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LNER cattle wagon

This topic has grown so much that it is now in three basic parts:

- The Parkside kit
- Historical and service notes
- The Oxford Rail RTR version.

The object is to describe developments in LNER matters and the context against other Big Four companies - the wider picture is important. The traffic itself is mainly under "Cattle traffic" (see link below).

The Parkside kit

This is referenced in the Articles index as a write-up in MRJ issue No 87, 1996, describing how to build three variants based on the Parkside kit. It ran to 10 pages with 23 prototype and model illustrations. The historical part describes developments in LNER and BR days, the balance of types, and some service notes. I am unable to reproduce the whole MRJ article as published - it is quite hefty - but I thought it may help to show some of the pictures, essentially to add perspective; an understanding of the variations; and what can be achieved. And that the LNER, after starting with a 9ft wheelbase manually braked version, went over to 10ft with AVB and that became the dominant version in LNER and BR days.

When published MRJ was still all black & white (was it the last magazine in the land to start using that new-fangled thing called colour?) and these are scans of a selection of the original prints that were used. I have some colour slides of one of the versions, which I shall scan and add later. The pictures are my personal copyright.

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Contents of the Parkside kit, up to their normal standard of accuracy and simplicity. It is for the 9ft wheelbase version with manual brakes (D.40). I went on to produce 9ft AVB and 10ft AVB types, as well as the GNR precursor (which I got wrong).

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I have included this view of the GNR-based precursor of 1924 taking shape because it shows modification of lower planks that were undersize and use of brass wire for the horizontal bars. The big mistake is that the door was narrower! There used to be a D&S whitemetal kit for the GNR version proper that gets it right, on the GNR 10ft WB, which the LNER unwisely moved away from.

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The inaccurate model of the 1924 design complete is useful for showing the simple Morton brake gear, RCH axleboxes and buffers. Parts from MJT, ABS and Masokits were used in place of the mouldings supplied because they are better looking and more robust: personal choices by yours truly. A key aspect of the write-up was to show how far you can go with off-the-shelf substitute parts if you are so inclined.

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New addition - A model of the second generation of LNER designs, manually braked D.40. This is the side with the manual brake, acting on only two wheels with manual lever reversing knuckle on the V-hanger. Hopefully not repeating myself too much, the body is Parkside tweaked as above, the RCH axleguards/boxes are MJT, buffer housings ABS drilled for MJT sprung heads, and the brake gear the beautifully etched Masokits with ABS manual lever.

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New addition - The other side is quite plain down below with a manual brake lever attached to a cross shaft to reach the brake shoes on the other side. In fact, the wagon is vastly simpler than the AVB version and twice as many were built.

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This is the 1927 design to D.39, 9ft AVB complete (which the RTR Oxford Rail model is also meant to represent - you can judge for yourself how the RTR and kit-built versions compare with the prototype). The partition, when out of use, was placed in the slots nearest the end. Apart from the aforementioned tweaks, the sides are as supplied in the kit. The underframe was built up with parts from the same sources as mentioned above. ABS also do a castings set for the AVB brake gear. It helps to get a back issue of the magazine for the whole story (see Useful Links).

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And in glorious Technicolor..... the same side of the wagon shown above, but from a slightly different angle. Late afternoon sun had added a little warmth to the picture, the colour is actually quite dowdy: muddy brown sums it up well. You've got to look hard on old colour pictures to find find anything else and you can't get it by "weathering" an ex-works finish, you have to paint the colour that goods wagons gradually turned into.

One small detail previously concealed is the hose from the vac cylinder looping up to the vacuum pipe running under the wagon. You can have a lot of fun adding detail like this.

