News and Updates

How effective is the Handbrake?

Early wagon brakes were operated by a simple lever and acted on only a single wheel, however from the 1880s the handbrake design by Morton that we see on many of our wagons was developed.

The brake lever extended upwards from a centrally mounted ‘V hanger’ and brake blocks were pressed against the wheels by push-rods which passed through metal supporting loops called ‘brake hangers’. The long brake lever allowed the shunter to exert a considerable force on the brakes. Levers generally extended up towards the right hand end of the body and the handle on the end of the brake lever was usually painted white to make it more visible.

Whilst early wagons had single push blocks on one side of the wagon only, as the weight of wagons and their loads increased so did the amount of braking effort required. Greater braking effort came from using brake blocks on both sides of the wagon and later by using clasp brakes which have two blocks per wheel.

Various designs evolved to transmit and multiply the applied lever effort to the brake blocks to ensure that sufficient brake force could be easily applied to hold a loaded wagon on a gradient. A cam or slotted link arrangement is used so that the handbrake on either side of the wagon operates the brakes on both sides via the transverse shaft.

Example of cam operated brake transverse shaft lever handbrake.
Example of slotted link operated brake transverse shaft lever handbrake.
A ratchet or ‘Pin-Down’ loop is used so lever can be pushed down and hooked into the ratchet or pinned to secure the brakes.

Handbrakes can also be used during the operation of partially fitted or unfitted freight trains which have no means for the driver to brake the unfitted wagons when he needed to slow down or stop the train. The guard ‘Pins Down’ the handbrakes at ‘Stop and pin down wagon brakes’ locations (usually prior to a severe downhill section of track and known by train crew as part of their route knowledge) so that the handbrakes help ensure that the driver retains control of the train on the downhill section. The train then stops again at the bottom of the incline to allow the guard to ‘take up’ the handbrakes (release them).

The effectiveness of the handbrake on a new design of railway vehicle is established by conducting a static test, whereby the force needed to move a vehicle along the rails, with its handbrake applied, is measured. This resulting force is used to determine the gradient on which the handbrake will hold the vehicle.

In order to move the test vehicle along the rails, a hydraulic ram fitted with a calibrated ‘Load Cell’ is installed between the drawgear of the vehicle under test and an anchor vehicle on the same line. The anchor vehicle was parked with its brakes fully applied and chocks placed tightly under each wheel.

A test is not valid if the wheels slide along the rails, therefore it is important to carry out a test within a workshop, where the rails are clean, dry and preferably level. To ensure a consistent and representative application of the handbrake lever, weights are attached the lever that are equivalent to the standard level of effort that could normally be applied at the lever end by the average person weighing about 60kg applying the handbrake. The test is always repeated to assess the performance of the handbrake when applied from both sides of the vehicle.

The acceptability of the performance of a parking brake was assessed by establishing the gradient on which the vehicle under test could be held without rolling away. The British Railways standard requirement for the design of freight wagon handbrakes is such that each wagon must be able to hold its fully laden weight stationary on a gradient of 1 in 40.

The hydraulic ram is operated either by a hand pump or by an electrically powered hydraulic pump in order to haul the vehicle under test for a distance of between 8and10inches along the rails. The measurements taken from the load cell of the peak value of resisting force are used to calculate the equivalent holding gradient result as follows:-


After each test is completed it is necessary to return the vehicle back to its original position ready to start the next test.

Many locomotives, coaching stock vehicles and newer designs of wagons are fitted with a handwheel & screw type method of applying the handbrake.

The principle and method of testing is very similar however instead of using weights applied to the handbrake lever, a specified level of torque is used when applying the handwheel. This is calculated and applied with a calibrated torque wrench based on the diameter of the handwheel and the standard level of effort of 500Newtons applied at the handwheel rim.

An example of the table of results produced during a handbrake test on a wagon fitted with a handwheel type handbrake.

