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GWR Autocoach query

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While looking for something unconnected I came across a photo of a BR(WR) auto train in the welsh valleys with a trailer that looked somewhat different to the normal type, it had a flat end with one central window, can someone shed light on this type of coach as it would make a different type of autotrain model? Typically despite searching again for some time I can't even find the photo That I originally found either!

 

Ian

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Was it one of these? I found this on the Comet Models website. It's a Driving Trailer, diagram A44 and build in 1955, so not technically a GW Autocoach.Coach.jpg.e0dc530435586c0bc517d97acc9177e0.jpg

 

Regards Connor

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That seems to be prime suspect.  A numberof non-corridor brake thirds were rebuilt with driving compartments in the mid 1950s.   A the same time some non-corridor thirds were equipped with the necessary control rodding so as to act as intermediate trailers.

 

Chris

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Hi Everyone

 

Many thanks, that was the one, 1950's a bit too late for me though.

 

Ian

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1955 IIRC.  They were used a lot in South Wales, where there was commuter traffic and little need for trailers with retractable footsteps; the Coryton branch in Cardiff, Porthcawl, and Pontypridd-Cardiff/Penarth  services used them, amongst others.   They were converted from GW Collett compartment coaches, so not actually built by BR, but are not suitable for pre-1955 layouts in auto trailer form.  

 

They are sometimes referred to as ‘cyclops’ trailers, and carried the side livery around the cab front in the usual auto trailer style, but the other end was black like a coach. The all 2nd ‘intermediate’ trailers, sometimes described as all 3rds which they were until BR redesignated 3rd class as 2nd, had black ends like a normal coach.  

 

The original livery as auto trailers was BR unlined crimson, and some survived to carry post 1958 lined maroon, with the lining carried around the cab front.  The top line followed the shape of the roof.  I very much doubt any were repainted during the 1956-58 period,  but any that were would have been in unlined maroon. 

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I haven't got access to my books at present so can't give a dia. no. but there was a similar variant built new by the GWR.  ISTR that the main difference was that the conversions didn't have a separate driver's door, access being through the van area.  There was a detailed discussion on here some time ago - on the Oswestry thread IIRC.

Edit: I found the discussion in Larry Goddard (aka Coachmann)'s Oswestry thread and re-read my old posts.  The GW built ones were to dia AA34 the first 4 being built new with 2 1938 conversions from Bk3rd's - the latter didn't have a driver's door. IIRC the B.R. conversions were to allow the withdrawal of life-expired auto trailers.

Ray.

Edited by Marshall5
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15 hours ago, Marshall5 said:

  The GW built ones were to dia AA34 the first 4 being built new with 2 1938 conversions from Bk3rd's - the latter didn't have a driver's door. IIRC the B.R. conversions were to allow the withdrawal of life-expired auto trailers.

Ray.

 

Hi Ray

 

Thanks for the info, the 2 1938 Bk 3rd conversions, are you able to tell me what diagram the brake 3rds were that were converted please?

 

Ian

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Hi Ian, unfortunately I'm not at home to check my copy of Russell's G.W. Coaches but I think both variants were AA34.  There are a couple of decent photos in the book including one of the driver's end window, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pictorial-Western-including-vehicles-1903-1948/dp/0902888048/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=great+western+coaches+russell&qid=1568734462&s=books&sr=1-2

If you haven't got a copy perhaps you can borrow one.

Cheers,

Ray.

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"BR Pre-nationalisation coaching stock" Vol 1 by Hugh Longworth lists several flat-ended GWR auto trailers. The little thumbnail drawings only show side views and plans so I can't tell whether they had the cyclopean driver's window you're looking for.

 

The earliest with reasonably matching windows are diagram A32 (ex E147) built 10/1936, only two constructed and later given BR numbers W6818W and W6820W.

 

There are two other Collett era candidate diagrams: A33 (ex D117) converted from D117 01/37, and A34 built 04/39.

 

(I hope I'm reading the book correctly!)

 

Edited by Harlequin

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On 17/09/2019 at 17:07, Harlequin said:

"BR Pre-nationalisation coaching stock" Vol 1 by Hugh Longworth lists several flat-ended GWR auto trailers. The little thumbnail drawings only show side views and plans so I can't tell whether they had the cyclopean driver's window you're looking for.

 

The earliest with reasonably matching windows are diagram A32 (ex E147) built 10/1936, only two constructed and later given BR numbers W6818W and W6820W.

 

There are two other Collett era candidate diagrams: A33 (ex D117) converted from D117 01/37, and A34 built 04/39.

 

(I hope I'm reading the book correctly!)

 

According to GW Autotrailers Vol 2

D117 Nos 4350 & 4364 were converted to trailers A33 in Jan 37, there's a picture of the front of one of them and it is cyclops with the same number of compartments & window layout as the Comet one posted earlier.