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And the other side with the double V-hangers. A broadside shows what a busy underframe it was (it also explains why the OR publicity pictures were taken off-centre and high up - it's excellent for not showing the underframe and the missing vac cylinder)! From this angle you can also see the vacuum and steam heat pipes running under the body and a small gap with some daylight above. As I always say, how much extra detail you put on a model is a personal choice, but it can't half make you smile when you go this far. :)

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Here is one of the sides for the 10ft AVB version intended for D.122. Plates were added at each end of the diagonal bracing to add strength; small wonder that some companies adopted cross-bracing! Structural failure of the LNER design on the 9ft wheelbase caused many to be condemned in LNER days. The tweaks on the model were made with Plastikard, every modeller's best friend. :) The solebars have been tweaked for the longer wheelbase - note the new bolt heads out of Plastikard. The buffer housings are the long RCH type from ABS, drilled out to take sprung buffers from MJT.

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And the 10ft AVB version complete in late LNER/early BR livery. Note how visibly the brake arrangements were more spread out. LNER axleboxes were now being fitted. As discussed below, some D.40 (9ft manual brake) were converted during the 1930s to a similar outline.

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Some prototype views

In the article I used several LNER official pictures of the trucks as built, and one of a conversion from 9ft to 10ft wheelbase. Here are some more views.

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New addition - An example of a manually braked 9ft WB D.40, No 150878, built in 1927. Note the two-plank high letters "N" and "E" (livery is covered separately below).

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This is an official copy by British Railways of an LNER photograph of a cattle truck with, on the back: "No 156415 from 156324-156423 series of 1929" although solebar details refer to 1930, probably because this one was built towards the end of that batch.

The subject is a 1927 design D.39 9ft wheelbase truck with AVB. Axleboxes are the RCH type with open-spoke wheels. White-painted wheel rims were usually an affectation for the photograph: note how they are brighter and fresher than the white lettering; having been applied using whitewash, perhaps? Photo: Author's collection.

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And finally, a view of the final version of 1937 to D.122, built entirely with the 10ft WB and AVB. Note the strengthening plates at top and bottom of the diagonal timbers, the top one wrapping around the end. The small letter livery had been introduced and was applied. The longer wheelbase qualified for the XP category, which was added to the livery by BR (likewise the earlier conversions to 10ft WB and AVB as seen in the previous picture). Photo: Peter Tatlow collection.

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Changes in service

The article went into some depth here and some salient points were that construction of the pure LNER design with AVB didn't start until 1927, and that in a sample year of 1930, the LNER's fleet of cattle trucks was was about 66% pre-Group - a balance that few modellers appreciate.

Among these LNER-built trucks, about a third had AVB, of which half were the 1927 9ft type, which means only about 5% of the company's fleet of cattle trucks. In other words, it was a rare type. Earlier designs and manually braked trucks dominated.

By 1939 - it had got more complicated because construction of the more sturdy 10ft AVB version had started in 1937 and from 1935 the earlier ones on the 9ft wheelbase were being eliminated, by conversion into flat trucks for containers (Conflats), or rebuilt with a 10ft wheelbase, although the emphasis may have been on the manually braked 9ft trucks. Others were simply scrapped and D.39 was eliminated. The LNER was in the process of reducing its fleet of cattle trucks.

The conversions

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This undated print from a rather battered negative which was taken against the light is useful because it shows why the 9ft wheelbase was abandoned by the LNER and recently-built trucks were scrapped or converted to the 10ft wheelbase, or turned into flat trucks for containers: the truck is clearly humped and sagging at each end. The body and strapping are in the original condition on 9ft WB and details include open-spoke wheels.

In other words, this was a partial conversion, simply adding AVB and replacing the RCH axleboxes with LNER ones. Quite why this was done is unclear, possibly in the early stages of a perceived need for modernisation. However, conversions of other wagons which included the longer, 10ft WB received new Diagram numbers, but not these - see below. My feeling is that it was recognised as a faux pas and eliminated soon after. Photo: Author's collection.

