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Thompson non-gangwayed coaches

Thompson started with steel-panelled gangwayed designs in 1946 and quickly proceeded to the secondary stock the following year, the final designs being introduced in 1948. After so many different varieties under Gresley when the Areas and Sections called the tune, Thompson established genuine standard designs with only 4 Diagrams. All were 52'4" long, only slightly longer than Gresley's 51'1 1/2" designs:

1947
D.338 -   CL
D.339 -   T
1948
D.340 - BT
D.341 -    F

Construction continued into BR days and the last ones were built in 1953. In the process, the window design was revised from square to round corners. As far as I can tell this took place over the winter of 1948/49.

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Later developments

In the event, BR(E) saw fit to add two more designs:

1951
D.360 - BC
D.361 - BT

The last Diagram was for a BT(5), many of which were for the Scottish Region, others for the NE Region, and was only built that year. One senses that standardisation of only one design of BT - a BT(4) - was not viewed kindly and that a brake with a larger passenger capacity was required. A BT(5) was thus added.

The same year saw introduction of a brake composite with even more seats as a BC(2,4). The reason was a desire for a carriage with a smaller number of 1st Class seats than in the CL and minimal van space for use in short trains, and as a response for continuing fall in demand for 1st Class seats in secondary services in less well built up areas. Indeed, construction of large numbers of the F was questionable and conversion began to composites. Thompson had retired in 1946 and these last, more practical designs should be attributed to Peppercorn.

It may be added that the Wiki article about Thompson has a bit of a personal bias (I take no sides myself) and the part about his carriages is flimsy and completely wrong.

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3rd brake

Thompson continued genuine standardisation by only designing a single 3rd brake and it was a BT(4), unlike during the Gresley era when there had been four different versions: BT(3), BT(4), BT(5) and BT(6). In fact the ER relented and in 1951 - deep in BR days - a batch of BT(5) was produced (more on this later). The brake-end designs followed on from the Gresley steel-panelled ones with only minor changes, as described above. Most significantly, a ducket for the guard was dispensed with, a featured which Gresley had abandoned in the 1920s and then reinstated. Under Thompson it was gone for good. Details included a slightly different horizontal grab rail at the guard's end - a pleasing flourish.

Like the other designs the passenger windows were square-cornered at first, radiussed, later. The toplights at the guard's end were so slim that when radiussed, they effectively had round ends.

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The Diagram shows the general layout with square corners to the windows; details like this were generally considered too minor for a new Diagram to be issued. Incidentally, Harris doesn't give any details for construction of D.340 in 1946 or 1947.

A note in passing about terminology which often vexes modellers' minds. The CL was titled as a "Corridor" coach, because of course, it was. The BT was titled "Ordinary", the LNER's long-standing term for non-gangwayed carriages. The word was often abbreviated to "O" which has led some people to designate them wrongly as "open". Diagram: Author's collection.

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Known running numbers were:

1948 - 86009-87054/6/7
1949 - 870558-127
1951 - 87128-77, 87228-97

I don't have any ex-works pictures of the BT but can offer three service views, although all are from 1951 and show radiussed corners to the windows:

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A 1950s view at St.Botolphs (renamed Colchester Town in 1991) of a train about to depart behind an N2 is useful for showing some of the details described above. The number appears to be E87276E of 1951. It's also a wake-up call to modellers who might think that steel-panelled coaches lack detail! Photo: R.S. Carpenter.

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In an undated view at Grantham from the 1950s, station pilot C12 No 67397 is at the head of Thompson and Gresley carriages with BT(4) No E87270E built at York in 1951 leading. Livery was probably BR crimson. Photo: author's collection.

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Seen at Thornton Jc. in June 1967, SC87129E built by Metro-Cammell in 1951, was on the point of withdrawal after a service life of only 16 years - a fate shared by many other non-gangwayed carriages as BR replaced them with the DMU and EMU. Note that this Scottish coach was lined, as are other Thompson carriages in this siding. Body colour now may have been maroon. Photo: N.D. Mundy

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In service

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A fairly typical example of how new carriages were blended with the old so that all the sets got modernised gradually. In this undated view at Little Weighton near Hull, ex-NER G5 No 67337 (based at Dairycoates until early 1957) has what looks like a secondary 3-set strengthened on the rear. Leading is a Thompson BT, the whole formation comprising:

BT

3rd Brake

Thompson

52'4"

   CL

1st/3rd lav compo

Gresley SP

51 1'1 1/2"

BT

3rd

Thompson

52'4"

   T

3rd

Ex-NER

52'

