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GCR 15 ton bogie fish vans

The extended 45' bogie fish vans were introduced in 1903, originally with louvred ventilation and carrying lined passenger livery. A slatted version followed in 1913, conversion of the previous ones to the same format, and a change to goods livery. Running numbers of the two Diagrams were, respectively:

GC.58   30134-50
GC.59   38431-55


As-built and modified

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The classic official portrait of No 30147 as built by Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co.Ltd. in 1903. The low roof is deceptive for the length of 45' was normal at the time for the GCR's non-gangwayed passenger carriages, both clerestory and London Suburban. The livery was dark brown with plentiful lining and the legend in the middle, "Return to Grimsby". Photo: LNER RF/139.

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Official pictures rarely embraced non-passenger stock and here is "Fish Engine" Class 8 (LNER B5) posed beautifully with recently built fish vans. Leading is No 30147, subject of the official portrait.

Note that the train appears to be on the wrong line and may have been setting back, presumably to make best use of the location on a sunny day. Some years ago an attempt was made to identify where the picture was taken and one opinion was a park in Manchester. David Jackson in "J.G. Robinson, A Lifetime's Work" captioned this picture as "at Yew Tree Road bridge". I'm not sure and suspect that the picture may have been taken a little to the west, between Chorlton and Fallowfield from an occupation bridge by Old Hall Farm. Here is the OS 25" map of the place with the former Manchester Central Station Line - also known as the Fallowfield Loop - running through, E to W:

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OS 25" map 1915-18. Source: National library of Scotland.

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The lie of the land is tricky to see because railings sit on the edge of the cutting, beyond which the ground falls away out of sight. Railings on the other side are further back with Platt Brook also out of sight in its own cutting. Note, by the way, the hedged field boundary coming in from the right, also shown on the map.

There are three OS 25" maps of which a more useful one dates from 1892-94 and labels the district as Withington and even shows the line of trees. Interestingly, a station just out of sight to the W was called "Alexandra Park" - which lies to this day in ornamental fashion a short distance north of Platt Brook. The land immediately north of the brook appears to have been a less posh kind of park or simply common ground and after it later disappeared under housing (as did the farm to the south) and the remainder was changed to playing fields, the station was renamed "Wilbraham Rd". Which disappeared in turn after closure in 1958 and the line was lifted. The occupation bridge was replaced to become an extension of the Princess Rd.

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OS 25" map 1892-94. Source: National library of Scotland.

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Which leaves us with a knotty problem - what exactly do you call a location which has changed so much after the photograph was taken? How about: "Between Old Hall Farm and Alexandra Park, Withington (later Whalley Range) close to what became Wilbraham Rd. station".

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This view of a tired-looking No 30145 is uneven and I have tried to repair it. The original lined passenger livery is being carried. Photo: Author's collection.

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A GCR-period view at an unknown location, possibly Dukinfield, of the slatted version, No 38447 with a 4w fish truck behind it. A steam heat pipe had been fitted and a through Westinghouse pipe and there are no steps beneath the doors - which begs the question: had they been removed or never fitted to this version? At present I know of no photograph of the slatted version as-built.

The livery is unlined goods grey and in place of the "return to" legend a cast plate was now being carried, alas not quite legible. Photo: Author's collection.

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An LNER official photograph shows another slatted van, No 38451. Note how the end has been strengthened with extra, diagonal bracing. The Westinghouse pipe remains although that would have been removed by the 1930s.

AVB goods livery based on red oxide is being carried and for the first time, a designation of "FISH" is being worn, in small letters on the LH door. Conversions to parcels traffic would have lost this. The cast plate in the centre has been picked out with white paint (but I still cannot read it)! Photo: Author's collection.

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In service

With a fleet of 40 bogie fish vans one might have expected them to show up widely in service but this is not the case and few pictures of fish trains, many quite long, show their presence. It has been suggested that they were too large for traffic where vans were rostered for individual fish merchants. Apart from the odd photograph, I have a 1930s observation at Doncaster where one of these vans was transferred from a Hull train to the rear of a King's Cross-Leeds express.

