Passenger Traffic

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.

Nine months ago I waffled on about the Metropolitan Jubilee 4-wheel coaching stock needed for Basilica Fields, and revealed that I had my mitts on a test etch, drawn on TurboCad by John Birch. Unfortunately circumstances have meant that I have had little time for modelling since then – a situation soon to be resolved – nevertheless, things have been chuntering on in the background, and progress has been made, while I’ve only had time to write electronic reams of a history which “didn’t quite happen like that…”

Discussion between John and Ken de Groome resulted in the artwork being redrawn and added to by John, and once etched they were married to castings from Ken’s range so that now the full series of Metropolitan Jubilee carriages – a first, a second, a third, a brake second and a brake third carriage, along with alternative parts for those sold the the Mid Suffolk Light Railway in 1905 (seven were also sold the Weston Clevedon & Portishead in 1907), are now a part his range of Metropolitan Railway kits. Ken’s first test build, a brake third which he built and painted, is illustrated above.

The first two of nine carriages (the brake second and a third on one fret, and two underframes on another, plus a bag of castings) arrived here yesterday, but will have to get packed away in one of the bulging stock cupboards for a couple of months while I catch up on commissions. And jolly nice they look too!

Brown Trains. Nothing to do with the standard of service!

In 1890 – 1891 the London & North Western Railway built ten new trains of eight 4-wheel carriages in two batches of five for its Broad Street to Mansion House services. These eighty 28′ coaches were built as renewals of much older stock which had been used on the line since 1872, and in 1897 ten new Thirds with a 1′ shorter wheelbase were built on the capital account to strengthen the trains.

As built, the Mansion House sets were formed from Diagram 120 Firsts, Diagram 300 Seconds, Diagram 300 Thirds, Diagram 395 Brake Seconds and Diagram 395 Brake Thirds, and I intend to build Set No.7 in the pre-1897 eight carriage format. The photograph above shows Set No.7 c1904 with the additional Third.

The formation and running numbers of Set No.7 are all known:

Brake Second #96, Second #187, Second #165, First #266, First #118, Third #439, Third #825, Brake Third #272. These carriages were all gas lit and built on 18′ 0″ wheelbase steel channel underframes. In 1897, Third #2236 was added to the set and marshalled next to Brake Third #272.

Both the Brake Thirds and Brake Seconds had three compartments, and throughout the train there were only two compartment sizes; 6′ 10″ wide for Firsts, and 5′ 5″ for inferior classes. this explains the duplicate Diagram numbers for the Brake Seconds & Brake Thirds and the duplicate Diagram numbers for the Second & Third class carriages – to all intents and purposes they were identical, with the exception that in the all-Thirds, the compartment partitions were only to shoulder height.

These carriages were not painted in the famous L&NWR plum & spilt milk livery, but instead finished in varnished Burma teak which was considered by the company a better finish than paint to resist the continuous sulphurous atmosphere of the sub-surface lines. The stock was unlined and class designations were in the form of a large gilt numeral on the lower panel of the doors. The appearance of these sets soon earned them the soubriquet ‘The Brown Trains’.

16′ long roof boards were carried by the carriages, a little narrower than the 8″ wide roof boards carried by main line stock, and these carried the legend:


Trains destined for Bishospgate carried these boards on the 1st, 3rd, 5th & 7th carriages in the sets whereas the 2nd, 4th, 6th & 8th carriages carried boards lettered:


All the carriages had small 3′ boards on the sides above the windows lettered LONDON & NORTH WESTERN TRAIN in black on white.

The sets were gas lit as built, but in 1902 were converted to Stone’s electric lighting, each carriage was then fitted with dynamos and twin cell boxes. The lower footboards under the guard’s doors were removed at the same time as the conversions, but steam heating was never fitted.

With the electrification of the District Line in 1905, the majority of trains were hauled by the District Railway’s electric locomotives, with the exception of those few continuing on to the Extended Circle and Bishopsgate via Basilica Fields, until cessation of service in 1908.

At this time there are no kits for the Brown trains available commercially in 7mm. London Road Models have brass kits in 4mm, but I’m seriously considering producing artwork for etching as an aid to building them.

In 1863 Craven introduced suburban carriages to the LB&SC, but instead of being new builds, these were a mixed bag of simple conversions from his main line stock with modified seating and the arm rests removed, increasing the capacity of compartments from six to eight.

It wasn’t until Stroudley took office that new suburban stock began to appear. As his  standardisation policy extended to rolling stock, his lightweight suburban 4-wheelers appeared in 1872 and continued in production for twenty nine years.

These new carriages were all constructed mahogany with teak framing, and were 26′ long by 8′ wide on a standard underframe made from Moulmein teak, and nine types were introduced:

  • A four-compartment first.
  • A five compartment second with a four compartment second appearing later.
  • Two thirds;  early versions having long side windows with no partitions to the compartments and later versions with full partitions and separate quarterlights.
  • Two brake-thirds, the passenger compartments as above.
  • Two four-compartment first/second composites with unequal compartment lengths, later batches having equal length compartments for both classes.

