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.

Model Rail (UK) - - Contents -

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.

A.B. MACLEOD/CJL COL­LEC­TION MIKE MENSING

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.

PAUL BARTLETT

Right: Di­a­gram 1541 10-ton­ner No. S54885, car­ry­ing MOD No. 12424, stands at Cran­more, on the East Som­er­set Railway, on April 19 1976.

PAUL BARTLETT

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

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