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LNER NPCS - 61'6" Thompson deal BG

There used to be two kits of this bogie van but before I tackle one of them, here is the prototype side of the equation which will hopefully clear some errors in previous accounts and present the vehicle in a fresh light.

The prototype

To begin with it has several times been stated that this was the first Thompson-designed vehicle to be built after the War: in fact it was a creature of the War and the first one was built in December 1944. Most of the rest followed in 1945, construction ending in 1946:

1944 70584
1945 70585 - 70626 (42)
1946 70637 - 70637 (10)
Total = 53

Why deal?

During the War, the LNER all but ran out of teak and, with steel being rationed, construction of the Gresley 61'6" BG, which was now being built with steel panelling, had to be fitted with marine ply used instead. With the War still raging, there was a need for more BGs - not to carry passengers' luggage but as a high capacity general van. Indeed, the LNER has ceased construction of carriages in 1944 and when it was restarted in December of that year, and through 1945, only 5% was for passengers - 95% was for BGs, and it was to the new Thompson design. They can be viewed as part of the War effort.

Faced with a shortage of material, and a need for simple construction that made minimal demand on the workforce and its size, Thompson decided to adopt practices which were long established for goods vans and NPCS. He chose to use deal, laid horizontally. At this point, a word about terminology may help because modellers have a habit of using the term "deal planking". The word "deal" specifies wooden planking of a certain size, typically pine. To say "deal planking" is like saying "wooden timber".

Other features

As is usually the case with new designs, there were precursors and a notable pair was the Southern Railway's bogie vans, a gangwayed PMV of 1928, and in 1938, a non-ganyway B with a guard's compartment. The PMVs were built with uniform width planking but in the later design, the width was variable, arguably giving a more pleasing appearance. Otherwise, both designs were cluttered with vertical and diagonal steel bracing while the doors, with steel strapping and windows, were mounted externally. All this harked back to the original SECR concept of 1917.

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A rather nice portrait of a SR van B in service, S239S at Axminster, 14.2.62. Photo: Mike King collection.

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Thompson was a moderniser in many ways and the War forced him to use similar materials but his design was highly streamlined. Almost to the point of brutal simplicity, it could be said, which begs the question, was it more elegant? That's a moot question for opinions about both types are much divided! Either way, the SR may have been happy running express passenger trains with clunky-looking vans but the LNER was not and that would have influenced Thompson's design with all the bracing inside the body, flush doors, and the LNER practice of a row of toplights just under the roof. The only projection was the guard's ducket, and that was only on one side.

Other aspects of established practice on the LNER included the length of 61'6" on the steel-angle underframe and Gresley 8ft heavy bogies. The bow ends leading to the gangway, previously radiussed, were now angular. A new development was in dispensing with a domed-end roof in favour of a straight roof, a feature standardised by Thompson for all his carriages. There is a good drawing in Historic Carriage Drawings by Nick Campling, Pendragon 1997.

Examples over the years

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The first picture shows the design as originally built during the War. No 70590 was turned out in early 1945 and painted brown, with passenger-style shaded lettering and war-time "NE". Apart from the deal body, all the features were recognisably LNER with battery boxes on the side opposite the ducket. Photo: LNER, author's collection.

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A stunning broadside view shows E70591E at Langley Junction on 4th August 1962. The condition is as-built, in BR maroon livery. Photo: David Percival.

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E70606E is parked at Cambridge on 6th July 1963. Either some of the doors were built with different size planks or they have been replaced for the symmetry of the planks has been lost. Most striking, however, was the application of lining along the waist. No explanation has yet been found for this variant and this is the only known example. Photo: David Percival.

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The date is 5th April 1966 and E70624E is seen on the Southern Region at Horsham. The planking on several of the doors has been replaced and there is another modification for rectangular beading has been applied on the outer corner and alongside the doors. Photo: R.S. Carpenter.

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BR blue - the final picture in this section shows E70634E at Crewe in 1970. The condition is still excellent and the livery is BR Rail Blue. Not being a passenger carrying vehicle and only 24 years old, it had survived the cull of wood-panelled passenger carriages (of which the longest lived survivors were the Gresley buffet cars) and was still in service. Note the bogie van behind, a Gresley 61'6" BG with steel panelling. Photo: author's collection.

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In service

After the War, Thompson designed another BG, 63' long with steel panelled sides as per his passenger carriages to run with prestigious expresses. This was D.344 and unlike the deal BG, all were placed in the ECJS fleet. The deal BGs had always been intended for less exalted, general service but they were occasionally operated with expresses, as two of the pictures show.

Most of the time, however, they were used as through vans to carry parcels-rated goods, attached to secondary expresses and Ordinary Passenger trains, and in parcels trains, of course - which became more numerous in BR days and which took them around the country. The SR adopted some for newspaper traffic where their greater capacity compared with 50ft PMVs and 51ft Van Bs was useful. The following pictures are in chronological order:

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Recently-built B1 No 1230 c1948 in LNER apple green livery is at an unknown location (near Darlington?) working an Ordinary Passenger with a non-gangwayed Thompson coach leading. Behind the tender is an LNER Special Cattle Van and a Thompson deal BG. Photo: author's collection.

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A rare picture of a deal BG attached to an express passenger train on the ECML/GNML. There's motion blur on the loco, No 60110 Robert the Devil (KX) in what appears to be BR blue livery, but much of the train shows well with a full complement of destination boards. At the head is a deal BG, and behind the tender, an ex-NER strengthener. Photo: author's collection.

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In this scene around 1960 on the approach to Leeds at Osmondthorpe (later downgraded to "halt" status), York's A2 No 60522 Straight Deal has a long express passenger train made up with BR Mk.1s, the odd Gresley, and a deal BG just inside the formation. Intriguingly, it's the only picture to hand which shows the non-ducket side. The train is the 9.55am Newcastle-Leeds express with ex-LNER catering, the same formation crossing the Pennines after the ER loco came off at Leeds City. Photo: John Beaumont.

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A scene in the deep cutting near Weybridge in 1965 shows the four tracks and a train on each one. The one to focus on has Riddles 5MT No 73170 rounding the curve with a Salisbury-Waterloo train on the tail of which two wooden-bodied bogie vans have been attached, a SR Van B of 1938 and a Thompson deal BG of 1945. Both types of Thompson BG were used in the newspaper traffic on the Southern Region. Photo: David Percival.

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And finally for now, here's a view at Stanraer Harbour on 10th July 1969 looking across two sidings containing vans in parcels traffic. To the left is a BR GUV, and, to the right, Thompson deal BG No E70634E. By coincidence, the same vehicle is shown above a year later in BR blue at Crewe. The LMR seemed reluctant to let it go! Photo: author's collection.

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Related NPCS:

ECJS and GNR clerestory BG: is here.

56'6" ECJS and GNR BG: is here.

Gresley all-steel BG prototype and model is here.

Gresley all-steel BG service is here.

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