In general the handbrakes fitted to freight wagons are more than sufficient to hold a loaded wagon on a steep gradient when applied fully; therefore when they are applied to an empty wagon their effectiveness is significantly increased. As such, if an empty wagon is moved with its handbrake ‘ON’ then the effectiveness of the brake will cause the wheels to lock and slide; this can very quickly cause significant damage to the wheelsets in the form of wheel-flats and cavities that are costly to rectify.

This is an example of wheel tread damage caused by operating a vehicle with a handbrake on.

Vehicle Profile #6 – Salmon

Thank you to Matt for the articles on signwriting. A very useful reference for those of us looking after and modelling heritage rolling stock. For this weeks update, I’ve gone back to the Vehicle in Profile series to look at what is the longest wagon in our fleet – a Salmon.

_IGP6864Built to an LMS design, the Salmon was built between 1949 and 1961 to 15 different lots. In that time many sites and companies built them including Head Wrightson Ltd, G R Turner and British Railways at Derby and Wolverton. The designs started with diagram 1/640, which had LMS style bogies with an independant ratchet handbrake on each bogie (shown in the picture below). There was a wooden floor down the 62ft length of the wagon with 5 bolsters. Early on Salmon were found unfitted or fitted with a vacuum through pipe.


Paul Bartlett's Photographs: BR LMS design Salmon Diag 1/640 YMO &emdash; DB996003 YMO 03
Image courtesy of Paul Bartlett’s excellent website.


Later designs of Salmon had  Plateback bogies with a wheelbase of either 5ft. 6in. or 8ft. These still had oil axleboxes so were limited to 50mph. In the TOPS era these were classed ‘YMO’. In the 1980s some of the fleet of Salmon were overhauled and had air brakes fitted, with extra tie down points added for ratchet straps. These became YMA or YMB depending on whether they retained the vacuum through pipe or not. In the late 90s two wagons were fitted with roller bearing bogies. A further 125 wagons were converted. The conversion didn’t result in a speed increase for the wagon, but bought about reliability improvements. For those remaining in service further conversion work was undertaken in 2009 to add 3 bolsters to the wagons to simplify the loading of track panels. The bolsters would locate the track panel on the wagon laterally and longitudinally. These conversions received another TOPS code, YKA, and another fishkind name; Osprey.

Our Salmon is the sole survivor of the LMS designed batch. Numbered DB996000 is was the very first Salmon built by BR to the LMS design. It was built at Derby Litchurch Lane works in 1949. Not a lot is known about its service life, but this wagon ended up as an internal user with the number 024717. It served at the very works it was built at as a vehicle to move items around the works. We don’t know exactly when it was confined to the works, but the earliest sighting on puts it at Litchurch Lane in 1985. It served in this role until 2014, where it was donated to us by Bombardier Transportation.  Soon after it had arrived various accoutrements were ground off and a floor added using used sleepers cut in half down the length. With a pad exam and oil up of the brake gear it was released to traffic and has remained available ever since.

Thank you for reading! We hope everyone is keeping safe and healthy at this time.


Featurette #2 BR Goods Vehicle Markings

The first feature covered the period 1948 – 1964, this one picks up where we left off and covers 1964 – 1973.  Of cause, the styles of lettering mentioned in this and the previous feature would have been seen beyond the dates stated as it was impossible for the works to paint the 1,124,812 wagons (circa 1957) in a single year and they would have been  brought into line at the next scheduled repaint. However, this particular period sees the greatest variety as previous styles remained and only those details that required to be changed were changed.

So we begin with a new font.  As part of the corporate rebranding of “British Rail” in 1965. Rail Alphabet was developed, there were two styles, British Rail light normal and British Rail dark normal.  Light was used for light background colours and dark for dark, with bauxite and Rail Blue classed as dark. The difference being the dark font was slightly bolder.

British Rail Dark Normal

The new font, however, was slow to be applied to Rolling Stock with Gill Sans seemingly remaining until Steam bowed out in 1968.  It was possible to see blue/grey carriages and  fully repainted bauxite wagons using the specifications below with Gill Sans applied.

