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GCR 5T milk vans

Just before the GCR London Extension opened in 1899, the company built two batches of fruit & milk vans. One, by contractors, in 1898-99 was a fairly conventional goods-style vehicle but the one built by Gorton in 1899, and subject of the D&S kit, had a passenger coaching stock outline.

1898-99 - Gorton

Although the first built and old-fashioned with outside frames, this version was the longer-lived one, possibly because it lingered on as a goods van:

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The Diagram partially redrawn from the LNER-C Carriage Diagram book. Length was a modest 16ft albeit it on coach-size wheels with oil boxes and a through Westinghouse pipe (which was eventually removed the very late '20s and 1930s). The Diagram shows louvres on the ends but these were only fitted on two of the 25 built, possibly the first two; it is not stated.

The original livery is not known. Running numbers in LNER days were 5140-64. A note below them states "Late wagon numbers 24578-602", presumably ex-GCR. The last five in service around 1952 were 5146,50,53,59,60.

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Pictures of this milk van are quite scarce, especially on the London Extension, but this is a fine view of the so-called "Banbury Motor" behind C13 No 6056 (WFD) with a Gorton milk van behind the loco. Photo: Real Photographs.

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1899 - Brown Marshall

The second version was more elegant and clearly built to harmonise with passenger traffic, and construction was sub-contracted to Brown Marshall in Birmingham (which eventually became part of Metro-Cammell):

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This re-drawing from the Diagram book shows a striking outline with a coach-type body and tumblehome and although also rated for 5 tons, the churns capacity was greater. Length was increased to 20' and the wheelbase to 12', which gave a usefully steadier ride and greater suitability for running with passenger trains. Two double doors were provided on each side, more user friendly and speedier at each station where milk had to be picked up. This was the version usually seen on the London Extension delivering milk to Marylebone and there will be a separate write-up. Again, oil boxes were fitted and a through Westinghouse pipe (also removed later). Most usefully, perhaps, two lamps were fitted in the roof and end steps and handrails to service them. This would have helped when loading on dark winter mornings, and when returning the empties in fading light and the destination labels for each station had to be read.

As a matter of detail and operating practice I have been told that the floors in these milk vans were cast in concrete to help withstand the wear and tear from the churns, which were heavy with steel rims underneath; it would also have been easier to keep clean and hygienic than a timber floor. Another source has claimed sheeting with zinc, although that would have been less durable. The diagram shows no sign of either although there is a cryptic note "Wood u/frame plated". What is certain is that a steel plate was fitted on the floor at the entrance to each set of doors, the point of impact where the churns were swung off the platform into the van, along with hardwood oak battens around the bottom of the sides and ends to help protect against the churns striking the inside of the van. It may be hard to appreciate today how heavy loaded churns used to be, and how quickly they had to be loaded to minimise delaying the passengers. It's possible that despite these precautions, churn-induced wear and tear contributed to the relatively short life of these milk vans.

30 were built as a significant and modern addition to the fleet, apparently taking over from Gorton during 1899 although running numbers on this issue of the Diagram are shown as 5112-5139 (=28) with a note below stating "Late wagon no.24548-24577" (which = 30). Across the Diagram, a condemned date is written of 11-12-37, which tallies with collapse of their use in the churns traffic on the London Extension.

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The original livery was brown and French Grey, later plain brown, which these two blow-ups from train photographs show. In the later view the lettering in mid-body is tantalisingly not quite clear enough to read, but the shapes of the words suggest that it may have read "Milk and fruit van". I've put some notes for the LNER period below.

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In service

My apologies for the variable quality of these pictures but they are helpful!

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A grand view of 8B 4-4-2 No 358 departing Marylebone with the 6.20pm express for Bradford. In the background is the Rossmore Road dairy and several milk vans. Photo: author's collection.

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An enlargement of the above picture with apologies for the quality - it's a small sepia contact print which was not glazed hence the texture of the paper catches the light. Standing in the sidings by the dairy is a GCR bogie van (1908) and three milk vans. The first two are the carriage-style version and subject of the kit. Beyond them is the goods-style version with outside framing, which was not as common at the London end. Photo: Author's collection.

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Class 9L 4-4-2T (LNER C14) is at an unknown location near Denham with a short, 3-coach train of London Suburban stock. On the rear are two milk vans being worked back from the Rossmore Road dairy. Photo: Topical, author's collection.

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Another fine picture at Marylebone, this time a secondary service which has been rostered for D11 No 603 Somme. The formation consists of a 4-set of London Suburban carriages with a milk van on the rear. Photo: Author's collection.

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In a view from the road overbridge, C13 No 6063 stands at Banbury GWR station with the Banbury Motor. Such was the scene on a murky day in the 1930s when Banbury was an industrial powerhouse in what is now called the Tramway Estate. Ironically, the platform face where the train is standing - disconnected after the London Extension was abandoned in the '60s - was brought back into use the other year.

Behind the loco is the milk van. The coaches, all ex-GCR 50' include, in pretty random order, an ex-London Suburban 50ft 3rd, a similar brake end, and a clerestory, which was probably a composite.

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Another view from c1930 shows the Banbury Motor on its way, passing Banbury North signal box and the marshalling yards. This time C13 No 6060 is in charge with the milk van leading. Faintly visible in the left end panel at the waist are two words which appear to be "MILK VAN". Following are two ex-GCR passenger carriages (T,BC) with the London Suburban 3rd again and the clerestory recognisable as a brake composite. On the rear is an empty ex-NER horse box. I only need a D&S kit for that and my model of this formation will be complete. :)

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The model

A fairly typical and easy to build kit from Dan: etched brass, whitemetal castings, and Plastikard roof. Alas, I took no constructional pictures (although, hang on, I have some more to build) so for now can only offer the following:

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The drawing from the kit instructions, the version with LNER livery. I have pencilled in the location of some of the smaller lettering, including branding of "Milk Van", which appears to have been adopted for quite heavy use in milk traffic on the London Extension. Not shown is the curved rainstrip. I wasn't sure about the advice to fit the roof grab handles diagonally across the corners and as none of the train photographs was very clear in this regard, I opted for a more conventional layout. One day, hopefully, such detail will be resolved. Unusually, steps are shown at both ends, a bit of luxury for a relatively short vehicle.

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The kit as supplied (wire, Plastikard and bearings not shown), in other words, a proper kit. :)

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The model seen from the same side as the drawing with a handbrake lever to the right. It's a beautiful model with no tweaking but for the curved rainstrip on the roof, although today, I would fit sprung buffers from the MJT range as well. Also, oil boxes per the Diagram (the kit instructions and castings provided are grease boxes).

Another aspect I might address concerns the ventilator bonnets. A single layer of etched brass is provided, a common simplification, compared with castings which look properly three-dimensional. To improve them would need a Plastikard base, gluing the etchings on a long strip and, when set, cutting and sanding, and finally gluing in place. It's not as fiddly as it might sound and the extra depth of the bonnets is quite a feature. If you've ever tried fitting the LNER bonnets from MJT you'll know what I mean.

Livery is a nondescript brown with weathered roof and underframe. Transfers came from the PC/HMRS range, still the best in the land. The large "NE" letters were left to harden and then the gaps over the grilles were cut through using a fresh scalpel. All the lettering was then toned down. The model currently runs in my representation of the "Banbury Motor".

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Other GC models are here:

Clerestory 50ft coaches.

Horse box

6w goods brake van

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