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LNER 56'6" BG to D.44


This is a cautionary tale and example of how things can get lost over the years. Seven of these BGs were produced in 1926 and in his last book Michael Harris (1998) described them as "possibly built on the underframes of former GCR-built ambulance train vehicles which were purchased by the LNER from a contractor". This wasn't the only time that dear old Michael when stumped, plumped for this kind of explanation. Alarm bells should have rung because the GCR never built to this length and the bowstring girder trussing was NER-style. There were in fact three LNER conversions to BG:


and a full account is in the pipeline. Meanwhile here is some fresh info and a bit of puzzle...

New additions placed here temporarily as per my normal practice (it will look better when merged)!

Of the three conversions the most numerous was to D.44 and three more pictures have turned up. There's also more to be said about design features albeit only for hard core Gresley fans!

Some more design features

This came up because Rupert Brown queried a feature that didn't make sense and I can be like a dog with a bone, unable to let it go until fully digested. It hinged on the provision of ventilation for the guard and how it changed over the years. There were two stages:

1924 saw the LNER's first "standard" 61'6" BG as a modernisation of previous designs that had been 56'6" long and had plug doors (see separated topic). In the new design double doors were established and:

- no guard's ducket;
- panelling above the waist was narrow;
- glazed toplights above the double doors and the penultimate toplight at each end made openable with vertical hinges so that, depending on the direction of travel, air could be forced into the vehicle or, by the Venturi effect, sucked out. This concept was improved upon when the 4w vans to D.120 were designed a few years later, but that's another story. The glazed toplights over the double doors and the opening ones help identify D.43 in photographs of trains and all these features were deployed when the first conversions were made to D.44 in 1926.

These features were revised five years later after D.45 (the all steel version of 1927 - see separate topic) in 1929 when the BG to D.113 was introduced and were to stay constant for all further Gresley BGs:

- duckets were reinstated;
- wider panels above the waist;
- opening toplights dropped.
- ventilator bonnets fitted over the doors;

Dare I mention and risk confusion by saying that bogie vans for the GE Section followed on the 4w D.120 design with improved ventilation by having both types of ventilation, but that was a local feature. The main point here is that when further BG conversions were made in 1935, their ventilation and glazing were inconsistent and this is hard to explain:

- D.207 was as per current practice
- but D.208 was like previous practice.

I mention this because it's visibly the case and to show that when things change, it's not always done systematically.

More service views of D.44

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An undated picture shows K2 No 4635 emerging from Potters Bar tunnel with an Up Ordinary Passenger train, either from Leeds or Doncaster (it was a New England loco at the time). Only one passenger carriage can be seen and it's an ex-GNR Howlden 6w 3rd brake but ahead of it are two bogie vans - a 56'6" one with Howlden ducket and plug doors, and an example of D.44 with the sleek sides and bow girder trussing showing well. It was probably in a roster which included an ECJS BG. Photo: author's collection.

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This marvellous undated view after WW2, on the troughs at Danby Wiske, shows A4 No 16 Quicksilver with the Up "Flying Scotsman". Thompson stock has been introduced with two 1sts (FK,FK) leading, behind which there is a Gresley restaurant triplet set (RTS), one of the pair built in 1938 for the "Scotsman". Thompson coaches continue behind it.

At the head carrying destination boards and serving as the train's luggage van is a BG conversion to D.44. Photo: Real Photographs.

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In another undated view but at Ecmanton level crossing (actually EGMANTON), the same loco has the same train, the only visible change at this end being a Gresley "superfirst" instead of the Thompson version, its steel angle trussing contrasting nicely with the bow girder trussing on the D.44 BG. Looks like it had an extended run with the "Flying Scotsman". Photo: author's collection.

The puzzle lies in several areas. To begin with, how the GNR named the cabin? It may have been the original name for the village a mile or so away but I cannot confirm that. There are many cases around the country of railway names based on out of date maps and even plain mis-spelling.

