Since my previous entry, I've been spending some time thinking about possible coaches to model for my North Leigh branch. I have found that information rapidly becomes much more sparse, as one delves earlier into the Victorian period
There's an additional twist, in the case of GWR coaches, in that the early GWR was a broad gauge railway and the earliest narrow (i.e. standard) gauge stock only came into the company as a result of acquisitions. There was a long, depressed period, when the company was in financial difficulty and the writing was clearly on the wall regarding the broad gauge. Very little new stock was built for many years until, eventually, a new carriage works was built at Swindon in 1868 The Lot system for carriages and wagons had been introduced in 1867 and was now revised for the new, more sophisticated designs, starting with Lot 57 for 15 standard gauge six-wheel carriages, finished in May 1872. After that date, the progress of the designs has been well-documented
Before the 1870s, most railway coaches had been built by specialist builders and many of the coaches that were acquired by the GWR had been built originally by the firm of Joseph Wright and Sons, Saltley Works, Birmingham.
I've been doing a little 'armchair research' into this earlier period, with the help of books such as Russell's 'Great Western Coaches', Vol.1 and Slinn's 'Great Western Way'
The earliest railway coaches continued many of the design features found in contemporary road coaches. There were no brakes and the frames were of wood, often with papier-maché panelling. Simple square ends and sides were the norm, which makes these 'box' shapes relatively simple to scratch-build.
To help me decide where to start, I have made 'colourised' images of various early coaches, to show how the styles developed.
My first group, of 1st-class coaches, suggests that the 'stage coach' style may have persisted longer for these vehicles. They were painted all-over brown until October 1864, when it was decided that the upper panels should be painted white. This became 'cream' after varnishing. Initially, it seems that the white was applied overall, including mouldings, but later, these were picked out in brown. It seems that several older coaches were 'upgraded', losing features such as luggage racks on the roof and acquiring Mansell wooden wheels, for quieter running. By 1872, the 'familiar' style appeared, which set the pattern for very many years thereafter.
It is with this later, more sophisticated, style that the rounded corners to mouldings, now painted black, and the curved 'tumble-home' to sides and ends became established. Other later design features were the looped grab handles and straight-bar door handles, which replaced the earlier 'ring' handles.
From around 1854, almost all the coaches that were built were 1st/2nd-class composites, with a separate luggage compartment. 3rd-class accommodation tended to be provided by 'downgrading' older 2nd-class stock. My series of illustrations shows the gradual evolution of the familiar style.
Before the introduction of continuous brakes, 'break' (sic) vans were an important component of all passenger trains. As early as 1844, the Board of Trade had recommended that a break should be attached to every fourth carriage and GWR Rule 54 (1865) stated that "No train is to be started from a station without proper and sufficient breaks, lamps, and guards." The provision of a guard's look-out was an important feature, to enable him to observe the state of his train.
So, I have plenty of food for thought and potential for some fairly simple model-building, especially in view of the simple box structure of the earlier designs. The curved window openings of the 1st class vehicles also offer an attractive feature, which can easily be produced by use of my 'Silhouette' cutter. All that remains is to try and establish some dimensions and start cutting