Great Northern Railway

Following closely on the heels of the last post, I am interested in more information on the GNR 16′ covered vans for perishable traffics.

There were a number of van types which appear to have been based on the 16′ outside framed van with 9′ 6″ wheelbase and four end posts, but with alterations to the roof (louvred clerestory and torpedo ventilators), to the body (various louvred openings) and fitted with the automatic vacuum brake and Westinghouse brake or through pipe, screw couplings, side chains, oil axle boxes, and sometimes, but not always, Mansell wheels. On release to traffic two step boards below the centre doors were also fitted.

Ventilated van 19319, to Diagram 114, with a load capacity of five tons was one of a number of vehicles built for the conveyance of lard and butter between London and Liverpool and may have been built (or repainted!) in April 1900. I understand it is recorded on page/block 16/7 of the official GN book of wagon illustrations.

Three other types of five ton vans, possibly similar in design to the lard van, are also of interest, two of which I’ve not been able to ascertain a GNR diagram for, neither have I seen a photograph or illustration of them:

A (non-diagrammed?) meat van, page/block 16/12 of which No.9213 was built in 1899.

A clerestory fruit van to diagram 115, page/block 17/13, one running number known is 19328

A (non diagrammed?) clerestory meat van page/block 18/17, of which No.9115 was built in 1901

Any information and/or corrections to the above vehicles greatly appreciated.

I’m also keen to hear comments on the livery. Despite the large GN initials being introduced in on goods stock in 1898,covered vans for special traffic obviously continued to have been lettered with small shaded figures.

August flew past without a single entry to the journal – not sure how that happened, but it has been very busy here of late.

Time to pick the collective brain of the readership; Great Northern general merchandise vans are nicely illustrated by Peter Tatlow in Part One of his history of LNER wagons (Wild Swan), but whereas the section on the Great Eastern (which, in my opinion, is unnecessarily shorter than the Great Northern and Great Central sections) gives the reader various dates of introduction of the types, the Great Northern section is decidedly mute on the matter. All very well I suppose, if you’ve no more than a casual interest or your modelling is set during the Grouping (a census of types taken in 1922, 1940 and 1947 is given in each chapter), and I admit the book is pitched predominantly at those with an interest in the LNER period, but is less useful for those of us modelling earlier decades.

So, on with the queries.

This type isn’t mentioned or illustrated in Tatlow, so I assume was extinct by Grouping. It’s not unlike Diagram 118 (LNER code 4082) which was an express, dual fitted van, though the latter omitted the diagonal ironwork. The number of planks suggests it is also 16′ long. It retains the original single lever acting on a single wheel brake block, and despite the June 1900 date on the solebar (which may indicate the date of the photo, rather than the repaint date), shows the pre-1898 livery in quite a dilapidated condition. One wonders why (an apparently official) photograph was taken of this particular van in such a condition, unless the type was to become extinct in the near future?

So, my questions for this van are:

1. When was the type introduced?

2. When did the type become extinct?

3. (Very long shot) is there a drawing of it?

More Quirky Questions to follow

There is now a follow up post to this query here.

The Great Northern 9 ton 15 foot long open wagon, four planks high with a 9’6″ wheelbase was introduced sometime in the 1870s, and was very much the Company’s standard for many years, eventually numbering over eleven thousand.

Nice and clean - just as pre-Grouping wagons should be.  NOT!

This morning our much-burdened postie staggered down the drive with a large box of goodies. Practical model making has been impossible for quite a number of months (a situation now coming to an end, at long last!), and during my time away from home I’ve spent a lot of hours deciding exactly which stock for Basilica Fields, not already secured in the Tardis one of the bulging cupboards, is my priority for getting Artillery Lane up and running. The GNR 4-plank wagon was a key ingredient on that list, so about a month or so ago I fired off an email to CMA Moldings to enquire about the feasibility and cost of a run of GNR 4-plank wagons, but before I had a reply an email arrived from Tony West alerting me to the latest resin wagon from S&T Wagon Works – you guessed it, a GN 4-plank! When the quote returned from CMA it was plain to see that S&TWW won hands down when considering both the time of constructing the master to spec and the cost together. Those of you who’ve had wagons from S&TWW before will know what to expect – a detailed (inside and out) resin body, and (usually) all the necessary castings to make a nice working model.


Back to this morning; opening the box, 16 individually wrapped bodies were snugly packed in bubblewrap. On this occasion S&TWW are unable to supply the running gear for the wagon, but I’m not too fussed about that as ABS can supply the necessary axlebox/axleguard irons and brake gear, though I’m also considering having some etched parts made (one day!) for sprung axleguards. However, buffers (sprung ones of the correct ribbed profile from Haywood) and couplings are provided.

I noticed a little inwards-bowing of the sides on a few of the castings, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a wooden brace or two and a pan of hot water on the hob.

