indentThe appearance of coal wagons in the 1950's has been the subject of much discussion lately in the "learned Journals". The hand-written lettering represents the wagon's many destinations. (Pelaw Main and Wigston were collieries, Neath is a port, and Tupdale a station.) These were written in chalk while the pale patches are old destinations smudged out with a fist!
indentThe story of "Private Owner Wagons" on British Railways is an interesting one.
indentPre-War there were 5 owners of coal wagons; the "Big four" railway companies had a few themselves (mainly "loco coal" wagons for their own use); Mine owners and Conglomerates usually owned hundreds for distribution to industry while the "Coal Factors" (the middle-men), also owned hundreds and as major distributors sent their wagons to both port and colliery. The wagon builders often retained ownership of excess production and rented them out to whoever wanted them while of course, many individual local coalmen owned their own wagons be that one or dozens.
indentDuring WWll the Government took ownership of all P.O. coal wagons and until well after the war they saw little or no maintainance except for the addition of a white stripe to indicate an end door if there was one. (End doors enabled the load to be tipped straight into ship's holds or bunkers at ports.)
indentAfter the war British Railways took ownership and, as these wagons were generally in a very poor state, decided to replace them with the familiar 16ton steel mineral wagon. Until these could be made in some numbers minimum maintenance was the order of the day. This included replacing broken timbers, axleboxes and steel-work and painting black patches for the new "hand-painted" P (for ex-Private Owner), serial numbers and the tare and load details which were all added in white. When BR found out their repair depots were painting these worn-out old wagons BR grey all over, (cheap ex-naval ship paint, rumour has it!), intructions were rapidly issued to paint the steel-work only! Thus, while a very few wagons were painted grey all over (thinly - and it soon wore off!), and rather more retained some vestige of their previous ownership, most were just bare, weathered wood with patches of old paint here and there. (Often just the undercoat was left under where the lettering had been.) A quick slap of grey paint (although many repair depots used black), over their steel and iron bits was all they were worth and after a year or two even these were often more rust than paint!
indentFrom several million wagons during the war to their total demise in the early 60's they were a very familiar sight everywhere and so form a vital part of any 50's model railway.
|Return to main picture.|