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GCR carriages - 50' London Suburban

This stock tends to be forgotten despite its longevity and eventual widespread use. It was built 1905-7 after the clerestory designs, initially for non-lavatory suburban trains operating out of Marylebone, the bodies similar to the preceding clerestory versions. Originally painted in the two-tone brown and cream livery, then stripped and varnished.

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An ex-works view of 3rd No 798 from the batch built by BRC&WC 1905-06 in the original brown and cream livery. This is an original print but alas not very well prepared. Photo: LNER Official RO/100, author's collection.

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A complete London Suburban 5-set stands in the carriage sidings near Marylebone station in September 1915. The formation is:

BT, F, F, T, BT

There was plenty of demand for 1st class seats at the time. Later, conversions were made into composites. Photo: Topical, Fleet St., author's collection.

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An example of a BT(5) in BR days, at an unknown location. The number is unclear but may be E5588. Author's collection.

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It's 1st September 1956 and this secondary service at Darlington contains stock from at least three different sources: ex-NER, ex-GCR and ex-LNER. In the middle, built in 1906 as a London Suburban 1st, is No 819, now E5819 and redesignated as a composite, C(2,5).

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In service - Marylebone

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A view from May 1913 between Preston Road and Harrow on the Hill shows GCR 9N (LNER A5) with a down suburban train without lavatories heading for the Met&GCJ Line. The basis of the formation is a 50' London Suburban 5-set, possibly strengthened for the rush hour:

  T

50' London suburban

BT

50' London suburban

  F

50' London suburban

  F

50' London suburban

  T

60' matchboard

BT

50' London suburban

Note the modernising influence with a Robinson matchboard carriage in the formation. The 60' 3rd had 10 compartments.

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Further north on the London Extension

Replacement by Robinson matchboard carriages allowed the London Suburban stock to be cascaded around the LNER and subsequently BR(E) in secondary and minor lines service, with roof destination boards fitted.

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D9 No 6022 was captured in 1928 approaching Loughborough from the north with a non-gangwayed Ordinary Passenger 4-set. This is believed to be a Leicester-based 4-set which worked in the Leicester-Nottingham area. The formation was (BT, F, T, BT) and made up predominantly with London Suburban carriages:

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

  F

1st

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

  T

3rd

60' Robinson

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

50' London Suburban

The "other" carriage in the train was a Robinson 60' 3rd with 10 compartments. Photo: W.L. Good.

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Even further north

Revised caption

C13 No 6065 has an Ordinary Passenger train c.1933 near Wortley, between Penistone and Sheffield, with a secondary 4-set:

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

  CL

1st/3rd lavatory

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

  T

3rd

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

50' London Suburban

The lavatory composite was built in 1906-7 and I suspect not for Marylebone service but further north. Two Diagrams were produced, 4L7 and 4L8, four each, the later Diagram on 10' bogies. This looks like one of the first ones.

On the far end is a 4w passenger brake van, probably one of the D.120 clones built for the GC Section to D.170/176/177. Photo: E.R. Morten.

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In this charming view from Wrexham on 13th August 1950, N5 No 69349 waits with a secondary 4-set to Hawarden Bridge with a train of assorted types going back to around 1905-15.

BT

50' London suburban

  T

50' clerestory

  C

60' matchboard

BT

50' London suburban

The barely visible 3rd brake at the far end is inside out. Note that for the 1st class passengers, a 60ft matchboard carriage has been provided, the most modern one in the train, or the least old, if you like! The layout of its 9 compartments was (3T, 4F, 2T).

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Another example of how mixed formations in secondary service in rural districts used to be. This view is dated "July 1955" and shows N1 No 69450 moving an empty 5-set on the approach to Harrogate with carriages from four different decades:

BT

  52'4" Thompson

  T

  50' ex-GCR London Suburban

  CL

  51'1 1/2" Gresley - with turnbuckle trussing

  CL-BT

  56'6" Gresley twin - on steel angle trussing

Looking closer at the Thompson carriage, it has radiussed corners to the windows and the running number is just discernible as E87186E - which was built in 1951. Indeed, it looks brand new so the date on the back of the print of "July 1955" may not be all that accurate. The upshot is that we're seeing a BR-period train of carriages from three eras: pre-Grouping, LNER and BR running together.

