Prototype information on some BR-period vans


BR standard vans

by Simon Dunstall

March 1999

Of interest here are the 17'6" long, 10' WB ordinary vans and shock absorbing vans, of BR design with corrugated ends and double hinged doors in the sides. Fruit, Ale, Banana, Meat and Pallet vans (etc., including vanwides) are not included. Please advise if you think some of the information on this page is incorrect, or if you've got new information you want to add. There are many other places in which you can find information about BR wagons, but hopefully there's something here of interest.

The diagrams   These are the diagrams relating to the vans of interest. This information has been taken primarily from Don Rowland's Book British Railways Wagons. By diagram, it is meant the page in BR's 'Diagram Book'. Using the table below, the total number of these vans is calculated as 24612 non-shock absorbing vans and 4475 shock absorbing vans, including the margarine vans. It is assumed that the 700 vehicles of Lot 3109 were built as diagram 213 vans, rather than diagram 218 vans as suggested in Don Rowland's book (see later).

Diagram Type Years built Number built Sides and doors
1/208 Non-shock 1951-1958 19063 Planked Sides, Plank and Ply Doors
1/209 Shock 1951-1956 3000 Planked and Ply Sides and Doors
1/212 Non-shock, Margarine 1954 150 Planked, probably identical to a 1/208
1/213 Non-shock 1952-1957 4399* Ply sides and doors
1/218 Shock 1957-1958 1375* Ply sides and doors
1/220 Shock 1959 100 Ply sides and doors
1/224 Non-shock 1961 1000 Ply sides and doors

Van Doors   There seems to be two types of ply door – those with triangular reinforcement plates in the corners, and those without. From photos, it seems that the corner reinforcement plates were applied to doors of most vans (every van?) of diagram 1/213, 1/218, 1/220 and 1/224, presumably from new. Plate 57 in Don Rowlands book provides the only photo showing that diagram 1/208 vans were fitted with this style of ply door (and this van may have had modifications at the same stage as the autocoupler was fitted). I haven't seen Diagram 1/209 vans with such doors. Some 208 and 209 vans may well have received such doors, or had plates fitted to their existing doors.

Lot 3109   The appendices of Don Rowlands' book suggest that B779851 to B780550 were built to lot 3109 in 1958 at Ashford, to be diagram 1/218 vans (ply-sided shocvans). However, Plates 82 and 83 in Cheona Publishing's British Railways Vans show photos of vehicles from this lot, B779954 and B780203. These wagons are in fact ordinary ply-sided vans to either diagram 1/213 or 1/224. In addition, Duncan Wilcock has provided information showing that B779898, B779928, B780262 and B780379 were also standard ply-sided vans (photographed late '80s and early '90s). All of these six vans were seen fitted with BR 8-shoe brakes.

For an expert opinion on the "mystery" of Lot 3109, it's over to Paul Bartlett:

Dear Simon, Very pleased to hear from you, however that was quite a long email to ask if there is a typo in Don Rowlands book. BR was very consistent with its number blocks and 3109 is simply 1/213 vans.

As referred to by Paul, B779851 to B780550 is in the running number range for ordinary vans (B75xxxx-B78xxxx), as opposed to the B85xxxx range for shocvans. Ashford was building 1/213 vans in 1956 (1500 vans, lots 2855/6) and 1957 (80 vans, lot 3023). In 1958, when lot 3109 was built, it seems that they just kept on rolling them out.

A dissenting voice comes from Red Panda's instructions for their diagram 1/220 kit. These instructions give a summary of shocvan running numbers, building dates, builders and common detail variations. They list lot 3109 as B779851 to B780550 (as Don Rowland does), yet give the year as 1959. Anyway, they suggest that the typical spec. for a lot 3109 shocvan is: ply sides and doors, 4-shoe brakes, and Duplex, Dowty and Oleo buffers. They don't mention any ordinary vans being part of the lot. Most interestingly, Red Panda's instructions note that B780511 (within lot 3109) has been sighted as a diagram 1/218 van with 4-shoe brakes and Duplex buffers...

So, Ashford may have slipped in a 1/218 or two in Lot 3109 as a prank on modellers, but nevertheless it isn't advisable to build a model of a lot 3109 shocvan unless you have a picture of it! If you want to build a 1/218 with 4-shoe brakes and Duplex buffers, try a lot 3008 vehicle (e.g. B854136 has this combination, as seen in plate 85 in Cheona's Van Book).

A Modeller's Comparison of Lot 3109 (Diagram 1/213) and Lot 3398 (Diagram 1/224) vans   Don Rowland's book records lot 3398 as being the only order for diagram 1/224 ply-sided vans, these built in 1961. B786548, a diagram 1/224 vehicle (Plate 89 in Cheona's book) is representative of the diagram 1/224 fleet then it seems that all vans of both lots 3109 and 3398 were fitted of BR 8-shoe brakes. The photographs in Cheona's book (B779954, B780203 and B786548) also show that all three have two-part corrugated ends (8 corrugations below, 8 above the division).

