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GCR/LNER horse boxes

The model pictures appeared in a Model Rail article (see under articles index, "LNER NPCS", Model Rail, Feb 2004) but were distorted at the publishing stage with parts of the image obscured, kind of melted, or missing: these are taken off the original slides. I have now uploaded the complete set, including the GCR version.

The kit has been acquired from R&E by Brassmasters and is available again (May 2016 and 2017). See Useful Links.

HB etch

In this constructional view, a crucial recess which has to be cut in the end of the base of the main etching to take the body ends can be seen here; I've added some helpful arrows.

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The different underframe with GCR brake arrangement (top) and revised by the LNER (bottom), described in the Model Rail article. I simplified the equipment between the wheels that cannot be seen.

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Both models of the GCR version standing next to each other. The livery was quite dark and my weathering was pretty mild, although differing slightly between the two so that they don't look identical, especially on the roofs.

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The original brake gear was different when seen from each side: this is the manual brake side on No 624...

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... and the other side on No 627.

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GC HB

This is the LNER version.

And finally, as the saying goes, here's one I built earlier. It was actually the very first of, eventually, four, and more remain on my shelf. Finding that they were used away from the GC Section has proved a helpful boost. Note how I moved away from a goods-type colour to a darker, "teak brown" shade; all these browns darkened in service anyway. This model was a birthday present and one thing that doesn't show from this angle is the groom's dog at his feet. I also provided a horse, all from the Langley Models range. :)

A closer view of the end with the train alarm gear. I never found any evidence of this in the as-built GCR condition.

Design features

New additions - divided into two parts, Design and Service, and the boxes in all the trains now identified - there was more variety than previously met the eye!

The last three designs of horse box built by the MSLR and GCR (there was an ex-LDEC one as well) lasted into LNER days, and the final one into BR days as well. Most numerous was the second one in this series and quite rightly it's the one covered by the R&E kit, but a quick look at the sequence is useful, and besides, many train pictures show a mixture of types. As with all rolling stock, the old and the new always rubbed shoulders.

GCR HB

A view of the earlier horse boxes in a train at Northwood (see below for the whole train). These were built by the MS&LR between 1875-1890 and 28 served into LNER days as LNER(C) Diagram 218, Hollerith code No 5191.

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Diagram redrawn from scan by Rupert Brown. Click on the image for an enlargement

The Diagram from the LNER-C carriage drawing book was a modified reprint of the GCR original and in poor shape so I have redrawn it. The body was 17'6" long and wheelbase a fairly generous one of 10'2". In this relatively early design the groom's door was at the outer end with his seat backing onto the horse compartment, making it awkward to attend to them through the partition. The groom's windows were small and old-fashioned, almost a token gesture.

And there was no ventilation on the roof; instead, grilles were provided in all three compartments: groom, horse and fodder. The diagram appears to show ventilation gaps between the planks in the upper doors for the horse compartment but they do not show in the train picture above which suggests that the design was modified before or during construction but the Diagram was not. Discrepancies like this I have noted elsewhere and that drawings, no matter how official, are not tablets cast in stone!

Diagram number: GCR 1X4, LNER-C 221, then Code 5194.

Construction of the next design was started by the MS&LR and ended by the GCR while the London Extension was being completed and launched. It's the version covered by the R&E kit. I have an official drawing approx. 3'x2' as well, but far too large to reproduce, and the Diagram does reveal quite a lot that can be added to the instructions with the kit. Here's the Diagram:

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Diagram redrawn from scan by Rupert Brown. Click on the image for an enlargement

Note the significant developments from the previous design with a much better laid out compartment for the groom, better ventilation all round, and a higher roof. These horse boxes were actually built in several batches with some variations in detail, the first series over three years at Gorton, and the second one by Gloucester C&W Co. They totalled 67 and the Diagram combines them:

First series (12) - built 1897, 1901, 1902 - with vacuum brake and Westinghouse through pipe. Numbers which can be confirmed below, the gaps caused by a partially random method of numbering:

GCR: 599, 604, 611, 613, 614, 616, 618, 622, 624, 626, 627, 629.
LNER: 903, 908, 915, 917, 918, 920, 922, 926, 928, 930, 931, 933.