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This picture is not very sharp but is useful for showing E153451 which had been built in 1928 as a D.40 9ft manually braked truck and converted during the 1930s into the 10ft AVB version in the trend I have been describing, allocated D.132. Strengthening plates have been fitted at the bottom end of the diagonal bracing (only), and LNER axleboxes. The wheels, however, are a mixture of 3-hole disc and open-spoke: this sort of thing was quite common after repair.

The picture was taken at Winchcombe (WR) in the early 1950s and the ex-LNER truck is flanked by an ex-SR design and a BR "standard" design based on GWR practice with a visibly wider wheelbase and steel underframe. Photo: Joe Moss, c/o Roger Carpenter.

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The census data as presented by Peter Tatlow is known to be wonky and confusing and I think it would help to present some info from known photographs (if you have any others, please get in touch)!

Original

Converted to

New Dia.

Running nos.

D.25 9ft man

10ft AVB

-

E146202

D.26 9ft AVB

10ft AVB

D.130

-

D.39 9ft AVB

10ft AVB

D.131

-

D.40 9ft man

9ft AVB

-

150732, 156203

D.40 9ft man

10ft AVB

D.132

E153451, E153498, E156201

Quite why (150732, 156203) were converted to AVB but retained the short 9ft WB is a good question and, indeed, how long they lasted? Both are sagging visibly.

A final point concerns strengthening of the diagonal bracing. When the final version was built new in 1937 to D.122 (10ft AVB), strengthening plates and gussets were fitted at the bottom, and strengthening plates at the top.

Of the conversions listed above (150732, 156203) were photographed in pre-1937 large letter livery and only had the strengthening at the bottom, as did (E165202, E153451) in BR days.

The other two pictures from BR days (E153498, E156201) show top strengthening as well, like D.122.

Records for exactly when these modifications were implemented are not clear but they appear to have taken place during the early and mid-1930s.

Published sources for the above
E146202 - EB Trotter, MRC 3/65
  150732 - Guy Hemingway, Tatlow 4B
E153451 - Joe Moss, RS Carpenter, see above.
E153498 - Wessex collection, Geoff Kent, The 4mm Wagon-2
E156201 - Wessex collection, Tatlow 4B
  156203 - own collection, see above.

Withdrawal of pre-Grouping cattle trucks continued but many with longer wheelbases were more sturdy than the LNER 9ft designs so that the company's fleet retained around 50% of pre-Grouping origin. Hard to believe, eh? And what was the proportion of LNER-built cattle trucks with AVB? Well, 700 had been built on the 10ft wheelbase, to which more were added by conversion, but only 365 on the shorter 9ft wheelbase, into which inroads had been made for the flat trucks. In short, the LNER realised that the 9ft wheelbase cattle truck, whether manually braked or with AVB, was a flawed concept and set about eliminating it.

After WWII - there is so far no evidence that any 1927 9ft AVB cattle trucks survived into BR days because the cull was so great. Ironically, the previous LNER design of 1924 (based on the GNR design but WB reduced to 9ft) is known to have lasted into BR days, perhaps because the older design was exempt from the 1930s modernisation of more recently built trucks.

Where did cattle wagons operate?

Before digging into how different designs were mixed among each other, we should note that cattle wagons were not common everywhere. It's basically an agricultural & economic question which relates to where your model is based, because farming for beef, dairying and sheep was not practised everywhere. And nearly all the rail-borne traffic related to markets. In the steam era the picture was like this:

Beef - requires regular import of store cattle, which after fattening, is sold at fatstock. The farming was distributed over relatively low-lying areas and where the grass was favourable, ie. nutritious. There were concentrations in Cornwall, Glamorgan, Herefordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire, the Midlands, a belt from Leeds to Newcastle, around Carlisle, and in Scotland: Aberdeenshire/Kincardine/Angus. A great deal of cattle was imported from Ireland which was the largest producer of all. On landing, the store cattle was distributed to inland markets but the fatstock was slaughtered locally.

