type. To carry the steel the warwell wagon had metal frames supporting two bolsters in the middle of the well, with two more bolsters at either end sitting on pairs of small metal brackets. The engineers also modified some of these wagons, adding a full length wooden 'floor' supported on steel girders with a total of four bolsters. Both of the Warwell based wagons lasted into the 1970's and as they were not a common type they frequently travelled singly in a rake of more conventional wagons

Fig ___ Warwell wagons converted for steel & engineers traffic Sketches of Warwell wagons converted for steel carrying and for  engineers use



Modelling the supports on the steel carrier represents the only real difficulty, the wooden decked platforms to either end of the well can be represented with a scrap of 'planked' plasticard supported on Milliput and the bolsters can be culled from the spares box or made using guitar top E string and 1mm wide strips of forty thou card. The engineers vehicle needs a full length deck of scribed card supported on a strip of forty thou card, the deck is 1mm narrower than the wagon chassis. The supporting brackets under the centre bolster are easier to make for this model as they are more or less rectangular.

British Railways built large numbers of forty five foot long Bogie Bolster C (based on the Great Western Railway Macaw B) and fifty two foot long Bogie Bolster D (mostly based on the LNER 'Quint' bolster wagons). Early builds were largely unfitted but later batches were all vacuum fitted.

The Bogie Bolster C wagons had the standard GWR plate frame bogies, which are tricky to duplicate (you can add postcard cut-outs to a Graham Farish diamond frame bogie but this is not easy). I do not know of any RTR or kits of this wagon on the market and given the difficulty of making the bogies it is not an easy option for the novice modeller to scratch build. These vacuum braked wagons lasted in service into the early 1980's.

The LNER based wagons were fitted with air braked bogies in the 1970's and operated throughout the 1990's TOPS coded BDA. There are kits of the air braked BDA, unfitted BDO and vacuum braked BDV available from John Grey (see the section on Available Models for details) but if you pick up a cheap Farish coach at a swop-meet this represents an easy first effort at kit bashing. For the LNER 'Quint' five bolster wagon cut the battery box from a Graham Farish suburban coach underframe and add a replacement truss rod from Microstrip. You need to replace the bogies with 'goods' type but as these are shorter than passenger bogies you need to cut back the ends of the chassis by about 3mm so you can retain the existing bogie pivots. The result is very slightly over length but reasonable as a fifty two foot LNER 'quint' or British Railways Bogie Bolster D. This wagon would be suitable for use in any period from the 1930's to the 1970's. The suburban coach body can be cut up and mounted on Peco fifteen foot wheelbase chassis for an industrial 'workman's train'.

Fig___ LNER Quint and GWR bolster wagons Sketches of LNER Quint and GWR bolster wagons



The Bogie Bolster E was a very solid little wagon only thirty two feet over the headstocks. I do not know of a suitable ready-to-run chassis for the Bogie Bolster E but the GWR did build a number of short wagons with twenty tons capacity (the Macaw H, only thirty seven feet over headstocks) and for this the Bachman Old Timer flat car can form the basis of a reasonable model. You do need to add the buffers (you can cut these from redundant Lima four wheeled wagons) and again you have the problem of modelling the plate frame bogies.

The Graham Farish 'sulphate wagon' and bogie van both share the same underframe, a scale thirty five feet long, which has some heavy trussing underneath. This chassis can have a new body added to produce a short bogie vehicle which might pass muster as a Bogie Bolster A or E although the latter should have the more modern freight bogies such as those used on the large tank wagon and Freightliner wagon.

Specialised stock for various forms of steel traffic were developed by British Railways, those used for coils of strip steel were often based on conversions of older redundant designs. In the early 1960's redundant single bolster wagons were fitted with wooden cradles to carry coils of strip steel. The four wheeled Coil J (TOPS coded SJV) 24.5 ton strip coil wagons were built in the early days on ten foot wheelbase ex-tippler chassis. A model of this wagon to suit the Peco nine-foot wheelbase chassis is available as a kit in the Parkwood Models range.

Fig___ Early BR 'Coil J' wagon Sketch of early BR coil wagon

The long wheelbase (Peco type) plate wagon served as the basis for four types of coil wagon, some of these were converted in the mid 1960's to carry coils of steel wire or rod (Coil R and Coil E) whilst others were converted to carry coils of steel strip (Coil D and Coil F).

In the early 1960's British Railways converted some unfitted pre-war fish belly bogie flat wagons to carry strip coils from South Wales, these had two heavy wooden beams laid along the wagon with a cross bolster fitted with two steel posts at each end. The coils were carried with the holes through their centres facing the end of the wagon.

A subsequent design, developed in the 1970's and based on ex War Department (now Ministry of Defence) fish-bellied bogie wagons, supported the coils on a series of metal frames. These wagons were fitted with both air and vacuum brakes as they were intended for possible deployment to the Continent and they saw service on cross channel ferries with exports of steel. These wagons are 'tented' with two unequal sized nylon hoods originally coded JKX and JNX under TOPS these were re-coded BNX in the mid 1980's and lasted in service into the 1990's.