So on to the specification. Issued in 1964 the lettering heights remain the same as the previous specification although the details were reorganised slightly. The Running number, gross weight, and telegraph code remained on the left-hand side and was joined by the tare along with its paint date symbol. These were all enclosed within a box with the individual markings segregated.  I apply 10mm lining.

On the right-hand side the previous tare location was replaced with a data panel, this detailed when the last examination for the items listed was carried out.  This information had always been carried on the vehicle but in an area close to the item being examined usually on the solebar. The new data panel brought all the data into one location above which the wheelbase was applied using the same rules as previously detailed in featurette #1. The data panel is lined and I vary the width between 2-5mm.  The details contained are as follows:
L – Lifted
P – Paint
BO – Brake Overhaul
O – Oil
PE – Pad Exam
R – Roof

The dates are accompanied by a 4 digit works code. The box is 15″ wide and the height as required.  I originally painted the panel in chalkboard paint, but now I vary the blacks used and leave some areas in bauxite,  this gives the illusion that dates have been altered.  The dates I apply are fictitious, the actual dates are held with in the vehicle record cards we maintain and shared with the GCR. We use 2 works codes on each vehicle 5683 the works code for Tinsley Wagon Repair Sidings and the other will be were the vehicle was bought from.

This is were variation begins to come in, as the number of works and the manpower within reduced full repaints of vehicles were also reduced, with only bare parts or replaced parts being painted.  This lead to the specifications being adhered to but older markings remaining in place. The biggest example of this being the XP marking, if it remained legible it remained in its position above the wheelbase on the right-hand side of the vehicle.  If it had faded or on fully repainted vehicles the XP was placed within a box to the right of the main group of details. If the vehicle was vacuum-braked but not suitable to run in an Express Goods then the box was applied without the XP, or if modified the XP was painted out.

At this point we shall mention the switch from Vaccum Brakes to Air Brakes which began in the 1960s. In those early days an airbraked vehicle would state on the side wether it was airbraked, an example being the Steel Highs that were converted to air as part of the Western Region Air Braking trials.  A Vaccum fitted vehicle was simply called a HIGH,  those that were converted became HIGH AB. LH Detail

With the two different brake systems in use a quick reference was required so shunters and guards making out the prep sheets and vehicle consists could quickly work out the maximum speed of the train.  This was done by use of an HMLE sticker, a small yellow rectangle measuring 7.5″ x 5″ that stated the Weight, Brake force for Vacuum, Air or both, Route Availability  and maximum speed for four states, Heavy, Medium, Light or Empty.  The maximum speed of a train was taken from the slowest vehicle in the rake.  The HMLE negated the requirement for the XP marking for vacuum vehicles but most remained in situ.

As the 1970s rolled in, the UK turned to metrication, and the previous imperial tons and hundredweights made way to metric tons and kilograms.  There is no definitive date for this but between 1970 – 1978 metric units gradually became the norm.  For us however, we do not apply metric units to vehicles as the Guard prep sheets used on the GCR use imperial units.

Brake Changeover tear drops remain the same as mentioned in Featurette #1 however the spec for brake release stars was White for Air, Yellow for Vacuum it is however unlikely this was followed with all stars being white and accompanied by either AIR or VAC as applicable.20190901_195743

A further change was shock stripes,  these now become shock “squares” and measured 16.5″ tall and 14″ wide, 3 on each side. On the doors each side and evenly spaced on the ends.20190704_180515

The specification for branding also changed to Yellow with a boarder20190717_162552c

Two items I neglected to mention within the previous feature.  Door Stripes, these were painted to quickly identify the location of doors which could be opened but not immediately apparent by looking at the side.  End door stripes were either the width of the steel banding for wooden wagons or 2 1/2″ for steel wagons.  Vehicles with lower doors were identified by 2 diagonally opposed lines each 1 1/2″ wide, 3″ apart at bottom and 13″ at the top, with a vertical height of 7 1/2″.