Dairy farming - called for less replenishment of stock and had a similar geographical distribution, but the concentrations were more pronounced, in Somerset, Cheshire, and between Leeds and Goole. (See separate article about milk traffic on the LMS and its later developments).

Sheep - were also widespread, but much less common in lowland areas - mostly where hill farming was practised.

The distributions were affected by the ancient (but still common) practice of "mixed farming", ie. arable and grazing, but that takes us into fresh territory. I mention it here to make the point that many types of farming were widespread, around the UK, but their concentrations varied.

Distribution of LNER and Big Four cattle trucks

This is more important than it may seem. To begin with, the LNER built new to its own designs a total of 2,680 cattle trucks, mostly manually braked with through pipe so that they could run with fitted trains, goods or passenger. That tends not to be well grasped. Fitting of AVB simply gave more flexibility and the ability to put a truck in any train and, if necessary, on the rear of a passenger train - albeit normally only when empty and there is little evidence of this having been done, in large part because the train loco could have to shunt it along the way. It was more relevant to push & pull trains. Ability to run at higher speeds was not conferred because the wheelbase was less than 10ft.

So, the total build by the LNER of D.39 (the Oxford Rail version) was a paltry 365. As a proportion in the LNER-built fleet of cattle wagons it was 13.5% (ie. 1 in 18), which is not a lot. And because it was a failed design, it only lasted for a brief period between 1928-37. It was just a blip, really.

The wider picture can be gleaned from this data showing numbers of cattle trucks built by the LNER and LMS between 1924-47 (actually 1924-37):

LMS

5,285

LNER

2,680

That's almost twice as much by the LMS - small wonder that their trucks dominate photographs of trains. But the subject goes deeper. Here's how the fleet sizes changed between 1923 and 1932:

LMS

  6,720 > 7,600

LNER

  7,013 > 6,620

GWR

  2,900 > 3,211

SR

  1,445 > 1,327

----------

---------------------

Total:

18,187 > 18,668

Bear in mind that intermixing and common-user practices caused all these trucks to be seen everywhere across the UK and that the 365 LNER trucks to D.39 comprised just 1.9%. Which was 1 in 52. It explains why they are hardly ever seen in train photographs anywhere in the country. Their short life was another factor.

As regards changes over time, the above data shows a static picture overall but, within it, the LMS and GWR fleets were increased by 8-10%. By contrast, the LNER's fleet was reduced, by around 2%. In the same period, the SR fleet was cut back even more, by 14%. What these changes illustrate is the effect of changes in traffic flows caused by (and this needs more research):

- replacement of Small and Medium cattle trucks by Large ones.
- loss of traffic to the roads.
- centralisation with fewer but larger abattoirs.

If we focus on the LNER alone, the cattle truck totals were:

1923

7,013

1932

6,620

1938

4,884

1947

2,580

In short, the LNER was forced to reduce its fleet by almost two-thirds. I don't as yet have comparable data for the other companies but if we consider the total inherited by BR of 11,852 you can see that the LNER's portion, which had been 38.6% in 1923, had fallen by almost half to 21.6%. In other words, the LNER cattle truck was already a bit-player on the scene and, as described above, further elimination and BR construction to designs by the other Big Four companies led to its disappearance.

Data sources - From tables and appendices in "LNER Wagons", original and 4B, Peter Tatlow. "British Goods Wagons", RJ Essery, DP Rowland and WO Steel. "The LMS Wagon", RJ Essery and KR Morgan.

Illustrations before Nationalisation

To sum up, two important factors were:

a) The LNER fleet was significantly smaller than the other companies combined (the LMS's was the largest, and to robust and long-lived designs).

b) The LNER had less of the traffic and its fleet was being reduced.

Below are some sample pictures around the country which help illustrate the notes above.

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The first picture is from around 1925 (the loco was superheated in 2/26) and shows B15 No 982 on the LNER's North Eastern Area with a Class A through goods. Five cattle trucks have been marshalled behind the tender; AVB would not have been required and these were probably all manually braked at a time when manually braked trucks were the dominant type. Note that all five are LMS.

