When production of the 600 diagram 32 8-plank loco coal wagons ceased in 1902 the total stock of this type stood at 2047. It was a thoroughly modern fleet with the oldest being introduced only eleven years earlier, and all bar one were rated at 10 tons.

At the turn of the century there was widespread interest in high-capacity coal wagons with their significantly lower tare to capacity ratio over the traditional 10 ton wagon, and in 1900 Holden introduced an experimental 15 ton wagon to diagram 33. However the wagon didn’t find favour, and the following year the company hired a 30 ton capacity wagon from Leeds Forge & Co. for £1 10s 0d per week, initially employing it on the Parkston to Bishopsgate service before sending it over other parts of the system. The ‘truck of large carrying capacity’ was rejected by collieries as it couldn’t be fully loaded – and so never realised its full potential – and the single side door proved to be impractical for unloading, so the GER returned it to its makers.

Photograph ©Public Domain.

The first of the line, no.933 built in the spring of 1902. The rest of the batch were numbered 1 to 61 and were the only batch to be fitted with a form of Parker’s either side brakes (note the short brake lever) and the experimental large and very modern ‘squared’ letters and numbers.  A photograph of no.65 taken in early 1903 shows the more familiar large rounded letters. These wagons were fitted with Holden’s split ‘R’ type axleboxes from new. Photograph ©Public Domain.

While the company continued to make use of its 10 ton fleet, Holden designed a new all-steel wagon of 20 tons capacity (perhaps with an eye on the recently introduced N4 and N3 20 ton wagons on the Great Western), consulting with and receiving assurances from enough collieries that they would be accepted for loading to capacity.  Production of the diagram 46 wagons commenced in 1902 and proved to be highly successful – a 400 ton train saving 10% in tare weight and over 30% in train length.

So successful was the design that further batches totalling 901 examples were built each year except 1915 and 1917-1919 down to 1920, and in consequence 650 of the diagram 31 loco coal wagons built during the 1890s were converted to diagram 48 high-sided general merchandise wagons between 1904 and 1911.

Photograph ©Public Domain.

No 587 of the 1910 batch on 1 September of that year. This was the final Order to have the single brake lever acting on all four brake blocks, and from 1911 the Morton brake was fitted to new builds. The more familiar 1903 livery was applied down to, and sometimes beyond(!), Grouping.  Photograph ©Public Domain.

To details; the steel wagons were 21′ 6″ over headstocks, had a 12′ wheelbase and Holden’s split ‘R’ type oil axleboxes were fitted. The first batch were fitted with Parker’s ‘either side’ brake gear which wasn’t particularly fail-safe, and in time was removed. The second batch built in 1903 had a single lever on one side of the wagon acting on all four wheels via yokes – the cross-shaft extending half-way across the wagon where the inboard end was supported by a support post, and this design was continued well beyond the period covered by Basilica Fields, up to and including the 1910 batch ending with wagon number 690. From number 691 of 1911 the either side brake lever issue was resolved with the introduction of the Morton clutch which was applied to all new builds and in time retrospectively fitted to all earlier builds.

Modelling the Diagram 46 wagons

Fortuitously D&S Models include these loco coal wagons in the range, but need to be backdated to cater for the GER period.

Photograph ©2007 Adrian Marks

Here’s a shelf-queen by D&S which I started many years ago and have, shamefully, still not completed.  I do have a rather lame but legitimate excuse that the axleboxes provided in the kit were completely wrong for the GE period, and I only managed to source some of the ‘R’ type a couple of years ago (thanks Mick!). I suppose there’s no excuse not to finish it now, nor the other half dozen in the pile… Photograph ©2007 Adrian Marks


There are various GA drawings at the NRM in York, one for the experimental diagram 33 and three for the 20T wagon dated 1908, 1912 and 1914.

Drawing no. 11290, Loco coal wagon, 15 tons, 8 plank, 18ft. Date: June 1900. Stratford Order E51, diagram 33W

Drawing no. 16285, Loco coal wagon, 20 tons, 21ft 6ins. Date: January 1908. Stratford Order R63, diagram 46W

Drawing no. 18248, Loco coal wagon, 20 tons, 21ft 6ins. Date September 1912. Stratford Order M73, diagram 46W

Drawing no. 19554, Loco coal wagon, 20 tons, 21ft 6ins. Date 28 October 1914. Stratford Order H77, diagram 46W  for batches built 1916-1921.


