|If you lived in Gloucestershire
between 1990 and 1992 you might remember a weekly
newspaper called The Gloucester Journal. In The
Gloucester Journal was a feature called Railspot, which I
wrote. Each week, Railspot would include a picture, 500
words describing it, and often some pub quiz type
questions about railways.
|NATIONAL WATERWAYS MUSEUM WAGONS|
this feature I have grouped a number of individual Railspots
on the theme of wagons that were - at the time - on show at
Gloucester's National Waterways Museum, founded in 1988.
I have also included other material, some of which first appeared
in the Friends of the National Waterways Museum "Llanthony Log" .
|CLAYHOODS B743141 AND B743169|
|The following Railspot appeared in The Gloucester Journal on 2 July 1990:|
wagons B743141 and B743169 rest outside the National Waterways Museum.
Although built by British Railways in the late 1950s, these
wooden bodied vehicles conform to a much older Great Western pattern.
Designed to carry Cornish clay to ports, potteries and paperworks, they had vacuum brakes and two methods of unloading: either via central falling doors or by, more spectacularly, through the hinged end panel when tipped up. To keep the cargo dry each wagon would be covered by a blue plastic tarpaulin, stretched over a central rail and tied down to hooks at the base of the body. In fact a train of these vehicles would look rather like a campsite on the move behind an engine!
Clayhoods received the designation UCV under TOPS but were known as OOVs after 1983. They were the last wagons of their type on British Rail and in 1987 began to be replaced by air braked metal hopper vehicles with longer wheelbases and larger payloads.
The OOVs last saw service in February 1988 and the two museum gate guardians were scheduled to be scrapped by Hoopers of Sharpness before their rescue in 1989. The National Waterways Museum paid £ 500 each for them and they arrived by crane barge along the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal between 20 and 21 April 1988.
Although the 875 wagons built to Diagram 1/051 are now a part of railway history a 4mm kit of the Clayhood is now available from Ratio.
|And from Llanthony Log in the same year came an article headlined The Wagon's Role:|
the phrase "railway preservation" conjures up images of the glistening
giants of steam the two basic components of a railway - the track
and the wagon - both originated from canals. Long before
locomotives were invented, horse powered railways fed the waiting
narrowboats with the products of mines and quarries that were
inaccessable to waterways themselves. As such, it is only right
that the National Waterways Museum should include railway wagons among
its exhibits - and the current fleet of seven have a fascinating story
of their own to tell.|
They initially look very similar, each one being an open type with a body built up from five longitudinal wooden planks. Together, though, they represent a century of service and reflect the changing demands of Britain's railways. Descended from the crude Chauldron wagons of the Eighteenth Century, the role of the "five plank open" was originally to carry manufactured goods such as sawn timber, barrels and machinery. This basic design was produced by all the major railway companies and became a common sight in freight trains from the 1880s onward.
In Victorian times grease was used to lubricate the axle bearings, although by the Twentieth century it was found that oil axleboxes reduced the rolling resistance of wagons and made trains easier to pull. This was especially true in cold weather, but easier starting also made stopping harder. The newer wagons could not be parked with just wooden scotches to secure them either and this hastened the development of efficient brakes.
At first these were hand operated devices, although by 1900 the technology existed to brake an entire train from the engine driver's cab using systems based on pneumatic pressure. Both air and vacuum brakes had been developed for passenger coaches, but these were operated by railway companies themselves. Most open wagons were owned by private companies who were loath to spend money on cams and pressure cylinders for their rolling stock.
Due to this, the classic British "unfitted" goods train remained the mainstay of railway freight movement well into the 1950s: limited to a maximum speed of 45 mph and reliant on the engine and guard's van for braking power. It is only in the last thirty years or so, too, that signs have disappeared from the tops of gradients advising train crews to "pin down the brakes" before proceeding.