With the introduction of the Total Operations Processing System (TOPS) in 1973 the first immediate change was the end of the Telegraph codes on the vehicles these were replaced by a 3 letter code which identified the type of vehicle, specific model of vehicle and brake equipment fitted.  There were other changes but this moves away from our area of focus although when it comes to the refurbishment of our Rudds we may have to look deeper.

This concludes our 2 part look into Markings on Goods vehicles, the thinking for my next feature is to look at the specific colours we use on our vehicles as it seems to be a regular question.



Featurette #1 BR Goods Vehicle Markings

To allow Ross at least a weekend to think about our next vehicle profile I am going to write about markings applied to BR Goods vehicles between 1948 – 1964 there meaning and the rules that I follow when applying them to our fleet. The period defined in this particular feature is pre-tops so applicable to the steam and early diesel eras, which is how we present the majority of our fleet.

To begin we have to go back to 1936 when the LMS made an economic decision to reduce the amount of paint used to letter Goods vehicles. Up until this point the big four and the preceding pre grouping railway companies painted large initials and numerals on their vehicles, anything from 6” to 24”.

In 1936 the LMS reduced the size of their lettering so that someone could reach all the markings on the vehicles without the use of a step ladder. The markings were concentrated in 2 areas, the extreme bottom right and left of each side of the vehicle. From 1937 this was adopted by the Railway Clearing House (RCH) as the standard for all goods vehicles and adhered to by the big four companies.

London Midland & Scotish Railway Railway Clearing house livery

Located on the left side was the vehicles running number typically 5” tall, above this the vehicles gross weight when loaded typically 4” tall and then the company initials at 5”.

On the right hand side was the vehicles tare, the weight of the vehicle unloaded. Some vehicles also had the wheelbase added mainly those that were vacuum fitted or through piped but not suitable for operating within an express goods train. Those vehicles that could run in an express goods, trains running at an average speed of 35mph or over, were identified with the XP marking which was agreed by the big four companies replacing any older markings. All of these markings ranged from 3” to 6” and varied between the companies.

The following image details the precise layout as detailed by the Railway Executive (RE)  from 1948. This layout remained the same until 1964 with the introduction of a new standard which I will detail in a future feature.

RE standard
Railway Executive Livery 1948

The typeface used during those early years was a sans serif, a simple letterform which is void of the little flicks, curls and fancy bits typical of older lettering styles. It is impossible to state an accurate font as the lettering was all hand applied and was down to the individual sign writer. I have developed my own style of this typeface which is based on that applied by the  LNER sign writers. I have scanned in many images of LNER vehicles and picking my favourite style of each individual letter or numeral from the many available. Below is the style I have drawn and is essentially my own Grouping Typeface, which would have been in use until a new typeface detailed by the Railway Executive was issued to all the BR works in August 1948. M500954 carries this earlier style.

Pre Nationalisation typeface


For the new typeface we must again go back but this time to 1929, Eric Gill had in 1926 developed a new letter style that was adopted by the LNER in 1929 for publicity material. The LNER produced a guide for its sign writers on how to apply this typeface. This was of cause Gill Sans and at this time it was not applied to rolling stock. BR adopted the letter style for all purposes and in 1948 produced its own guide.

This is when the waters start to muddy, and causes issues with trying to recreate accurately what had gone before. BR stated that Gill Sans was to be applied to Rolling stock as per the Railway Excecutive standard, although it omitted the requirement for company initials. As the lettering was still hand applied and the BR Gill Sans differed slightly from the LNER Gill Sans a lot of variation creept in especially when you look at the numeral styles.

LNER Gill sans
LNER Gill Sans MT

BR Gill sans
BR Gill Sans MT

So what do I do?  I vary the styles I apply.  My preference being the LNER style. To begin my first port of call is to find the exact livery applied to the vehicle.  This is done in two ways. First sanding down the vehicle to see what clues are underneath the layers of paint.  This was successfully done with B780282.  The lettering applied matches that found under the MODs layers of green applied, essentially preserving the BR layers for me to find.