Second series (45) - built 1898 - dual braked

GCR 1549-1593
LNER: 954-998.

GCR HB

No 1553 from the second series poses at its builder's, Birmingham Carriage and Wagon Co. Only two torpedo vents can be seen on the roof, but four on the Diagram. This may have been a progressive development during construction as the final Diagram certainly had four. Alas, few of my in-service views for this Diagram are very clear in this regard and whether GCR or LNER period, they all appear to show two vents. There may have been examples with more vents, but I cannot prove it. There is also the possibility of the original design having had four vents, but this was countermanded when construction started on grounds of cost. At present, my advice to modellers would be to rely on the prototype pictures and only fit two vents.

Another confusing aspect re the Diagram is that the vents are shown as sloping while all the service pictures clearly show them as vertical; on all the designs, in fact. A sub-base was required to achieve this.

In 1928 the LNER decided to abolish the Westinghouse brake except for the suburban service on the GE Section and the second series began to have it removed from around 1928. Unfortunately, this record is unclear and I can only identify the following with reasonable confidence as having lost it before withdrawal: 969, 970, 971, 972, 975, 979, 985, 989, 990, 991, 994, 995, 998.

Longest lived was No 998. Indeed, it was the only reason this page was still in the diagram book.


The final diagram of GCR horse box was built in 1913 when Dukinfield produced ten. It was the company's last construction of horse boxes:

GC HB

The length and dual-braked layout were the same as the previous Diagram but the panelling had the more attractive curved mouldings as per the GCR carriages of the 1900s and there were two modernising differences: the wheelbase was lengthened slightly from 9'6" to 10' (it's odd how in the previous design the wheelbase had been reduced by 8" which would have given a poorer ride) and the lower drop flap was provided with dampers to control its descent, a forward-looking feature also fitted by the North Eastern Railway.

Oil axleboxes were being fitted at last and the carriage style of the box was enhanced by more of a passenger carriage livery, complete with 3rd Class designation. The owners travelled by 1st Class carriage, of course! The numbers, including a second renumbering by the LNER, were:

GCR: 1706-1714
LNER: 999-1008 (box)
LNER: 1705-14 (carriage).

In service

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11A 4-4-0 No 870 is at Northwood c1901 on the approach to Marylebone with an Up express and two of the earlier horse boxes behind the tender. It isn't possible to tell if they were loaded or empties being sent there to collect horses bound for the North. Labels have been placed in the holders on the lower doors. Photo: LGRP.

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Staff pose for the camera at Chalfont Road in mid-GCR days as an 11A class 4-4-0 passes with a short express of three clerestory carriages, plus a matching bogie van, and three GCR horse boxes. Leading is the 1913 design, followed by a pair to the preceding one (1X4).

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11B Class 4-4-0 No 1029 heads south near Whetstone with the 2.15pm Manchester-Marylebone express, all recently built matchboard stock with a GCR horse box behind the tender, another 1X4. Many long distance expresses were allowed to convey horse boxes and this was an off-peak one; only the crack expresses were barred. Photo: C.M. Shoults.

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A rare view of three boxes to the final diagram in a train. Note that both manual brake levers were still at the same end. And that train alarm gear has been added. Just visible beyond them is a GWR horse box. An Atlantic pauses at the main platform with an Up express while the "wooden platform" hosts a branch train.

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This is believed to be a Leicester-Chesterfield Ordinary Passenger train c1922. Behind the Atlantic are six GCR horse boxes, a 4w van of some kind, and at least two carriages.The horse boxes are a mixture of types, the leading two being the 1875 design still going strong.

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It's 8th April 1939 and B17 No 2862 Manchester United is passing Welwyn Garden City with an Up Cambridge express. I suspect that this is a "Beer Train" strengthened for the Saturday but a combination of haze and drifting exhaust has shrouded the details. Behind the tender is an ex-GCR horse box to Dia 1X4 still in top flight service despite its grease axleboxes. Photo: E.R. Wethersett.

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Horse and race traffic is here.

Other GC models are here:

  Clerestory 50ft coaches.

  milk van

  6w goods brake van

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