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Broad Gauge Cattle Train




Now that I have completed my research into, and constructed models of, the Mail Train that is described in the BoT Accident report of 1868, regarding the collision near Bullo Pill on the South Wales line, I am turning my attention to the Goods Train.



my Mail Train models, based on accident report from Bullo Pill 1868


According to the accident report, the goods train was headed by the locomotive ‘Tantalus’ and comprised 20 cattle wagons, plus a third-class carriage at the rear in which 8 drovers and the guard were travelling. At Newport, six more trucks, loaded with general goods, had been taken on, apparently against the judgement of the engine-driver. In the collision, three of the drovers and the guard were killed and the others in the end carriage were seriously injured. About 40 cattle were also killed.


Gooch's Standard Goods class


Tantalus’ was a member of Gooch’s ‘Standard Goods’ class, of which 102 were built at Swindon in seven lots between 1852 and 1863. Their design was a development of three earlier lots of 0-6-0 goods engines, of which ‘Premier’ had been the first engine built at Swindon in 1846. The first lot of 12 engines had 10’ 0” x 4’ 0” boilers and a wheelbase of 7’ 7 ¼ “ + 6’ 10 1/4”.  For the second lot of 6 engines, these dimensions were increased to 10’ 6” x 4’ 3” for the boiler and 7’ 4” + 8’ 1” for the wheelbase.  After a gap of three years, a third lot of 8 engines were built with similar dimensions, known as the ‘Caesar’ class.


The first of the ‘Standard Goods’ class was built only 3 months after the last of the ‘Caesar’ class and saw a further increase in dimensions to 11’ 0” x 4’ 6” for the boilers and 7’ 4” + 8’ 10 ½“ for the wheelbase.  By the standards of the time, these were very large engines, with larger boilers than the later Dean Goods engines.


‘Tantalus’ was built in November 1862, in the last lot of 12 engines. I have not managed to find any photographs of ‘Tantalus’ itself but there is a photo of ‘Xerxes’, built in January 1863, within the same lot.  It is shown at Westbourne Park in later years, with a cab and Armstrong ‘roll top’ chimney. There is a similar, photo of ‘Liffey’, built in August 1857 in an earlier lot, which shows the engine with a simple weather board and copper-topped chimney. I have used these photos as references for my construction of ‘Tantalus’



Gooch Standard Goods ‘Xerxes’



Gooch Standard Goods ‘Liffey’


Modelling ‘Tantalus’


I have already made progress in building a model of a Gooch Goods, using the kit supplied by the Broad Gauge Society (kit FL02).


In a previous entry, I described constructing a pair of sandwich frames, using parts from this kit. Unfortunately for me, the GWR followed a policy of ‘continuous improvement’ during the construction of successive lots of these engines and, according to the RCTS Part 2 book on GWR Locomotives, later engines (of which ‘Tantalus’ was one) had welded plate frames. Since the frames are inside, well-hidden behind the exposed driving wheels, I do not intend to undo the work I’ve already done!



my model Sandwich Frame (from BGS kit)


I have also constructed the boiler from the BGS kit, as also described in a previous entry.  I have applied this boiler to my ‘Rob Roy’ model, since both the ‘Waverley’ class and the ‘Standard Goods’ used the same type of boiler. With my experience gained from constructing one of these boilers, I hope to avoid some of the difficulties that I encountered during my first build!



my model Standard Goods Boiler (from BGS kit)



Modelling Cattle Wagons


information about Broad Gauge cattle wagons is rather scanty but there is a useful article in the Broad Gauge Society (BGS) magazine 'Broadsheet', number 52 (2004).  From this, I learned that the GWR had 130 cattle wagons, although there are very few photographs, mostly partly obscured in the background of photos of locomotives, etc. Much of the information in the article concerns wagons originally built for the South Devon Railway and it is stated of GWR wagons that “No dimensions are known, although building dates are around the late 1850’s to mid 1860’s so are possibly a similar design [to the SDR]. Probably some were roofless, with hoops for over-sheeting.


This doesn’t give much to go on, although the article also notes that “When converted to narrow gauge, GWR cattle trucks were 16ft 6ins long by 7ft 5ins wide and 7ft 1ins high, with 9ft 9ins wheelbase and 4 x 3ft 6in wheels. Narrow gauge numbers 26273 to 26292”.  It seems reasonable to assume that, except in width, these dimensions are representative of the original Broad Gauge vehicles. There are also some sketches to indicate the main features of these wagons:



Sketches from BGS 'Broadsheet' no.52


In addition to these wagons, several sources indicate that ‘tilt waggons’ were frequently used as cattle trucks. Alan Prior, in his book '19th Century Railway Drawings', labels a four-wheeled tilt wagon as a ‘general goods & cattle wagon’. His drawing again indicates a 9’ 9” wheelbase.


In search of more information, I next turned to the well-known photos of Broad Gauge stock, assembled in the dump at Swindon in 1892.  Initially, I had assumed that all of the many white-stained wagons were from the china-clay industry but further inspection indicates that several were actually lime-washed for animal traffic.


In one of the rows of wagons, there are several closed trucks, with signs of lime-wash running down the sides, together with open tilt wagons, with heavily lime-washed interiors and hoops for carrying top sheets. Some of these were quite close to the camera and provide plenty of information for modelling purposes.



Lime-washed wagons at Swindon dump 1892


In the far distance, there is a side-on view of a closed wagon which, although very blurred, confirms some of the details in the sketch shown above:



Cattle wagon at Swindon dump 1892


There is also an image that I have re-constructed from partial background views of what is probably an ex-SDR vehicle which, while not dimensionally accurate, illustrates some useful constructional details:



Cattle Wagon, re-constructed from partial views


So, after my initial feeling that there was very little information to be found, my research indicates a considerable variety of wagons that could have made up the goods train involved in the accident.  It is worth remembering that these wagons were built by several different contractors and, in the modern jargon, were ‘individually hand-crafted’.


I now have plenty of inspiration for devising modelling techniques to construct a variety of wagons, by making use of the various tools that I have in my armoury, including 3D printing.  Of course, I have no space to accommodate 26 assorted wagons but I can make models representative of the whole train.


Finally there is the thorny question of colour. The red/grey debate has become familiar but, according to the BGS 'Broadsheet' no.6 (1982), the original GWR wagon livery was all over brown, including the wheels, axles, axleboxes, side springs and every part. It also states that the date when the red livery was introduced is still to be discovered, but the evidence suggests brown from the 1840s until the middle 1860s. For my period, therefore, it appears that brown is the most appropriate colour, which is a pity, in terms of modelling variety, as the Mail-train carriages are also brown!


I shall report on progress as it occurs :)



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  • RMweb Premium

So I gather from this that broad gauge vehicles converted to standard gauge were renumbered in a separate narrow gauge wagon series rather than retaining their original numbers?

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  • RMweb Gold

The Mail Train is a very special model, makes everything else look mundane!


The composite image is a first for me. Very clever.

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1 hour ago, Compound2632 said:

So I gather from this that broad gauge vehicles converted to standard gauge were renumbered in a separate narrow gauge wagon series rather than retaining their original numbers?

I believe that this was normal practice for carriages as well as wagons.

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  • RMweb Premium

There was just one wagon number series, not two separate ones, but gauge conversions did get a different number. Generally bg were lower numbers, sg higher numbers.

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