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RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - 7: GOODS & BRAKE VANS, Covered Railway Wagons + Reading List
Reality and 4mm Scale close-up
You stand at the level crossing, watch as a train nears...
... On the buffer beam of a Class V2 2-6-2 tender locomotive the locomotive carries the lamp code for a through express freight - one at the smokebox door top lamp bracket, one on the right of the buffer beam - and inside the signal cabin you see someone note down the time and train classification.
Then the locomotive thunders past, with vans, laden container wagons, a few tarpaulined general goods wagons... and then before you know it the brake van glides past with its oil-filled tail lamps aglow. A guard stands on the rear verandah, watching the scenery vanish into the distance. As the train gathers speed you see the guard open his door to disappear inside. And then all is gone... The crossing gates open for road traffic again and motors start up again.
Now think back. What do you remember of the train itself? How old were the wagons, what type were they... general merchandise, meat, fruit, pallet vans? What about the container wagons, the containers themselves. Did you see large labels attached to the chalkboards - top right - or were they written on in large letters for the shunters to read from ground or goods depot platform level? Were the tarpaulins on the wagons between old, worn, new, freshly stencilled?
Imagine - when you put your train together on your layout - that you are at that level crossing near the front of the layout, near the end of the station platform. You see the train as that pedestrian would. You might want to know how trains were assembled at each stage on its way to the final destination.
It's the atmosphere... smell the coal smoke, like hot creosote, listen to the wagons creak and squeal on the curves up to the pits; watch the 'Streaks' thunder along the 'racetrack' between York and Northallerton with twelve, thirteen or fourteen coach trains behind on King's Cross-Edinburgh expresses; or stand on the platform at Thirsk or Northallerton and watch as the stopping trains trundle into the station for York or Darlington with their train engines hissing as the brakes are applied, maybe a Class D20 or D49 4-4-2 tender engine, or a more modern Thompson class B1 4-6-0.
Finger through the pages and relive the age of steam...
British Railways North Eastern Region in colour
Parkside Dundas and Modelmaster Professional
Parkside Dundas provide a personal service by phone - i've always found them accommodating. They handle queries on kits, bits and spares as well as their varied range of products in 2mm 4mm and 7mm scale standard and narrow gauge plastic and white metal kits.
Millie Street, Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, KY1 2NL, ph: +44 1592 640896/01592 640896 - e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The real thing
General Goods Vans and Covered Wagons
What is a Covered Wagon? It conjures up images of white-canvassed four-wheeled wagons trundling over the prairie behind teams of horses, mules or oxen - depending on what the wagon owner could stump up by way of investment in 'motive power'. No, what I'm talking about here are - well, they were four-wheelers, but that's as far as it goes - railway goods wagons with roofs. Some, like the Great Western (GW) or Midland (MR)-type salt wagons, had ribbed hoods added that resembled gabled house roofs. Most were furnished with elliptical roofs, i.e., a shallow upside-down 'U' shape, others - like the London Brighton & South Coast/Southern Railway (LB&SCR/SR) vehicles that were built with roofs that curved more sharply around the rain-strips to contend with restricted clearances in tunnels.
In the early days trussing and framing was in timber - witness photographs of early Midland Railway wagons that looked almost like half-timbered mediaeval buildings on wheels! Later frames were angle-iron or plain strip with holes (like Meccano) for the rivets. Longer roofed vehicles were vans in their own right, many six-wheeled or bogie vehicles. As I've already brought up bogie vehicles in connection with passenger-telegraphed trains, I'm just 'talking' here about shorter four-wheeled vehicles and open goods wagons of 9 or 10 foot wheelbase, 12-14 foot overall length. Open bogie, fuel tank and longer four-wheeled vehicles will be dealt with under another heading.
General goods vehicles were built to fulfil the railways' obligation to carry goods from A to B, paid for by manufacturers, farmers and the general public alike. There were variants, such as for example Fruit Vans and Wagons, and General Goods Vans and Wagons. There were also Fish Vans - open wagons in earlier days, until the fare-paying public objected to having to smell the fish filling their nostrels whenever they stuck their noses out the the carriage window. Meat Vans followed, with other farm produce traffic that had been part-processed for wholesale. Bananas were also transported in designated vehicles, with steam-heating pipes for connecting to the engine and protecting the goods against our very un-tropical climate between the port installation and the wholesale market, and on to retail outlets from Fyffes' or Geests' ware-houses.