These suburban carriages were close-coupled in semi-permanent sets by a central buffing fixture with side chains, and standard buffers were only fitted to the brake end of brake-thirds. Initially train braking was hand operated by the guard, with wooden blocks bearing on the wheels of the brake-third carriages only. In 1875, Stroudley puruaded the Board to release funds to convert to the automatic Westinghouse brake, thus becoming one of the earliest proponents of the system, long before automatic train braking became law.

The carriages were originally built with oil lamps, but many were converted to gas. Although Stroudley was innovative and introduced the first electrically lit train in 1881, I’ve found no evidence to suggest any of his suburban stock was so converted.

Externally the carriages were varnished and gilt-lined under both Stroudley and Billinton, but once the mahogany had deteriorated to the point that further revarnishing ceased to give a satisfactory finish, they were painted in a mahogany colour. During 1903 a new livery was unveiled, cream with umber from the waist down. Just how quickly this new livery took to percolate down to the humble suburban carriages I’m not sure, but I suspect it was at least three years, possibly longer, and I welcome informed discussion on this. Roofs were white and the ends of brake-thirds vermilion.

Internal colour schemes remained fairly constant through both the Stroudley and Billinton periods, though I’d also welcome debate on just how much of the refinery seen on the main line stock was incorporated in the suburban sets.

  • First class – blue colour scheme, plush cushions with blue buffalo hide in smoking compartments. Paintwork, carpets and  blinds also in blue.
  • Second class – brown colour scheme.
  • Third class – bare wooden seats, oak grained paintwork.

For Basilica Fields I’m fortunate that Roxey Mouldings can supply all the necessary kits to build a contemporary rake.  Speaking of which, attempting to discover what might constitute a typical East London Railway set proved to be an interesting diversion, however Cheam’s accident on the ELR in 1897 generated a Board of Trade report which lists the six carriages of the train the loco was pulling, so I’m confident that building a rake consisting of a brake-third, third, first, second, third and brake-third will satisfy the historic demand.

Withdrawal of the earliest of Stroudley’s carriages commenced at the turn of the 20th century, and most, but not all had gone by Grouping.

The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway was the first company to operate over the East London Railway, services commencing 7th December 1869 between Wapping and New Cross.

The company had sprung from the merger of the London & Croydon and the London and Brighton Railway companies in 1846, which had opened their lines in 1839 and 1841 respectively. The London & Croydon shared the route at the London end with the London & Greenwich, which itself became part of the SER in 1845 – both companies providing their own stations at New Cross, and both of which later became the terminating stations for many ELR trains. With the opening of the South London Line from 1866, Old Kent Road and later Peckham Rye would also become terminating stations for some LB&SCR hauled ELR trains.

Extending the line northwards under London Docks proved to be an herculean task, but LB&SCR trains eventually ran into Liverpool Street from 1876. With the formation of the East London Railway Joint Committee (ELRJC) in 1882, which comprised the Metropolitan, Metropolitan & District, South Eastern Railway, London Chatham and Dover, the Great Eastern (from 1885) and the LB&SCR, the latter took responsibility for maintenance until handing over to the SER in 1885 (which had itself withdrawn trains over the line the previous year). From 1886, with the advent of GER services over the ELR, LB&SCR trains were cut back from Liverpool Street to Shoreditch, and the GER then took over LB&SCR services to Croydon.

With the opening of the ELR Extension (ELRE) and the New Tunnel, the LB&SCR provided passenger services over the Extended Widened Lines (EWL) through Basilica Fields to Bishopsgate (Liverpool Street), and for the first time provided a limited goods service to its recently opened small depots on the EWL.

By 1902, the LB&SCR was providing 64 of the 276 passenger trains every weekday over the ELR, but because the ELRJC initially failed to back the electrification plans for the Circle extending over the ELR, the Metropolitan and Metropolitan & District withdrew services over the line from the end of 1906, the upshot of which was that within five years the LB&SCR was providing over 100 trains daily to Shoreditch and back. The ELR was finally electrified in 1913.

By the early 1900s, passenger receipts over the EWL/ELRE were falling fast due to competition from the roads. Electric trams along Mile End Road, Burdett Road and Commercial Road had duplicated much of the EWL route, and electrification was deemed too great a financial risk, even for the determined Metropolitan Railway. The LB&SCR along with other members of the ELRJC therefore continued to provide steam-hauled services until the line was closed during the Great War.

Three classes of loco will be represented on Basilica Fields, all designed by William Stroudley, and will be explored in detail later. His A class tank No.59 Cheam stands at Shoreditch on the East London Railway, probably c1876, shortly after the Wapping – Liverpool Street extension was completed. No.59 was one of only two New Cross Terriers to retain their condensing equipment beyond 1894 which enabled them to be utilised on ELR services. A further exploration of this class and its successors will follow.

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