The second option is to find a picture of the vehicle or one from the same batch. This was done with B850498 which was done using a reference image of B850333.  As you can imagine I have a lot of railway goods vehicle reference material.

Author: J.H. Russell
ISBN: 0860931552


If all else fails we essentially make it up using the RE specification and discussion with the whole team, specifically Nick, as to what we feel will look best. Keeping the additional markings of Wheelbase and XP relevant to the vehicle the marking is being applied to, using B850498 again as an example, as built this was vacuum fitted and suitable for express goods, this, however being a rewheeled vehicle with an unfitted chassis, that we through piped, the XP marking would not be appropriate and is therefore not applied. Although the wheelbase and Western style non common user plates were applied to add interest.

Western Style Non Common user plates

I stated above that the RE standard omitted the requirement for company initials although true what was added was a regional allocation, this was initially to be applied to all vehicles under the running number with a 2″ height, although this became very complicated as vehicles moved from region to region because they were all owned by the same nationalised company.  The regional requirement was altered and was applied to vehicles with regional specific branding or traffic, although this again changed from the full region name under the running number to regional initials as part of the branding.

Regional Allocation

Branding was applied to vehicles assigned to set traffic or those hired by companies, were known this has been reapplied accurately to our vehicles, however we do occasionally indulge ourselves. B786348 is branded Empty to Tinsley E.R. this was done as Nick was proud of this rewheeled former grounded body.

As the 50s rolled in to the 60s, In the same vane as branding, Circuit Markers began to be applied to special vehicles on set traffic, this was a yellow circle 10″ wide with an arrow pointing at the wagon label clip, directing shunting staff as to the vehicles set route. Examples being Vanwides with wider doors for palletised loads or the Shockhood B built specifically for South Wales tin traffic.

Also applied to vehicles were its telegraph code.  This was used to communicate the description of vehicles between stations and goods yards when running as part of a train or when a specific vehicle type was required.  Using the code was quicker than asking for a vehicle which had a capacity of “X”, dimensions of “X”, fitted, covered etc etc. The RCH were involved again, having the codes standardised in 1922 excluding the GWR who were then brought in to line in 1943.

Telegraph Codes

There were two technical markings applied to vehicles, both relating to a vehicles braking system. First is the vacuum release cord star.  This identifies to shunters and wagon works staff how to release brakes for shunting or maintenance.  Then we have the brake change overtear drop this identifies the location of the change over leaver or Empty / Loaded lever this allows an additional brake cylinder to be in use when the vehicle is loaded to increase brake force.  The brake star measures 3″ and the tear drop 8″ although this does vary depending on the works applying.

Other instructions may also be added to the vehicle and these are 2″ tall, there were many possibilities.

Shock stripes, these were applied to shock absorbing vehicles. These are vehicles who’s body is designed to move separate of the chassis and is sprung to dampen the movement of the vehicle during shunting. These stripes would be the entire height of a open wagon and half the height of a van, with a width of 4″.

Finally, looking at the images of vehicles we have posted in the past and in this feature, you may have noticed a little symbol under or around the tare.  This was an LMS system adopted by BR, it identified when the vehicle was last painted.  Vehicles would be repainted usually every 6 years and the symbols was a quick reference for mainternance staff to work out when the next paint was due.  The symbols were a repeating sequence of 12 1.25″ high shapes, letters or images.  I have continued the sequence and those applied to our vehicles represent that specific year.  Paint symbols

In the next feature we shall look at how the markings changed from 1964 until the introduction of TOPS for goods vehicles in August 1973

Vehicle Profile #5 – Rudd

Last week, we published a profile of the Grampus wagon, a versatile 20 ton capacity engineering wagon. Our next Vehicle Profile covers their one of their replacements; the Rudd.

With design of the Grampus and other engineering wagons becoming unsuitable for the change in working methods, replacement wagons were converted from stored HTV coal wagons to varying designs. These use the Fishkind names of the Tope, Clam and Rudd. Of note to us are the Rudd design, of which we have 3 examples.

