Following on from the discussion generated in parts one and three in this series of Great Eastern wagons on wheels inserts, through the post came a packet from Andy Beaton of Ragstone Models, purveyor of fine kits and castings for the discerning modeller, in which were two pre-production etches for these very wheel inserts.

Ragstone Models’ GER wagon wheel inserts. Photograph ©Adrian Marks

WK302 are scaled at 3½” wide and WK301 at 2″ wide. Even though my GA for a GE wagon of the 1890s doesn’t indicate the dimensions of the insert, I was able to ascertain the width was probably about 2¾”. Following discussion with Andy we agreed that the thinner one ‘looks right’ when installed on a Slater’s wheel, and I’ll follow this post up later with photos showing this.   I suggested to Andy that the domed bolts  looked a bit too big on the narrower inserts, but conversely, the ratio of the rivet size to the width of the wider insert looked pretty good.  Once painted, weathered and given suitable highlights and shadows I’m sure they will look the part.

Friends; first of all I would urge all loyal readers of this humble journal to go and order a the pair of carriages which comprise the new Roxey Mouldings’ LB&SCR 1909 push pull sets (not yet illustrated on their website), recently acquired from the MSC stable.  For your delight there’s a driving composite to LBSCR Diagram 109/111 – SR Diagram 434/435, and a trailer third to SR Diagram 79.  I’m certain they’re lovely kits and you will all be happy with at least one, if not more on your layout, whatever your scale, region or period.

End of blatant advert.

Good news! The previously unidentified Great Northern covered vans described here have been…well…identified,  It appears that the vans were introduced in 1875 (or possibly 1879) and lasted in service right through the Basilica Fields timeframe, the last examples being withdrawn in the years immediately following Grouping.

Not only that, but all this time a kit for them has been available.

Until recently.

It was part of the MSC range, now scattered to various manufacturers, and the artwork suggests that someone like Tim Hughes may well have been involved in the origination. The kits recently found a new home under the Roxey Mouldings banner and I was fortunately able to obtain the three kits which constituted Dave Hammersley’s entire stock at the recent Railex spectacular in Aylesbury.

This is a good start, but more examples are required. I’ve got my order in for more from the next batch delivered from the etcher, but unfortunately the artwork for the vans is on the corner of an etched sheet for the above mentioned Brighton push pull set and, rather sensibly, Dave won’t order more frets from the etchers until his present stock of push pull kits reduces.

So if anyone would like a lovely 1909 Brighton set or three I’d be very, very grateful…

What? You thought there wasn’t a method in the above madness?

By far the most prolific item of stock owned by the Great Eastern Railway was the humble steel-framed 10 ton high-sided open wagon.  On his appointment to Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent, James Holden was keen to eradicate timber-framed wagons favoured by his predecessors, and begin production of steel-framed wagons.  The story of how this was achieved may well be the subject of a future journal entry.

A test batch of 50 was built in 1886 (though I’ve not yet determined if they followed the body styling of the then contemporary Diagram 16 wagon or were a unique batch), and then between 1893 and 1903 a further 12,000 were built to what became Diagram 17. They represented well over half of the total wagon output of the GER in that period, which came to total of 21,995 wagons, 11,619 of which were built on capital account thereby increasing the number in revenue earning service, and the remaining 10,336  replaced life-expired vehicles.

By the time the Diagram 17 ceased production in 1903,  the total wagon stock owned by the GER numbered 26,512, and the importance of general merchandise open wagons to the company can be measured by the fact that the 12,050 Diagram 17, the 3640 Diagram 16, and the 2000 round-ended wagons  in service totalled 66.7% of  stock in the wagon register book.

One of the 1901 builds, no.29279 seen after repainting in 1910 (having run in the old livery for eight years after it was discontinued) has all the contemporary mod cons: a horse hook and rope holes on the solebar, drift bolt holes, pressed steel spring shoes and stops, Monarch door balancing gear, with the linkage attached to the right hand side of the central ironwork – note the central hinge has been removed, a rectangular combined maker’s and load plate in the final position, and a Cocker’s Patent label clip in a white-edged box. Note the Worsdell 4-plank open on the right, numbered 14282, almost certainly from the same batch as no.14297 seen in the entry on that wagon design. Photograph ©Public Domain.

