Model a road van
The road van was a cross between a goods van and a brake van, and seems to have been largely confined to the south and west of England. Chris Leigh takes a close look at the real thing and builds the available kits.
A goods van and brake van hybrid, Chris Leigh takes a look at the real thing.
My latent interest in bucolic branch lines and light railways was revived by a visit to Moreton-in-marsh, and some research into the Stratford and Moreton Tramway. I began to look into local goods traffic over the Shipston-on-stour branch, which was the surviving section of the tramway. Moreton-in-marsh had its own branded ‘Toad’ brake van, presumably allocated there for branch duty, and it was while looking at ‘Toad’ pictures in the massive GWR Goods Wagons book (Oxford Publishing Co.), that I was reminded of the two Diagram AA3 ‘road vans’. One of these was branded for use at Cirencester, for the Cirencester Town-kemble branch, and the other was branded for the Kington branch in Herefordshire. The GWR road van was simply a ‘Toad’ brake van crossed with a ‘Mink A’ wooden-bodied goods van. It was a dual-purpose wagon which not only provided the usual accommodation for the guard but also had a separate section for sundries traffic, loaded through the double side doors. If you recall the ‘Toad’ verandah loaded with fruit and veg baskets in The Titfield Thunderbolt it is not difficult to imagine the usefulness of such a vehicle on a rural branch line, and it is surprising only two were built by the GWR. The London & South Western Railway, however, made very good use of road vans but I’ve had difficulty tracing them elsewhere. North Eastern Railway No. 44824 was built in 1893 to Diagram V1 and is preserved at Beamish. This is a really unusual looking brake van, with a North American-style cupola, but it also has the large sliding door of a road van. Otherwise, it seems that if other pre-grouping railways had road vans, they were long gone by BR days.
GO SOUTH, YOUNG MAN
A little investigation reveals that the London & South Western Railway was a prolific builder and user of road vans. According to An Illustrated History of Southern Wagons
Volume 1 (OPC): “Of 601 vehicles passed to the Southern Railway at the Grouping, no fewer than 444 were single-ended road vans…” An etched brass kit was produced by Chivers
Finelines but it seems it’s no longer available. These, and two larger LSWR road vans of 18 tons and 20 tons, are also the subject of resin kits by Smallbrook Studio. The first of the ten-tonners were known as Adams vans, and were built between 1880 and 1885 with sliding doors, but none lasted in brake van use after the Grouping. The bulk of the road vans were built between 1887 and 1905 to Diagram 1541 with hinged doors, They were initially 10/11-tonners but later examples were rated at 15 tons. Some Diagram 1541 vans were rebuilt without the side doors, apparently due to complaints from guards that the doors caused draughts. Several were shipped to the Isle of Wight by the Southern Railway and one of them, in original form (S56046), survives in preservation. At least two of the Isle of Wight vans were rebuilt by A.B. Macleod with sanding gear for use on ballast trains. On the mainland, the Bluebell Railway has S54663, and the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust at Washford has S54885. Contractors built 12 almost identical vehicles for the Midland & South Western Junction Railway and these passed into GWR stock at the Grouping. The 18-ton vehicles were outside-framed and particularly handsome. They lasted into BR days and though one was initially the subject of a preservation bid, its condition was deemed to be too poor and it was passed over. The 20-ton vehicle, given SR diagram numbers 1545 and
1549, was slightly shorter, and inside-framed. I find these vehicles fascinating as they have something of a ‘light railway’ atmosphere about them. Put one of these behind an old woodenpanelled coach and you’ve got a charismatic light railway train. A vehicle in a similar vein which I find equally appealing was the goods, guard and drovers’ brake van built by the LSWR in the early 20th century for service
on the Callington branch from Bere Alston. That branch had been built by the Plymouth, Devonport & South Western Junction Railway, part of Colonel H.F. Stephens’ light railway empire, having been, in part, converted from a narrow gauge mineral railway. Accordingly, the drover’s van is often stated to have been a PDSWJR vehicle, but in fact its origins are purely LSWR. This characterful six-wheeler had accommodation for the guard, a sundries section reached through side doors and accommodation for six or eight drovers. It was intended for use on cattle trains but apparently it was also used by quarry workmen, and ended its days on the Seaton branch, from where it was withdrawn in the late 1950s. A rummage in the back of my cupboards revealed that some 20-plus years ago, my interest in this particular vehicle had peaked with the purchase of a kit from Falcon Brass. It is part-built and it doesn’t take much investigation to see why I gave up on it. I felt that the chassis needed a substantial redesign, while the one-layer body etch lacked the relief that is evident in photographs of the real thing. I have added some extra panelling with .015 by .030 styrene strip. This is definitely an improvement but it’s merely a better sow’s ear, not a silk purse. The kit is still listed on the Falcon Brass website, which is shown as under new ownership, but not a single item on the list is currently available to purchase. As so often happens with modellers, I found myself worrying about what colour it should be. The prototype lasted until 1959 so it is possible that it had at least one BR repaint. It counted as a wagon, so that would have meant a repaint from SR dark brown to BR bauxite.
