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D869

Demountable Bromine Tanks

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I found this photo (the one on the right) in Bradford Barton's 'Diesels on Cornwall's Main Line'. The caption gives the date as April 1972 and the place as Ponsandane.

 

post-9623-0-73019800-1313336991_thumb.jpg

 

The tank is clearly for Bromine and therefore almost certainly headed to or from the Associated Octel Bromine plant at Hayle wharf. I suspect that the livery is light grey because other bromine tanks seem to be that colour.

 

Traffic to the plant seems to have involved both bromine and chlorine tanks, usually branded for Associated Octel, so this one seems to be different because I can see no obvious Octel branding.

 

I've been unable to track down any further info about these tanks or any other photos of them. The closest things I can find are demountable tanks for other liquids (e.g. beer) like the pic on the left. The Tourret petroleum tanks book (first edition) also has some photos of demountable tanks for Octel's finished products like TEL but nothing for bromine.

 

Can anybody shed any further light on these tanks - e.g.

  • who built them?
  • when were they built?
  • when were they withdrawn?
  • who owned them?
  • presumably FWB4 is the tank number, but what was the number range?
  • what was the branding on the side? - only the end and tank cap are clear in the photo

...or can anyone provide pointers to other photos please?

 

Thanks.

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the tank appears to be mounted on a BR dia 1/002 lowfit from lot 2194 no. range B450400-451399, built with the LNER clasp brake underframe & 5part sides

 

Nigel

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Tis almost certainly an Associated Octel(We Put the lead In your petrol)Tank.

From what I can remember from poking about Posandane yard in the seventies the tanks were a white colour with a yellow cap over the filler.

 

My uncles’ dad was the first resident in houses that can be seen in the background of the pic with 807. They were built by the GWR at the same time as the Ponsandane locoshed.

 

I never saw the tanks on lowfits but Conflat A's with a light wooden frame floor adapter were common in the Yard.

 

I had a mate that worked at Octel in Ellsmere port and he told me that Octel had a few plants that produced Bromide. They were all on the West coast as the seawater used for production had to be relatively warm.(Gulf Stream) so I suppose the tank traffic would be quite common until lead was phased out of auto fuel. Very nasty stuff to work with. That’s why I say "I had" a mate.

 

Porcy

Sorry I can't be more help.

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Thanks for the answers so far - it's especially good to hear the human side of things... even if it doesn't end well.

 

Given the photo, I could believe either white or grey for the tank. The reason I thought it was grey is that other bromine tanks are documented to be this colour and I suspect that it may have been a requirement.

 

If you look closely at the Ponsandane photo you can just see the next wagon in the train - this appears to be an AO chlorine tank in white with a central horizontal orange band.

 

Dave Larkin's 'Private Owner Wagons of BR' has a pic of an RIV bromine tank at Penzance. The text says it is grey. This (like the demountable one) is also very small compared to the wagon, so maybe this is a common feature.

 

Having made the posting, I re-read the demountable tank section of the OPC BR Wagons Volume 1. This makes it clear that the demountable beer and chemical tanks were mated with a dedicated and specialised chassis which had special brackets and/or deck springs. The bromine tank seems to be sat on a bog standard wagon, so perhaps the description 'demountable tank' might be misleading.

 

This bromine tank seems to be used more like a container... so I checked the David and Charles book by Don Rowland about containers but this didn't turn up any clues - type 'LT' (for liquid malt) is about the closest thing I could see but it's very different. 'FWB4' doesn't seem much like a BR container number either.

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The photo gives the impression that the tank has been loaded at an angle, which seems a bit strange- there were some substantial chunks of wood nailed to the floor to stop them moving about. Some where, I've seen a photo showing them.

The tanks weren't BR standard ones, which would explain why you haven't been able to find them- AO sent similar ones, loaded on low-sided ferry wagons to the Continent. The replies to Michael Delamere's 'What wagon is this' thread showed such a wagon, IIRC. Here's a link to one of Paul Bartlett's photos:-

http://paulbartlett.zenfolio.com/germanstake/h61f8f45#h61f8f45

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Brian,

 

Thanks for your posting.

 

The wagon in the photo you suggested is carrying examples of the tanks shown in Tourret's petroleum tanks book.

 

The vertical cylinder is a 5 ton TEL tank and the horizontal one is a 10 ton TEL tank, albeit in a later livery than the one shown by Tourret. Tourret's book has photos of both types carried on Conflat A wagons - singly for the 10 ton tank and as a pair for the 5 ton ones.