Based on the photos, there appears to me to be little practical difference (at least for modelling purposes) between diagram 1/213 and diagram 1/224. It is possible that a difference lies in diagram 224 vans being fitted with Oleo buffers from new, whereas diagram 1/213 vans were not universally. Even if this were true three of the four lot 3109 vans had received Oleos by the time Duncan Wilcock had photographed them (20 years after building). The photographs of B779954 and B780203 show Dowty buffers, as did the fourth van photographed by Duncan.

Close inspection of the three photos in Cheona's book shows that all three vans have their cast number plates in different position on the solebars;

  • B779954 has its number plate above the spring stop of the left-hand W-iron (non vac-cylinder side).
  • B780203's is located beneath the centre of the leftmost door (vac-cylinder side).
  • B786548 has its number plate above the left-hand spring shoe on the left-hand axlebox spring (vac-cylinder side).

All the label clips appear to be just to the right of the spring stop above the left W-iron – a pretty usual sort of place really. Each seems to have three-part rainstrips too (although B786548 is a little beaten up in the roof department). Yes, these are pretty fiddly sort of details.

An interesting thing noticeable about B780203 and B786548 is that a new type of door bottom lock bracket seems to be fitted – that is, new compared to what is usually found on such vans (see the photos). However, the photo of B780203 dates from 1979, and the photo of B786548 was probably taken at the same period of time or later, so that maybe this was a later ('70s?) modification.

Modelling   Geoff Kent, as always, provides a good dose of prototype information and modelling ideas in The 4mm Wagon Volume 2. Cheona's BR Vans and Don Rowland's British Railways Wagons also provides valuable prototype information.

Parkside Dundas recently upgraded their kits for planked and ply standard vans. This is a good thing, as the old kit has its problems.

When building the old kit, I have found that I needed to put 10 or 15 thou plastikard between the mitres of the end and side mouldings in order to get the wagon-end wide enough (compare a Parkside 1/208 to their planked shocvan for example). With this widening of the ends, the wagon measures up better against prototype dimensions (and, more importantly, the appearance is improved).

The body of the upgraded kit is certainly an improvement, and use of the upgraded kit can certainly be recommended. It provides choices of door (planked or ply) for both planked and ply diagrams, as well as mouldings to represent the air scoops on ply-sided fruit vans. An annoying feature of the kit for the plank-sided vehicle is that the ply doors, if used, need to be thinned by a couple of millimetres. This is a dull and horrid job.

See also BR Diagram 1/218 and 1/220 Shocvans.

Van Detail summary table   The table of data about vans (numbers, photo references, details) is available in MS Excel or pdf formats.

Duncan Wilcock's Photographs   This list has been provided by Duncan Wilcock, compiled from his own photographs.

B779898 (041588) – Lot 3109 (Diagram 213) – Doncaster 29.12.91. Standard ply-bodied van, 8-shoe clasp brakes, split axleboxes, Oleo pneumatic buffers.

KDB779928  (ZRV) – Lot 3109 (Diagram 213) – Kings Lynn 21.10.88. Standard ply-bodied van, 8-shoe clasp brakes, plate front axleboxes, Oleo pneumatic buffers.

B780262 (ZRV) – Lot 3109 (Diagram 213) – Barry Docks 11.10.87. Standard ply-bodied van, 8-shoe clasp brakes, split axleboxes, Dowty hydraulic buffers.

LDB780379 (ZYV) – Lot 3109 (Diagram 213) – Doncaster 29.12.91. Standard ply-bodied van, 8-shoe clasp brakes, split axleboxes, Oleo pneumatic buffers.

Also, B780140 (Lot 3109, Diagram 213), TOPS coded VVV, was a grounded body at Barry Docks in July 1990.

Additional Photo Notes   B855033 – Lot 3224 (Diagram 220) – Photographed in 1969 (Photo in Cheona Publishing's Railways in Profile Series – Number 3 – BR Vans) has Dowty buffers rather than Oleos, which makes it an exception to the data provided in Red Panda's instructions for the 1/218 and 1/220 shocvan kit.


Meat vans in banana traffic

The following series of exchanges and records took place during 1999.

Duncan Wilcock

February 1999
BR/LMS style banana vans and LMS 'refrigerator' insulated meat vans were very similar sharing the same body style. The banana vans however had diagonal bracing (flat strip in LMS style and angle iron in BR style), whilst the meat vans had none. In the January 1999 issue of Railway Bylines there is an article on Preston Docks Rly. In it there is a picture of, and references to white painted banana vans (the picture with the white vans is dated 17 June 1967).