Up to 1896 wagons were built at Stratford, after which production moved to the new and dedicated wagon & carriage works at Temple Mills.  However, an unprecedented demand for over 2250 new wagons per annum in the late 1890s was too great a number even for the additional capacity at the new works, and so a contract was made with W.R. Renshaw & Co of Stoke on Trent in January 1901 to supply 750 of these open wagons for delivery by September (note that Peter Tatlow gives an incorrect figure of 100 wagons in his book) . Unfortunately, by the autumn less than half had been delivered, and it was to be another year before the final wagon left the Stoke works. Just as unsatisfactory was the fact that the average cost of the Renshaw wagons was 10% greater than those built at Temple Mills, and by the time the last of the contracted wagons had entered revenue-earning service, Temple Mills was again running below capacity. In fact, no further wagons were built on capital account, and from then on new wagons simply replaced life-expired ones and the overall wagon stock level remained constant.

The key difference between the final Diagram 16 wagons and the first Diagram 17 wagons, aside from the obvious change of frame material, was the substitution of the double brake vee hangar as fitted to the timber frames, for a single vee with a centrally mounted dropper located about a third of the way inboard from the solebar. The photograph above shows this very well.

Over the decade the Diagram 17 wagon was in production, many changes took place as technology advanced, and I’ll try to give a précis of those changes relevant to the wagons which will be seen on Basilica Fields.

  • June 1893 – April 1895,  no’s 16301-17000: As built to GA 8365.  No horse hooks or solebar holes, single door stops mounted in line with the central door hinge. Cast iron bearing spring shoes and stops, separate maker’s and 10 load plates (described in detail in the entry on the Worsdell 4-plank opens)  mounted on the bottom plank in line with the wheel centres.
  • April 1895 onwards,  no’s 17001 – 18990:  A new style of buffing plate with eight rather than six plates was introduced in April 1895 and the externally this was marked by 1¾” diameter holes being set in 5¾” from the headstock at either end of the solebars, enabling the pin securing the buffer rod to be hammered out by drift bolt.
    In June of the same year, a horse hook riveted to the solebar the left-hand end was introduced. Contemporaneously, a 3″ diameter hole 10½” left of the wheel centre was provided on some, but by no means all new wagons as an alternative means for securing shunting ropes and chains.
    400 examples of an 1895 batch were given underframe members made from Fox’s pressed steel plates. very little data is available, and none really relevant to modelling the wagons.
  • January 1897 – June 1899, no’s 18991 – 19700 & 22000 – 24000:  From January 1897 the single central door stop was superseded by a pair of stops aligned with the outer door hinges as a means of better supporting the falling door. John Watling has speculated that their origin may also be attributed to an early experiment with either-side brake gear which required a centrally placed lever which would have conflicted with the single, central door stop . Initial batches had a block of wood bolted to the face of each stop, but these were soon omitted.Sometime around 1898 new builds had the two separate maker’s and load plates moved to the second plank from the bottom, and positioned 3″ from the corner plates.
  • January 1899 onwards, no’s 23950- 24500:  This batch were the first new builds to have a new pressed steel version of the bearing spring shoes and stops.  As the cast iron ones broke on older wagons they were retro-fitted with the new steel type.
  • June 1899 onwards 24501 – 2499  & 27001 – 30320. From June 1899 the pair of door stops were superseded on new builds by Monarch door balancing gear, which assisted in both raising and lowering the side doors. This consisted of a single lever bolted to the solebar with the linkage attached on either the right or the left hand side of the hinge in the middle of the door, and a powerful spring mounted behind the solebar. On later batches the central door hinge was discontinued, but the ironwork retained for both strength and for somewhere to attach the linkage.
  • January 1900 onwards, no’s 27500 – 30320:  The two separate eliptical maker’s and load plates were superseded on new builds by a combined rectangular plate which measured 11″ x 7″  fixed to the second plank up on the left hand side about 8″ from the corner plate. The new plate consisted of the GER initials, build date and carrying capacity.With the introduction of the new livery in 1902, wagons with elliptical plates on the second plank retained them in this position, earlier wagons with plates on the lower plank had them moved to the second plank up. However, wagons with rectangular plates on the second plank had them moved to the bottom plank on the right hand side, hard up against the corner plate.
  • Throughout, the livery is the same as the Diagram 16 wagons. From 1902, no’s 30041-30320 plus some randomly numbered wagons were the only ones to receive the new larger style livery from new. During 1902 some may have received the short-lived square-style large G and numbers, but the majority would have received the style illustrated above.
  • Miscellaneous differences:  For some unknown reason, and it appears to have been rather random in execution, some wagons received an additional angle plate at each corner below the corner plates tying in the curb rail with the end rail.
    The position of sheet rings varied, some were fitted to the side rail and end crib rail, whereas other had them fitted the bottom plank.
    Subsequent changes to brakes, buffers, axleboxes and conversions were made to these wagons, but they fall outside of the Basilica Fields timeframe. Some, such as no.28965 (see Tatlow p.186) were fitted with Mansell wheels.

