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Planning a Mail Train





Having ‘cracked’ the main problems with building my Mail Coach, I have started thinking about the other vehicles that made up that ill-fated train. According to the accident report, the engine ‘Rob Roy’ was pulling three passenger carriages, and a luggage van. It is stated that the leading carriage had a break compartment in it, and that the third carriage, which was the mail carriage, also carried a guard.


This leaves me trying to decide what the other carriages might have been. A Mail Train at that period was unlikely to have carried third-class passengers, while first-class carriages did not have brakes, so it seems likely that the first carriage was a second-class carriage and the ‘brake-less’ second carriage was either first-class or a 1st/ 2nd composite.


The next step was to look for potential candidates from the list of Broad Gauge stock available in 1868. The data sheets from the Broad Gauge Society (BGS) list 32 types of BG passenger carriages, built between 1837 and 1868 (excluding Royal Saloons and Metropolitan carriages). Although some very old carriages remained in service on secondary trains, I have assumed that the Mail Train would be composed of reasonably modern stock, so have narrowed my choice down to the ‘Revised Standard’ stock introduced from 1854 onwards.


This stock includes 47 1st/ 2nd Composite carriages, built in 1854, of which one can be seen in a photo at Swindon, indicating that they were still running, towards the end of the Broad Gauge. My colourised version of the photo is below:





There were also 55 1st class carriages, built in 1854, of which one was photographed outside Paddington in the 1860s. An interesting feature of this group was that the two central 1st class compartments were divided by a partition with a sliding door, on the centre-line of the carriage, resulting in four separate compartments with four seats in each.





For the ‘braked’ carriage, there are two candidates from this period: 40 2nd class carriages were produced to similar overall dimensions as the previous two types. These were the carriages from which 6 were converted to the Mail Coaches that I have already modelled. A further 68 similar carriages were added in 1857, with modifications that included rectangular quarter-lights and, surprisingly, a reversion to the use of wooden frames. Three of this later type were recorded as being transferred to the South Wales line and two had a guard’s compartment, which makes these excellent candidates for ‘my’ train. Unfortunately, there is no known photograph of any of these carriages. I have made an ‘illustration’ on the basis of drawings on the BGS data sheet.





During the early 1860’s, relatively small numbers of a new ‘panelled’ design were introduced (3 x 1st class, 6 x composites, and 22 x 2nd class) but details (either drawings or photos) are largely unknown, so I have decided to exclude these from ‘my’ train.


It is notable that all these carriages had rather low roofs, with an interior height within the compartments of only 6 feet (1.83 m). The first ‘raised roof’ (6’ 6” interior height) designs did not appear until 1869, except, of course, for the Postal section of the Mail Coach.


For the luggage van at the rear of the train, there is a wide choice, although most passenger train vans had a guard’s compartment, which is not mentioned in the accident report. One possibility is the 6-wheel ‘iron’ third-class carriages of 1845, which were converted to luggage vans in 1859, after which several survived until the end of the Broad Gauge.


So ‘my’ Mail Train could end up looking like this:



The BGS list kits for some of these coaches but, at present, I’m considering exercising my Silhouette cutter for the sides and adding various detailing components from the BGS range.


There is also the small matter of the engine - ‘Rob Roy’, for which no kit is available. The BGS kit for the Gooch Standard Goods, however, has the correct boiler and many other fittings, so could form the basis of a model of this large 4-4-0. I intend to investigate this possibility.


It seems that I have plenty of plans, which should keep me occupied for a considerable time. Now… where to start? (That luggage van looks temptingly simple :) )



Edited by MikeOxon
Restore images

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  • RMweb Gold

What an excellent post, Mike. I like how you mobilize available knowledge and reason to guesstimate the consist. Your artwork and colouring helps bring this long lost period back to life, somehow.


Looking forward to seeing what you can do with the cutter, they looks like good candidates for it.

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I'm pleased you like this post, Mikkel.  I hesitated about putting it on here, since it doesn't contain any actual 'modelling'.  I have found, however, that, when tackling this early period, I spend much more time on 'research' than on actually building things!


As you say, colouring those old photos does 'bring them to life' and it also forces me to examine the details, while I am doing it.  I need to find another 'Amy' for this earlier time - perhaps her mother was the source of the talent - I must explore :)

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The research is useful to all of us Mike.  I tend to think that in early period ( say prior to the the 1880s ish )  many of the emerging railways would be solving the same problems, and so might well have come up with similar solutions. The techniques for building horse drawn carriages were established nationwide, so the same skill set would be applied to railway carriages. I see the similarities of design and construction across a lot of companies, and perhaps reflected not only in railway stock but in the vernacular building style of the period. 


A simple example. Stock was panelled. Why ? Because large sheets of wood were not available. I draw a parallel. My flat was built about 1890. The internal doors are panelled, a quick count suggests that they are made from 55 bits of wood. Exactly the same construction would be employed to make the carriage doors of the time. 


So keep researching, I follow it with interest. 

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  • RMweb Gold

I agree with Dave, the research is of great interest to at least some of us, so please keep posting. That said, forum threads and (over time) blog entries are of course transient in nature. Once you have completed and built it you could consider asking Russ whether it is a candidate for gwr.org.uk (I was thinking of doing the same with the stable blocks).

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.......Stock was panelled. Why ? Because large sheets of wood were not available. .......

Perhaps this explains why the GWR used papier maché throughout the 1850s.  I'm actually thinking of trying this material for the model sides.  I wonder how the Silhouette cutter will react to it?  The last time I worked with the material was when I made a small vase, at around age six :)

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Hmm, that will be interesting to see Mike. Did they use it for a whole moulded panel, or just as infill sheets? It was used quite a bit in the Victorian era as a cheaper substitute for plaster decorative mouldings in buildings. Thinking about it many card type boards are just papier maché with more modern adhesives. 

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Thinking about it many card type boards are just papier maché with more modern adhesives. 

Yes, I found myself thinking along these lines too - no messing about with paste and newspaper.


From the BGS data sheets, it sound as though the whole panels were papier maché : "Revised Standard builds, of timber construction with papier mache panel work"

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  • RMweb Gold


How interesting, and you have managed to end up with a four coach train with all the coaches different!  Why have two coaches the same, it would make life boring. 


You are right to post research, just as it is right to post 'how I did it' modelling.  It is just as much part of the modelling.  I look forward to the build.

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Thank you for commenting, Chris.  Yes, I like mixed trains, especially with the changing rooflines that were always a feature of the old GWR.  There is, of course, the little problem of an engine to pull them all, so that is what I am working on at present.  Lots more research in progress :)

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