It is known that the LNER began to sheet over the slats and use the vans as general purpose bogie vans. One observer recalled seeing them in the 1930s working out of Marylebone in either the 10pm "Down Mail" or the 2.32am Newspaper express. There is a published photograph on the GNML showing an Up express behind a large Ivatt Atlantic and when I analysed it I found that it was rostered for a GN Section bogie van but, coming back from Cleethorpes, an ex-GC bogie fish van was being carried instead.

An observer would have been able to tell between fish and parcels versions of these vans because hygiene of the former was not so good and the smell enough to make passengers waiting for a train to recoil as they passed by. Now, as we look at old photographs and see an ex-GCR bogie fish van running with a passenger train, it is impossible to tell if fish or parcels were being carried.

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A GCR official which is poorly printed and I have repaired showing the first Robinson Class 8 (LNER B5) 4-6-0 No 1069 posed by Neasden carriage sidings with the empties from a Grimsby-Marylebone fish train. It's summertime and as the loco was built 11/02 the date may have been mid-1903. Photo: LNER Press Section TO/25, author's collection.

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An enlargement of the fish vans doesn't show all of them but what a variety!

Bogie fish van - one can be seen two-thirds of the way down the train and it's the first version with louvres.
5T louvred fish van - thirteen of these and there are three versions:
- multiple outside frames; sealed ends; roof vents and rain strip
- simple outside frames; ends with grilles; roof vents and rain strip
- simple outside frames; ends with shielded ventilator; plain roof.
5-6T unventilated covered vans - seven can be seen and also of three kinds, which may include insulated types:
- hinged doors and diagonal strapping
- hinged doors, plain body
- sliding doors, plain body.

This was before slatted versions were introduced and all the 4w vans were early types, quite short, and mostly with grease axleboxes. Peter Tatlow's "LNER Wagons - Vol.1" doesn't cover all these versions, possibly because, once withdrawn in LNER days, the Diagrams were removed from the Diagram book. Appearance as far as can be seen of only one bogie van - by far the most modern in this train - would reflect that construction didn't start until the year this picture was taken; more could have been deployed later. All photographs are snapshots in time and evolution of rolling stock was constant over the years.

It should also be borne in mind that a publicity picture like this was intended to promote the company's handling of the traffic - which included newly-built 4-6-0s for long distances and that much of the fish traffic was conveyed by passenger services.

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In a scene dated from 1924, D11 No 504c Jutland was captured between Culworth Jc and Woodford with an Ordinary Passenger 4-set of matchboard carriages, a bogie fish van and five empty cattle wagons on the rear.

It has been misccaptioned as a "Brackley-Leicester" train but it was actually the 11.15am Marylebone-Leicester (Ordinary Passenger) which was stopped at Brackley for 22 minutes and shunted into the Down laybye to let the 12.15pm Marylebone-Manchester Express call. The Leicester train was then put back in the platform to complete its journey. A Neasden "Director" was employed and the train a natural candidate for moving NPCS along the line. The cattle wagons on the rear would have been fitted with AVB. Photo: LGRP.

The passenger formation was:

BT

  3rd brake

60'

  C

  1st/3rd composite

60'

  F

  1st

56'

BT

  3rd brake

60'

You might have thought that lavatory carriages would have been employed - especially by 1924 when they were available - and surely no need for a Composite and a First? Which suggests that this may not have been the normal formation. Also, the working appears to have been quite short-lived. I can offer no more clues.

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In a view from the 1920s, D9 No 5110 King George V is awaiting departure from Nottingham Victoria with an Ordinary Passenger train. Behind the tender is a louvred bogie fish van. Photo: Author's collection.

I subsequently worked up a similar loco at Nottingham Victoria around the same time and concluded that the train was probably the 2.50pm Nottingham-Leicester. For details see Nottingham Vic. (link below) and part 6, Services - GC Section:

GCR London Extension stations - Nottingham Victoria

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C4 No 6092 (LEI) is approaching Leicester with an Ordinary Passenger from Marylebone and a non-gangwayed 4-set of GCR/LNER hybrid stock. There's an unidentifiable 4w van on the rear and, inside it, a bogie fish van, one of the louvred ones. Photo: LGRP.

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A fish train for Banbury is passing through Nottingham Victoria behind J39 No 1282 (IMM). A bogie fish van can be seen, the slatted version. The next five are the LNER's fish van of 1927. Photo: Author's collection.

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Building the bogie fish models is here.

Other GC NPCS:

GCR horse box

GCR milk van

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