RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - 8: Minerals, Processable Solids...

Moving the black stuff, rocky, runny or in-between

A pair of elderly tar wagons - this traffic would be largely road-borne before British Railways reached its fifth birthday (1953). The black one is a Slater's kit, the other is a Dapol product
A pair of elderly tar wagons - this traffic would be largely road-borne before British Railways reached its fifth birthday (1953). The black one is a Slater's kit, the other is a Dapol product | Source
LNER-built steel hopper in mid-1940s livery prior to re-liverying to BR light grey - weathered to show heavy use (Dapol)
LNER-built steel hopper in mid-1940s livery prior to re-liverying to BR light grey - weathered to show heavy use (Dapol) | Source
One of the Parkside British Railways' Dgm 1/146 21 ton steel hoppers on the Thoraldby layout (Shildon's finest)
One of the Parkside British Railways' Dgm 1/146 21 ton steel hoppers on the Thoraldby layout (Shildon's finest) | Source
A Slaters kit, 20 ton North Eastern wooden built hopper - many lasted into British Railways and subsequently National Coal Board (NCB) ownership
A Slaters kit, 20 ton North Eastern wooden built hopper - many lasted into British Railways and subsequently National Coal Board (NCB) ownership | Source
Private Owner 21 ton mineral wagon for coal traffic that originated in the Western Region - some wagons ended up all over the place (a Dapol model, I think - I've weighted the wagon where the name showed on the underside)
Private Owner 21 ton mineral wagon for coal traffic that originated in the Western Region - some wagons ended up all over the place (a Dapol model, I think - I've weighted the wagon where the name showed on the underside) | Source
Early in British Railways days a new steel mineral wagon was built at various sites by BR and contractors to the 16 ton pattern to replace older 12 and 13 ton wooden wagons. (Dapol/ Airfix kits with removable coal loads, topped by real coal on pva)
Early in British Railways days a new steel mineral wagon was built at various sites by BR and contractors to the 16 ton pattern to replace older 12 and 13 ton wooden wagons. (Dapol/ Airfix kits with removable coal loads, topped by real coal on pva) | Source
For the railway companies themselves, 20 ton loco coal wagons were built originally of timber later of steel, this being one of the former with transfers applied to look like chalk or painted warnings: 'loco coal only'
For the railway companies themselves, 20 ton loco coal wagons were built originally of timber later of steel, this being one of the former with transfers applied to look like chalk or painted warnings: 'loco coal only' | Source
Dave Bradwell kit-built model of on of the 56 ton hopper wagons used between Tyne Dock and Consett, County Durham
Dave Bradwell kit-built model of on of the 56 ton hopper wagons used between Tyne Dock and Consett, County Durham | Source
(Left) Dave Bradwell 22 ton ironstone hopper kit in BR livery - see below for a view of a real wagon
(Left) Dave Bradwell 22 ton ironstone hopper kit in BR livery - see below for a view of a real wagon | Source
7mm kit-built North Eastern Railway 8 ton ironstone hopper - a large number survived well into LNER days when the Rosedale Railway and Ingleby Incline were closed down
7mm kit-built North Eastern Railway 8 ton ironstone hopper - a large number survived well into LNER days when the Rosedale Railway and Ingleby Incline were closed down
A pair of fuel tank wagons (Shell) of different builds and age, the one on the left being the newer build, although as yet not vacuum braked
A pair of fuel tank wagons (Shell) of different builds and age, the one on the left being the newer build, although as yet not vacuum braked | Source
A pair of earlier independent owners' tankers, Briggs of Dundee and Acme (not the ones who supply Wiley Coyote)
A pair of earlier independent owners' tankers, Briggs of Dundee and Acme (not the ones who supply Wiley Coyote) | Source

Let's look at real life traffic...