I understand this is a run of 50 which may not be repeated, so if you want some, now is the time, and procrastinators will kick themselves. A phone call to Simon Spare on 01455 233372 (evenings) will secure your wagons which cost £18 a piece plus postage.

The prototype photo shows no.33225. It is a product of its time, being fitted with grease axleboxes, plain spoked wheels and 4-rib buffer housings. The plate at the left hand of the curb rail reads, ‘Load 10 Tons / Distributed’. In the period of Basilica Fields, many, such as the one illustrated, were fitted with opposite-hand Morton brakes with both levers at the same end of the wagon and no reversing mechanism between either of them and the cross shaft – a system later banned by the Board of Trade. The levers operated two brake blocks located on diagonally opposite wheels. Over the years there were many variants, some (such as this example) were uprated to 10 tons, some were fitted with Williams’ sheet support bars, some with vacuum brakes, screw couplings, and even a vegetable frame!

Ordinary goods wagons were painted oxide brown, I’ve seen some GN models painted in oxide red, but received wisdom suggests the colour was warmer and slightly more orangy-brown, and sometimes referred to as ‘chocolate’. Until 1898, new wagons were lettered on the left hand side G Northern R in white serif characters, the initials being 6″ high and the other letters about 5″. These were often in a cross shape with the G and R above and below the T of Northern. The number was was painted on the right hand side of the wagon, and the load restriction was often on the lower left curb rail, also in white but of thinner lettering. A rectangular plate was affixed to the solebar with the initials GNR and the number below, picked out in white with a border. A tare and last painted date was also on the solebar. In 1898, new large initials were introduced, these were as large as possible up to a maximum of 30″ high. Of course it took many years for the earlier lettering to be phased out completely, and so most of those on Basilica Fields will have the earlier lettering, with just one or two ringing the changes.

OK S&TWW, we now need a contemporary GN covered van alongside!

reference:- Great Northern Railway 4-wheel Coaches

Adrian’s posts on Great Northern Railway coaches for services over the Extended Widened Lines have indicated that there is dearth of “official” material on the 4-wheel stock (for ‘official’ read ‘primary’).  Occasionally we find that a prototype, in which we have some interest, has been covered in the railway press, either full-size as in the GWR Engineering Society pamphlets or model press as in the series of books describing the GWR Goods Services.  In the case of these GNR coaches there are some relevant entries in “An Index to Railway Model Drawings” (S.A.Leleux, Oakwood Press, 1972), viz:-

Model Railway Constructor

1938, pg.255, pg.314

1940, pg.45

Model Railway News

1956, pg.189

Over to our readers at this point…  please contact Adrian or myself if you have access to any of those issues.

Thank you, Graham

Last April (was it really a year ago?) I remarked that there was a dearth of information for GNR close-coupled 4-wheel suburban coaching stock suitable for Basilica Fields. Despite my recent lack of updates to the blog due to ongoing events, progress on Basilica Fields continues to be made – albeit (mostly) not by me!

Late last year I made a couple of contacts through the GNR Society, and my subsequent bombardment of questions led to an interesting flurry of emails, and, although the situation is still not totally clear at present, it looks as though a big step has been made towards eventually facilitating the building of necessary stock required for those services, and the acquisition of some drawings.

Graham Beare has also been hard at work scouring accident reports instigated by the Board of Trade, and sending me relevant information, the best of which, so far, divulges the classification and running numbers of a twelve carriage close-coupled set running between Potters Bar and Kings Cross in 1898.

So, for the record, hauled by 120 Class No.515, the train in question consisted of :

Brake 3rd no.248, 3rd no.1636, 2nd no.1512, 2nd no.1511, 2nd no.1508, 1st no.1534, 1st no.1443, 2nd no.319, 2nd no.1323, 3rd no.1499, 3rd no.1505, Brake 3rd no.399.

Sounds very useful, but not for the first time while delving into the archives for Basilica Fields has an official document contradicted generally approved history; I understand (I’m no GNR historian) that it is usually accepted that the GNR quickly followed the Midland Railway’s lead in the mid 1870s by abolishing 2nd class. However, not only here, both other BoT reports clearly list second class carriages involved in accidents in the London suburban area. No doubt there is a rational explanation…

The photo is of a third class suburban close-coupled ‘Metropolitan’ carriage, no.903, designed by Howlden and built in 1900. These ‘Metropolitan’ carriages were 9′ wide (to cram the hapless commuter in), with half-height compartments and 3″ recessed doors to maintain the lading gauge. Sister carriage no.902, as part of a Muswell Hill – Kings Cross train was involved in a collision at Finsbury Park in 1907.

Of course it’s entirely possible the carriages listed in the 1898 accident are not of the Metropolitan type, and are therefore a red herring. Further updates on these will appear as and when more information comes to light.

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