Indeed the last wooden bodied short wheelbase open wagons with vacuum brakes only yielded to more modern air braked vehicles in February 1988. Two of these now stand as gate guardians in the Museum car park, having been rescued from a scrap merchant in Sharpness. Although built in the late 1950s they confom to a much older Great Western design which contrasts sharply with the computer coding letters still stencilled on their sides. As might be deduced from their dusty condition these OOVs were used to transport dried Cornish china clay. To keep the cargo dry, each wagon was equipped with a rail over which a tarpaulin could be slung and small hooks at the base of its body for tying the tarpaulin down. Tarpaulin covering was once common on most wagons to protect their contents from dirt and moisture , but like the practice of despatching each loaded truck to its destination through a maze of different marshalling yards it was uneconomic and costly in manpower.
Nowadays most British Rail freight travels in single cargo 'block' trains which shuttle constantly between supplier and consignee. They are composed of wagons designed for and dedicated to one particular product. China clay, for example, now arrives at ports, potteries and paperworks in coil-suspended hopper wagons which discharge from the bottom. The wooden leaf-sprung Clayhoods in contrast had to be physically tipped up on end to be emptied!
More enigmatic are the two wagons currently parked alongside the barge arm. Little is known about their activities beyond the last twenty years which were spent storing lengths of timber at Sharpness Docks. During this time their central falling doors were removed to make loading and unloading easier. Although they now boast a smart grey livery with the initials of the Docks applied to them, the exact nature of their markings is unknown. Any pictures of them in action at Sharpness would be welcomed by the Museum!
Further memories of Victorian railway practice are evoked by the three unrestored wagons currently stored in the Severn Road compound. These are also without doors and the one nearest the Antique Centre has a steel chassis like the Llanthony Yard examples. The other two however sport wooden underframes pierced with iron components and strengthening plates. Wooden wagons are less robust than their metal counterparts but were cheaper to build and repair in an age when timber and carpenter's labour were both inexpensive and plentiful.
Sadly, though, this is no longer the case and the all-wooden Midland Railway pair will need a great deal of work to fully restore them. Even in their current state however they provoke thought and - like all the Museum's wagons - will repay closer examination.
|FRUIT VAN B755715|
|The following Railspot appeared in The Gloucester Journal on 28 May 1990:|
ton fruit van B755715 at the National Waterways Museum was built for
British Railways in 1952 at Wolverton, the former carriage and wagon
works of the London and North Western Railway. It has a
mixture of old and modern features. The body sides and doors are
made of planks, despite the contemporary trend toward the use of
plywood due to post-war timber shortages. its ends, though, are
corrugated steel with downward-facing ventilators.|
Ventilation was neccessary to keep perishable fruit in good condition although B755715 has no more air flow provision than most other covered vans of the period. In contrast, some of the plywood vans of the 1950s had four extra scoop ventilators placed low down on their body sides. Thus, despite its modern vacuum brakes for high speed travel, B755715 was just as suitable for carrying chocolate crumb or cement as strawberries.
During the 1960s much railway fruit traffic was lost to road haulage. At the same time, British Rail began replacing its stock of covered vans with metal bodied, long-wheelbase vehicles fitted with air brakes. These also had wide-opening doors so that fork-lift trucks could rapidly load goods on pallets.
Facing obsolescence, B755715 became a storage van, first for the Chief Signal and Telecommunications Engineer at Crewe and then at Bescot Yard near Walsall - hence its "D" ( for departmental ) prefix and ZDV computer coding. It arrived in Gloucester in mid February 1990.
|GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY MINK 93045|
|The following Railspot appeared in The Gloucester Journal on 3 December 1990:|
early July a six ton MINK has taken up residence at the National
Waterways Museum. Don't call the RSPCA though - it won't bite!