Then we have the fact that there was at first a bridge over the road here and plain double track. I suspect that the bridge may have been replaced by a level crossing around the time of WW2 and connections added towards Dukeries Junction (Tuxford) and its large exchange yard. Many additions of this kind were made during WW2 to increase a line's ability to handle goods trains striving to reach a yard, and removed later. This is now the site of an unmanned level crossing. If anybody can add to these notes I'd be pleased to hear.

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The first ones - D.44 (56'6")

Here's the Diagram:

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These had been built by York as ECJS 56'6" sleeping cars during the early LNER's attempt to update that fleet and present a consistent, corporate image soon after the Grouping. The sleeping cars needed modernising anyway and when a large batch was built new for a predominantly 1st class market, many of the older ones were withdrawn and EC.64 on bowstring girder trussing was chosen for conversion to BGs - for the EC fleet. There's quite a long story here that's going to Back Track but suffice to say, they were a quantum leap from the preceding 56'6" BGs (see separate topic). Three old-fashioned features had been abandoned in D.43 and the new length of 61'6":

- the plug doors (in favour of hinged double doors)
- skylights on the roof (in favour of toplights under the cornice)
- the ugly Howlden ducket (in fact no ducket was provided for the guard at all).

The new body set the trend for all future BGs for the next twenty years and the conversions were in the same mould and also put in the ECJS fleet, numbered 153-9. The later Thompson/BR numbers were 70029-35, eventually with "E" prefix and suffix.

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This undated view was taken during the late 1930s and shows A1 No 2548 Galtee More (GRA) at Brookmans Park with an Up express. It's an ECML formation and quite a prestigious one, despite only a single destination board on the roof. Many of the nine carriages are modern ones on steel-angle trussing, there are two 1st class carriages, and catering has been provided by a 12-wheel restaurant car flanked either side by dining cars. And behind the tender, an EC BG instead of a BTK. The bowstring girder trussing is clearly visible. Photo: G.R. Griggs, Photomatic.

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In service

After a spell running with top flight expresses, these BGs settled down in the heavy Anglo-Scottish parcels traffic, operating with long distance overnight trains, such as the sleepers, and the Saturdays-only KX 8.15pm EC Parcels. In all three cases, D.44 vans were marshalled in pairs: not to the same destinations, but quite visibly setting off together. They came back from their far-flung destinations by an assortment of services, including a meandering one via Edinburgh, St.Boswells and Berwick which would have involved attachment to some low-level trains.

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This example, No E70032E, was captured at High Meads on 18th September 1960. Still in good running order.

The bowstring girder trussing shows well, as do the Fox bogies, heavy wooden headstocks (the solebars were steel) and oval buffers. Note the inward-opening guard's door.

The van makes a pleasing change from the 61'6" design and there is rumour that an etched brass kit may appear in the fullness of time.

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The second and third ones: D.207 (58'6") and D.208 (56'6")

In 1935 four more conversions were made, again from pre-Grouping sleeping cars but this time to two different lengths. Here are the diagrams:

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The similarity to established practice is evident and the York-style trussing isn't immediately obvious. The quartet was for the GN Section and the running numbers were 4194-4197, and post-Thompson, 70396-70399.

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In service

Alas, I cannot yet find a single illustration of these four vans and the only roster in the GNML Carriage Working book for 1939 was as part of the formation of a KX-West Riding express; quite an honour really. Actually, I have two pictures of this express but the BG is a faint smudge a long way from the camera. The others would have served in parcels traffic on the GN Section in the classic manner, attached to secondary expresses and Ordinary Passengers of which the following is a good example:

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K3 1125 swings pass Brookmans Park with an Ordinary Passenger train of three carriages, with various bogie vans fore and aft. At the head are two 61'6" BGs, D.43 and all-steel D.45, with an ex-GNR 51'1 1/2" BV in between. Two more bogie vans on the rear are too blurred to identify.

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Related topics:

LNER clerestory BGs: is here.

Modelling the ECJS BG: is here.

ECJS and GNR 55'6" BG: is here.

Modelling the Howlden 45ft BV: is here.

Modelling the all-steel BG: is here.

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