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This later view from the 1930s is not as sharp as it could be because it has been copied, from what may have been a Dufaycolor slide judging by the diagonal texture. The scene is Banbury General (GWR) with the roof of Merton Street (LMS) station visible on the left, next to which lay Banbury's cattle market, at one time the largest in Europe. Woodford Halse's Ex-GCR B5 4-6-0 No 6071 has taken over a GWR excursion which comprises Collett panelled stock and a recently refurbished Dean clerestory. An autocoach, used for services to Hook Norton and to Princes Risborough, has been parked by the goods platform.

But the cattle trucks are our main focus and standing on GWR metals are two sets of cattle wagons, the nearest probably empty. And which company designs do we see in these nine trucks?

GWR, LMS, LNER, SR (ex-LSWR), GWR, GWR, SR, SR, LMS

Which summarises:
3 GWR
3 SR
2 LMS
1 LNER

The sole LNER truck is a 1927 design with 9ft WB, manually braked. This was of course the most common and most dispersed version, which is no surprise for manually braked vehicles in common user mode. A key point, all the same, is the relative scarcity in the UK of LNER designs, far outnumbered by the LMS and GWR.

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In a scene from the 1930s, K3 No 4009 is cracking along the ECML with what looks the Up Scotch Goods, a class 1A fitted express which could include piped vehicles, of course. And behind the tender there is a cattle truck with a cow watching the world whizz by. You'd have expected at least an LNER cattle truck, and a fitted one too, wouldn't you? But reality bites: this is an LMS, ex-LNWR truck with long wheelbase, manual brake and through pipe. It may only have been conveyed part of the way, between the centres at which the Scotch Goods was booked to stop, and taken on to its destination as described above. Photo: Author's collection

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Illustrations in BR days

Two further factors came into play:

c) In 1949-50 - BR sanctioned construction of LMS, GWR and SR-design trucks. They were given BR Diagram numbers and "B" prefix numbers.

d) In 1951-53 - more were added, to the BR Standard design which was based on the GWR one, and of which not that many were actually built - although when looking at train pictures, it can be hard to distinguish between them and the final GWR design.

The bottom line is that post-WWII, LMS designs dominated the whole country and LNER types were so rare that if you want to have just one model, you would have to balance it with something like ten or a dozen others - mainly LMS designs (and the odd GWR, SR and BR one). To illustrate this, here are some specimen pictures.

All the pictures are in chronological order.

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It's 1948, the first year after Nationalisation, and un-named Patriot No 5509 has a Down goods train at Berkhampstead. This was before the 1949-50 addition by BR of LMS, GWR and SR designs so only Big Four-owned stock can be seen. And what do we see?

3 LMS
1 LNER

I originally described the ex-LNER truck as ex-GNR but closer examination shows that it was one of the 1924 manually braked designs (with through pipe), which the LNER based on the GNR design, where the WB had been 10ft, but chose 9ft instead. Some of these trucks are known to have been converted to the longer wheelbase later - the records are confusing - and measurement of this photograph indicates that this was such an example. Whether it is an AVB truck or manually braked and piped is harder to tell. I shall update this caption if a decision can be made. 9th October 1948. Photo: H.C. Casserley.

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Another view from 1948 shows an O2 2-8-0, No 3960, near Temple Mills on the GE Section with an Up train. Six cattle wagons can be seen from all the Big Four companies, and the number of LNER wagons? Just one. It's on the 10ft wheelbase with AVB, to D.122 or one of the conversions. From behind the tender they are:

GWR, SR, GWR, LMS, LNER, LMS....

And this, please note, is effectively an LNER train on LNER metals. The sagging condition of the LNER wagon speaks volumes. Enlarge the picture and see for yourself. Photo: Author's collection.

