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Rites of Passage for a Model Railway - 9: Low-Sided, Flat and Bogie Freight Stock; Engineers' Department

Wheels of industry - models, and the real thing (not the canned, fizzy variety)

Parkside British Railways' Twin Bolster set, wagons linked by plastic bar. Plastic bolster posts replaced with shorn steel dressmaker's pins

Parkside British Railways' Twin Bolster set, wagons linked by plastic bar. Plastic bolster posts replaced with shorn steel dressmaker's pins

A ready-to-run Bogie Well wagon that started off as GW, modified, with brake wheels added from a plastic sprue and real wood bolsters to hold engineering parts (plastic Sellotape reel centre, painted engineering grey)

A ready-to-run Bogie Well wagon that started off as GW, modified, with brake wheels added from a plastic sprue and real wood bolsters to hold engineering parts (plastic Sellotape reel centre, painted engineering grey)

Seen from the loading side, the bolster for steel plate wider than wagon flat loading surface

Seen from the loading side, the bolster for steel plate wider than wagon flat loading surface

Parkside LNER/BR Plate Wagon, would run with Trestle Wagon above and maybe twin or double and bogie bolster vehicles carrying heavy industrial loads...

Parkside LNER/BR Plate Wagon, would run with Trestle Wagon above and maybe twin or double and bogie bolster vehicles carrying heavy industrial loads...

LNER/BR Twin Bolster, (Parkside again)

LNER/BR Twin Bolster, (Parkside again)

To: the ultimate in bogie freight stock. 1965 Ashford-built British Railways DB 902805 Boiler Wagon photographed at the Shildon site of the National Railway Museum (NRM)

To: the ultimate in bogie freight stock. 1965 Ashford-built British Railways DB 902805 Boiler Wagon photographed at the Shildon site of the National Railway Museum (NRM)

Special loading and tall orders

Low- sided wagons came in many forms. Some were used for transporting containers, some with shackles for machinery and others were tailored - with ribbed decks - for carrying steel plate to ship-building yards or bridge decking for civil engineering. Then there were machinery wagons to transport tractors and combined harvesters from the manufacturer to the supplier. Further, well wagons transported large cylindrical elements such as ships' boilers and bridge bascinets to support the superstructures.

Other special purpose vehicles carried plate glass, and trolley wagons took loads that might otherwise be vertically 'out of gauge'. Pulley wagons carried loads that were suspended within the wagon body and performed a similar function to that of a well or trolley wagon. Early in the 20th Century special wagons were built to carry armour-plating for ships. Drop-sided wagons enabled the sideways loading and unloading of machined goods for civil engineering and shipbuilding that might be too heavy for railway cranes. Trestle wagons enabled out of gauge loads to be carried diagonally, like steel plate for ship or bridge building that would otherwise entail parallel lines being closed because of width problems. And then there was the Cantilever Set that allowed bridge sides to be transported by rail to sites. The biggest challenge was the movement of boilers to power stations. A special set of wagons was engineered from other components to carry these, at a maximum loading capacity of 290 tons and this can be seen at the Shildon site of the National Railway Museum. It consists of eight large bogies and 'bridging' units made up from girder sets and heavy plating to carry the tall turbines lengthwise and was built at the Ashford Works of the Southern Region in the 1960s - see below in the reading list, BRITISH RAILWAYS WAGONS.

See description below

See description below

Robert Hendry's range of wagons colour photographs is extensive in this handy reference work. The era is British Railways, the wagons are of divers origin dating back to pre-Grouping in various stages of repair and livery. What is really useful is the colour tonal range (allowing for what time of day images were taken). Handy for weathering information. Volume 2 takes you into the diesel era of British Rail as the system became known from 1966.