 

The tank in the Ponsandane photo is branded for bromine and is of a different type to the TEL tanks.

 

As Porcy said in his posting, Octel's Hayle plant was built to extract bromine from sea water. This was used to make dibromoethane (DBE) which was added to anti-knock petrol additives like tetra ethyl lead (TEL) to stop lead from building up in the engine (aka chuck it out into the atmosphere). I'm unsure whether the Hayle plant made DBE or just did the bromine extraction.

 

The final product was definitely made in Cheshire. I'm modelling Cornwall, so I doubt that I have any excuse to run TEL carriers, but I can (one day!) run chlorine and bromine carrying vehicles because there is plenty of photographic evidence for this.

 

Incidentally, there is a brief description of the bromine extraction process at http://www.amlwchhistory.co.uk/octel.html . The process used chlorine to extract the bromine. I'm not sure though whether the chlorine tanks were bringing chlorine to Hayle or taking it away - after all, chlorine is present in abundance in sea water so it's concievable that the plant may have extracted its own chlorine and exported any surplus. From the modelling perspective it makes no difference but it would still be nice to understand what went on.

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have you seen the photo in Wagons of the final years of British Railways, Larkin, Kestrel books 2008 P.24?

Dave Larkin says quote: Associated Octel Demountable Traffic From Hayle Cornwall. four lowfit wagons are listed as being converted to carry small bromine tanks on a cradle. this might have involved giving them chains but none have been recorded (I would suggest it is one of these in the Bradford Barton photo) he then goes onto say: what have been recorded are Conflat A wagons in this traffic, they do not appear to have been modified

the photo (authors ref no W2499/DL) shows two Conflat A's at penzance in June '70 each loaded with a demountable tank , the colours are stated as being white with yellow dome, the numbers being 300-5 & 300-6

hope this is of some help?

 

Nigel

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before i started on the railway i worked for my stepdad at c.c.crumps, the time i worked there (1995-2001) railway work was dieing off and the company began to specialise in repairing and building demountable bromine containers, by that time all the rail bromine work had ended...

 

i'll show him the pic and see if he can identify the tank, it does look very similar, if Not to identical to the old octel 7.5 tonner vessel i used to work on (and in).

 

yes bromine is a horrible thing to work with, i used to fill glass bottles with it from vessels similar to the one in the picture via a filling plant, i used to have to wear airfed breathing apparatus and full PPE, it is also a very heavy fluid, 3.5 times heavier than water, so a 1.1l bottle was over 3kg!

 

when we repaired the tanks we had to purge them using caustic soda then when the bromine had been purged away the tanks would be filled with sodium thiosulphate which neutralised any remaining fumes as well as cleaning the sides, once that was finished we did the nessassary tests to make sure it was safe to take the manlid and then remove it and get inside to clean the inside of the tank which was a pretty nasty job, again a full PPE job as the tanks are all lead lined due to how corrosive bromine is,i also used to have to have blood tests every 3 months due to working with lead

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just a thought after my last post, assuming Dave Larkins info is correct, & four lowfits were converted, & the tank in the photo is FWB-4 was this one of just four tanks to that design? it does appear to be of a slightly different design to the two in the Larkin photo mounted on conflats, & a specific traffic flow? the FWB being company initials, or FW bromine? just a thought

 

Nigel

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having spoke to my stepdad he seems to think it may well be an ICI bromine vessel as they were the only company that bought bromine direct from octel in their own containers at the time hence the lack of octel branding, regards the FWB branding that may well be the vessel manufacturor, the vessel could possibly still in existance having been sold to octel/great lakes in the late 70s/ early 80s, infact he went out and had a look in the yard at crumps as he thinks its sat there at the moment in its current guise, i can certainly tell you it has a recessed manlid on it (which were a pain to work on) as the cover is so shallow which narrows it down to one of 2 tank numbers

 

he is going to have a look at the records for the tanks he maintains and see if it does indeed still exist and get a bit of background about it

 

it was funny while on the phone to him, i'd forget how much railway work crumps did that when my stepdad saw the picture he identified the railway wagon before the bromine tank!!

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Rumour had it that bromine was also dispensed in NAAFI tea during WW2, to stop Forces personnel being distracted..

That was potassium bromide, a sedative, that was allegedly put in the tea. I don't think you'd want bromine anywhere near your tea, it would probably be fatal!