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This picture from 1954 relates to the train behind ex-LMS Patriot No 5509 above and shows the LNER 1924 design that was based on the GNR one, but with the WB reduced from 10ft to 9ft. It was built in a proportion of 2:1 manually braked & through piped: AVB. E137513 had been built with 9ft AVB and was still in that condition except for strengthening plates at the bottom of the diagonals. Its axleboxes had also been modernised with the LNER type. It was photographed at Tutbury in Nov-Dec 1954.

The surviving evidence is uneven and as far as can be ascertained, when it came to 1930s conversion of cattle trucks to Conflats or to 10ft AVB cattle trucks, focus fell on the more recently built 1927 design, whose construction had continued into 1930, and which led to its elimination in as-built condition. Regarding the older design of 1924, manually braked examples were converted to 10ft AVB, but some of the AVB ones, were left alone, presumably because they were older and not expected to last: the LNER fleet of cattle trucks was being reduced quite severely and only a third would remain come Nationalisation. This rare survivor is buckled and appears to have been condemned which gives a good idea of when this design finally disappeared. The next illustration develops the theme a little more. Photo: P.J. Garland.

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An undated picture, but from the early to mid-1950s when BR returned to painting its wooden wagons, shows one of 96 survivors into BR days of the GNR-built cattle truck on its 10ft WB. The advantage of the longer wheelbase on this pre-LNER design is evident for the body is ramrod straight and despite being manually braked (with through pipe) its condition warranted being kept in service and repainted. It had already been modernised by addition of triangular strengthening plates at the bottom of the diagonals, but the GNR oil boxes were still in place. And at some 30-35 years of age, it was not an old wagon: how ironic that a pre-Grouping design should outlast more recent and less successful designs on a shorter wheelbase. Photo: P. Coutanche.

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Thompson B1 No 61002 is at an unknown location in 1950 with what appear to be cattle empties of which these types can be identified:

17 LMS
  1 GWR
  1 LNER
  1 SR

Can you see the LNER one? It's the 13th along! The main thing to note is the sheer durability of the LMS long-wheelbase designs: both D1661 and D1840 and the BR version to Diagram 1/350 can be seen.

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An early 1950s view at York shows J27 No 65861 in charge of a Class 6 Express Freight, which would have been partly fitted. Around 18 cattle trucks are at the head with normal opens and vans beyond. The leading dozen cattle trucks are close enough to be scrutinised and they are all LMS, GWR/BR and SR designs. There is not a single ex-LNER truck to be seen.. Most photographs from BR days are like this. Photo: Author's collection.

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This picture from the early 1950s is looking down the platform at Banbury Merton Street station and shows so much that it can be studied in detail.

The cattle market, once the largest in Europe, was immediately to the left and two strings of empty cattle trucks can be seen. The date is estimated between 1951-55 via a companion picture of the station building, hence the "early 1950's". I have spent some time looking at the wagons and 36 can be seen well enough to tell if they are ex-LNER or not: the big door and diagonal bracing is quite distinctive. It's possible to see thirty-six LMS, LNER, GWR, SR and BR types, all in common use of course. Photo: Author's collection.

Looking at the LH side, the wagons are (I have not distinguished between GWR W16 and BR 1/353 which were essentially the same) :

GWR, LMS, GWR, LMS, GWR, LMS, GWR, LNER, LMS, LNER, LMS, LMS, GWR, GWR, LNER...
plus one more at the end but hidden behind a post.

The RH side is similar, mostly LMS and GWR, with two LNER and a single SR design. Adding up both sets and focussing on LNER vs the other designs comes to this:

LNER

5

= 14%

Others

31

= 86%

Or to put it another way, the ex-LNER cattle wagons were outnumbered by 7:1. This tallies pretty well with analysis of train pictures where, the range for the BR period in six pictures is: 1:20, 1:11, 1:7, none, none, none. That's a typical scatter and if you add them all up, the sample size is 70 and ...