The real thing and the model

Close up of the real thing this time: Southern Railway (SR) Bogie Bolster wagon No. 57949 bogie built at Lancing in Sussex before 1948

Close up of the real thing this time: Southern Railway (SR) Bogie Bolster wagon No. 57949 bogie built at Lancing in Sussex before 1948

One of a trio of Bachmann ex-LMS Bogie Bolster wagons with chained square steel pipe load - one of two painted in early BR grey - see image top of page

One of a trio of Bachmann ex-LMS Bogie Bolster wagons with chained square steel pipe load - one of two painted in early BR grey - see image top of page

Airfix/Dapol BR Machine Wagon in grey unfitted livery with Oxford scale military tarpaulined wagonload

Airfix/Dapol BR Machine Wagon in grey unfitted livery with Oxford scale military tarpaulined wagonload

Blast from the past! Mainline British Railways container wagon with added vacuum pipes and instanter couplings

Blast from the past! Mainline British Railways container wagon with added vacuum pipes and instanter couplings

Parkside ex-LNER Conflat with Hornby LNER furniture removals container (most would have been repainted in BR bauxite by the early 1950s - this container has been 'faded' to look in need of re-liverying

Parkside ex-LNER Conflat with Hornby LNER furniture removals container (most would have been repainted in BR bauxite by the early 1950s - this container has been 'faded' to look in need of re-liverying

A pair of 'Match trucks', wagon flats without sides that were used on either end of a load longer than a bogie bolster wagon to safeguard the load and the wagon its chained to.

A pair of 'Match trucks', wagon flats without sides that were used on either end of a load longer than a bogie bolster wagon to safeguard the load and the wagon its chained to.

An ex-NER quad bolster wagon with large pipe load and Match Trucks either end

An ex-NER quad bolster wagon with large pipe load and Match Trucks either end

Container traffic

Late in the 19th and early in the 20th Century containers were already in use for moving furniture for ease of handling, although the handling equipment had not kept up-to-date. The containers, built of vertical planking, had to be loaded with old cranes and manhandled into place from the wagon to the horsedrawn carts - later lorries - but gradually handling improved.

By Nationalisation containerisation was much more widespread, with different types of container available for different types of load. There were open containers with twin bars to maximise lifting; there were smaller containers that could be fitted side-by-side or end-to-end; and there were the conventional containers - that could be loaded with goods from house furniture to frozen animal carcases - to be taken door-to-door, and stored in customers' yards ready for collection. But they could not be stored in stacks yet, like modern containers. At first containers were privately owned but later the railway companies built up stocks for their own use.

Early to modern containerisation

Early British Railways and pre-nationalisation containers

Early British Railways and pre-nationalisation containers

General merchandise 4 ton container (BD - B) 724 cu.ft capacity for single four-wheeled container flat wagon - repainted with Modelmaster transfers

General merchandise 4 ton container (BD - B) 724 cu.ft capacity for single four-wheeled container flat wagon - repainted with Modelmaster transfers

LNER containers - containerisation began in earnest in the 1930s on Britiain's railway network: Great Western,  L&NE, LM&S and Southern rsilways

LNER containers - containerisation began in earnest in the 1930s on Britiain's railway network: Great Western, L&NE, LM&S and Southern rsilways

FM - B 4 ton Insulmeat container for express or through traffic (source to warehouse/process) - 632 cu. ft capacity

FM - B 4 ton Insulmeat container for express or through traffic (source to warehouse/process) - 632 cu. ft capacity

Short 2.5 ton AF Highly Insulated containers (193 cu. ft capacity)

Short 2.5 ton AF Highly Insulated containers (193 cu. ft capacity)

N-Gauge (2mm) model container crane in a dock situation

N-Gauge (2mm) model container crane in a dock situation

Ultimate in cornering - British Railways Scammell Scarab 'mechanical horse' used in town and city centres for deliveries to shops and warehouses - mechanical horses replaced the real thing from early in the 20th Century, early ones were steam wagons

Ultimate in cornering - British Railways Scammell Scarab 'mechanical horse' used in town and city centres for deliveries to shops and warehouses - mechanical horses replaced the real thing from early in the 20th Century, early ones were steam wagons

Low sided, machine wagons and tank flats etc

The North Eastern and Midland Railways boasted the greatest range and size of fleets for the movement of heavy freight, then the LNER and LMS took over in the 1920s. The depression helped no-one but in the late 1930s, before WWII, traffic picked up until the weight of responsibility almost broke the railway companies' backs. Bust-to-boom.