The ex-GNR N1 0-6-2T was allocated to Copley Hill around this time so this was probably a West Riding formation.

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The brake composites

Corrected and expanded.

I have added the brake composites because they were built quite late, in 1906-8, and concluded construction of "London Suburban" style designs. All had lavatories for all passengers. Prior to this, four Diagrams of 50' clerestory BCL had been built in 1903 (Diagrams 4H2-4H5, a total of 13 carriages) and when the concept was revisited in 1906-8, only four more added. The type would have been useful for Outer Suburban service but by this time Marylebone had been well stocked with clerestory lavatory types - CL, BCL and BTL - especially for the GW&GCJ line and the London Suburban sets used on the Met line had ample 1st class accommodation. These later brake composites wouldn't have been needed there and I suspect they were built for secondary service in the north of England.

Two Diagrams were built:

Built

Type

Diagram

LNER Code (1938)

------

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

-----------

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

1906-7

BCL(2,3)

4H6

5151

1908

BCL(2,3)

4H7

5152

Only two each were built in 1907-8, total=4.

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At this point, what was quite simple carriage design and description has been turned into a confusing mess by modern hands. When built, the term "van" was used to indicate a vehicle with a "brake compartment", and all 7 GCR Diagrams for this type - from 4H2 to 4H8 - had one and all were labelled:

O Lavatory Van Composite

as, for example, shown above. Unfortunately, in his book about pre-BR Coaching Stock, Hugh Longworth has misdescribed 5 of the 7 Diagrams. Four are shown as:

Luggage Van Composite

- which is false because the term "luggage" had a specific meaning for a small compartment for passengers and none of these Diagrams had one. And one of the Diagrams as:

Barnum
Lavatory Van Composite Corridor

- which is doubly false: it was neither a Barnum nor a corridor coach, a much-repeated error. Railway jargon was not daft and it helps not to make things up and confuse people. The LNER would adopt "brake" unambiguously, and "locker" for a non-guard compartment. The concept had gone out of vogue but was useful on the ECML where space and weight could be saved in Scotch portions.

The London Suburban BCLs had four lavatories, with the 1st Class ones slightly better laid out, and a short corridor at the longer 3rd Class end (so, not quite semi-corridor carriage), which enabled every passenger to reach a lavatory. They differed in layout because, ahead of the guard's end, the interior was reversed, and the first Diagram was originally dual-braked - an interesting decision. Unusually, they were fitted with 10ft bogies, quite a luxury for a secondary 50' carriage.

Longest lived was 4H6 as shown above, having come from Gorton in 1906 (No 221, later 5221) and Brush in 1907 (No 1594, later 51594). In 1940 the former was converted to 8ft bogies. Author's collection.

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And here they both are in the same train at Guide Bridge on 13th June 1949, running under ECS lights with 5221 behind the loco. In between is an ex-NER clerestory 3rd cascaded to the GC Section. It may look a bit of an oddball, especially with both brake ends inside out, but it's typical of so many secondary services where old cascaded carriages were kept ticking over. The 1st class designation can be seen on the middle doors of the nearest carriage; the lower class was no longer being indicated. Photo: author's collection.

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Modelling and livery notes

It is possible to make some of these carriages by modifying a Perseverance kit of the clerestory version although only the 3rd is possible. The main requirement is the low ellipical roof and a matching end to suit it. Actually, that's not as hard as it might seem and I described a similar tweak when building a clerestory type (see link below).

Originally painted in the two-tone brown and cream livery, after the varnished teak scheme came in around 1908 they were stripped and varnished. Some modellers find this hard to believe but it happened alright (some GCR gangwayed carriages went on to be LNER-lined as well). A key aspect is that mahogany panelling appears to have been used for the original painted finished and when subsequently varnished, they looked slightly darker than teak panelled carriages, especially when marshalled together in b&w photographs. Indeed, observers from LNER days recall them as distinctly dark and dowdy. In BR days pre-Grouping stock was routinely painted plain brown.

To be continued...

GCR Barnum carriages: are here.

GCR carriages - matchboard: are here.

GCR London Extension - expresses: are here.

Modelling GCR clerestories: is here.

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