A lot of strip coils were shipped to be zinc coated or otherwise treated and these coils have to be protected from the weather so many coil wagons were fitted with canvass awnings, tent shaped and acting rather like the hoods fitted to prams. On these hooded types the hoods were only lowered for loading and unloading, which saves you having to make the rolls. Unfortunately most of the hoods were removed by the late 1970's however the coils were often draped with a tarpaulin. Similarly the coils of wire would be covered with a tarpaulin when on the move (most photographs of the type I have seen have been taken at the loading or unloading point where the sheets were not in place).

Modelling various coil wagons is discussed in the section on Kit Bashing, making the coils of strip steel and wire is discussed in the section on Cargo & Wagon Loads.

After the Second World War the rail movement of farm machinery declined, partly because farm equipment increased in size to the point where it could not easily be moved by rail. At the time that standard designs were being built in their thousands British Railways only built one hundred and fifty of the machinery carrying 'Lowmac' wagons although they had quite a few of the inherited Big Four designs in stock. These wagons received relatively little use and so lasted in service for many years, mainly used for military traffic such as lorries, road building machinery and artillery.

Traffic in motor cars increased steadily at this time although facing stiff competition from the road haulage operators. Open motor car carrying four wheeled flat wagons built by the Big Four railway companies for carrying horse drawn carriages (and later for motor cars) continued in use for carrying motor cars. The example shown below can be produced from the Peco bolster wagon as shown in the sketch below, this type was unusual in having drop ends rather than metal hoods over the buffers. If the model is loaded you need only cut away the central pivot, leaving the curved runners on the floor.

Fig___ BR (ex SR) Carfit S Sketch of BR SR carfit carflat
These wagons generally had low sides, often in the form of a metal rail supported on posts. Metal cross-bars were attached to the side rails and securing straps or chains were attached to fittings on the deck or side rails. The chains were covered in rubber hose and were fitted over the axle of the vehicle. Photographs of models of an LNWR open carriage truck and a Midland Railway CCT (covered carriage truck)will be found in the section on Goods Rolling Stock Design - Specialised Rolling Stock.

In the early 1950's British Railways built a number of basically similar open four wheeled vehicles with a flat wooden deck using their standard ten foot wheelbase chassis. Both vacuum braked and hand brake only versions were built (called Carfit and Cartruck respectively). They were mainly used for new cars from the Morris (later BMC) works at Cowley near Oxford. In 1958 British Railways built some similar wagons equipped for train ferry use which they coded Carfit C. These Carfit and Cartruck wagons remained in use into the early 1960's. Pre-war open carriage trucks and early British Railways 'carfit' and 'cartruck' wagons are described in the section on Kit Bashing.

Fig___ BR cartruck Sketch of BR cartruck carflat


Bogie open flat wagons for motor car traffic were called carflats, quite a number were built by British Railways on pre-nationalisation passenger coach underframes (subject to them having a minimum length of 57 feet over headstocks) and later on British Railways standard Mk.1 chassis. The early type had a planked floor with metal sides and two strips of metal running up the centre to form wheel-guides into which angled metal plate chocks could be fitted. Subsequent builds (including the BR Mk 1 underframes) had an open wooden deck with sturdy side rails supported on T shaped stanchions along the sides, on these yellow chocks with steel pins on the base were kicked into the decking to secure the cars in place. The older type can be modelled easily using a Graham Farish 'suburban' coach underframe, you need to cut away the 'battery boxes' to leave a simple open framework. The deck is from 1mm scribed card with 20x30 thou strips on the outside edges. The body can be cut down to produce two four-compartment coaches which run on Peco 15' brake van chassis.

Fig___ BR carflats Sketch of BR 'Motorail' bogie carflat
The British Railways Mk.1 coach was the last to use a separate chassis and body, later coach designs were built using a stressed body with no chassis as such and so could not be converted to carflats. One small point is that carflats on ex Southern Railway chassis were all Private Owner stock, converted in 1963 for MAT who used them for ferry traffic, they remained in use into the 1980's. The British Railways Carflats were used both to carry new cars and also for `Motorail' services. For more on the development of motor car carrying vehicles see Goods Rolling Stock Design - Specialised Rolling Stock.

In 1957 a bogie car-carrying vehicle called Tierwag was produced for a company called MAT Transauto for use on the train ferries. The Tierwag had a raised upper deck able to hold four small cars of the Morris Minor class and a dropped centre section between the bogies which could carry two more. These wagons were used initially by the BMC motor car company but there were a lot of problems with the hoist mechanism which accessed the lower section and these wagons were all withdrawn by 1970, replaced in service by the SR coach based carflats mentioned above.

The British Railways four wheeled CCT (which was offered in the Lima range) and the bogie GUV vans (available from Graham Farish) had end doors, and were designed with the carriage of motor vehicles in mind. The British Railways standard CCT and GUV were used for the Motorail services in the early days, presumably alongside the more up to date pre nationalisation CCT stock. The four wheeled CCT vehicles, both pre-war and British Railways built, could only carry one or two cars. The older vehicles were withdrawn from service and the new BR built vans transferred to parcels duties by the mid 1960's.

To carry the body parts for motor cars British Railways built more Bocars on redundant fifty seven foot passenger coach underframes.

Fig___ British Railways Bocar Sketch of BR era Bocar van

These vehicles all had the low rather flat roofs and canvass sides as described above. The British Railways Bocars were divided into a four bays by the roof support pillars, each end bay was sixteen feet long whilst the two centre bays were just over fourteen foot long and just over nine feet wide.






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