9F 2-10-0  92094 brings a train of oil tankers through Chester Station, January 1966 - topped and tailed with brake vans but no barrier wagons - possibly empties,   otherwise there'd be danger for both guards from explosion
9F 2-10-0 92094 brings a train of oil tankers through Chester Station, January 1966 - topped and tailed with brake vans but no barrier wagons - possibly empties, otherwise there'd be danger for both guards from explosion | Source
Tyneside Q6 0-8-0 63354 of Borough Gardens (54C) heads a mineral working near Boldon, County Durham - there were several pits in the area between Tees and Tyne, with coal going for export through Hartlepool and Tyne Dock
Tyneside Q6 0-8-0 63354 of Borough Gardens (54C) heads a mineral working near Boldon, County Durham - there were several pits in the area between Tees and Tyne, with coal going for export through Hartlepool and Tyne Dock | Source
At Layerthorpe on the Derwent Valley Light Railway near York, an ex-ROD diesel shunter brings a train of bulk grain wagons for onward transit to distilleries in Scotland or cereal process (food products)
At Layerthorpe on the Derwent Valley Light Railway near York, an ex-ROD diesel shunter brings a train of bulk grain wagons for onward transit to distilleries in Scotland or cereal process (food products) | Source
Ex LMS steel hopper wagon awaiting restoration at the NRM site, Shildon
Ex LMS steel hopper wagon awaiting restoration at the NRM site, Shildon | Source
BR built 22 ton iron ore hopper - used across the system between mines and works, many were privately owned by the steel companies
BR built 22 ton iron ore hopper - used across the system between mines and works, many were privately owned by the steel companies | Source
Ex-NER hopper wagons taken into National Coal Board ownership (County Durham) wagon fleet. Many life-expired wagons were taken over by the NCB in 1947 and used internally
Ex-NER hopper wagons taken into National Coal Board ownership (County Durham) wagon fleet. Many life-expired wagons were taken over by the NCB in 1947 and used internally | Source
More ex-NER wagons taken into the NCB fleet, these marked as part of the Bowes (County Durham) fleet
More ex-NER wagons taken into the NCB fleet, these marked as part of the Bowes (County Durham) fleet | Source

Industry, the paymaster of the railway system. Passenger receipts hardly covered the cost of running the services on some lines.

Industry also had its own networks, like the National Coal Board (NCB) systems around mainland Britain. British Steel Corporation (BSC) also owned large tracts of railway yards and exchange sidings, as did Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). Their trains used the national network, as did other large companies such as Ford, Vauxhall Motors and so on,

Those in need of t.l.c...

A wagon underframe awaits use by the turntable at Pickering on the North Yorkshire Moors Rly
A wagon underframe awaits use by the turntable at Pickering on the North Yorkshire Moors Rly | Source
Tar wagon awaiting restoration work at the NRM's Locomotion workshop, Shildon
Tar wagon awaiting restoration work at the NRM's Locomotion workshop, Shildon | Source
The other end, in need of attention
The other end, in need of attention | Source

Coal and Grain

Unpainted white metal kit of' 20 t NER hopper with etched brass 'W' irons and underframe detail - white metal kits can tax your engine's motor, put them behind the engine if you have a mix of plastic, etched brass and wh/m kits
Unpainted white metal kit of' 20 t NER hopper with etched brass 'W' irons and underframe detail - white metal kits can tax your engine's motor, put them behind the engine if you have a mix of plastic, etched brass and wh/m kits
Hornby BR Standard grain hopper
Hornby BR Standard grain hopper

... And processed oils.

There are many industrial centres up and down the country between John O'Groats and Lands End. Think how many of them are centres of production for chemicals, fuels, steel and road or roof surfacing, multiply that by at least twenty and you have the makings of a fleet of specialist wagons.

Let's begin with minerals. What do we understand by minerals? Coal, iron ore, stone and salt might be do to begin with.

Where do we find coal, for starters? Well, in steam days pretty much anywhere in South Wales, North Kent, North Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, South and West Yorkshire, East Lancashire, County Durham, Northumberland, Eastern Central Scotland and a few pockets here and there. At the time coal fired the railways, the steel industry, chemical and gas processing, other manufacturing industry and homes. Different aress produced coal of carying calorific value, the prime districts being by all accounts in South Wales. The Great Western had a massive coal wagon fleet for their own uses as well as for their customers' purposes, both wooden- and steel-built. The LMS had access to a large coalfield in East Lancashire and Derbyshire as well as part of the Nottinghamshire field. The Southern had a share in the wagon pool for their North Kent pits; not a great lot, but they provided coal for the county as well as Surrey and Sussex... Some industry and power stations. The LNER had a large fleet of wagons for a whole swathe of territory, beginning with parts of the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire (and Leicestershire) field, foing north through Yorkshire, County Durham, coastal Northumberland and Fifeshire in Scotland. These wagons for the most part were wooden-built, privately owned and getting on in years. In the North Eastern area - the company did not encourage privately-owned colliery wagons in the same way as the Great Northern and Great Central did - was a huge fleet of former NER 20-ton wooden hoppers built around the turn of the 20th century, added to by newer, much larger steel-built bogie coal wagons for the power stations built by the NER in its closing years. The LNER added to that fleet with its 21-ton hoppers in the 1930s. Then the North British had its own coal wagon fleet. Not as many as the NER, but equally privately-owned colliery wagons were not encouraged. This was when coal was king (before the days of Arthur Scargill)!

In Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, North Yorkshire and Westmoreland something else was being brought from the earth in huge amounts: iron ore of varying quality was processed for the steel industry in the Midlands and the North. Corby in Northamptonshire, Stanton & Staveley in the North Midlands, Dorman Long, Lackenby and Cargo Fleet steelworks on Teesside, Consett in County Durham and the Clydeside works were knocking out steel products for civil engineering, ship building and armaments.

In Cornwall there was tin extraction, and in the Pennines lead was teased from the hillsides until cheaper lead was brought in from around the world.

Added to that were quarries everywhere producing hard stone chippings for railway ballast, limestone for steel-making and other stone products for various industries.

The wagon-makers couldn't keep up with demand!

Speaking of wagon-builders, along with the main railway companies' works, a few private builders were knocking out wagons for private owners and the railway companies themselves, who were at capacity in war or industrial boom-times and perhaps couldn't meet demand. The big names in private wagon building were Charles Roberts at Gloucester and Metro-Cammell in the Birmingham area. Originally producing them in wood with wooden underframes, when the Railway Clearing House dictated that steel underframes had to be made - even for wooden wagons - everyone danced to the same tune! Then in the 1930s steel-built wagons became 'de rigeur', and the makers followed suit. Those who did not conform were left behind, expense or not! Safety demands added pain to expense, and specifications changed to suit; vacuum braking on certain types of wagons meant new technical specifications, and so it went on. But British designs were still basic compared to some Continental mores. After Nationalisation some designs were little more than steel boxes on wheels with brakes, until BR laid down new rules for the regional works. Nowadays, because train braking has become so sophisticated, brake vans have become redundant, as on the 'Merry-go-round' coal trains in the Yorkshire Coalfield, and aggregates workings that pass my house on the elevated section of the Barking-Gospel Oak line that encircles North London north-west from here. The last time I saw a brake van on a train was when work was being conducted on the line itself.

One type of wagon no longer seen on the railways is the rectangular tank wagon for transporting tar and any other coal-derived or oil-based products (I might think of some more after a bit of head-scratching). There is only one basic design, and they are all four-wheeled with a very simple brake arrangement, usually only on one side of the wagon.

Of oil and petrol tankers there are many and varied designs, from the early four-wheeled, 8'-6" wheelbase types to modern bogie tanks.

Bulk Commodities

There were cement wagons and bulk grain wagons.

In the range of cement vehicles first came the angular-ribbed 'Presflo' cement wagons in the early 1950s, and later 'Prestwin' cement wagons with double-hoppers superseded them, although running concurrently for some time. They were vacuum-braked from the onset, with two large vacuum cylinders at one end of the wagons and fitted wih 'instanter couplings'.

The distilleries had their own fleets, such as Dewars, but by and large the railway companies owned large fleets that ran from grain silos at ports such as Hull, and received traffic from around the grain-producing areas of East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. There were other silos for growers in Norfolk and Suffolk, where grain was moved to the gin distilleries of London (in Clerkenwell, near the LNER depot at Farringdon there was Gordons and Nicholson's). Elsewhere were gin and whisky distilleries across the length and breadth of the country. In Cheshire, after WWII there were also vodka distilleries started by Russian or Ukrainian emigres. All these producers needed grain, most of which was imported.

I have touched on milk tankers, some of which ran behind passenger locos, but there were also trains of milk tankers along the east and west coast main lines or cross-country routes. These were six-wheelers by the end, when road tankers took the traffic away from the railways, owned by the dairies and attached by arrangement where necessary to other workings or with other owners' milk tankers.

Now for the real thing...

