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MSWJR 3-plank dropside wagon



blog-0450132001403153093.jpgI’ve been building some “foreign” stock for the goods depot at Farthing. It’s a real pleasure, but also humbling to realize just how little I know about other companies, and how difficult it can be to obtain kit parts for other pre-grouping companies. We GWR modellers are a spoilt lot!


My 1900s period is before the “common user” arrangement, so most of the goods stock at Farthing would have been the GWR’s own - but there should be room for a handful of foreign vehicles, especially from the companies close by. This included the MSJWR, which crossed the GWR's Berks & Hants line at Savernake, not far from Farthing.




So first up was a MSWJR 3-plank dropside wagon. Over on gwr.org.uk I had seen a note by Paul Absalom that this could be made by modifying a Slater’s kit for the Midland Railway dia 305 (thanks Paul!). The MR design was used as the basis for 20 wagons ordered by the MSWJR from Oldbury works in 1899.The sides and ends of the Slater’s kit (above) are virtually identical to the MSWJR versions, so these were used directly.





The running gear is a less straightforward matter. There is very limited documentation available on these wagons, and the only known photo has the underframe in shadow. A drawing has been made, but there is doubt about whether the running gear is portrayed correctly. So an informed guess is the best we can do. This led to an interesting discussion involving several RM Webbers – especially wagonman – as well as Neil Lover of the “Swindon’s other Railway” site and MSWJR historian Mike Barnsley (see this thread for details). Many thanks, gentlemen!






To cut a long story short, we concluded that the MSWJR probably wouldn’t have gone for the fairly sophisticated and expensive Ellis axleboxes provided in the Slaters kit. So these had to go. An alternative option would have been to modify the existing axleboxes.






Instead I fitted MJT units/W-irons (non-rocking). This required some of the framing to be carved away, but was otherwise straightforward. Packing was added underneath the units.






The exact type of axleboxes used by the MSWJR isn’t known, except that they were most likely of the grease type. In photos of other MSWJR wagons I noticed a simple type not unlike the standard GWR grease box. So I fitted some of the latter (also from MJT) and modified/filed them to suit. The only other modification was to file away the MR build plate on the solebar.





I couldn’t find any ready-made MSWJR lettering, so opted instead for the “white shaded black” letters from one of the HMRS P.O. sheets. These are slightly overscale but close enough, I think. The sheet is rather costly, but I wanted it anyway for lettering some Farthing based P.O. wagons at some point.






The finished model. I suddenly realized that a dropside wagon might not often be seen inside a goods depot, as they tended to carry loose material, stone etc. But I’m thinking that a couple of large crates might justify a dropside, to facilitate unloading?





Shunter George “Bulldog” Mullins studiously ignores the new wagon. A GWR man to the core, Mullins treated vehicles from the competition with poorly disguised contempt. In particular, he refused point blank to shunt vehicles from the MSWJR. The origin of this particular grudge was always a bit of a mystery, although some said it had to do with an unfortunate incident in his youth. The details were unclear, but apparently it involved his pet donkey, a sleepy MSWJR driver and a poorly guarded level crossing.

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  • RMweb Gold

I have followed your stuff from the beginning, and all of it is excellent. Regarding foreign wagons there was a fair amount of movement of specific products, returning wagons being empty of course. So all you need is to find the product to explain the wagon. Seasonal or perishable produce was often localised, but tended to go to the big cities where it was transhipped (bananas via LNWR from Liverpool to London for instance), but machinery and hardware could come from quite a distance, and not all the named fast goods trains on the GWR went to London so stuff from Birkenhead for example could easily find its way to Farthing. I'm sure you can write the sory for each wagon you like the look of!


Thankyou webbcompound, I'm afraid I tend to postpone the issue of loads (and couplings!) when building wagons. The plan is to have a separate phase where I focus on loads for all my wagons, but I'm not sure it's a good strategy! Anyway, I really like the idea of having a little story for each foreign wagon to justify its presence, preferably one that is reasonably plausible. As always, there is initial inspiration to be had on this site.


I am thinking of putting 2-3 large crates in my MSWJR dropside, but not sure what they would contain. Perhaps unassembled farming machinery, eg ploughs or farming rakes from a local manufacturer in MSWJR territory? I am not sure if that kind of load would enter a goods depot though. Although I have cranes inside, they are not heavy duty ones.  It might perhaps be more likely to have been handled outside, by a larger crane. And I am not sure if ploughs etc were actually sold in unassembled condition in the 1900s - these are pre-Ikea days after all :-)  


Beware the account in GWW first edition! The section in the second edition is somewhat clearer and more detailed and was re-written by Mike Barnsley. It's clear from his account that there were a variety of liveries around 1900. He mentions second-hand vehicles delivered in 1887 with "M&SWJRY", then "M.S.W.J.R" by the mid-1890s (incidentally, some Gloucester built examples had a trailing full stop). Some "LSWR-style" opens received "M.& S.W.J.R" in 12" letters around the turn of the century. Then, "During the 1900s, a return was made to the earlier style of small letters about 6" high but with...'M S W J R' without any full stops."


So, it looks like "M.S.W.J.R" is good for mid 1890s to perhaps mid-1900s and maybe a little beyond.


Incidentally, Mike's partial quote about brake van No 9 is perhaps misleading in that it omits the essential difference that the lettering was about 14" high and is not the small letter, no full-stop version that came in in the 1900s, just another of several large letter variations.