Note how the strengthener, possibly on market day, was an old banger from c1910 and getting on for fifty years old. Photo: Author's collection

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Another example of old and new carriages rubbing shoulders, in this case at Harrogate in the 1950s where N1 No 69434 (a West Riding loco at Bradford Hammerton St. and then Copley Hill) is moving a train ECS. It's a tidy 4-set made up with carriages from four decades:

BT

3rd Brake

Ex-GCR Robinson matchboard

56'

   C

1st regraded to a 1st/3rd composite

Gresley

51' 1 1/2"

   CL

1st/3rd lavatory composite

Gresley

51' 1 1/2"

BT

3rd Brake

Thompson

52'4"

The Thompson BT is on the rear. Note how the ex-GCR carriage, a BT(6) had been built around the time of the Great War and was to a decent length (the GCR also built 60' secondary carriages). Photo: Author's collection

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Basic concepts

Some say that these were among Thompson's best arrivals, especially where they ousted ageing pre-Grouping carriages, in the West Riding for example where modernisation had ground to a halt and they came after the War as a welcome breath of fresh air. Unlike the gangwayed carriages for expresses where there were some radical departures, the secondary carriages followed Gresley's steel-panelled designs of the 1930s and '40s quite closely.

The differences were relatively minor. To begin with, leg room in the compartments was increased by a couple of inches and this led to a small increase in overall length from 51'1 1/2" to 52'4". They were still short compared with other companies' carriages and can be hard to distinguish from Gresley's SP designs because the external differences were so minor, except for where a lavatory was provided with an elegant oval window. The brake-ended coaches differed most for the guard's end was no longer recessed and the ducket was dropped. Common to all were these external changes in detail:

- grab handles - were slightly longer with the door handles positioned off-centre.
- solebar step - was positioned slightly higher (and is a good identifier in a train containing both designs).
- trussing - was deeper, same as in the gangwayed carriages.
- battery boxes were on one side only.

1st/3rd semi-corridor lavatory composite

Thompson's version of the CL came first and was a minor departure from the past because the handing was reversed; the man wanted his stock to look different although many people were only aware of the different grab handles, and a more modern interior, of course.

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The Diagram of the CL, which needed a lot of repair, shows the corridors on both sides of the coach (and, incidentally, why the term "corridor coach" is so misleading when applied to gangwayed stock). Note the deeper upholstery and armrests in the 1st Class compartments, their width increased by the odd inch compared with the Gresley version, the 3rd by two inches. The toilets benefitted most, by almost 5", which enabled a small corner table to be added. Diagram: Author's collection.

Running numbers were:

1947 - 88327-83
1948 - 88384-426
1950 - 88427-49
1952 - 82716-96

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CL No E88412 was captured on 9.6.56 at Sutton-in-Ashfield (between Nottingham and Lincoln), eight years old and still carrying the original simulated teak livery, but with an E suffix added to the running number. It was built in 1948 with square corners to the windows so it's safe to say that the ones built in 1950 and 1952 received rounded corners.

Livery - when describing Thompson's gangwayed carriages I noted how the simulated teak was more elegant than teak panelling had been and in place of a chequerboard arrangement to try and harmonise wide differences between panels, a painted finish could achieve a pleasing uniformity and it's evident here. Indeed, in a b&w image it's hard tell between it and the crimson painted BR Mk.1 coach next to it. On the other hand, modellers may like to note the colourful mixture of liveries so common when liveries were changed (some would say that they were always changing) and so often hard to see in a b&w image. Photo: H.C. Casserley.

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In service

Introduction by Thompson of numbering by Diagram meant that the regional prefixes were lost so it's hard to identify where the carriages were deployed. It is known that many were used in East Anglia, the Nottingham district, the West Riding conurbation (see link), and the North East, and that they were mixed with the immediately preceding types, Gresley teak-panelled and steel-panelled. Here are some examples:

69430 Wilsden

N1 69430 is at Wilsden midway between Keighley and Queensbury in 1956. The 1st class passengers were provided with a Thompson CL, behind which was a Gresley steel-panelled 3rd brake to BT(6). Note the minor differences described above between the types. Photo: G.B. Blakelock.

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This view on the NE region in 1958 shows a Goathland-Whitby train arriving at Ruswarp behind ex-NER A8 No 69861. It's another two-coach formation but made up with two Thompsons (CL, BC). Photo: Michael Mensing.

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A detail view is methinks, overdoing things!

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To be continued...

West Riding conurbation: is here.

Thompson gangwayed: is here.

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