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LNER sleeping car expresses

The formations and how they developed during LNER and BR days are covered in a dedicated chapter in "LNER Passenger Trains and Formations". But it's a massive subject which changed over the years - in the workings, formations and rolling stock - that even over 12 pages and one of the longest chapters in the book, we could only do so much, plus a list of carriage types used in the Appendix. What I can do here is look at samples of some of the services for a given year. I normally resist this "snapshot-in-time" approach because it's so limited, but with the sequence over the years charted, a more detailed look is justified. Here's the first one:

The Aberdonian - 1939

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It's 1938, not far from the summer solstice with just enough light to catch the "Aberdonian", 7.40pm from King's Cross, at Marshgate. Behind 4465 Guillemot is an ECJS all-steel BG and an SLT (convertible), often used in later years when additional sleepers were required.

The rest is too blurred to make out, but would I be be sticking my neck out to suggest that maybe at the head, the Lossiemouth SLC-twin, which was in the train from 1936 [as per the roster below] had been replaced by two stand-alone 61'6" coaches (SLT, SLC) in which the composite was an old 61'6" D.20? More on this below. Photo: author's collection.

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The "Aberdonian" is in the book on pp.160-162 through LNER and BR days. This one-year sample for weekdays in the summer of 1939 is taken from the ECML Carriage Working Book in all its glory. For readers who may wonder why we didn't publish raw pages like this, here's a good insight with mysterious terminology and codes for the carriages! :

Aberdonian 1939

The sleeping cars were the core of the train and starting from the top, they were:

Lossiemouth

56'2 1/2" SLC-twin

D.161/162

Aberdeen

61'6" SLT*

D.95

Aberdeen

66'6" SLF

D.157

Aberdeen

66'6" SLT

D.148

Aberdeen

61'6" SLT*

D.95

* indicates convertible

The Lossiemouth sleepers

For a long time, a 61'6" SLC with locker/luggage compartment to D.20 (which we showed in the book leaving Elgin in the early 1930s) was used. By 1936, and in 1939 as shown above, an SLC twin (SLF-SLT) was being rostered. Compared with D.20, which had 6 First class berths and 8 Third class (convertible), the twin offered 9 First class and 28 Third class, four to each proper sleeping compartment. Using 56'2 1/2" carriages was a neater way of limited expansion than having to provide two full-length sleeping cars.

Which makes me wonder if in the 1938 picture of the train behind Guillemot above, what appears to be (SLT, SLC) at the head may have been standing in for failure (or servicing) of a Lossiemouth twin, or simply offering greater capacity at a peak time? Sleeper trains are known to have been strengthened quite heavily when the summer demand peaked.

A model of the twin may be possible by hacking Kirk sides, but I have not looked into it: it's certainly an interesting and attractive item, although no pictures nor the Diagram have ever been published. Harris only ever mentioned them in passing as a pair built in 1932 and they seem to have slipped through the cracks. I don't have any pictures myself but have added the two Diagrams below (at this time twins were being given separate Diagrams) and the key question is, what were these twins built for? They don't show anywhere in the 1932(s) Carriage Working book, which may have gone to print before they were complete. The indications are that they were built for service in the "Aberdonian" to Aberdeen, and in 1936 they were transferred to Lossiemouth, running against each other every night. OK, I've strayed beyond the remit of "1939" and the point is, I hope well made, that it helps to know the sequence of events and how things were arrived at; it also gives modellers more options.

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The Diagrams for the twins to D.161 and D.162 as described above. Note how compact they are - it was a marvellous use of articulation - and the heated pressure ventilation.

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The other carriages

The Convertible Thirds - note how they were not described as "sleeping cars" - were to D.95 and are covered by the Kirk kit, which I shall run as a separate topic in the Modelling section.

The First Class Sleeping Car - 66'6" to D.157 is described separately (see link below).

Third Class Sleeping Car - another 66'6" version this was a proper sleeping car with separate cubicles - but I am not sure if it's possible to model one via Kirk kits because the compartment side had window spacing like the later 66'6" SLF to D.227, which is described with the other 66'6" Diagram (see link below).

Only two conventional passenger carriages were carried (CK, BTK) on the rear of the sleeping cars as the train left King's Cross. Both were still side-door types. You might have expected the more comfortable end-vestibule types to be provided; it's almost as if the LNER was making an oblique reference to the superior comfort of a sleeping berth!

