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Early GWR Coaches - 'Armchair' Research

MikeOxon

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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 :)

 

Mike

 

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I'll be very interested to see the Silhouette cutter sides if you choose to go down that route. The duckets may prove interesting items to replicate?

Good luck and as ever happy modelling

 

Best

Grahame

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Thanks, Grahame.  I've not thought about duckets yet but may fold them from brass, copying the style of 'Shire Scenes' sides.

 

Mike

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Hi Mike

You may well be aware that the Broad Gauge Society produce an extensive range now including the lamp tops and etched brass duckets which could be considered in your build as an aid.

If you're not a member and are interested drop me a pm and I'll help if I can ( or join if you feel the need !).

Maybe give the site a look and search under the modelling drop down tab then 4mm tab, there's about 52 pages of items, all worth a look if only out of curiosity.

 

Grahame

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Thanks again, Grahame.  I am aware of the BGS range and note there are several items for NG modellers as well.  I may well be looking in that direction in the not-too-distant future :)

 

Mike

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What an incredibly useful post Mike. Bringing the images together like that really shows the key features and evolution of design, and your colorising makes them present and real. 

 

I've always found it a little suprising to consider that the fairly "modern" looking designs like the R2 and U16 were actually more or less contemporary with the boxy stagecoach types (edit: on the rails I mean).

 

I look forward to seeing what you you chose to build - the PBVs look especially straightforward to do.

 

Regarding the BGS range I've just placed an order for various items and was impressed at how quickly and carefully Paul Townsend responded to my e-mail.

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I brought these images together for my own use, so it's good to know that others find them useful too.  I feel it is quite important to remember that not everything on the rails was brand new, even back in 1870, or thereabouts.

 

I read somewhere that the ventilators above the door windows were initially regarded as a Joseph Wright 'feature'.  When the 'home' railways began building their own coaches, Wrights turned to overseas markets (including Denmark) and later still became a part of Metropolitan-Cammell 

 

I remember, as a child, travelling in a wide variety of different types of railway coach. Some had little plaques, stating what type of wood was used for the panelling and some had horizontal grab rails along the windows in the corridor.  Where I lived then, I expect most of them were ex-LMS.

 

I'm glad you refer to designs like R2 and U16 as 'modern'.  As my mind slips into 19th-century thinking, designs like Churchward's begin to look outrageously 'avant garde' :)

 

Mike

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Thanks for posting Mike, there are one or two I would copy from that list for my Hemyock branch, especially number 2 from the second set.

 

I was thinking of using my Silhouette cutter too but it is packed away for the time being whilst a few changes are taking place around the house though I may prepare a few drawings up front if time allows, realistically though I think it may be next year.

 

Great post though aand I always find myself coming back to your blogs for inspiration and information.

 

Thanks

 

Jim

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Many thanks, Jim - I'm glad you find my posts useful.  As you will see, I've now cut some sides with my Silhouette cutter.

 

Mike

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Hi mike, I barely get time to be on here at the moment, and I must say that I'm really pleased to have made a few minutes. A really interesting read (even though I've read the posts in reverse order!)

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