… AND NARROW GAUGE, TOO!
Recently I was sent on a mission to photograph Lynton & Barnstaple Railway van No. 23, which was about to be dismantled for major restoration to make it fit for service on the revived L&B, more than 100 years after it was built. No. 23 was unique on the L&B in being the only timber-framed vehicle. This is, presumably, why it survived the post-closure destruction in 1935, as it would have had no metal scrap value. The other two L&B goods brakes were also road vans but with a considerably reduced payload. A model of No. 23 in ‘OO9’ is being developed by Peco. Modelling-wise, I already had a head-start with both GWR and LSWR road van models. Back in October 2016, when I built a bullion van kit by the fascinatingly named Frogmore Confederacy, the guys at Dart Castings who market FC kits sent me a ‘thank-you’ in the form of a GWR AA3 road van kit. This is an all-brass kit intended for solder assembly, and I recently got stuck in and actually built it. I’m not a skilled solderer so the result is OK, but no better than that.
GWR ROAD VAN (Oxford conversion)
However, I had also been looking into building a road van by ‘cross-kitting’ the recent Hornby ‘Toad’ with suitable doors from a plastic wagon kit. It turned out to be a non-starter because Hornby’s ‘Toad’ is a 1920s 20-tonner and the basis of the road van was a turn-of-the-century 16-ton ‘Toad’. The answer came soon afterwards with the arrival of Oxford Rail’s 16-ton Diagram AA3 ‘Toad’ – exactly the right wagon for the job. What’s more, this is a very straightforward conversion for a novice who wants to have a go at kit-bashing. I considered cutting the Oxford body and inserting doors made from styrene sheet, but I soon decided that the moulded sides would also look better with moulded doors. A quick check of plastic kits for GWR vans revealed that a Parkside ‘Mink A’ would yield a pair of doors with the distinctive inverted ‘V’ ribs. Parkside wagon kits are now made by Peco and are easy to obtain. A little over £10 was quite a lot to pay just for
a set of doors ,and for some reason the immortal quote from The Italian Job: “You’re only supposed to blow the… doors off” kept running through my mind as I cut the kit sides apart! The Parkside chassis will doubtless be useful for some other job in the future. The body conversion is described in the step-by-step section, but for the time being the chassis remains in its original form. The road vans were fitted with vacuum brakes, so the chassis will need modification when I have obtained the necessary vacuum cylinder and fittings. Interestingly, I did notice that the Oxford chassis has a number of unused mounting points, which suggests that the tools allow for a vacuum-fitted version in due course.
Right: Three brake vans at Newport on the Isle of Wight. The right-hand vehicle is an LSWR road van, still in original condition. Two of these vehicles had been modified with sanding equipment.Below: Diagram 1541 road van No. S54663 stands at Wadebridge with station pilot ‘0298’ 2-4-0T No. 30586 on June 11 1956.
Right: Diagram 1541 10-tonner No. S54885, carrying MOD No. 12424, stands at Cranmore, on the East Somerset Railway, on April 19 1976.
Below: North Eastern Railway 10-ton ‘birdcage’ brake road van No. 44824, built at York in 1893, stands in preservation at Beamish Open Air Museum, on August 24 1977.
That road van No. 23 was a useful vehicle is underlined by the fact that it continued in use after the Lynton & Barnstaple had closed in 1935. Here it is at the Pilton exchange siding with 2-6-2T No. 759 Yeo, both wearing lot numbers ready for the forthcoming auction, having been used for the recovery of equipment and materials. F.E. BOX/CJL COLLECTION
Right: Former LSWR road van S56055, rebuilt for the Isle of Wight in 1933, awaits attention at the NRM on April 8 1977. It has since been repainted in LSWR livery. PAUL BARTLETT
Having been renovated by the L&BR Bristol Group in the 1990s, following its recovery from a field, No. 23 is now to undergo complete reconstruction for a return to service. CHRIS LEIGH