CK(2 1/2, 5)

D.7

built 1924-26

BTK(3)

D.174

built 1933-39

The composite was a routine albeit ageing D.7 which was used through the 1930s. Note how it was positioned with the 1st class at the north end of the train. The LNER was often careful to separate passengers in its principal expresses and, here, the 1st class was effectively isolated without 3rd class passengers streaming by along the corridor on their way to and from the restaurant car.

For the brake end, until around 1937, a BTK(4) to D.114 had been provided, then it was changed to a BTK(3) with a larger van space. This was a useful type in long distance expresses - in fact, the ECJS fleet had 3x more of this type than any other Section or Area of the LNER, only softened when replacement by new construction allowed the earlier ones to be cascaded downstream. The BTK(3) in the "Aberdonian" was of relatively recent construction and there is a Kirk kit for the almost identical D.40A (with ducket) although it's rarely built: I think many modellers don't appreciate where it fitted in the scheme of things. As well as luggage/parcels for Aberdeen (and the Ballater branch, transferred at Aberdeen), fruit was also carried for Aberdeen. More fruit was put in the BG for Dundee. Presumably from the market at Covent Garden. It's not generally appreciated how useful an overnight express equipped with stock like this could be.

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A BTK(3) poses in as-built condition in 1925 with its enormous van space, almost two-thirds of the carriage. Orthochromatic film was used to take this picture so the teak panelling shows up well. Note how the different shades were balanced in a chequer-board pattern, in which the waist panels at the ends, which often carried lettering, were darker rather than paler. Subtle stuff, you may think, but it makes quite a difference. This is an early D.40; later builds to the outwardly identical D.174 from around 1935, Nos 1045-9, were on steel angle trussing. Photo: author's collection.

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The restaurant car only ran as far as York and was the only GN-Section carriage in the train. As mentioned in the book, unclassed restaurant cars (RU) were favoured for these trains and this was a D.11 with 30 seats and a modest kitchen. Construction had taken place between 1929-34 in two forms: RF and RU. It was a classic application for a late night service only running part of the way and it was placed against the last passenger-carrying carriages so that, at York, the station pilot could extract it without disturbing the sleeping cars. The vans on the tail were then put back. I'm not aware of a published illustration of a D.11 RU so have added one, below. Again, it's not a type that I've checked to see if it can be made by hacking Kirk sides, although the dining end has the same windows/panelling as the D.144 RF. The underframe is the standard one for restaurant cars:

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Unclassed restaurant car to D.11, No 43041 as built in 1929. Note the 5 bays seating up to 30 diners, and the modest size of the kitchen and pantry. This D.11 car had been rostered in the "Aberdonian" in previous years. Photo: author's collection.

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Bogie brake vans made up a quarter of the train and all were from the ECJS vans fleet (like most of the passenger carriages, all numbered with first digit "1") which was almost entirely composed of teak-panelled D.43 and all-steel D.45. There were two of the latter in this train, and one teak. This was a very ECJS-looking train.

D.45 BG D.45 model

An all-steel BG to D.45 as built for the ECJS fleet. For more info see the link below.

Note how the vans were marshalled at both ends of the train, but mostly on the rear for ease of unobtrusive marshalling.

The final move at York was to add a North Eastern Area brake van from Leeds City to the rear - the oldest vehicle in the train by far, it was an ancient-looking ex-NER 6-wheel van running to Aberdeen with parcels for the district. On the rear of such a top-flight express it would have looked quite out of place. The working had been added in the late 1930s.

4465

An LNER-period view of ex-NER 6w passenger brake van No 2355. With skylights on the roof, it would have been painted brown, upon which a fair layer of grime has accumulated. The Leeds-Aberdeen van was worked back via the overnight Edinburgh-Hornsey stock train, later branded "ECS". Photo: author's collection.

Leaving York, the formation would have run unchanged to Aberdeen, still 11 coaches long (12 if you count the twin as two coaches), lightened only by dropping off a BG at Dundee.

By 1939, haulage from King's Cross was by an A4 and from Edinburgh almost certainly by a P2.

Related topics:

Gresley 61'6" SLF is here.

Gresley 66'6" SLF is here.

Gresley all-steel BG to D.45 is here.

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