 

A32 has 6 compartments, 5x3rd &1x1st

A33 & A44 both have 5x3rd the main difference is the driver of an A44 has a deeper cab, 4' 6" against 3' 3", the extra space taken from the luggage area.

 

So it looks like an A44 could be a A33 if the partition is moved closer to the front, externally they look very similar.

 

N.B the Swindon diagrams in the book show A32 & A44 with 9' 0" bogies and A33 with 7' 0" bogies

 

A34 trailers were purpose built 1939 in the style of an A33 but with recessed driver's doors.

Edited by melmerby
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On 16/09/2019 at 17:48, Marshall5 said:

I haven't got access to my books at present so can't give a dia. no. but there was a similar variant built new by the GWR.  ISTR that the main difference was that the conversions didn't have a separate driver's door, access being through the van area.  There was a detailed discussion on here some time ago - on the Oswestry thread IIRC.

Edit: I found the discussion in Larry Goddard (aka Coachmann)'s Oswestry thread and re-read my old posts.  The GW built ones were to dia AA34 the first 4 being built new with 2 1938 conversions from Bk3rd's - the latter didn't have a driver's door. IIRC the B.R. conversions were to allow the withdrawal of life-expired auto trailers.

Ray.

The BR conversions allowed the withdrawal of pre-grouping Taff Vale, Rhymney, Barry, and Cardiff Railways’ trailers, which either compatible with the GW system or converted to it post grouping.  Some of thrse had wooden slatted ‘tram’ type seats. The TVR’s system used control wires above the roofs. 

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20 hours ago, The Johnster said:

The BR conversions allowed the withdrawal of pre-grouping Taff Vale, Rhymney, Barry, and Cardiff Railways’ trailers, which either compatible with the GW system or converted to it post grouping.  Some of thrse had wooden slatted ‘tram’ type seats. The TVR’s system used control wires above the roofs. 

Hello Johnster, I remember being in a wooden slatted-seat version on the Merthyr-Hirwaun run. I don’t suppose you know which railway these came from? My guess is TVR.

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Probably but I can't confirm.  The Taff Vale sets were, I know, used on Cardiff suburban work with Cathays 4575s and 64xx; the 'Maindy Flyer' and Bute Rd-Coryton services.  Merthyr had 54xx as well as 64xx for auto work, and there were some elderly GW trailers around with slatted seats as well, and a picture in John Lewis' book show's a diagram Z  matchboarded trailer, W102) at Pontsticill with an 8750 pannier, 9642, which has clearly run around the trailer to haul it back to Merthyr, so there were such trailers at Merthyr in the early 50s.  

 

If you can remember your trailer being matchboarded, it will have been an early GW trailer.  The Taff Vale's trailers had distinctive inset vestibules at the ends, and 'scissor gate' outer doors.  The Rhymney and Cardiff ones looked more like the GW conversions from Railmotors, with panelling and raised bolections around the windows, and had started life in a similar way.  AFAIK all GW matchboarded trailers whether purpose built or converted from railmotors had slatted seats with reversible backs like tram seats, not a big surprise when you consider that they were in many cases a response to competition from expanding electric tram systems in urban areas.

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15 hours ago, The Johnster said:

Probably but I can't confirm.  The Taff Vale sets were, I know, used on Cardiff suburban work with Cathays 4575s and 64xx; the 'Maindy Flyer' and Bute Rd-Coryton services.  Merthyr had 54xx as well as 64xx for auto work, and there were some elderly GW trailers around with slatted seats as well, and a picture in John Lewis' book show's a diagram Z  matchboarded trailer, W102) at Pontsticill with an 8750 pannier, 9642, which has clearly run around the trailer to haul it back to Merthyr, so there were such trailers at Merthyr in the early 50s.  

 

If you can remember your trailer being matchboarded, it will have been an early GW trailer.  The Taff Vale's trailers had distinctive inset vestibules at the ends, and 'scissor gate' outer doors.  The Rhymney and Cardiff ones looked more like the GW conversions from Railmotors, with panelling and raised bolections around the windows, and had started life in a similar way.  AFAIK all GW matchboarded trailers whether purpose built or converted from railmotors had slatted seats with reversible backs like tram seats, not a big surprise when you consider that they were in many cases a response to competition from expanding electric tram systems in urban areas.

Thanks for this, Johnster. Having read your response, my guess is that I was in an old GWR coach. By the way, have you been in the ‘new’ steam rail Motor?(at Didcot) It is fantastic, BUT the overall GrandEdwardian feel is spoiled by incorporating basic tram seats from a Melbourne tram. The NER railbus on the Embsay Railway does it better, for not much more cost.