John Watling was also able to ascertain a selection of random running numbers outside the blocks noted above, a list by no means exhaustive:

  • 1893: 2442,2537,2551,7197,8573,9364
  • 1895: 2461,2916,3100,5790,6256,8251
  • 1896:  2367,4710,5653,5950,6117,6448
  • 1897: 2481,7190,7660,9074,10266,11270
  • 1898: 2706,3001,5359,6440,9827,12033
  • 1899: 2406,3261,6590,7177,9123,10152
  • 1900: 4277,6020,6785,7462,8089,11305
  • 1902: 3589,4850,5472,6563,6838,7862
  • 1903: 2112,3474,5847,6885,7935,8492

A mixed media kit of this wagon is available from the Furness Wagon Co. consisting of  a resin body, etched underframe and etched body ironwork, of which I have an example.  Although it makes a fair representation of the Diagram 17 wagons which might satisfy many modellers, I’m not convinced the work necessary to bring it up to the high standard of prototype fidelity required for Basilica Fields is time I’m prepared to invest in it, especially considering the numbers required. It may well be that I will produce a kit for this myself.

Without the benefit of John Watling’s research collated in an articles in the Great Eastern Society Journal numbers 83 and 86, specifically the running numbers of the wagons and differences between batches, this entry would have been significantly poorer in content.

James Holden’s  five-plank open to Diagram 16 was a direct continuation of Worsdell’s four-plank wagon,  the overall dimensions remaining the same  including the interior depth of 2′ 10¾”.

Apart from the extra plank, Holden’s Diagram 16 9 ton 5-plank opens were virtually identical to their 4-plank predecessor built by Worsdell. Modernisations include the Holden E-Type grease axleboxes and full-length buffer guides obviating the need for wooden packing pieces. One of the first in service, no.2376, was photographed in 1887, straight from the paintshop, in the livery that lasted until 1902.
Photograph ©Public Domain

Conflicting statements have been made in documents concerning the date this new design was introduced as being either 1885 or 1887, and the total number of wagons built down to 1893 as either 3640 or 3740. The General Arrangement drawing is dated 1887, which actually solves nothing as Stratford often produced GAs after the introduction of an item of rolling stock, but it does mean that Stratford GAs are often a useful record of what was actually built, rather than the intent of the designer. As with the Worsdell wagon, a proportion of these wagons were set aside and put to use on loco coal duties over the GN & GE Joint Line until the advent of dedicated loco coal wagons in 1891, after which they were put into revenue earning service.

Despite retaining the same timber underframe as its predecessor, the new five-plank design made it into Holden’s Wagon Register in 1901 and was designated Diagram 16. This ensured the design had a longer lifespan by avoiding early obsolescence and withdrawal, and in consequence 3,000 examples were still in revenue-earning service at Grouping.

Livery details both pre-and post-1902 are exactly the same as for the earlier 4-plank open.

A 7mm kit exists for this wagon, which when I first encountered it in the mid-90s, was marketed by Wagon & Carriage Works, and is now in the hands of Powsides. As the prototype represented approximately 20% of the total wagon stock of the GER in at the start of the Basilica Fields timeframe 1890 (a total of 14,893 in revenue-earning service), they will be the the second most common wagon to appear on the layout after the subject of the next instalment of this mini series.

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.

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