Trains of divers goods would be marshalled in one part of the country, ferried in express goods trains and then attached to cross-country goods and finally branch pick-up trains that dropped off laden wagons to smaller towns for shops, warehouses and dealerships or private individuals. This was the 'common carrier' obligation of the railway companies that began with the first public carrier, the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR), and ended with British Rail at the time block trains were introduced on the system. It was wasteful to a great extent, in time and energy spent loading and unloading, shunting and standing waiting empty for the next pick-up to take the empty vehicle to the nearest marshalling yard if it was 'common user' designated. Otherwise it would run empty back to its originator for re-use. When general goods trains ceased to run there would have been some in the efficiency department who breathed a sigh of relief, but it was the end of a very long era. Now every train is telegraphed 'en bloc', and if the load doesn't cover - as on a container or car flat train - then some of the vehicles run empty! Materials - like aggregates, coal, bricks or fluids - generally don't leave some vehicles empty, which is a sort of blessing.
Each company, beginning with the S&DR, owned fleets of goods wagons. Orinally these would all have been open wagons, but experience taught not all goods could be carried in open wagons. Tarpaulins were used if a load only needed sheltering from the wet; roofs were added for specialist loads like fish and meat. Later refrigeration was introduced for these traffics, and covered wagons carried fruits and some vegetables. By and large vegetables that did not spoil in the wet only needed to be boxed ready for moving around by the wholesaler. Potatoes had to kept dry, as were other grown items that would be better kept dry, like mushrooms. They were shipped boxed in vans.
So what does this mean to the modeller? It means detail. Not very noticeable in 'N' gauge, but once you get into Trix Twin 3mm, 4mm ('OO') and 'S' scales and upward this is a boon for the modeller. It means you can put labels on vans/wagons for foods and general goods carried, large destination labels to cover a whole van/wagon consignment, and - in the painting/weathering stage - you can show wear and tear from handling, staining, chalk marks, crossed-out markings and in some cases a wagon might be taken off the train and left in a siding because of a hot box (dried-out axle boxes were a constant source of frustration) with chalk marks to warn others against use. Now and then an irreparable wagon might be taken out - shunted, re-shunted into the siding and the train made-up again to carry on its way. The chalk mark used on these would be an 'O' with a cross through it, to show it as 'condemned'. You may have a 'botch job' of a wagon you don't wish to scrap, so you designate it a 'cripple' and condemn it, to leave it in an overgrown siding at one end of your layout.
These are ideas you can adapt for your own purposes. Look at photographs in books, magazines, my reading list at the end will give you tips of where to look. Some of the books in my collection show abandoned wagons as well as cripples and assorted 'scenic detritus'. Keep an eye open when you're on your travels, you might spot something new that you haven't seen before... Or you might see something that will give you ideas in terms of wear and tear.
To begin with all vans/wagons were built of planked wood with diagonal and vertical framing. Open wagons were generally built with horizontal planking, covered ones , or vans, were built with vertical planking. Later vans were built with plywood sides when a timber shortage hit the railway wagon builders. Open wagons began to be built of steel in the 1930s, the LMS leading the way. All underframes to begin with were wooden, and gradually replaced with steel ones in the 20th Century. By Nationalisation almost all vehicles were steel-underframed, some survivors making it through to museum status. In the late 1940s experiments were made with plywood, as I've mentioned, and these discoloured with use and in our climate rotted. They had to be re-done from time to time, or salvaged by timber planking. This gives scope for interesting modelling, such as 'distressing' and painting to resemble the beginnings of rot setting in. You'll see what I mean when you study the pictures.
Reading List - Let's begin with wagons in 'showroom' condition, i.e., works photographs
LNER WAGONS by Peter Tatlow, publ. Pendragon Partnership and Peter Tatlow 1998, ISBN 1-899816-05-4 :- A lexicon of wagons by a railway-writing authority, exclusively photographs, diagrams, drawings, detail and numbering sequences covering the range from four-wheeled to six wheeled and specialist bogie freight wagons (I will cover these in a later piece).
RAILWAYS IN RETROSPECT 1 LNER IN RETROSPECT by Michael Blakemore, publ. Pendragon, ISBN 1 899816-11-9 Following the company from private into public ownership with black & white images through a general overview, top link traffic, the industrial partnership, local and suburban traffic and a look behind the scenes;
RAILWAYS IN PROFILE SERIES No.13 : LNER WAGONS Before 1948 Vol.t1 Compiled by David and Claire Williamson (of NERA publishing fame), edited by Peter Midwinter, publ. Cheona Publications 2003, ISBN 1-900298-16-3:- A knowledgeable introduction leads the reader into a detailed survey of pre-LNER and LNER wagons up to Nationalisation. Mainly b&w images, there are a number of colour photographs on the cover and inside, showing vehicle close-ups as well as general aspects and serious weathering on older vehicles (including some condemned).