North Eastern wooden bodied 20 ton mineral hoppers at Goathland coal depot, NYMR
North Eastern wooden bodied 20 ton mineral hoppers at Goathland coal depot, NYMR
Midland private owner coal wagon
Midland private owner coal wagon
early North British rectangular tar wagon - every privately owned tar producing company had fleets of these, and you could see them attached to trains around industrial centres or works
early North British rectangular tar wagon - every privately owned tar producing company had fleets of these, and you could see them attached to trains around industrial centres or works
Private owner wagon (Bristol coal merchant) - a wooden prototype replaced by steel-built vehicles between the wars. Nevertheless they could still be seen well into the 50's around the pits.
Private owner wagon (Bristol coal merchant) - a wooden prototype replaced by steel-built vehicles between the wars. Nevertheless they could still be seen well into the 50's around the pits.
LMS Mineral (salt) wagon with removable canopy. The GWR, LMS and Southern had vehicles similar to this for salt traffic
LMS Mineral (salt) wagon with removable canopy. The GWR, LMS and Southern had vehicles similar to this for salt traffic
British Railways 'Presflo' Cement Hopper, introduced in the early 1950s - available in kit form from Dapol (ex-Airfix range) and in ready-to-run from Bachmann
British Railways 'Presflo' Cement Hopper, introduced in the early 1950s - available in kit form from Dapol (ex-Airfix range) and in ready-to-run from Bachmann | Source
Bogie bulk grain hopper that replaced...
Bogie bulk grain hopper that replaced...
the earlier BR type also found in private ownership. Scottish Distillers Group grain hopper at Cameron depot  Before these grain hoppers were built of wood with steel hopper chutes. Windows were let into the ends to check loading.
the earlier BR type also found in private ownership. Scottish Distillers Group grain hopper at Cameron depot Before these grain hoppers were built of wood with steel hopper chutes. Windows were let into the ends to check loading.
This is the LNER 22 ton capacity wooden bodied grain hopper that Parkside Dundas based their kit on. Easily assembled, I have several in BR light grey livery with black numbering patches. Many were based at Hull Silo .
This is the LNER 22 ton capacity wooden bodied grain hopper that Parkside Dundas based their kit on. Easily assembled, I have several in BR light grey livery with black numbering patches. Many were based at Hull Silo .

Reading List:-

BRITISH RAILWAYS GOODS WAGONS IN COLOUR - For the Modeller and Historian by Robert Hendry, publ. Midland Publishing Limited 1999, ISBN 1-85780-094-X :- This one again. It's just too useful to be passed over, and there's lots of detail to be looked at, and it's in colour! There are different sections of wagons from coal wagons to brake vans. At the back is a section of lamp codes, block telegraph codes, a painting guide, drawings, specifications, and a glossary, phew!

RAILWAYS IN RETROSPECT - 1 LNER IN TRANSITION by Michael Blakemore, publ. Pendragon Partnership 2004, ISBN 1-899816-11-9:- cover images in glorious colour, b&w inside. Contents includes an overview of the Eastern Regions, (the background to the LNER), top link expresses, industrial railways and services to industry/commerce, local and suburban passenger traffic and an overview of 'background noises', the running and maintenance of the railways. Lots of pictures of steam and some electric traction.

RAILWAY OPERATION FOR THE MODELLER by Bob Essery, publ. Midland Publishing 2003, ISBN 1-85780-168-7:- An exhaustive insight for the modeller into running a model railway convincingly. There's a lot of detail and general knowledge, facsimiles of labels and other documents, signals and signalling diagrams, photographs of freight, passenger and port traffic... Even horsedrawn railway delivery vehicles!

Last but not least, BRITISH RAILWAY MODELLING's pullout supplement from the October 2007 edition of the magazine on FREIGHT TRAINS FOR THE MODELLER. This has photographs of models and the real thing in b&w and colour, lamp codes for the locomotives heading the various trains, train make-up and classifications, brake van lamp arrangements and drawings of wagon underframes showing the vacuum brake arrangement. There is also a drawing that shows how instanter couplings work.


Next: Low-sided, Flat and Bogie Freight Stock

sub-titled 'The first half million', Don Rowland's book details the early British Railways' wagon fleet built at its various plants, with black & white photographs, numbering and some drawings. Lots of information for modellers and historians alike who appreciate the work put into this volume. I've got my copy, have you?