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i got burned by bromine about 12 years ago, only a splash on my hand while i screwed a cap on a bottle of it, the liquid went under my rubber glove, even now when i get a tan you can see the where the skin pigment is slightly different

 

the fumes can be just as bad though, get them in your eyes and it can really sting, luckily it only happened to me a couple of times while stripping tanks or valves, breathe them in in huge quantities an its game over hence the huge ammount of PPE i had to wear

 

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Excellent answers, thanks. Any pictures or (dare I ask) drawings or measurements of one of these tanks would be fantastic.

 

I don't have the Larkin books from Kestrel - I have all of his old Bradford Barton ones and the Santona ones, plus a bunch by other authors and had thought that was 'enough' for my needs... Oh well... Amazon order duly submitted this morning.

 

If I build one I will be careful not to put real bromine inside.

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the purchase will be well worth it for your needs just for that one photo, which shows very clearly the design of the cradle fitted to the conflat A's

glad to of been of assistance

Regards Nigel

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The Larkin book arrived this morning. The tanks that he caught at Penzance definitely carry Octel branding and are definitely to a different design from the one in the 1972 picture by H.L.Ford, albeit of a similar size.

 

I now know of three designs of bromine tanks used in the early 1970s for this traffic. One is shown in the photo above. One is the demountable design shown in the Larkin (Kestrel) book. The third is shown in Larkin's 1976 (Bradford Barton) PO Wagons book - a ferry wagon of monobloc design with handrails at one end, again branded for Octel. Here again the tank looks tiny compared to the chassis, probably due to the weight of the contents and perhaps the extra weight of the lead lining.

 

I'm assuming that since the main point of the Hayle plant was to extract bromine for Octel then the Octel owned tanks would be the most typical. Since every other photo of an Octel owned vehicle shows Octel branding, I think that FWB4 probably belonged to somebody else.

 

When I next feel like scratchbuilding a wagon, I think I'll build one of the Octel demountable tanks but I've had the H.L.Ford book for a very long time and I've always fancied a model of tank FWB4 on its lowfit, complete with with its threatening skull logo on the end. It seems that I may need to speculate on some of the detail including the side lettering. I think that the colour is probably darker than pure white - there is a definite contrast with the white of the 'corrosive' warning diamond.

 

Intriguingly, the Larkin (Kestrel) photo also shows the end of another wagon nearest to the camera. This appears to be have old-style tank end supports but these are well short of the end of the chassis, which itself looks recently painted. I have no idea what this vehicle is, but... what liquid is carried in tanks that are always much smaller than the chassis?

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thats cleared that up then!........ well almost :no:

what scale are you modelling in D869? good article in BRM Nov 1996 on building the varios Diagrams of BR lowfit in 4mm, if you haven't already got it?

 

Nigel

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I model in 2mm :-)

 

The 2mm Association does plenty of chassis kits with various brake variants. The lowfit body shouldn't be too challenging, The tank on the other hand...

 

Regards, Andy

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Intriguingly, the Larkin (Kestrel) photo also shows the end of another wagon nearest to the camera. This appears to be have old-style tank end supports but these are well short of the end of the chassis, which itself looks recently painted. I have no idea what this vehicle is, but... what liquid is carried in tanks that are always much smaller than the chassis?

Bromine! I thought we had discussed how dense bromine is, earlier in these postings. Sulphuric and Nitric acids also tend to have small tanks, but not as small as bromine. Possibly a Dow Bromine tank Continental diag E238

 

Paul Bartlett

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Possibly a Dow Bromine tank Continental diag E238

 

Thanks Paul. I'm not familiar with this wagon design. Do you know of any photos anywhere? I have lots (but not all) of the usual books.

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The idea of using flat wagons (not specialised container-wagons) for traffic like bromine continues to this day.

Here's a link to some photos on the French site , Les Amis des Wagons, taken by Marc Schmitz, and posted with his permission:-

 

http://wagon.discutforum.com/t2435-klmps-suedois-avec-conteneur-chlore-en-tchequie

 

The 'lash-up' shows that improvisation is not solely a British thing- the securing points on the ends would have originally held stanchions.

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Rumour had it that bromine was also dispensed in NAAFI tea during WW2, to stop Forces personnel being distracted..

 

That is Potassium Bromide you are alluding to. Supposed to be the opposite of Viagra. Used a bit in hospitals, I believe. If it was used during WW2 it didn't work very well!

 

PPE job as the tanks are all lead lined due to how corrosive bromine is,i also used to have to have blood tests every 3 months due to working with lead

 

I seem to recall that Bromine tanks on the road used rubber lined tanks to prevent corrosion. I would have thought that a lead lined tank would be prohibitively heavy even for rail use. Doubt if any crane available then would have been able to lift such a beast

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