BRITISH RAILWAYS GOODS WAGONS IN COLOUR For the Modeller and Historian by Robert Hendry, publ. Midland Publishing Ltd. 1999, ISBN1-85780-094-X :- As the title says, colour photographs... Lot's of them. However the accent is not on British Railways vehicles but British railways vehicles, including pre-Nationalisation and pre-Grouping items. Exhaustive cover of wagons in different states of repair and disrepair with notes on numbering and building ranges where many were built to a diagram - including BR wagons built to GW, LMS, LNER and SR diagrams. Brake vans from the various companies are included, as well as BR brakevans - both fitted and unfitted. There are some privately-built vehicles, such as rectanks (rectangular tar or spirit tankers) preserved by enthusiasts.
RAILWAYS IN PROFILE SERIES - BRITISH RAILWAY WAGONS No5 CATTLE & BRAKE VANS compiled by G Gamble, publ. Cheona Publications 1997 ISBN 1-900298-05-8:- A specialist book this, showing pre-Grouping, pre-Nationalisation and BR Cattle and Brake Vans in mainly b&w again, with a number of colour images on covers and within. Each Grouping company is taken separately, GW, SR, LMS and LNER, and then BR standards beginning with Brake Vans, pre-Grouping types included. Thorough-going, as the others above, numbering and building series covered. Cattle Wagons were by and large dispensed with by the late-1950s when road haulage snatched the traffic away from BR with the connivance of the anti-railway lobby and Ernest Marples. (Fixed tariffs for the railways, variable tariffs for the hauliers. Also, the hauliers could take their lorries onto farm premises, whereas in the case of railway cattle wagons farmers/drovers had to take the animals to the station). Imaginative use was made of some cattle wagons by the Western Region in tunnel maintenance.
BRITISH RAILWAYS WAGONS - Their Loads and Loading, Vol 1 by Brian Grant and BillTaylor (MCIT, MILT), publ. Silver Link Publishing 2003, ISBN 1-85794-205-1; BRITISH RAILWAYS WAGONS - Their Loads and Loading Vol 2, (including Departmental and non-Passenger Carrying Coaching Stock), Silver Link 2007, ISBN 978-1-85794-300-9 :- These gentlemen are experienced in freight traffic handling and management. Brian has told of his forty years on the railways in 'Home and Distant' (another Silver Link book), whilst Bill was Chief Loads Inspector on the Eastern Region, BR. There are diagrams, drawings and b&w photographs showing the wagons in different categories, their loading and trouble-shooting (instances of badly-laden wagons and the possible outcome of oversight). Wagon types are covered in these editions that I will broach in a later piece.
BRITISH RAILWAYS WAGONS - The first half million by Don Rowland, publ Leopard (Random House UK Ltd) 1996 (first publ. David & Charles, 1985), ISBN 0 7529-0378-0: Another book written by an ex-railway employee, now writer. Copious black & white illustrations, Lot numbering and serial number listings by classification, original diagrams, appendices and diagram details covering open merchandise wagons, mineral wagons, mineral hoppers, covered vans etc. You can't go wrong with this book, and it covers rebuilds as well as variants.
Next: Minerals, Processable Solids and Processed Oils
A A comprehensive list of pre- and post-Grouping Rolling Stock
51L was begun on Teesside (as the shed number suggests) by David Scott an associate of mine from some time ago. The range is now handled through Wizard Models, who also sell a range of railway signalling products. Like Parkside, the scope is wide-ranging and affords a choice of period railway vehicles from Scotland to the West Country. I've added a link to the site for you sample the variety.
(You can also contact them through their e-mail address with any queries: email@example.com)
Wizard Models Web Shop
- Wizard Models, the specialists in railway modelling
The entry point to Wizard Models' website - the specialists in supplying the dfiscerning finescale british railway modeller
A look into the past...
Robert Hendry has brought together a broad collection of British Railways' vans and wagons in various formations and individually. Wear and tear is plain to see, obviously more on older wagons that have seen several livery changes (pre-Grouping, Grouping, post-Nationalisation pre- and post TOPS*)
*TOPS was a later 1960s form of pre-computerised wagon control in numbering and designations
British Railway goods wagons in colour (Vol 1)
Brake Vans great and small
Early LNER Toad 'E' Brakevan
(Above, the second from top picture) A Parkside kit painted in British Railways unfitted grey livery. The couplings are Smiths' 3-link, the kit was modified from a kit for the Toad 'E' brakevan by the application of a guard's ducket from an Airfix/Dapol kit as well as 'V' strapping from Scale Link, lamps from Wizard Models, Barton-on-Humber attached to lamp irons obtained from Michael Clark's Masokits brakevan and locomotive detailing range. Lettering and numbering as applied from a Modelmaster sheet (British Railways unfitted Toad D colour photograph of Dringhouses Yard, (York) in the 1960s.