  • DB972018, converted at Marcroft in 1990 to design ZB001A. In its past life it was HTV B429632 built at Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon in 1958.
  • DB972608, converted at CC Crump in 1991 to design ZB001A. Its HTV number was B429763 built by Hurst Nelson in 1957
  • DB972681, converted at CC Crump in 1991 to design ZB001A. It was HTV B424802 built in 1957

The Rudd name initially appeared in 1987 on converted Grampus of which one (DB984194) is preserved at the Nene Valley. These conversion retained the Grampus’s single skinned slab doors but had rebuilt with non-removable ends and air brakes.

The Rudd named was later reused on a design had the same three doors per side, fixed ends and air brakes as the Grampus based conversion, but had stiffer ends and a different design of door which made them less susceptible to damage by mechanical loading equipment. The doors on the Grampus are heavy and require 2 or more people to lower and raise them. The Rudd doors, while arguably heavier, can be opened and raised by one person; benefitting from the use of door control equipment. Using the door control equipment also meant the ‘bangers’ fitted to the underframe wouldn’t require fitting removing a potential for trapping hands.

Of the 3 designs intended to replace the likes of the Grampus, and other similar engineering wagons, the Rudd lasted the longest primarily due to their air brakes, while the Tope and Clam retained Vacuum. By 2005, an estimated 2 Tope remained in traffic, with 3 Clam. By contrast, 278 Rudds remained in traffic until 2008.

Back to our Rudds, like our Grampus they remain fit for use and their turn in the restoration queue remains behind the wooden bodied vehicles in the mixed freight.

Vehicle Profile #4 – Grampus


Grampus are 20 ton multi-purpose engineering wagons, designed by British Railways and built between 1951 and 1961. The design is based heavily on the earlier GWR all steel Tunny (which we also have one of) and Starfish, with ends similar to the Southern region Lamprey. Grampus had a 20 ton capacity and as such had 10″x5″ axle boxes. Our fleet show a variety of variants of these. Most of these wagons were built unfitted, though few were vacuum braked. Our fleet, naturally follows this model, with six being unfitted, and one being vacuum fitted. Details of our fleet are below.

Number Year Built Allocated Region Allocated Region
DB984642 1957 Eastern Region Chesterton Junction Central Permanent Way Depot
DB984713 1957 Western Region CO
DB985730 1954 North Eastern Region Darlington Reclamation Depot
DB985884 1953 Scottish Region Greenhill Creosoting Depot
DB985933 1954 Midland Region Liverpool
DB990585 1952 Midland Region North Wales
DB991408 1959 Eastern Region District Engineer Ipswich

Grampus are built with three drop down doors and two removable cast iron stanchions per side. Across the end of the wagon there are two removable planks on the end, which can be stowed in pockets under the end of the wagon. The end of the wagon also has a drop down door to allow wheeled vehicles to roll from one wagon to another. These make the wagon very versatile, able to be loaded and unloaded by hand and able to take loads over the length of the wagon.

Being a truly versatile wagon, they could carry sleepers, ballast and chippings. In the era of the steam loco, it carried loco ash away from depots for re-use elsewhere. However in more modern times, with mechanised loading machinery, the wagon’s single skin steel doors, wooden floors and removable end planks made them susceptible to damage. The later Rudd and Clam wagons suffered with this less as they had much stronger doors (though Clams had no doors), solid ends and steel floors.

All but one of our fleet have had steel floors fitted in place of wood, and where doors have been damage, particularly at the top, we have tried to straighten them as best we can. Doing this means the doors shut correctly and can be retained by the pins. Ours stand ready to be used, receiving regular maintenance awaiting their turn in the paint queue. As they are all steel, they do stand the weather better than any of the wooden bodied wagons we have in the fleet which take the priority in the queue. Join us next time for a profile of their successor, the Rudd.

Vehicle Profile #3 – The Yellow Coach

Up next in Vehicle Profile Series we have coach very important to us, and is very much missed. The coach formed the base of our operations since 2011, and has all the usual mess facilities needed for us to work on the wagons of the fleet.