Rather than a fur-bearing carnivore, this MINK is the latest
covered van to arrive at Llanthony Yard. Numbered 93045, it was
built in Swindon in 1913 by the Great Western Railway. Costing
about £ 110 brand new, it was the 44th vehicle to be built to Diagram
V16 an a production run lasting from 1912 to 1923. Constructed on a 9'
wheelbase, the 16' long body could carry a 10 ton load - notably less
than similar wagons built after World War One.|
Although built with self-contained buffers and modern-type ventilators, 93045 has some rather antiquated features. The hourglass-shaped baseplates of the coupling hooks were superceded by oblong or hexagonal designs after 1930, and the grey-painted van has Mark III Dean-Churchward brakes. First used in 1902, Dean-Churchward brakes were difficult to fit with vacuum cylinders and were replaced on new wagons by Morton brakes after 1939. The latter were operated by levers as opposed to rotary handles.
MINK was the GWR telegraphic code for a range of covered vans, each successive variant being given a suffix letter..Mink F for example was a 30 ton bogie vehicle, although there is some uncertainty about the description of 93045. It is either a straightforward MINK or a MINK A, but historical sources clash on whether vacuum braking ( which it lacks ) or ventilation type defines the difference.
Mystery also surrounds the working life of 93045. The new owner, Mr Chris Perkins, knows that it was overhauled at Swindon in July 1956 and that its axlebox oilpads were checked in 1960, but no-one can remember when it arrived in Gloucester. For many years though it was parked in a siding opposite the old Gloucester Foundry with a MINK B and a MINK G which have also now been preserved.
During the latter part of its life, 93045 has had one of its four original doors replaced with a plywood fitting and has gained the British Rail internal user number 064722. It is pictured above during its last appearance on BR metals at Gloucester Rail Day 1990.
|The following Railspot appeared in The Gloucester Journal on 5 August 1991:|
their appearances in previous RAILSPOTS, here is an April 1991 view of
MINK 93045 ( left ) and fruit van B755715 at the National Waterways
Museum. Both are at various stages of restoration. |
MINK 93045, the ex GWR van owned by Mr Chris Perkins, has received new doors and sides. In addition, new planking is visible between the ventilators and some ironwork has been painted to inhibit rust. Since April, 93045 has been almost completely repainted and looks smart with its fresh white signwriting.
Meanwhile £ 500 has been contributed from Friends of the National Waterways Museum funds towards the material costs of renovating B755715. This has allowed the old rotten roof timbers to be replaced with long tongue and groove boards specially machined from good quality redwood. Similarly, original specification planking has been bought to make new corner pieces, inner lining boards and sills. The damaged door has also been repaired.
Special wagon bolts were needed to fix the new woodwork in place. The originals were corroded beyond redemption and unfortunately the only new supply of the correct type were too long. All 112 bolts had to be shortened by volunteers before installation!
The photograph also shows the tarpaulins protecting the roof prior to waterproofing, and the early stages of a repaint before re-lettering. Behind the vans is a five-plank open wagon - one of the first railway exhibits to arrive at the Museum in the 1980s. Formerly used to store timber at Sharpness, it is standing on one of the wagon turntables that were a common feature of Gloucester Docks in its commercial heyday.
Sadly, as many as 21 had been scrapped by 1988, but provision to re-create two turntables was made when the National Waterways Museum was planned. The mechanical portions for these became available in 1989. Originally fitted to the Great Northern Railway's Watson Street warehouse in Manchester about 1906, they were donated free of charge. Each one was 13' in diameter, could turn a ten ton wagon and required a 2' deep pit to house it.
Excavation work on the pit at the south west corner of Llanthony Warehouse began in October 1989 while the components from Manchester were dismantled, assessed and cleaned. At the heart of the turntable was a cast iron hub, resting on a concrete cube.
Twelve spokes radiate from the hub, each ending with a seven and three quarter inch cast iron wheel and kept in place by a steel band at the outer circumference and a 15" diameter cast iron ring around the centre. The twelve wheels at the edge of this greater horizontal wheel ran along a circular track, itself mounted on an eight piece cast iron rim which was underpinned by 16 steel baseplates bedded into concrete. On top of the horizontal wheel was a structural steel platform. Composed of channel section and rolled steel joists, this turned with the wheel whilst supporting the wagon rails and infilled wooden deck.