Two years ago I left the series on GE coal wagons incomplete, not for want of information, but simply an oversight – a silly error as the drafts were already complete. Here then is the penultimate entry, and the final one will go live in a couple of days.

During the 1890s receipts for coal traffic into London via the GN & GE Joint Line were strong, and investment in coal became a priority in the Boardroom at Liverpool Street. In 1892 the Great Eastern Railway became the major financial supporter of the proposed Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway (from which access would be gained via a junction at Pyewipe on the Joint) by sinking a quarter of a million pounds into the building of the new line, for which the Company was given two seats on the Board.

When the new line opened in 1896 the GER insisted that operations be concentrated between Chesterfield and Pyewipe, thus gaining unlimited access to all the collieries on the system. By the end of the century twenty five Great Eastern-bound coal trains came off the LD&ECR each week, and to bolster the company’s loco coal wagons for this traffic, between 1899 and 1902 six hundred 15′ long, 8-plank wagons were built to a new design.

Photograph ©Public Domain

Damping down the coal dust at Stratford a decade and a half after the curtain closes on Basilica Fields. In front of the rotary tippler and 800 ton capacity reinforced concrete coaling bunker (containing about one and a half days’ normal supply) sits a line of loco coal wagons made up of a diagram 32 8-plank, two diagram 31 7-planks, a further diagram 32 8-plank and what looks like a post-War diagram 80 timber-framed 8-plank. The medium-sized post-1903 lettering for wooden-bodied  loco coal wagons makes an interesting comparison with the large 24″ lettering applied to general merchandise opens. A T18 ‘Buck’ fusses in the yard. Photograph ©Public Domain

Rated at 10 tons, the top three planks ran the length of the wagon over the top of the side doors, and as the steel floor precluded a curb rail, a length of timber was attached to the side of the solebar onto which the door hinges were mounted.  The steel underframe was the standard Stratford design with a 9′ 0″ wheelbase, and a single brake lever actuated two brake blocks on one side of the wagon.

Finished in the standard grey livery with white lettering, the 1899 wagons had separate oval maker’s and load plates, but from 1900 a combined rectangular plate was fitted to new builds. The 1902 wagons may have been out-shopped with the medium-sized square lettering (I’ve not yet found a photo to confirm or deny), but over time all were given the post-1903 medium-sized rounded letters.

Photograph ©Public Domain.

The Great Eastern bought vast quantities of coal when prices were cheap, building huge mazes out of the  stacks which waxed and waned in size as supplies increased and dwindled. At March the coal stacks even crossed the sidings at peak capacity. On a dull, dank, and thoroughly dingy 23 October 1911 two diagram 32 loco coal opens are parked nearest the camera on the south side near Norwood Drove. Photograph ©Public Domain.


Sample numbers included 977, 1416, and 1978.

Modelling the wagons

I’ve not yet located the GA for these wagons, but the type is ripe for utilising an etch for the standard GE wagon underframe, and a resin casting to the wagon body.

Although the Great Eastern Railway built dedicated loco coal wagons to eight diagrams, only three are applicable to Basilica Fields. This and the following two posts will deal with the three types which will appear on the layout.

Some companies, such as the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway and the North London Railway, among others, were happy to outsource delivery of loco coal to a subcontractor (Stephenson Clarke in both cases), but the Great Eastern preferred to supply its own wagons for this duty. It is therefore rather surprising that the company didn’t build its first batch of dedicated loco coal wagons until 1891.  As mentioned in earlier instalments of this series,   general merchandise wagons had previously been commandeered by the loco department, and it was a year after the first batches of  Diagram 31 wagons were released to traffic before the high-sided wagons utilised until then were cascaded back into revenue-earning service.

The design was simple;  10 Tons and 15ft over headstocks with a 9ft wheelbase,  the wagons had steel underframes, a wooden floor, and were seven planks high with the top two planks fixed across the length of the wagon with inside diagonal bracing.  The wagons remained in production until 1899 by which time 1250 examples had been built.

One of the few photos that I’m aware of showing a diagram 31 loco coal wagon in the pre-1902 livery. This is wagon no. 946 at Loughton circa 1900.
The very interesting rake of Worsdell period close-coupled suburban stock will also appear on Basilica Fields…watch this space for more details.
Photograph ©Public Domain

Loco coal wagons were listed separately in the half yearly reports but were grouped with merchandise and mineral wagons, not with the departmental wagons, and were therefore painted grey and not green like the loco sand wagons.