British Railway Wagons, Don Rowland

Grain traffic

Parkside LNER/BR Grain wagon - unfitted, three link couplings
Parkside LNER/BR Grain wagon - unfitted, three link couplings | Source
Dapol British Railways grain wagon in unfitted grey livery with three link couplings and weathered
Dapol British Railways grain wagon in unfitted grey livery with three link couplings and weathered | Source

Add realism to your railway vehicles, locomotives, wagons etc., and find out how to do it from Martyn Welch. Weathering affects different types of materials (wood, steel, plywood etc) in different ways, painted surfaces accumulate dust and dirt and peel with heat, such as on loco smoke boxes. Diesel engines go in their own ways...

Martyn Welch, The Art of Weathering

Now for a few more models to round off the session: in 4mm/OO

At the Derwent Stone siding, here's one of the 'French' mineral wagons (Bachmann ready-to-run modified
At the Derwent Stone siding, here's one of the 'French' mineral wagons (Bachmann ready-to-run modified | Source
A pair of the 20 ton wood-built North Eastern hoppers that appeared before the turn of the 20th Century, Slaters' kits in (left) British Railways and (right) LNER livery with Smith's 3 link couplings, well weathered
A pair of the 20 ton wood-built North Eastern hoppers that appeared before the turn of the 20th Century, Slaters' kits in (left) British Railways and (right) LNER livery with Smith's 3 link couplings, well weathered | Source
From the Airfix kit range (now owned by Dapol), an early British Railways era cement hopper with lost wax brass cast buffers (for added durability
From the Airfix kit range (now owned by Dapol), an early British Railways era cement hopper with lost wax brass cast buffers (for added durability | Source

... And pre-finished in 7mm etched M&M brass/white metal kits built by DOGA Associate Anthony Garton, owner Poppy's Woodtech

BR 21 ton steel hopper Dgm 1/146 16,800  built Shildon 1952-58 with grease axleboxes, with roller bearings from the 1960s. A batch was fitted with sheet rails for use in grain traffic between London Docks and Welwyn Garden City (cereal production)
BR 21 ton steel hopper Dgm 1/146 16,800 built Shildon 1952-58 with grease axleboxes, with roller bearings from the 1960s. A batch was fitted with sheet rails for use in grain traffic between London Docks and Welwyn Garden City (cereal production) | Source
A later version of the 21 ton hopper, with instanter couplings, still retaining grease axleboxes
A later version of the 21 ton hopper, with instanter couplings, still retaining grease axleboxes | Source
Dgm 1/273 'Presflo' Cement Hopper  with roller bearings - these wagons used compressed air to ease the unloading of bulk cement powder, superseded by 1/2777 'Prestwin' in the late 50s
Dgm 1/273 'Presflo' Cement Hopper with roller bearings - these wagons used compressed air to ease the unloading of bulk cement powder, superseded by 1/2777 'Prestwin' in the late 50s | Source
A batch of vehicles including GW Siphon (rear), ex-LNER 20 ton Dgm 100 hoppers (middle) with early tank wagon (fore). No doubt we will see the finished product with time.
A batch of vehicles including GW Siphon (rear), ex-LNER 20 ton Dgm 100 hoppers (middle) with early tank wagon (fore). No doubt we will see the finished product with time. | Source
A finished 21T mineral hopper in BR TOPS livery (Total Operations Processing System, introduced 1972) seen past a ship's propeller and early BK container here in an array of vehicles
A finished 21T mineral hopper in BR TOPS livery (Total Operations Processing System, introduced 1972) seen past a ship's propeller and early BK container here in an array of vehicles | Source

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Comments 2 comments

G.Hudson 4 years ago

You are mistaken in assuming a Rectank was a rectangular tank wagon. It was a bogie trolley wagon with ramps at each end and intended for the transport of military tanks. Most were ex MoD if not all. They were quite useful in departmental use too as they could carry loads that would be out of gauge on a normal flat wagon.


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alancaster149 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Thanks G hudson. Here's me thinking a Rectangular Tar Tank Wagon and a 'rectank' wagon were one and the same. I shall get onto amending my copy.

Take a look at the rest of the series - in case I've made any other gaffes! (At least one visitor's got his head screwed on the right way round).

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