Six coats of paint were applied to the turntable metalwork before it was lowered into its pit on 18 July 1990. Final commissioning was achieved on 27 September - the 165th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway no less!
When the matching turntable ( pictured foreground ) is installed at the north west corner of Llanthony Warehouse a number of interesting wagon movements will be possible around three sides of the building.
Citizen of 25 May 1992 reported the completion of the second turntable
and the restoration of some lengths of track around the Museum.
The five plank wagon on the turntable - as described in The Wagon's Role - would have been a common sight on British railways up to the 1960s with 54 450 being built by the London Midland and Scottish Railway alone between 1923 and 1930 to Diagram D1666 inherited from the Midland Railway. The London and North Eastern, Southern and Great Western Railways would also have produced similar wagons. The "Common User" system adopted during World War One would also have allowed many individual wagons to travel all over Britain - sometimes with loads covered by standard 21' by 14' 4" tarpaulins.
Other antiquated features included horizontal hooks at the end of each solebar to allow wagons to be pulled by horses or up rope-worked inclines by stationary engines. As restored, the wagon bodies and body ironwork were painted light grey to British Standard 532 as would have been the case up to 1937.
|ROYAL NAVAL COVERED WAGONS|
|Although RAILSPOT in the Gloucester Journal hit the buffers in late 1992, wagons kept arriving at the National Waterways Museum. Seen top - between the Museum's steam dredger and a very well restored B755715 is blue liveried Royal Navy Armament Depot covered van 321 while fellow Naval wagon 289 is pictured above. Both arrived from the former Royal Navy Propellant Factory at Caerwent in December 1993 and were believed at the time to be of London & North Western Railway origin due to their rare cupboard type doors. Essentially they were eight plank open wagons each with a shallow curved corrugated roof.|
|GLOUCESTER RCW PLATFORM WAGON|
second load brought to the National Waterways Museum by Allelys
Transport that day however was part of the first two
orders for the Second World War for the Gloucester Railway
Carriage and Wagon Company Limited. |
Dated May 1940, the first Admiralty order (8931) was for six 12-ton covered vans (numbered 1 to 6) and the second (8932) for ten two-axle 20 ton platform wagons (numbered 7-16) for the Royal Navy Propellant Factory at Caerwent.
Both orders were fulfilled in August of that year with Gloucester RCW photograph 5140 taken in July 1940 showing a covered van with a steel solebar and single leaf sliding side door set in a 12 plank body. Dimensions given on boards in the photograph are Length over headstocks 17' 6", Length over buffers 20' 6", Wheelbase 10', Width over sheeting 7' 6", Width over commode handles 8' 4 1/4", Height from rail to top of roof 11' 10 1/2" and tare weight 7-9-2.
Gloucester RCW photograph 5139 - also dated July 1940 and carrying the extra reference number R 1200005 - showed the platform wagon as being very similar in design to contemporary Deal wagons built for the LMS Railway but without bolsters. Purchased to carry torpedoes, RNPF wagon 7 was dimensioned as Length over headstocks 27', Length over buffers 30', Width over curb rails 8', Height from rail to top of floor 4' 3/8", Tare weight 7 14 -0.
The platform wagon delivered to the National Waterways Museum in 1993 was numbered 267 but had been numbered 11 in 1940 and cost £ 595.00 compared to the £ 375.00 apiece asked by the Ministry of Defence for covered vans 289 and 321.
Still attached to the centre of the solebars was a rectangular plate with the words "Owner Superintendent RN Propellant Factory Caerwent Chepstow Mon." The platform wagon was also fitted with nine-hole adjustable Morton brake gear suspended on simple V hangers with "GLOUCESTER" embossed on the blocks and a painted note "Do not use after 8-94".