Many thanks Nick. I have the 1978 version so was not aware of this. It looks as if I can theoretically justify the full stops then (I like the look of them, very old-world). Whether these wagons also had them in practice is a different matter. I think there's a possibility that the original of the photo of the wagons might reveal it. I have sent Mike Barnsley an e-mail so perhaps he will comment. 




My apologies for the partial quote - always dangerous - though I was only sparing my typing fingers! 
I only intended to indicate that there was some evidence for dropping the punctuation, as early as 1901.  I suspect that there was much less consistency in such matters within the smaller companies, where much of the stock was 'bought in'.



I agree, it's part of the charm of the MSWJR and similar companies that the stock came from various sources. But it does make the modelling a bit tricky when there is no direct evidence.


Great stuff. At least we're not arguing about the colour this time...



There does seem to be debate about the shade of grey  :)



Mikkel is the expert on shades of grey...



I did ponder this a bit. The issue of grey becomes even more complicated when you are building wagons from several different companies. Eg how does MSWJR grey compare to LNWR grey - and does such a comparison make any sense at all, or is the particular weathering of any given wagon a greater factor. And if the latter, would it have made a difference that LNWR wagons presumably frequented large industrial cities more than MSWJR wagons? The mind boggles.


In the end, I painted it what is know to us experts as "Medium Grey" ;-)

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..... it does make the modelling a bit tricky when there is no direct evidence.


The reference books all seem somewhat lacking in any information at all about Farthing! 


I think you may find that, before absorption by the GWR, the line from Swindon to Salisbury was built by the Swindon, Farthing,and Salisbury Railway (S.F & S.R). 


I'm sure a little research on your part would reveal the precise liveries used on all their stock and I predict you will find exact matches to their lettering styles in your current stock of transfers  :)


There are even rumours that, like their neighbouring line to Andover, they took an interest in Fairlie's patent.



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  • RMweb Gold

That is very useful information, I must delve into the archives and see what they reveal!


But I will have to take issue with the SF&SR name. Those are the names (abbreviations) of three political parties here in Denmark, and so to me it sounds more like a coalition government than a railway :-)


Certain early maps describe the original line as the  "North & South Railway". That is a little dull though, so let's say the name was later changed to something like the Wiltshire & South Coast Railway (WSCR) - although that abbreviation was also used by the Woodside & South Croydon. Alternatively perhaps the Wiltshire & Southern Ports Railway (WSPR)...


In any case, I can see how an old wagon may have been languishing in a siding somewhere at Farthing, still lettered with the original name of the railway. A dumb-buffered one, perhaps, bought secondhand by the optimistic but under-funded fledgling railway company. 

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Thank you for the link - I can see that your researches have been far more thorough than mine. 


I can now see that the idea of an SF&SR was far too 'parochial' for true Victorian entrepreneurs and, of course, more grandiose titles were adopted :)



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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike, well that page was written long ago and not on here so how could you know.


Anyway, I very much like the idea that the original railway had it's own stock, thanks for that inspiration!

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Excellent, I do like this, and such a simple conversion from the MR wagon too; plans brewing for one in 7mm delivering crates of original Cirencester roundtuits to East London...


I'm in broad agreement with webbcompound:


Regarding foreign wagons there was a fair amount of movement of specific products, returning wagons being empty of course. So all you need is to find the product to explain the wagon. Seasonal or perishable produce was often localised, but tended to go to the big cities where it was transhipped (bananas via LNWR from Liverpool to London for instance), but machinery and hardware could come from quite a distance, and not all the named fast goods trains on the GWR went to London so stuff from Birkenhead for example could easily find its way to Farthing.


except that before WW1 pre-Group Railway Companies sometimes had agreements between each other which allowed wagons (and sheets) which had been loaded on the parent line to be used by the receiving company to, for example,  a) specified stations, b ) any station on a direct route back to the parent line, c) to any joint station, d) to any parent line station, e) to any station beyond the parent line as long as the wagon travelled an agreed distance over the parent line.  There were many other arrangements, many of which were very complex, and the railway staff really had to know their onions to comply with RCH rules for the correct apportionment of receipts.


I know nothing of the MSWJ arrangements as they had no such agreement with the GE (as far as I'm aware to date), but considering the MSWJ's relationship with the GW, LSW and MR it's likely that considerable scratching of each others' backs took place.


Under such circumstances a loaded MSWJ wagon arriving at and the same wagon loaded leaving Farthing should pose no raising of the eyebrows nor twitching of the soup-strainers.


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  • RMweb Gold

Interesting, thanks for that info, I didn't realize such agreeements existed.


As of this morning, then, an arrangement has been made between the GWR and MSWJR (much to the regret of Mr Mullins). I'm sure I can find an astute checker to keep track of the paperwork.


Cirencester roundtuits, that would be very ad hoc traffic I think? It would be nice to see a 7mm version of the wagon - as you say a very simple job.


BTW I now have the Southern Wagons volume 1, and can see that quite a number of SDJR wagons and vans can be made from MR and LSWR kits. It's all so tempting!

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Very ad hoc, as are thingamajigs and wotchamacallits.


Of course now you have volume 1, volumes 2 and 3 will shortly call across the wind. Volume 4 is about the futuristic designs of an entity called the SR which exists in an a kind loose federation of polities called The Grouping. Very H.G. Wells if you ask me, and best ignored unless you like that sort of fiction...

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  • RMweb Gold

"Grouping"? Impossible. I suppose next you will propose a tunnel under the Channel!


Or a communication system that connects all the world's typewriters...

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