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Ex-ECJS and GNR clerestory BG

This model never got written up, which is a shame because the subject is fabulous; this is an overview with additional prototype info.

The kit and what it actually covers

I should first say that two vehicles have been confused by the D&S kit and its instructions: there were two clerestory BGs:

45' GNR - with double truss-posts. (Doncaster 1891-1903)
46'6" ECJS - with single truss-posts. (Cowlairs 1901-1903)

The kit represents the latter but is titled as "45' long". Also, the instructions refer to a prototype picture which also show the 45' GNR van. Despite these mistakes, the D&S kit is faithful to the 46'6" ECJS design and it makes a fine model. There were actually two variants of the Cowlairs van which are described below

Because of the similarity I have shown a little of the GNR van here (a separate topic about clerestory BGs under Prototype and Traffic is more comprehensive - see link below).

GNR 45' BG

GN clere BG

This drawing for GN Diagram 290 is an extract from a copy of the Diagram Book held by the NRM in which I have tried to remove the (tungsten light) brown cast while leaving the annotations in red ink clear to see. Note the title of "Luggage brake van" - in LNER days such vehicles were termed more simply as "Brake van". They were condemned gradually between 1936-1947.

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New addition: A good view of a GN 45' BG at the head of the Harrogate Pullman in the early 1920s. Photo: Railway Photographs.

- click on the picture for an enlargement

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An enlargement of the GN bogie van shows the double trussposts, the most visible difference between it and the ECJS design. Photo: Railway Photographs.

- click on the picture for an enlargement

ECJS 46'6" BG

There were two Diagrams and they have been published in Ken Hoole's book "The Illustrated History of the East Coast Joint Stock", Ken Hoole, OPC, 1993 (out of print) and the NERA publication "Plans of East Coast Joint Stock", David Williamson, North Eastern Railway Association,1999, revised and enlarged 2001 and 2004, which is better because it shows both Diagrams. I have redrawn/repaired an original copy of the earlier version.

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This drawing for EC.42 shows the original version with gangway at one end only, which is believed to have been corrected later, certainly for the sole example which survived to be cascaded to the GE Section. Unlike the GNR Diagram for the 45ft BG, the drawing shows the trussing, with single trussposts. The barely visible dimension for the length over vestibule door pillars is 46'6".

Click on the image for an enlargement

The headstocks - A postscript, brought to my attention by Andrew Emmett in Australia, no less, who was puzzled by a clearly visible headstock in the enlarged train pictures extending outside the solebars, and absence of the same on the model where the headstock is the same width: is this a glitch in the kit? Well, tell the truth, it is, and it didn't register with yours truly either. There were cases where the solebars and headstocks were the same width, including carriages built for the ECJS. But this was not one of them, as the extract below shows, a detail view from the ECJS Diagram per Cowlairs who built the first three and which I have abstracted and tidied up from Ken Hoole's "The Illustrated History of East Coast Joint Stock". In that same book there is an occasional glimpse of this design feature on other carriages (see p.75 and 79, for example, where both styles are clear to see). Yet, looking closer at the enlargements of the train pictures, I'm prepared to be swayed that I'm seeing not so much ends that were fully radiused as having corners, possibly a variation by York which built the final 16? Answers please on a postcard!

ECJS end

Some kits deal with headstocks like this by etching an overlay and you have to match the extension and the rounded end behind it with Plastikard. It's not hard and when I build the next one, I shall make a brass overlay from scrap brass. I suppose one moral is that modern technology can enlarge details better than ever before. Note, by the way, how commonly the headstock was deeper than the solebars. Not everybody may be bothered, of course, but I think the model would look better with this quite distinctive detail.

- click on the picture for an enlargement

Historical summary

During the 1920s some of these ECJS van were scrapped while others were cascaded into general service in the following Sections:

NB (2) 1926
GN (1) 1928
GE (4) 1928-29

Hence by summer 1929, none remained in the ECJS fleet - all the survivors were in less important duties where they lasted until:

1943 (GN)
1949 (GE)
1951 (NB)

The LNER-period pictures below show several changes to some of the fittings, essentially simplifications. They cannot be dated precisely but appear to have been cumulative during the 1920s.

