Alan's interest in mineral and freight wagons goes beyond looking at pictures or dvd's. Join him in the quest to improve your wagon fleet
Moving the black stuff, rocky, runny or in-between
The variety of models - ready-to-run and kit-built - is infinite. Whether they be mineral hoppers, flat wagons, Charles Roberts' built early open wagons used by coal merchants around the country, British Railways' (1948) opens and minerals, there's either a kit or 'off-the-peg' proprietary model. Then there's the choice of plastic, etched brass or white metal kit - depending on what's available from a host of sources - that you need to depict a region or a particular location accurately. When it comes to painting, again there are choices. You can airbrush them, paint them in enamels, enamel washes or in acrylics. A great variety of lettering is on the market to give your wagons their national or regional identity. Last comes your personal choice. Do you want your wagons to stand, perfectly displayed in a glass case or do you want them to look realistic, with scale couplings (4mm scale upwards of course, N Gauge is difficult, but I've been told not impossible) and rust, dust and 'mank', i.e., axle grease or oil mixed with grime and dust around the axle boxes and anywhere else that's oiled around a wagon. This is all covered in other 'Rites of Passage' pages that you'll come across in your meanderings through this series.
Let's look at real life traffic...
... 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.
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.
Those in need of t.l.c...
Robert Hendry's overview (above) of British railway wagons in colour, warts, grease, dust and all. All regions are covered in this thorough-going work that includes departmental vehicles - including wooden-bodied wagons pensioned-off from revenue-earning service. There are diagrams and copious notes at the back of the book. Required reading for adventurous model-makers. I've got my copy, have you?
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
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...
... And pre-finished in 7mm etched M&M brass/white metal kits built by DOGA Associate Anthony Garton, owner Poppy's Woodtech
© 2011 Alan R Lancaster
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on November 01, 2012:
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).
G.Hudson on October 27, 2012:
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.