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Coal for Stonebridge Park

This is a project I've been working up with Keith Bristow, who ran a modelling article in Model Rail in the Feb 2013 issue. The aim here is to present some more detail about the bogie 40T wagons and their workings 1929-67 from some collieries in the Midlands to Stonebridge Park power station in north-west London, and hopefully locate more operational and photographic material for a more in-depth account.

If anybody can help, please get in touch!


At the turn of the 20thC London's suburbs were expanding at quite a rate and all the railway companies with termini there strived to capture more of the market. North of the Thames only the LNWR and the Met took to electric traction, for which the wealthy LNWR laid a new double track between Euston and Watford alongside its steam-only 4-track towards Birmingham and the North, commonly called the WCML.

It's a complex story which required LNWR construction of a coal-fired power station at Stonebridge Park and provision of large amounts of coal from the Midlands. The Great War interrupted progress, an important change being switching of the electrical components from Germany to Oerlikon in Switzerland, the company's name being adopted for the class as a whole. They were described as the most comfortable of all the EMUs in London and served well into BR days. The power station lasted until 1967.

I was helping Keith Bristow to write up the whole story until his untimely recent death and will proceed with publication in Back Track when time allows. Meanwhile, the best I can do is captioned illustrations with a focus on Stonebridge Park and the 40T bogie hoppers by which the LMS modernised the delivery of coal in 1929. The parts here will thus be:

1 - Oerlikon stock of 1914+
2 - Power station at Stonebridge Park
3 - Coal service
4 - LMS 40-ton hopper wagons.
5 - Some models

A passing thought is the irony of commuters travelling in these sleek electric trains for which the power until 1967 was provided by coal delivered by coal-fired steam locos.

1 - Oerlikon stock from 1914

In brief, this stock was designed at Crewe as 3-car sets to run in pairs as 6-coach trains:

MDG - motor driving with guard
TC - trailer composite
TD - trailer driving

The abbreviations are as recorded by Keith. He took the next three pictures in the 1950s at Watford:

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A close up of an MDG at the south end of a train, showing the distinctive ventilation grilles, running No M28383M, the "M" suffix indicating the pre-Grouping origin. Destination of this train was Croxley Green, terminus of a short branch from Watford towards Rickmansworth. Photo: Keith Bristow.

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An Oerlikon train waits at Watford Junction with an MDG leading. Provision of doors only at the ends of the carriages is rarely commented upon even though it slowed down loading and unloading of passengers. Half-minute stops such as were achieved with steam-hauled "quad-art" sets serving King's Cross could never be managed and it was not unknown for the guard to open his doors to passengers to speed things up. Photo: Keith Bristow.

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Another view of an Oerlikon train of six coaches at Watford with an MDG leading, No M28295M. Destination is Euston. First built in 1914, they lasted until 1960. Photo: Keith Bristow.

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A passenger ticket for a journey along the electrified line from Euston to Watford, from the station at Kenton to its adjacent neighbour of Harrow & Wealdstone. It's an LMS ticket and while the date is not legible, the fare is clear to see: 1 1/2d which in modern money is about 1p. Author's collection.

2 - Stonebridge Park - power station and EMU depot

An aerial view from 1921 shows the WCML to the left, Stonebridge Park power station and its approaches, the EMU depot next to it, and the yards at Brent and Willesden. Repaired Aerofilms image from Keith Bristow collection, now available from Britain from Above (see Useful Links).

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The OS 25" map of 1932-36 shows the complexity of the LNWR's approach through north-west London to Euston. To the SE are the beginnings of Brent/Willesden yards. Stonebridge Park power station is right of centre with a rolling stock shed adjoining. Source: National Library of Scotland.

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A closer view of the power station and the reception roads with the elevated lines clearly visible, where the 40T hopper wagons discharged for a conveyor belt to take the coal inside the station. Source: National Library of Scotland.

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3 - The coal workings

LMS coal for Stonebridge Park

A wonderful panorama near Hatch End in 1937 with a complete train of ten 40T wagons being returned to the colliery for reloading. The working has been used to return a string of normal PO coal trucks on the rear, hence the double heading by an ex-LNWR G2 and a Stanier 8F. The date is unknown but would have been between 1932-38. Note the tube train passing in the opposite direction.

This is from Keith Bristow's collection and I have no info beyond what can be seen, which is 4F No 4160 with around a dozen 40T empties and, attached on the rear, a load of empty ordinary mineral wagons. The humble 4F seems to be managing perfectly well! Photo: source unknown, Keith Bristow collection.

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This is one of Keith Bristow's pictures from the 1950s when he lived locally. It's a murky day and an unidentified loco has a train of empties near Hatch End. Twelve or thirteen empty wagons are heading north. To the left are the electrified lines to Watford. Photo: Keith Bristow.

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A nice picture from June 1962 has come to light of a Down empties working. Ex-LMS 8F No 48649 (Willesden) is leaving the four-bore Northchurch tunnel a mile or so north of Berkhamsted. As in other pictures the wagons appear grey but that's just an accumulation of traffic dust; one wagon seems to have been serviced recently and much of its body is showing recently applied BR bauxite. Photo: J.P. Mullett, ColourRail BRM 440.

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48018 with coal for Stonebridge Park

A picture from the mid-'60s at a location now identified as close to Hemel Hempstead with 8F No 48018 in charge of northbound empties. These trains ran until closure of the power station in 1967.

4 - The 40T hopper wagons

LMS poster

A striking, futuristic poster in which the LMS presented the scale and grandeur of the new design.

LMS 40T official

An official view of No 189301 as-built, the first wagon of thirty.


This semi-official view taken soon after construction in 1929 shows the side-discharge well. Wagon No 189307 was photographed during a demonstration on the unloading ramp at the power station, hence the single wagon in view and staff posing for the camera.


Taken a few years later, wagon No 189xxx displays improvement of the brakes - with a full set of clasp brakes and replacement of the handbrake lever with a white-painted wheel. This may be described as the second version. The wooden coal/mineral wagon alongside demonstrates the scale of the quantum leap of 1929.


The third version appeared at an as-yet unknown date after 1937 by the addition of extra hinges and securing latches. M189306 is seen in BR days. All Keith Bristow collection.


Taken from Bob Essery's book on LMS Wagons, M189327 is seen at Coalville in 1964. This is the fourth and final version with addition of a double-bolted horizontal strip along the waist of the doors in late BR days, reason as yet unknown. The BRCW builder's plates that show in LMS and earlier BR-period pictures seem to have been removed.

It should be noted that these wagons generally operated in sets of ten and these pictures of isolated examples would have been taken after failure in service or after repair prior to return to traffic (which could give modellers an excuse to run a single vehicle).

5 - Some models

LMS coal trucks

And finally, a view of three of the models built by Keith Bristow. Seven built so far, another three to go!

LMS coal model

A closer view of one of the models shows the fittings as per the 3rd version, with clasp brakes all round, distinctive manual brake wheel and additional door hinges and clasps. Needs the builder's and owner's plates (BRCW in the middle and LMS to the left) - any ideas, please? And some weathering, of course!

Other LMS train formations and related topics are here:

Lakes Express

LMS through portions

LMS Milk

LMS horse and race traffic is included here

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