As mentioned in Part 5, from 1904 the first of 650 Diagram 31 wagons were converted to Diagram 48 general merchandise wagons, and an example of this conversion will be included in the stock list.

Thanks to John Watling of the GER Society for information on the half-yearly reports.

With the exception of a batch of new wagons built for a specific purpose, all of the Great Eastern Railway’s loco sand wagons were created as required from withdrawn high-sided wagons described in parts 1-4 of this series.

Photograph © Adrian Marks

As they travelled a very limited mileage it was deemed economical for the Locomotive Superintendent to purchase and convert a wagon withdrawn from revenue earning stock,  give the underframe and running gear a thorough overhaul, repair or construct new bodywork and paint them in Departmental green.  As a consequence many sand wagons were unique, and in later years the advent of newer types of axleboxes, buffers and brake regulations added to their disparate nature.

The exception can be found in the Locomotive Committee proceedings, where on 17 November 1896 it is recorded that:

Sand Wagons for Locomotive Depot from Locomotive Superintendent re supply of sand from Mr Boam of Lynn. 100 tons per week at 1/- per ton ready for use. 30 new wagons required for this work at £1800 cost.

These wagons were constructed the following year and incorporated the standard 15ft steel underframe as used on the contemporary Diagram 17 opens.

Much of the limited information on Great Eastern sand wagons in the public domain comes from a wagon discovered by John Watling (GER Soc. President  & HMR Soc. GER Cariage & Wagon Steward) in the yard at Ipswich during August 1957. At that time access to General Arrangement drawings and official documents held by British Railways was out of the question, and there was little information on wagons available to the public. As a consequence, whenever it was possible, measurements of ex-GER wagons were taken by John and a drawing produced, and in the case of the sand wagons, a short history was written  and published in the Model Railway News in February 1959.

Since the early 1970s much information has come to light, mostly thanks to diligent research carried out by John which included finally gaining access to and making copies of hundreds of rolling stock drawings held at Stratford, so now there is a vast wealth of information which can be gleaned from both the Great Eastern Railway Society and from the GAs held at the NRM. Of course these official documents highlight any errors John made in his drawings, most of which are no more than conjecture of pre-Grouping features no longer extant on the wagons he saw during the 50s and 60s.

It is unfortunate then, that his flawed drawing of a GE period sand wagon was reproduced in Peter Tatlow’s recent book, although to be fair to the author there is still nothing comparable and its inclusion does at least serve to show the type of wagon the company used. However, it is far more regrettable that the high quality 7mm Connoisseur kit is based upon the same drawing.

The Ipswich wagon, LNER number 600023, was originally a round-ended open (as seen in Part One) built in 1873, and withdrawn from capital stock in 1895. As with many of these wagons, on delivery to the Locomotive Department the body was removed, the underframe overhauled, and a new body constructed with a pitch roof incorporating double-doors.

Although the overall dimensions in the drawing are correct, on the pre-Grouping variant John made some assumptions as to its livery and some of the details, and the errors can be summed up thus:

  • The lettering style (even for post-1903) and wording is wrong.
  • The running number 23 incorrect and should be in the 2001 – 9999 range.
  • The combined rectangular build/tonnage plate wrong – separate ellipse plates should be fitted.
  • The short buffers should be mounted on 12” square by 3” thick oak blocks.

All of these errors appear in the Connoisseur kit which I built as intended, and at least I am in good company as the late, great model maker Geoff Pember scratchbuilt his delightful 7mm model of No.29 from John’s drawing with these errors…which we now know wasn’t really wagon no.29 after all…

When I became aware of these problems in the spring of 2006 I decided I wanted to backdate the wagon to the pre-1902 livery, but procrastinated over stripping the paint and making the alterations and it’s very fortunate I did, or I might be preparing the model for another trip to the cellulose baths.

Last year I bought an old photograph, now long out of copyright, which shows hitherto unknown lettering present on the sides of these wagons in the GE period.

The photograph is a portrait of Class D56 No.1857 at Liverpool Street, sitting almost underneath Pindar Street bridge on the East Side. In the background, by the retaining wall, parked in the long headshunt to the platform 18 loco bay, are two loco sand wagons.  Other contemporary photographs show that this siding was their usual spot, often alongside a raft of loco coal wagons, but it seems that it is the first photograph from this period in which the wagons are seen close-up, as this location is usually seen in the distance.

