Until the mid-1880s, the general merchandise wagons of the Great Eastern Railway had high rounded ends (‘half-moons’ in GE parlance) intended to help support sheets to protect goods in transit from inclement weather. Several thousand examples were built fr0m the 1850s (under the antecedent Eastern Counties Railways) onwards , and by 1878 accounted for 58% of stock owned by the GER.

Number 9419, built during the period 1865 – 1875 is seen on a wet, foggy day in 1890. It has deep solebars and would either have been constructed with dead (dumb) buffers or the self-contained type seen here. The single-side brakes were fitted in the 1880s along with the Worsdell Type A grease axleboxes. Note the stencilled lettering.
Photograph © Public Domain.

Over the years new batches were given progressively modern features which then cascaded down to earlier builds as they came into works for examination or repair. All were built with side doors, most had outside timber framing, and individual angle irons held the corners together. Later builds had conventional corner plates with the wooden timber framing, but the final batches incorporated outside iron diagonal bracing and knees to which the sides were secured. Early examples had no brakes until the 1870s when single-side wooden brakes with one lever acting on two wheels were introduced. These were gradually replaced from the mid-1880s onwards with iron brake blocks .  During the 1870s  self-contained sprung buffers  gradually replaced dead buffers, but from the early 1880s  standard short buffer guides were fitted to new builds. Both of these types were bolted to square wooden packing pieces to increase their length to 1′ 7″.  From the early 1880s running efficiency was improved by fitting Worsdell’s Type A grease axleboxes.

The livery was  standard Great Eastern slate grey (Humbrol 67 or Phoenix Precision P.505 for modellers). Lettering was hand painted in white but stencilled on older wagons as per the photographs.

T. W. Worsdell oversaw the construction of the last 230 wagons. The final batches, ordered in 1883, called for 150 examples which were required for working over the new GN & GE Joint line. A new GA (available from the NRM) was prepared in the October of that year, and the wagons delivered during 1884. At the same time the design for a modern 4-plank open to supersede them was being prepared which will be described in the next instalment.

At the end of 1901 there were still over 2000 of these wagons in stock, but with Holden’s policy of withdrawing all timber-framed wagons from revenue-earning service as non-diagrammed and obsolete, numbers diminished rapidly over the next decade and almost all had gone by 1910, though some remained in departmental service either in original form, or rebuilt for specific duties such as loco sand wagons. Proportionally speaking I ought to be looking to build about ten examples for Basilica Fields.

Wagon no.13513 was built under Bromley, probably in 1881. It exhibits some features carried over to the designs of modern wagons types which would be on the scene within three years, such as a 12″ deep solebar, outside iron side knees with diagonal bracing, and conventional sprung buffers – albeit with short guides mounted on 12″ square x 4″ wooded packing pieces. The single side brakes with wooden blocks date the wagon to the late Bromley period, but the photograph was probably taken in the late 1890s. The Worsdell Type A grease axleboxes and heavy duty springs are later additions, and one curious anomaly is the archaic use of individual angle irons instead of conventional corner plates which had been in use for a number of years prior to this build. The wagon has an unusual wheelbase of 9′ 1″, is 14′ 10½” over headstocks, 7′ 9″ wide, an internal depth of 2′ 3″ and is 3′ 8″ high over the ends. Note the hand lettering on this example and the built-up split-spoked wheels. Photograph © Public Domain.



Richard Davidson forwarded me this photograph of his superb round-ended GER wagon in Scaleseven. As you can see, the delicate nature of the running gear on these early wagons is enhanced by the true-to-prototype gauge.

Photo ©Richard Davidson

Photo ©Richard Davidson