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In my Manchester Ship Canal modelling theme in 7mm, I'm building a selection of wagons that would have been seen on the MSC Railway in the 1960s.

These include the MSC Railway's own wagons, British Rail wagons, and Private Owner wagons.


Of course the MSC Railway didn't just serve the docks, but also provided a rail connection for hundreds of industries in Trafford Park, Manchester, Salford, Irlam/Cadishead, and other locations. I'm focusing on what the MSC Railway called the 'Through Route' which connected Latchford, Irlam, Salford and Trafford Park. Although the MSC Railway also served locations nearer the mouth of the canal (notably Ellesmere Port and Stanlow) that was on an entirely separate section of railway to the main system.


In this thread I'll show a few portraits of the wagons I've built.


The MSC Railway had a large fleet of wagons, in the 1950s/1960s there were nearly 3000 of them.

Over the history of the MSC operation (not including the construction period) there were 6720 'revenue' wagons plus others used for engineers' purposes. The revenue wagons were were numbered upwards from 1 in the order of acquisition regardless of type.

All the MSC Railway's wagons were internal user, they didn't (or shouldn't) venture onto BR metals. Almost all were acquired second-hand and most had originally been built for the main-line railway companies. The MSC Railway had a large and well-equipped wagon workshop to maintain their fleet, and some of the purchased wagons received significant modifications. As a result, although most of the wagons were 5-plank opens there was huge variety among the fleet. I've tried to model each wagon from a photo of the prorotype.

This slide from around 1960 gives a great idea of the atmosphere of Manchester (Salford) Docks around this time: large transatlantic freighters, small tugs and barges, and the quays lined with wagons - mostly MSC with some BR wagons too:

Ship Canal Variety


I'm going to keep the BR wagons to a minimum for now. In some respects they are 'easier' but less distinctive than the MSC ones. I think I have plenty of MSC prototypes to focus on. For bulk cargos 16t minerals were present in large numbers, but manufactured goods for export also arrived by rail. For example this photo shows a rake of BR 'Pipe' wagons on the quayside:

Southern Prince


At the time, Manchester was still a centre of oil and chemical refining, the oils included both mineral oils and edible oils. So a wide variety of privately-owned tank wagons were also commonly seen on the MSC Railway. They weren't the only PO wagons though, for example the Ship Canal Sand company had a fleet of open wagons with end doors only, which had escaped pooling. So I'm going to try and represent a variety of local private-owner wagons too.

Attached is a photo of one of the Lancashire Tar Distillers tanks, this firm had two sites connected to the MSC Railway at Cadishead and Weaste:


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I started with a couple of kits I had in stock from 10+ years ago when I last did 7mm modelling, and have gradually reminded myself of the modelling techniques so hopefully the quality will improve as we go through!


The first wagon is a double bolster, number 6630. The MSC Railway had a variety of bolster wagons, ranging from short 4-wheel single bolsters to 40-ton bogie bolsters. Timber was a major import via the canal, and this was distributed on MSC Railway wagons to about a dozen sawmills around Trafford Park and the Barton/Irlam area. Whilst much of this was in moderate-sized planks that could be loaded into open wagons, there were larger baulks that needed bolster wagons.


In the 1970s use of the MSC Railway declined as the port embraced containerisation. Some of the MSC flat and bolster wagons were converted to carry ISO containers and thereby outlived the rest of the wagon fleet. On ebay I obtained a slide showing 6630 in its container-carrying form.


I had in stock an ABS whitemetal kit for a GCR double bolster, and this looked a pretty close match to what 6630 would have looked like before it was modified as a container flat. With a few minor modifications I had a passable representation. The high number indicates that it would have been bought in the mid 1960s and therefore would have been a recent (secondhand) acquisition at the time I am representing. I weathered the deck fairly heavily but assumed that the outside would have had a fresh coat of paint and should therefore still be fairly clean.


The load of timber baulks is represented by some square hardwood, tied down with cord. I'm not sure whether it is sufficiently secured to be honest, perhaps I need some more rope and better knots? Attached is a view showing similar baulks loaded onto a set of three MSC single bolsters. They don't seem to be secured at all!


As mentioned, this was my first step back into modelling so I wasn't too ambitious with this one. More to follow in due course...





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My second MSC Railway vehicle is an open wagon with a difference, number 4366. The MSC Railway had thousands of wooden-bodied 5-plank open wagons but among them were a few steel-bodied ones. This model was inspired by a partial view in the background of a locomotive in the book 'The Railways of the Manchester Ship Canal'. It wasn't until I had completed the model that I found three other photos showing the same type, with two examples visible in the same 1950s aerial photo. So there must have been at least two and perhaps more.


Wagon 4366 looks like a cut-down GWR 'Iron Mink' van. The large holes in the solebar are in the GWR style, the iron body with vertical uprights and wood-framed cupboard style doors is an almost perfect match. I know the GWR had many types of iron open wagons but I couldn't find any like this. I really do think it's a cut-down van! Unless someone can prove otherwise...


As it happened, about 20 years ago I had impulse-bought an ABS kit for a 'Ferrocrete' iron mink, and the kit had remained unopened ever since. Mainly because I already had it, this became my second MSC wagon. Quite a lot of surgery was required to cut off the upper parts of the sides and ends and to thin down the top edges a bit. The doors took a bit of reconstruction too, to reduce their height and slightly reduce the width too. I added some plastikard rivet strips along the top of the sides which wasn't 100% successful as the rivets are much flatter than the cast whitemetal ones, but it gives the right sort of impression. I wondered whether it should have D-C brakes but the kit for the Ferrocrete van was supplied with more conventional brakes and I couldn't see any evidence of D-C brakes in the photos, so it has fairly conventional independent brakes each side.


I finsihed the wagon in the livery of 4366, guessing what the other end looked like based on the livery of more conventional open wagons. Lettering was with individual letters from the HMRS transfer sheets. Some open wagons had 'MANCHESTER' in small letters along the top of the door but this was not applied to all of them and 4366 doesn't have it. The angle of the sun in the model photos rather highlights the varnish over the transfers - this isn't so obvious in normal conditions. Based on the number, 4366 would have been acquired secondhand by the MSC Railway around 1945/46 and by the period of my model would have been 60-odd years old so I have represented it in a heavily-weathered condition. This included carefully painting over the letters with black so it looked like the paint was wearing off (as in the photo of the real thing). My model period is 10 years after that photo of 4366 was taken, so I looked at some photos of very tired iron minks (including some grounded bodies) to see the areas that tended to suffer the worst corrosion, and tried to represent that.


With those wooden-framed cupboard doors (and in run-down condition) it wouldn't have been suitable for mineral traffic. The aerial photos (heavily cropped from Britainfromabove) show two of these in the timber yard at Salford, so that seems an appropriate load. By the 1960s, a fair proportion of timber was being imported in neat pre-sawn bundles rather than loose random planks and many of the 1960s photos of timber on the MSC Railway show these bundles (see the last photo, the wagon types are different though). I used my bench saw to cut up some old wooden blinds into half a zillion lengths of 12" x 4" (scale) planks. I bound them together in bundles using fine brass wire, chemically blackened beforehand. The wire ends are twisted together out of sight underneath. The ends of the planks are dyed red as this seems to have been the practice at the time, though you can't see that clearly on these photos.








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