Running numbers

I've given an outline of the historical sequence above. Full details of the running numbers are complicated because there was an LNER renumbering in 1925 (with new numbers prefixed by "1"). Some had already been withdrawn and the surviving majority was, in the next few years, either scrapped or cascaded to the Sections. It's confusing and this is the best that I can resolve for these periods:

1901    EC.42    Nos 289-291
1903    EC.36    Nos. 45-48, 50, 52-54, 83, 85, 100-103, 111

LNER renumbering of survivors (13/18) in 1925-26 was:

-, -, -, -, -, 19, 100-108

Between 1926-29 some more were then scrapped while the cascaded ones became:

6729, -, -
-, -, -, -, -, 38 or 39 (SSA), -, -, 6730, 6737,6738, 39 or 38 (SSA), 4035, -, 6731

I have summarised the dates in the introduction, precise dates can be found in Ken Hoole's book p.95 and pp.137-144. Note that the scrapped ones, which amounted to half of the total, only lasted about 25 years in the ECJS fleet because they were replaced by the longer and non-clerestory 56'6" type and then the LNER 61'6" types. The Cowlairs design was relatively heavy and increasingly unsuited to general demands on the ECML, where three photographs have been found in the 1920s nevertheless. Use in lesser services could only be found for half of the original build and they served on after cascading to the GE, GN and NB Sections (SSA) where, alas, I have yet to find any illustrations. I suspect that a modest-size van in a moderately loaded roster could have been useful, especially in overnight parcels traffic which was usually rostered for a great variety of older vans: the pictures above containing the ex-GNR 45' version and Carriage Working books are a useful guide to this sort of thing.

In service


In this view from 1924, two ex-GNR locos (C1 1430 and D165) are hauling a heavy East Coast express with such a van at the head. The single truss post can just be seen on the original print. This example has single destination board holders on the roof and the lower, suspended footboard between the bogies.


A stirring view at Dringhouses in the late 1920s as A1 4470 Great Northern thunders past the signal box and ex-NER signals with an ECML express. Behind the tender is an ex-ECJS clerestory BG.

4470 detail

An enlargement of the BG shows the principal distinguishing feature compared with the GNR design: the single trust post on each side. Triple destination board holders are on the roof. The lower footstep has already been removed.

817 York

Another view from the 1920s shows ex-NER B15 No 817 in sparkling condition as it leaves York with an Up express whose formation includes several 12w clerestories. Behind the tender is an ECJS BG.

A closer view shows the lower guard's step well, and the single truss-post. Once again, the lower steps between the bogies has been removed. On the roof, the destination board holders on the roof have also been removed, which means that there were three different configurations of this feature. This is the simplest version of this ECJS BG and how it would have served through later LNER and BR days.

The model


Based on the D&S kit, this model represents one of the quartet sent to the GE Section and was built for a c1947 layout in a brown-painted and dusty condition, which I think suits it very well. Note the dusty windows; they make quite a difference.


The other side of the vehicle was identical but I added some repair panels. Otherwise, the condition is as described in the historical notes above following removal of the lower footstep and destination board holders on the roof.


A closer view of the end shows the plug doors which look better when reworked. The clerestory roof made me ponder and on this model, I placed a large brass channel under the roof to ensure complete, long term rigidity. In "LNER Passenger Trains & Formations" we stressed how much pre-Grouping stock lasted all through the LNER era and I have another to build for Cliff Parsons' "Gresley Beat" where it will run in a GN Section secondary express from Leeds with a tail of bogie vans.

Black and white pictures can show detail better, I leave you to decide!

Ex-ECJS clerestory ECJS BG

Some conclusions for modellers

Because the ECJS 46'6" and GNR 45' designs were so similar, they are practically interchangeable, especially if you're modelling a notional whole-LNER period 1923-39. Strictly speaking, the ex-ECJS van should only be deployable with expresses on the ECML until 1928, thereafter, only in secondary service which, on the GN Section, meant going in the same pool as the ex-GNR clerestory vans used to serve as parcels vans attached to secondary passenger trains, anywhere up to six at a time - of all kinds, of course - either all at the back, or at both ends (some of these I have illustrated under the topic "Gresley all-steel BG").

On the Gresley Beat it will form part of a Leeds-Doncaster-KX early evening Ordinary Passenger that in the 1930s was rostered for:

3 passenger carriages
6 bogie vans

On the layout it will probably be just four vans on the rear, but even with two or three so far, its character impresses all who see it. It's a point that I try to make, that not all trains were the same, many had a character of their own, and on the LNER south of York, this is how most of the parcels traffic was carried.

Related NPCS via these links:

56'6" ECJS and GNR BG: is here.

Gresley LNER 56'6" BG to D.44: is here.

D.86 and D.87 general and milk vans is here.

Gresley all-steel BG prototype and model is here.

Gresley all-steel BG service is here.

Thompson 61'6" deal BG: is here.

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