In 2009 the Gloucester RCW built torpedo platform wagon was still next to the National Waterways Museum and being used to support a 30' horse drawn icebreaking boat built in Victorian times for use on Cheshire canals and only being retired in the 1960s.
|MANCHESTER SHIP CANAL "TOAD" BRAKE VAN|
|In November 1996 the National Waterways Museum acquired a 1940s vintage Swindon-built example of the classic Great Western "TOAD" brake van. Unique among the "Big Four" railway brake van types in only having one verandah, TOADs were banned from main line use in 1968 but this example was bought for £300 in the 1970s for use as breakdown train stores van on the Manchester Ship Canal railway. It was taken to the NWM in Gloucester by low loader from Ellesmere Port and was subsequently given a new roof, new windows and anti-rust treatment by Museum volunteers before beginning a new life as an educational resource.|
|The Summer 2008 ( Number 81 ) edition of Llanthony Log carried the following story under the headline Wagons Roll.|
|The Museum's four box railway box vans have been taken away to new homes in order to open up space around the quayside. As well as being a reminder of the role of railways in distributing cargoes imported through the docks, they also provided vital storage, particularly for components from the dredger while it was being restored, but they have restricted access around the museum's quayside. As the Friends have now created a store on the dredger itself, it was felt that the wagons were more of an obstruction than a benefit. Three of them have been moved to the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway and the fourth is going to Littledean Jail Museum. A fifth van owned by Chris Perkins has been moved to the Severn Valley Railway. The vans were taken away, one at a time, by a special low loader based at Blandford Forum.|
|Apart from Chris Perkin's MINK 93045, the four vans mentioned in the article were the two Royal Naval Vans 289 and 321 and two covered vans whose arrival displaced the Clayhood wagons B743141
and B743169. These final two covered vans were acquired by the
National Waterways Museum from the Royal ordnance Factory at Glascoed
Of these, the cream coloured vehicle pictured above on a low loader turning into Southgate Street, Gloucester, in May 2008 was built in 1940 by Charles Roberts of Wakefield to a North Eastern design. Purchased to transport ammunition, the all-wooden wagon required repairs to its roof and single leaf sliding doors as well as a repaint on arrival.
Seen below next to MINK 93045 meanwhile is one of only 500 Midland Railway vans built with an iron chassis at Derby works before the First World War.
|As can be seen above, an ex Sharpness Docks five plank wagon, the ex MSC TOAD and Gloucester RCW built torpedo wagon - all destined for retention by the National Waterways Museum - had to be moved first out of and then back into their usual positions to allow the egress of MINK 93045. Although the TOAD was pushed out by a JCB 350 fork lift tractor, the Gloucester RCW built wagon was towed back into place by car.|
|After a railway enthusiast had pictured 93045 on the National Waterways Museum's south west turntable one last time and Chris Perkins himself had said goodbye to his MINK, the Great Western Railway covered van was winched aboard a low loader trailer and a six wheeled ERF tractor unit of P.H. Antell and Sons attached to tow the 1913 vintage Swindon product away to a new life on the Severn Valley railway. Life for railway enthusiasts in Gloucester also grew a little less abundant with its passing.|
a postscript to this article I am indebted to Gloucestershire Transport
History visitor Gareth Price for the two splendid photographs above of
Mink 93045 before and after a repaint at the Severn Valley Railway
during August 2009.
The upper view shows 93045 essentially as it was displayed at
Gloucester alongside six plank GWR wagon 13154, complete with tarpaulin
rail. In the lower picture all three wagons are in a darker shade
of grey, contrasting with white roofs in the case of 93045 and sister
wagon 93016. Both Minks also carry the word "VENTILATED" on the
left hand sides and ends.|
For more Gareth Price images of the Severn Valley Railway click on the pictures above, and also see below.
OTHER RELOADED RAILSPOTS
|Avonside Standard Gauge Tank Locomotives|
|British Standard Steam|
|Brush Class 60 Type 5 Co-Cos|
|English Electric Type 3 Co-Cos|
|Great Western Railway Express Passenger 4-6-0s|
|LMS "Princess Royal" Class 4-6-2 6201 "Princess Elizabeth"
|The Midland & South Western Junction Railway|
|Southern Railway Class N15 "King Arthur" 4-6-0s|
|Warship Class Diesel Hydraulic Locomotives