These vans on page 57 have no bracing which suggests they are meat vans pressed into banana traffic. Vans were painted white to indicate that they were insulated, and were used mainly for meat and fish traffic (I seem to remember some BR rule that fish vans were to be used for nothing else). Don Rowland suggests in his book British Railway Wagons that the building of banana vans with steam heating was abandoned from 1957; "vans..were merely insulated and fitted with a steam pipe". This would make insulated meat vans an ideal second choice for banana traffic. Incidently the photograph on page 57 shows two BR standard vans end on. As these are bauxite painted and have no end ventilator, they are banana vans.

Now for the flies in the ointment... The earliest batch of LMS banana vans had no diagonal bracing. Mr Essery in his LMS Wagons (Vol 1) mentions a scheme to convert 100 LMS meat vans to banana traffic (an unconfirmed scheme from 1936). The only photograph I have of an LMS/BR banana van is B880370 a grounded body at Pentwyn Farm in the black mountains. This was bauxite painted flaking to white underneath?

References: An Illustrated history of LMS Wagons (Vol 1), RJ Essery, Pages 22/3,112-113; The LMS Wagon, RJ Essery and KR Morgan, Pages 70-74; British Railways Wagons, Don Rowland, Pages 69-70; BR Standard Freight Wagons, Dave Larkin, Page 43; Pentwyn Farm OS map 161 grid ref 275267 noted 29.8.91
Tony Darrah

February 1999
I am coming to the conclusion that the white painted banana vans in the picture (P57, Railway Bylines, Jan 99) must be converted (redundant) Insul-Meat vans to LMS D1672A – why bother repainting them in 1967. I don't think that white was a general colour for Banana vans. All livery instructions say bauxite. On a side note, the Railway Executive livery instructions for 1949 state that, for vehicles to be painted white, 'stone coloured paint may be used until white is available'. Shades of rationing.

Incidentally, Duncan, I think the ones in the picture do have diagonal bracing. Look thro' a lens. But some of the LMS ex- refrigerated meat vans did have diagonal bracing (LMS Wagons Vol 1 p113 in BR white).

The LMS converted refrigerator Vans (D1672A) were very similar to the LMS D1660 and D2111 Steam Banana Vans. The earlier BR Banana Vans were based on this LMS design (Diagrams 240, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) There are detail differences in steam heating presence or absence, end bracing, wheelbase (9 or 10 ft) and various braking arrangements. The next BR Banana Van D246 was very like a standard van with corrugated ends and no vent. There is a train of these on the next siding in the article in question.
John Isherwood

April 1999
With regards to the Railway Bylines photo of white-painted vans at Preston Docks, I noticed this photo whilst flicking through the magazine in a newsagents (I don't take the magazine myself). My firm impression was of internal-user vans being used to transport goods, (bananas?), within the dock complex. The white painting of the vans seemed very fresh to me, and ice blue was coming in as the new colour for insulated vans about this time, wasn't it?

If I had to put money on it, I would guess that redundant mainline vans had been newly-aquired and repainted, for internal movement of bananas (?) within the docks. The overwhelming trend for the transport of bananas at this time was away from rail, in favour of road traffic. It may thus have been necessary to aquire wagons, to move the bananas from the ship to the packing and road-vehicle loading facility.
Tony Darrah

May 1999
In the June issue of 'Steam Days', Michael Harris has an article -'Special Traffic – Bananas by the train load'. An interesting article on the ports at Bristol, Manchester, Garston, Tilbury, Southampton, Preston & Barry, the handling of the fruit, the reasons why BR got rid of steam heating and some lovely photos. Satisfying, but still leaving me wondering if the white banana vans at Preston were converted Insul-Meat.
Tony Darrah

February 1999
LNER Banana Vans are covered in Peter Tatlow's LNER Wagons (I think recently republished). Good pictures of Meat and Banana vans in Dave Larkin's BR Standard Freight Wagons and Geoff Gamble's British Railways Vans (Railways in Profile Series #3). Also Details in Bob Essery's Official Drawings of LMS Wagons No1 & No2. Articles by Eric Kemp in Model Railways May 1989 and Your Model Railway Nov 1985 (Specifically on BR Banana Vans).
Tony Darrah

February 1999
The LMS style banana/meat van is very like the LMS fish van (recently introduced by Parkside as a 4mm kit) in body style. Interestingly, the last LMS 6-wheel Fish van has similarities in bodysides and ends. Fish vans are NPCS so always appear in carriage books (e.g. LMS Coaches Vol 1). Good references in The LMS Wagon, British Goods Wagons, LMS Wagons Vol 1 and British Railway Wagons.