The Yellow Coach – ADB977107 (Sc21202, E21202)

The vehicle we refer to as the ‘Yellow Coach’ was built in 1958 at Metro Cammell in Washwood Heath, Birmingham as 21202, a Mk 1 Brake Composite Corridor [BCK] coach to diagram number 171, as part of lot number 30425. It was converted for use at a Breakdown Train Unit (BTU) staff coach in 1983 at Slade Green being fitted with BR Mark 3A ex.EMU trailer bogies. The modifications undertaken as part of its BTU role included:-

  • additional heating
  • additional lighting
  • kitchen area
  • sleeping compartment with four bunks
  • mess area with large tables
  • office compartment
  • water heater
  • washing area

Re-classified as QVA and renumbered ADB977107 it was then transferred to Eastleigh where it was used in the breakdown train until the mid 1990s. The coach continued in breakdown train use moving to Crewe. Finally after moving to Wigan the coach had fallen out of use by 2010 and was stored at the Wigan Disposal. From there it was bought on the 23 July 2010 by Nick Tinsley, and subsequently moved to the GCR. It resided in the sidings at Quorn for many years, providing a base for the Quorn Wagon & Wagon group. In 2019 with the condition of the body deteriorating, and requests from the railway to tidy up the yard, the coach moved to Rothley where it is receiving much needed body repairs, electrical system modifications and interior restoration.

Below are some diagrams of the layout of the coach, in service as a BCK, when converted to breakdown train use and now, in preservation.

BCK - Sc21202 Layout Diagram

BCK - ADB977107 Layout Diagram As Converted

BCK - ADB977107 Layout Diagram As Preserved

Vehicle Profile #2 – Test Car 2

Carrying on with our Vehicle Profile series, we have a vehicle you have already seen plenty about. Test Car 2 is currently in use as our mess facility while ADB977107 is receiving bodywork attention. We have previously opened the Test Car at Galas, something which we plan on doing again, though it currently remains to be seen when that will be. Thanks to Dave for pulling the summary together for Test Car 2.

TEST CAR 2 – ADB975397
This special coach was built in 1962 at Wolverton Works as 35386, a Mk 1 Brake Second Corridor [BSK] coach using Commonwealth bogies as part of lot number 30699. It was transferred to the Department of Mechanical & Electrical Engineers [DM&EE] at Derby in 1974 and renumbered ADB975397.

For the next 35 years Test Car 2 was used primarily for slip/brake testing, which was the preferred method of assessing the brake stopping distance performance of new or modified rolling stock. This test method allowed the brake stopping distance of a vehicle to be measured independently and not influenced by other vehicles coupled in a train.

The layout of the interior of the coach was adapted specifically for this role including the installation of:-

  • a Perkins 3-cylinder 20-kVA diesel generator,
  • 240v electrical installation, a distribution panel and shore supply,
  • test instrument racks,
  • large table top area,
  • on-board instrumentation systems,
  • slip-coupling,
  • oleo buffers,
  • specially modified air and vacuum brake system,
  • large drop-down gangway door window,
  • inward opening access doors,
  • test gauges,
  • heating,
  • lighting,
  • an underframe mounted 90-gallon fuel tank,
  • 10 bar air compressor with 150-litre air reservoir,
  • workshop area,
  • battery chargers,
  • secure storage for the instrumentation cables,
  • a kitchen with cooking facilities,
  • re-sited the toilet compartment,
  • additional body-end windows.

During its working life as a test car, ADB975397 is estimated to have been used in excess of 450 occasions for slip/brake testing. It remained at the Derby based Railway Technical Centre until its withdrawal in 2008; Test Car 2 was then moved to the Old Dalby Test Track in 2011 and stored by Serco until it was secured for preservation in 2016 by Matt Baker, and moved to the Great Central Railway. The decision was made by the Quorn Wagon & Wagon Group in 2018 that the unique Test Car 2 would be retained as a test car in preservation, unlike so many similarly preserved test coaches that have been re-converted for passenger use. The restoration work has been undertaken by the Quorn Wagon & Wagon Group at the Quorn & Woodhouse station yard. The interior layout retains the ambience of 1990s testing life whilst display boards provide visitors with an insight into the history of this Test Car, including details of how and why slip/brake testing was carried out.