Edited by 88D
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Yes, I saw the steam railmotor when it visited Barry a few years ago, an excellent piece of restoration to represent this type of vehicle.  Steam railmotors were a common response to competition from expanding electric tram networks, along with the introduction of unmanned halts.  The railmotors tended to be underpowered, some of them hopelessly so, and had small driving wheels which meant they could accelerate away from a stop well enough but had very low top speeds.  Another disadvantage was that if the engine unit needed the attention of a fitter the whole train was out of service and had to be replaced by a conventional loco hauled one, losing time turning around at the terminus, often a key point on tightly timed suburban services and the rationale of the railmotor concept in the first place. Despite this, they were victims of their own success and often had to struggle with a trailer to cope with the traffic.

 

On the GW, and the South Wales railways it inherited stock from in 1923, this led to auto trains with separate locomotives.  The loco could be older, redacted, and therefore cheap to supply, and gave sufficient power for the loads along with better top speed and a bit more 'range'.  Purpose built trailers were used, including those originally built to work with railmotors, and the railmotors were rebuilt into trailers as they came into works for major overhaul.  

 

The GW regarded it's trailers as 'branch' or 'suburban' type, branch having a van area for parcels and mail and retractible steps for access from low or ground level halt platforms.  Suburban trailers had no such provision and passengers on some of the earlier types entered through the driver's doors.

 

The railmotors and 'first generation' trailers were intended for short haul use and slatted tram seats were considered adequate, but the later 'proper' auto trains with locos could be used on longer runs, and were given upholstered seating.  The rebuilds of railmotors into trailers were given upholstered seats but the 'first generation' trailers kept their old 'reversible back' tram seats until withdrawal, some lasting to the early 50s.  Loco haulage extended the range and services such as Pontypridd-Newport or Pontypridd-Cardiff/Barry via the Barry Railway through Creigiau had running times of over an hour, a bit much on slatted seats!

 

There were some compartment trailers as well.  The well known 'Clifton Downs' sets (guess what route they were built for) were 4 coach trains with the loco 'sandwiched'; the mechanical nature of the GW auto gear meant that a limit of 2 trailers could be attached to each end of the loco because of play in the system.  Some Collett non-gangwayed brake composites were converted for the Lydney-Sharpness service over the Severn (railway) Bridge, which needed first class provision, and similar conversions of all thirds were undertaken by BR in 1953 in connection with the new 'regular interval' services in South Wales, including some auto fitted all third 'intermediate' trailers without cabs.  These were clearly unsuitable for anything but suburban work with all stations staffed, and had no retractible steps.  They had flat ends with a single central window for the driver, and were known as 'cyclops' trailers; I'm sure your memory includes them.

 

Stock built for Plymouth area suburban work had gangways within a 2 trailer set, and a 'split' driving cab on the intermediate trailer.  If these intermediate cabs were ever used in anger, or even so much as a fit of pique, there seem to be no photographs of the occurrence.  These also lasted until the mid 50s

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7 hours ago, 88D said:

Thanks for this, Johnster. Having read your response, my guess is that I was in an old GWR coach. By the way, have you been in the ‘new’ steam rail Motor?(at Didcot) It is fantastic, BUT the overall GrandEdwardian feel is spoiled by incorporating basic tram seats from a Melbourne tram. The NER railbus on the Embsay Railway does it better, for not much more cost.

Following a worldwide search the Melbourne tram seats used were found to be to same design (from the same manufacturer) as those originally fitted to the steam railmotor.

Before fitting to the railmotor, and auto coach 92, they were re-upholstered with replica GWR material from the correct period.

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Hi,

 

Seeing this thread reminded me of a question with these that I could not find an answer for 30 odd years ago.

 

So without wishing to hijack the thread (too much!) You see a lot of photos of GW autotrailers with a white stripe across the cab front windows. Does anyone know what purpose is of these?

 

I built Roxey Clifton down set when they first came out and added the stripe, but wanted to know why. I have asked a guy in the cab of an autotrailer at Didcot and he didn't know.  About 5 years later my dad told me that he worked with a guy who used to drive them for a living down the Staines West branch, and he didn't know/couldn't remember either!

 

Regards,

Neil

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The stripes were also put across the van end windows before they were plated over.  They were apparently to remind firemen coaling the bunkers of auto locos coupled to the window ends of trailers to take care, presumably after breakages.  They were in a variety of positions and were sometimes applied vertically to the cab side windows.  

 

The John Lewis book on the subject suggests that this may have been to remind drivers to open the window before leaning out to exchange tokens  with signalmen. 

 

The practice lasted into BR days and some BR built A38 and A44 trailers had them. 

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On 19/09/2019 at 17:05, Nick Gough said:

Following a worldwide search the Melbourne tram seats used were found to be to same design (from the same manufacturer) as those originally fitted to the steam railmotor.

Before fitting to the railmotor, and auto coach 92, they were re-upholstered with replica GWR material from the correct period.

I stand corrected!  I now blame the original designers!

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