There is much conflicting evidence surrounding these non-diagrammed open wagons introduced in 1883 by T.W. Worsdell, but they were undoubtedly the first modern high-sided wagons on the Great Eastern Railway – all previous high capacity general merchandise wagons right back to the days of the Eastern Counties Railway had been constructed with archaic round ends.

Photographed near the end of it’s revenue-earning life, no.14297 sits in the short siding at Norton Folgate power station filled with scrap metal. The post-1903 livery is fairly evident. Behind it is a high sided wagon two generations away to Diagram 17. Photograph © Public Domain.

Until the end of 1883  most new wagons on the Great Eastern were supplied by contractors  – only 200 out of 636 wagons ordered in 1883 were built at Stratford which instead concentrated on building specialised wagons, repairs and upgrades. However, continuing problems with contractor deliveries over the previous decade, coupled with the increase in traffic along the newly opened GN & GE Joint line prompted a change in policy. Concurrently, the Board had been monitoring the activities of the Midland Railway which was busy buying up private owner wagons (15,700 wagons by the end of 1883) and adding them to its own stock. All of these factors combined prompted the Great Eastern to follow the lead of the Great Northern Railway by increasing the building rate wagons suitable for both coal and general merchandise at its own works.

Therefore, in September 1883  Worsdell was instructed to  arrange the building of 20 wagons a week, the open wagons costing a total of £112 7s 0d each including wheels and iron work. By the time the design was updated to a 5-plank version of identical proportions in 1885, at least 900 examples were in revenue earning service, 867 examples constructed in 1884 alone.

Initially a number of these wagons were allocated as carriers of loco coal, but following the introduction of the Diagram 31 7-plank loco coal wagon in 1891, most had been transferred back to general merchandise duties by the end of the following year.

The average life expectancy of a Great Eastern wagon was 35-40 years,  but at the turn of the century, Worsdell’s successor, James Holden, began a rolling policy of removing timber-framed wagons from revenue earning service. In 1901 he complied a new Wagon Diagram Book and excluded this four-plank type,  so they remained non-diagrammed to extinction. By the end of the Edwardian period great inroads had been made into withdrawing the wagons and none made it to Grouping except those taken into departmental service.

Measuring 15′ 0″ over headstocks and with a 9′ 6″ wheelbase, they were constructed with planks 2½” thick to an internal height of 2′ 10¾”, and incorporated  side doors 5′ 2½” wide.  Solebars were 12″ by 4″ timber and the headstocks measured 1′ 0″ by 5″.  The wagons were fitted with contemporary short buffer castings that sat on  12″ square and 4″ thick wooden packing pieces bringing the total buffer length to 1′ 7″. The overall height of the wagons from the rail head was 7′ 1¼”.

A central strap on the side door dropped onto a steel door stop bolted to the solebar, protecting both the brake vee hanger and the door itself. Small rings along the sides of the curb rail and mounted on the second plank up on the ends were used for roping and securing protective sheets over goods. A  hook was bolted to the left hand side of each solebar to enable horse and capstan shunting by rope or by chain.

Typical of the period, brakes were single side; one lever acting upon both wheels which were 3′ 1″ diameter and the built-up, split-spoked variety. Four-leaf springs and Type A grease axleboxes with cast iron spring stops completed the running gear.

From new these wagons were finished in the contemporary Great Eastern livery for general goods stock; slate grey (Humbrol 67 or Phoenix Precision P505. G.E.R Freight Wagon Grey are perfect matches), the iron work below the solebar, buffer guides, buffers, drawgear, drawbar plates and couplings were all painted black.  Bodyside lettering consisted of the letters GER 5″ high on the second plank down on the left, with the running number on the same plank on the right hand side. 3″ lettering duplicated this information on the solebar either side of the vee hanger. A tare weight of circa 5-10-1 was painted in approximately 1½” numbers on the solebar over the left hand axlebox.

Separate elliptical makers and tonnage plates were fixed to the lowest planks on the left and right hand side, and these were 9″ x 7″ and 7¾” x 5¾” respectively.

From 1902 repainted wagons received new large GE lettering with the number on the lower left plank. Any wagons treated in that year would have received the short-lived square style of large letters, but from early 1903 the famous large, rounded style of lettering (as per the photo above) was applied and lasted until Grouping. The large initials were 24″ by 20″ and the running number 6⅞” high. The elliptical plates were moved up one plank to accommodate this change in style, and where applicable, the Cockers label clip on the lower right plank had a white box painted around it.

No kit exists for this wagon, but the Powsides kit of the virtually identical Diagram 16 5-plank open could be altered to represent the type. However, I’m seriously considering designing either an etched version or making a master for resin casting.