Vehicle Profile #1 – Air Braked Steel High

While we aren’t able to get on site to take part in any work to give you any updates, I’d like to continue with some different content to keep people interested and give people something to interact with while we are socially distancing. These might take the form of a profile of a vehicle in the collection, describing its history; or sharing some British Transport Films that are favourites of the team. Please let us know if there is anything you’d like us to explore.
Tonight, I’ll start with E280364, our Air Braked LNER Steel High.
All-Steel Highfit wagon E280364
Type OHB
Diagram No. 194
Capacity 13 Tons
Wheelbase 10ft
Built 1947 in Darlington
During 1970 a total of 40 wagons of five types were modified by BR Western Region, for a trial of air-braked wagon operations with increased operating speeds between Oxford and Worcester.
The modifications that allowed the maximum operating speed to be increased from 45 to 60 mile/h included:-
Uprating the suspension leaf springs from 5-plate to 9-plate,
Converting from shoe type to BR long suspension links,
Installation of two-pipe auto-air brake equipment.
The wagons that were modified for the trial comprised:-
Twelve, 13T All-Steel Highfits (OHB)
Twelve, 12T Vanfits (VVB)
Seven, 12T Palvanfits (VPB)
Four, 22T TubeVB (STB)
Five, PlateVB (SPB)
The trials ran until 1972, following which all 40 wagons continued in service as part of the then growing fleet of air-brakes wagons.
The All-Steel Highfit wagons of which E280364 was one, continued in network service until the late 1970s. They were then transferred into departmental use for carrying spare parts between depots, the last being withdrawn in 1992.
E280364 which was built in Darlington in 1947, was rescued for preservation by Nick Tinsley in late October 1990 from Peterborough Wagon Shops, and is currently undergoing restoration by us. When we left site E280364 was sat in its bauxite gloss top coat, with the underframe having been sprayed. It awaits signwriting before this vehicle can be released to traffic.


22/03/20 – Patience pays off

With the current situation facing the world, and with the Test Car quite restrictive in the space, we decided to limit the numbers of the group on-site. Four is our decided maximum with all having to be key holders. We also limited one person per vehicle and they were separated to allow the minimum 2m social distance. The GCR was unfortunately closed and we shared the yard with a small number of the S&T department working around the box.

Every time we entered the vehicle it was disinfected, focussing on the high touch areas such as tabletops and doors.

With the good weather and the 3 wagons that have been waiting for over 10 months, out came the paint,  with the Air braked High, Vacuum High and Iron Ore Tippler each receiving Gloss applied by Ross and Jake.

I also applied Gloss to the Scarab flat trailer, namely BS381C 540 or more commonly know as BR Crimson

The rest of the team also painted the headstocks with bitumastic paint

I applied gloss black to the back of the trailer headboard and fixed the round plate to the rear of the trailer and began signwriting, first the 20mph limit. Then chalking up the rest.

As the light faded, one side and part of the head end was complete.

Returning on Sunday and the restrictions remaining in force Jake sprayed the underframes in Bitumin. Nick followed up with a brush reaching the areas missed by the gun.

I completed the Signwriting on the trailer and a few other areas were touched up thus completing the aesthetic overhaul. There are a few mechanical areas still requiring attention, namely the hand brake.

With work continuing on the underframes of the 3 wagons. I moved on to the Tippler applying the templates and chalking up. We also took the opportunity to recreate an image that was an inspiration to me when  I started signwriting.20200322_12182990483522_593832817882970_3781537087140921344_n

So at the end of the weekend, we have the large majority of the Iron Ore tippler complete, just a few remaining details, and the two highs in Bauxite and underframes complete.

We continue to keep our ear to the ground regards the pandemic and we shall see what happens next weekend.