The frequency - of ex-LNER trucks averages 1:10 among all the other types still running. Or for every model of an ex-LNER truck, you'd need nine other types.

Many moons ago while building goods wagons for my LNER-period layout, I built some batches of covered vans. It kind of looked like BR days, and when I read the "Keeping the Balance" articles, and started looking at photographs of trains, I realised my mistake, and added more open wagons: 2, 3, 4 and 5-plank. The result was wonderful to see, my trains actually looked real!

My next mistake was to model a Cattle Special, with only LNER-area wagons. Eventually I got wise to this mistake too. We all learn...

Wheelbase - Three of the ex-LNER cattle trucks in the Merton St. view are clear enough for me to measure and all three were on the 10ft wheelbase. There is still no sign of any ex-LNER D.39 on the 9ft WB after WWII: all the evidence continues to show that these two Oxford Rail models are fictional. Dare I add that two of the ex-LNER trucks at Merton St. are distorted with sagging ends, one of them quite badly?

Likewise in a proportion of the train pictures. Evidently a 10ft WB was not a complete solution. The underframe was wooden, of course, and there is a suspicion that other weaknesses may have contributed, in the design or materials used, but at present confirmation is lacking.

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The whole train, another cattle empties, isn't visible but it's nice and sharp. It dates from 1956 with ex-GWR 2-6-0 No 6369 (Severn Tunnel Jc) in charge at Pontypool Road. The third and sixth vehicles along are ex-LNER, and both look like 10ft types. Even so, the leading one is sagging visibly with both ends down: its end was nigh.

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The final picture dates from 1960 and shows 4083 Abbotsbury Castle at Marazion preparing to leave with a long goods train with cattle trucks at the head loaded with broccoli. This vegetable has quite a short span and when it ripens, there is a glut and cattle trucks get roped in. I used this picture to support the article in Model Rail about the BR cattle truck because quite a few show. As far as I can tell, the 11 identifiable trucks here are:

5 GWR/BR*
5 LMS**
1 LNER

* a GWR design was propagated by BR in 1949 and is hard to distinguish from the similar BR "standard" design of 1951-53.
** includes ex-LMS and the version built for BR in 1949-50.

Although some way from the camera, it's a sharp photograph and the LNER cattle truck is clearly a 10ft AVB type, either one of the conversions from the 1930s or as-built in 1937. 9th April 1960. Photo: R.C. Riley.

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All told, I have 15 post-WWII pictures showing cattle trucks in service and the majority show no ex-LNER ones; a smaller number of pictures shows the odd one. And they are of the types described above.

Conversion of the Oxford Rail cattle truck

Much has been said about the semi-fictional model that Oxford Rail have produced with wrong sides and underframe for a supposedly as-built 1927 design to D.39 with 9ft wheelbase, RCH axleboxes and AVB. It's littered with errors, quite apart from which the real thing was a design failure and the LNER eliminated it pretty quickly in the way described above. The Oxford Rail model in BR livery (and there are two now) is not only wrong in body and underframe, the livery has basic mistakes, and the vehicles no longer existed. Has there ever been such a collection of errors in a modern model about which there is so much information?

Were I to give this model a review score, it would be 3/10 for the LNER-liveried one, and 0/10 for the BR-liveried one.

Yet there are people out there saying, and even reviewing these semi-fictional LNER (and completely fictional BR) models without noticing the glaring errors and presenting them as superb and that the errors don't mean a thing.

But it's worse than that because some reviews (on YouTube, for example) are deleting messages which politely draw attention to the mistakes. Two were removed yesterday. On some of the Forums there is a policy of never mind the message, shoot the messenger.

Well, folks, can it get any worse? Is fulsome praise of bad models and censorship to the contrary really what the hobby needs?