A high-res scan and enlargment of the relevant portion of the photograph has revealed some lettering which was previously unknown, and at last we also have two genuine running numbers. All is not completely resolved, thanks to the inconsiderate position of the loco chimney, but following discussion with John, we have postulated what is missing.

Photograph © Public Domain

On the right sits no.4254 which appears to be a 5-plank wagon without diagonal bracing and is therefore likely to be a replacement body on an overhauled underframe in a similar vein to the four-plank 600023 seen by John in 1957. However, it is the wagon on the left which is of most interest; no.6741 is a three-planked, outside framed example, the bodywork of which bears a remarkable similarity to round-ended wagon 9419 described in Part One, indicating that at the time of withdrawal from revenue earning stock the body was in sufficiently good condition to not need replacing. One presumes the side doors have been nailed shut, and possibly lined on the inside to prevent the egress of sand and ingress of rainwater, and the rounded ends have been altered or replaced to facilitate the typical peak-roof.  Fascinating stuff so far, but it is the lettering which is the game-changer:


Which is significantly different to what was previously believed the wording would be (seen on the model above).

I initially wondered whether we might not be looking at a sand wagon at all but something entirely different, and although he said that the GER had rubbish wagons similarly constructed, John  pointed out that all refuse from the station and hotel was handled in the arches beneath the hotel. I therefore suggested, and John was in agreement, that if these were indeed sand wagons the complete wording might read:


Until further information comes to light, that is the extent of our knowledge regarding the wording on these wagons. To be able to disseminate this new historical information lost in the mists of time for almost century is something I have to admit I’m rather pleased with, and is one of the raisons d’être of this journal.

The use of the word ‘truck’ might cause some raised eyebrows amongst serious modellers, but for those not familiar with Great Eastern terminology, the word truck in relation to a wagon  had legitimate usage; a wagon was loaded open goods vehicle, and a truck was an empty one.

In relation to Basilica Fields, the model above (once re-liveried) will be an important feature of the loco depot at Angel Yard in The Rookery. I’ve built it with a working brake lever so that once shoved up its siding the brakes will be put on before being uncoupled. All good fun and will add to the verisimilitude of the scene.

This is the final part of the mini-series introducing the Great Eastern general merchandise open wagons that will appear on Basilica Fields.

By 1903 the need for increased wagon capacity lead to Temple Mills Wagon Works building an experimental 7-plank open converted from  a diagram 17 5-plank open no.23246 of the 1898 batch.  New end stanchions, corner plates and side knees with diagonal bracing extending to the top of the wagon were fitted which  supported the two extra planks and side-hung top doors giving an internal body depth of 4ft 0½ ins. The E-type grease axleboxes fitted to the diagram 17 were replaced with split oil axleboxes, and the new wagon rated at 12 Tons.  The two-per-side door stops fitted to the 1898 batch of wagons were removed and replaced with Monarch door balancing apparatus, and the wagon retained two brake blocks fitted to one side only. The wagon was finished in the new large and revised 24″ x 20″ letter livery and was given the new rectangular combined makers/load plate.

Photograph © Public Domain

The new wagon found favour, and a total of 1350 (P. Tatlow gives 1300 in his book) were built to a slightly revised design between 1903 and 1908 with diagonal bracing to the fifth plank only and a lower load rating of 10T.  In addition, 650 7-plank Loco Coal wagons to diagram 31 were converted to diagram 48 between 1904 and 1911 as numbers of the new 20T steel Loco Coal wagons increased, and although no written orders have been found, further diagram 17 5-plank opens were also converted, though when and how many is as yet unknown. These latter wagons had new end stanchions and side knees, but retained the five-plank high corner plates and had an separate extension for the top two planks. Example running numbers include 4391 and 5021 from the 1905 and 1908 batches respectively, and 3304 was a converted diagram 17.

Furness Railway Wagon Co. have a GE 7-plank wagon in their range which, I believe, covers the new-builds as well as the D.31 and D.17 conversions. Judging by the quality I’ve seen with other products from the range there may be some work needed to bring them up to the spec of other wagons for Basilica Fields.

As stated at the beginning, this entry wraps up the Great Eastern Railway’s general merchandise opens built in the timeframe set for Basilica Fields.  Some opens will be needed for Angel Yard in The Rookery for mundane tasks such as ash disposal.

Next we’ll be taking a look at the other wagons necessary for the yard,  and a new mini-series will deal  with the Loco Coal and Loco Sand wagons.

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