A great element of goods on low-sided wagons took the form of machinery and steel plate. In the manner of machinery there were army lorries, tanks and half-tracks as well as mobile guns and assorted field ordnance. The War Department had bogie tank flats built, with jacks that could be screwed down to allow the tanks to trundle off without the wagon trundling off in the opposite direction! They were also fitted with vacuum brakes for faster running. Later many of these tank flats were converted to bogie bolster quads - four sets of bolsters - for transporting steel girders and the like. Machine wagons already existed for the transport of farm machinery, and in WWII these could be used in block trains for moving military road vehicles. Plate wagons were built by the score for the LNER and LMS chiefly for moving steel plate to the shipyards on Clydeside, Tees-, Tyne- and Wearside in the North East and Barrow-in-Furness and Merseyside in the North West. Added to these were four-wheeled twin bolster wagons for transporting shorter girders, rail or twisted steel lengths to be used in concrete bridging or buildings as well as 'steel mats' for bigger concrete surfaces. There were older single bolster wagons that were built to carry longer steel products where a single vehicle body length might be asking for trouble. They may also have been used for carrying long timber (tree trunks) to sawmills. 'Low-fits' could be put to many uses, and there were single plank brick wagons (as well as bogie brick wagons that were higher-sided for large loads).

Low sided and flat wagons

Still in WD livery, a conversion to Bogie Bolster before...

Still in WD livery, a conversion to Bogie Bolster before...

British Railways re-liveried many of the WD Warflats for conversion to carry steel stock and engineering steel from the many steel plants

British Railways re-liveried many of the WD Warflats for conversion to carry steel stock and engineering steel from the many steel plants

Back to reality, a modern loaded warflat train with a transfer freight between military bases (Hush-hush! Top secret!)

Back to reality, a modern loaded warflat train with a transfer freight between military bases (Hush-hush! Top secret!)

Tank carrying Warflat in BR grey livery, Western Region cypher - Locomotion, Shildon

Tank carrying Warflat in BR grey livery, Western Region cypher - Locomotion, Shildon

This is the DOGA Warflat kit built as per original use by the War Department (WD) complete with Cromwell tank

This is the DOGA Warflat kit built as per original use by the War Department (WD) complete with Cromwell tank

Double O Gauge Association (DOGA)

  • The Double O Gauge Association
    The OO Gauge Association - for those who don't have time for local railway groups or those who wish to expand their horizons beyond club level. Establishing standards for Double O Gauge modellers. Visit our website

Departmental stock

Departmental stock is largely ignored, but necessary for the smooth running of a railway. Many were downgraded from revenue-earning service as they wore out and served as 'internal user' (IU) vehicles that were probably shunted within loco or goods yards for tools and the supply of grease or other lubricants.

Then there were the sleeper wagons and flat wagons for moving whole, complete made-up sections of rail that would be lifted off the wagon by one crane and lowered into gaps left after another crane had lifted a previous section. This operation was carried out 'in tandem' and featured in a video recording titled BEHIND THE SCENES from Fast-Line (I still have a video recorder, but it may well have been translated into DVD form by the same people). The same video contains a section on limestone quarrying for railway ballast, ballast production from furnace slag at Lackenby (steel works) on Teesside, maintenance of the line and so on including creosoting sleepers at Hartlepool. There is even a section featuring a namesake of mine in the 1930s, who was District Engineer around Hartlepool.

Let's not forget cranes - brakedown, line maintenance and goods handling. The latter could have been either small mobile ones or yard features. And there were ballast ploughs and ballast wagons. Some of these last-mentioned were specialist vehicles that distributed the ballast outside the rails, others dropped the ballast only between the rails and the ballast ploughs were often converted brake vans known as 'Sharks'.

From the 1950s Departmental stock was especially built for the task and took the names of sea fish such as 'Dogfish', 'Grampus' and 'Sturgeon'. There was a 'Mermaid', but I won't go into that!