- - - - - -

Alas the problem goes even deeper for to try and correct the errors for a BR period model requires rebuilding the 1927 design into the 1937 10ft AVB version, or the almost identical post-1935 rebuilds of the previous design, and there's a lot to do:

Replacement underframe with:
- 10ft wheelbase
- appropriately spaced brake gear and manual lever
- a vac cylinder
- LNER axleboxes
- for the 1937 design, disc wheels (optional).

Modification of the body by:
- add the partition spacers on top (both sides, at the same end)
- modify the sides so they are not identical, but a mirror image of each other. This means taking one side and cutting a gap between two of the lower planks, and then the slots for the partition; and filling these features at the other end.
- add bracing plates to strengthen the diagonal timbers
- repaint and re-letter.

Parts that can be used for a conversion, whether starting from the Oxford Rail offering or the Parkside kit summarise thus (a blow by blow account is in the original article, see the opening line above):
W-irons and axlebox castings - MJT
Brake gear - ABS castings (F.506, currently out of production), or Masokits etchings. The latter cover just about the whole shebang and you can choose how much detail to fit. These are always personal choices.
Vac cylinder - ABS casting (currently out of production), or from another supplier, your spare parts box, or from scratch. It is, after all a pretty simple shape and the body of a felt-tip pen can be used, plus a piece of plastic or metal rod for the shaft.

A final thought

That's a lot of work and in my view, starting from the Parkside kit is easier. The simple truth is that had Oxford Rail done their homework and not cut corners, they could have produced the later version in the first place and satisfied LNER and BR modellers of all kinds. There is a history of semi-fictional models from RTR manufacturers - which we have been leaving behind, because of more care for the product and the maker's reputation, in which help from experts is sought. I have first hand experience of this and I've been pretty impressed. But it's not happened with this model.

Liveries and the Oxford Rail model

Liveries changed over time in a fairly orderly manner, a great deal has been written about them, which the illustrations above show.

When construction of D.39 began, subject of the Oxford Rail model, the large letter style was in use with the letters "NE" two planks high. At some point the height of the "NE" was increased to about two and a half planks high. This may seem like splitting hairs but the Methfix transfers are for the large letters and when I built my models I worked off Peter Tatlow's earlier books in which all the pictures showed 2-plank letters "NE", and I produced them by trimming the transfers with a scalpel. Tricky!

Since then more pictures have come to light, in 4B and in my own collection, and notice should be taken of the fact that two batches were produced:

1927-28 (by Doncaster)
1930-31 (by Shildon/Faverdale/Doncaster).

Peter Tatlow quotes full details in 4B and what they and all the pictures available today indicate is that the first batch had the 2-plank letters and the second batch, the slightly larger ones. Above are two examples of the latter. So, there's the choices and easier modelling if applying your own lettering!

As regards the Oxford Rail models supposedly of D.39 with 9ft WB and AVB, here is the position, beginning with three LNER-period models with the slightly larger letters "NE":

156226 - this is wrong because it's the number of a manually braked wagon to D.40.

196152 - this is also wrong as it's the number of a 10ft AVB wagon to D.122 of 1937 - which had the longer wheelbase and different axleboxes and strapping. It's even more weird because limewash has been applied, a practice that was abandoned around 1923 and was never applied to any cattle trucks in later years. How fictional can a model get?

196488 - this too has a D.122 number and its extra weirdness is in the running number and the word "LARGE" being transposed.

BR period livery - complete fiction as the wagons no longer existed.

A final observation

There have been many opinions on the Forums that this manufacturer could have got the design and livery of this model right and has not been doing his homework. I am inclined to take a more practical point of view, that gullible customers should not be misled, and a logo "In pursuit of excellence" may not be telling the whole story.

I have no axe to grind with people for whom none of this matters a jot, but there are customers who expect reasonable accuracy against what it says on the box. Matters have not been helped by the low quality of many so-called "reviews"; censorship of accurate feedback; and the intemperate furore against people who have spoken wisely. Not exactly the hobby's finest hour. And that's all folks.

Cattle traffic (all regions): is here.

Banbury Merton Street station: is here.

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