Some Departmental stock

Early Inspection Saloon of the North London Railway - the company was absorbed into the LNWR an subsequently the LMSR/BR Midland Region  (Locomotion, Shildon)

Early Inspection Saloon of the North London Railway - the company was absorbed into the LNWR an subsequently the LMSR/BR Midland Region (Locomotion, Shildon)

Ex-LMS Shark Brake van - ballast 'plough' was lowered by wheel on either end plarform

Ex-LMS Shark Brake van - ballast 'plough' was lowered by wheel on either end plarform

BR Grampus Ballast wagon seen on the Bluebell Railway

BR Grampus Ballast wagon seen on the Bluebell Railway

British Railways' 'Dogfish' ballast wagon - vacuum fitted with screw couplings, this wagon heralded a new era on Britain's railways, although guards and brakevans on trains would soon be redundant

British Railways' 'Dogfish' ballast wagon - vacuum fitted with screw couplings, this wagon heralded a new era on Britain's railways, although guards and brakevans on trains would soon be redundant

A sleeper wagon-mounted grab crane for replacing and removing sleepers on the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Railway near Skipton, North Yorkshire

A sleeper wagon-mounted grab crane for replacing and removing sleepers on the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Railway near Skipton, North Yorkshire

Motorised Whickham Ganger's Trolley to transport track workers along a branch or between work areas on extended working

Motorised Whickham Ganger's Trolley to transport track workers along a branch or between work areas on extended working

With the housing open, you can see the small motor. These vehicles could manage a maximum 20-30 mph and the crews wouldn't want to be held responsible for holding up traffic!      (Locomotion, Shildon)

With the housing open, you can see the small motor. These vehicles could manage a maximum 20-30 mph and the crews wouldn't want to be held responsible for holding up traffic! (Locomotion, Shildon)

Bachmann Branchline Models OO Gauge' Wickham Ganger's Trolley - said to be on the market at the latest by January, 2017

Bachmann Branchline Models OO Gauge' Wickham Ganger's Trolley - said to be on the market at the latest by January, 2017

Breakdown and Track maintenance cranes and engineering train formations

This is my version of the Dapol (formerly Airfix) kit above modelled in early BR livery, picture taken during DOGA meeting at Keen House HQ of the Model Railway Club. My own crane runner is a modified Parkside Plate Wagon

This is my version of the Dapol (formerly Airfix) kit above modelled in early BR livery, picture taken during DOGA meeting at Keen House HQ of the Model Railway Club. My own crane runner is a modified Parkside Plate Wagon

The complete Engineers Train with the Dapol Crane (above), plate wagon, modified Ian Kirk Quad Art body and Dapol Brake Van - a repainted Chivers Fineline 4 wheel pigeon van has been added since as a tool packing van

The complete Engineers Train with the Dapol Crane (above), plate wagon, modified Ian Kirk Quad Art body and Dapol Brake Van - a repainted Chivers Fineline 4 wheel pigeon van has been added since as a tool packing van

Reading list:-

RAILWAYS in PROFILE SERIES: No13 - LNER WAGONS BEFORE 1948 Vol 1 compiled by David and claire williamson, edited by Peter Midwinter, publ Cheona Publications 2003, ISBN 1-900298-16-3 :- a thorough examination of LNER wagons with b&w and colour images. A must-have for the serious modeller or researcher

LNER WAGONS by Peter Tatlow, publ Pendragon Partnership and Peter Tatlow 1998, ISBN 1-899816-05-4 :- A very knowledgeable author on the subject matter expands the reader's own knowledge in this overview featuring b&w photographs, drawings, diagrams and numbering sequences from open wagons to brakevans and breakdown train vehicles

BRITISH RAILWAYS WAGONS, Their Loads and Loading by Brian Grant and Bill Taylor, publ Silver Link , 2003 Vol 1 ISBN 1-85794-205-1, Vol 2 2007 ISBN 1-85794-300-9:- an exhaustive insight into railway freight operation, loading guidelines and marshalling. Also Departmental and Non-Passenger carrying stock with b&w images, drawings and specifications

BRITISH RAILWAY GOODS WAGONS In Colour For the Modeller and Historian by Robert Hendry, publ. Midland Publishing Ltd 1999 ISBN 1-85780-094-X:- Very useful to modellers in terms of livery, and weathering for the realist. Takes you from revenue earning coal wagons to departmental stock and brake vans. A glossary at the back, plus telegraph codes, lamp codes and drawings with specifications


Next: It's the People What Makes the Railways

© 2011 Alan R Lancaster