For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

Sinclair Type 1 1858 – 1867 Pre-GER origins                          


Detailed information on carriage design prior to Sinclair's appointment in September 1856 is not plentiful but it would appear that the style he used was quite similar to that followed by John Gooch, his predecessor.

Whatever the true origin of the style, all Sinclair's carriage stock was finely detailed if rather austere and distinct in appearance from anything that followed. Body lengths varied from 16ft to 24ft having a slight turn under to the body side and with flat ends and a low arc profiled roof. The quarter lights and drop lights had square corners and the top panels between doors had false vents. The waist panels had small section beading with mitred corners.

Lighting was by oil and the underframes constructed of timber, running on 3'6½" diameter Mansell wheels. Brake power was limited to that obtained by the guard operating his hand brake in the guards van.

Construction may be divided into two distinct phases, the first occurring between 1858 to 1861, a period in which the 1st and 2nd class carriages were 21ft long, the 1st/2nd composites 24ft, all compartment stock. Brake vans were 16ft in length but no 3rd class carriages appeared at this time as it was the practice to 'cascade' the superior classes to thirds and replace them with new construction. A pair of mail vans with 22ft bodies appeared in 1858 and a solitary 24ft long family saloon in 1859, perhaps the first of its type and containing an open central saloon and a lavatory.

No new stock was received in 1862 but orders picked up in the following year and by early 1867 substantial quantities had been delivered. These included additional designs and improvements in body length and of particular note were the 6 1st class smoking saloons, the first to be completed by the newly formed GER. The 24ft body contained 3 spacious compartments in which fixed tables were placed.

The third class passenger was at last catered for in new building by the delivery of 130 carriages with 5 compartments in a 24ft body, a length adopted for further 1st class vehicles with 4 compartments. More 2nd's and composites appeared but orders for brakes from 1864 were to the improved length of 21ft. A solitary bullion van, 16ft long was also completed, probably for traffic to the Continent.

After Sinclair vacated his position as Locomotive Superintendent at the end of 1865 two replacement carriages were built, a composite and second class. They are of interest because although to Sinclair's design they were built to the hitherto untried length of 26ft.

In all 718 of Sinclair's carriages were delivered between 1858 and 1867 of which about 320 comprised replacements for withdrawn stock. Despite being to 14 diagrams all were of uniform design with one exception, this being the 1864 royal saloon. Intended for the Prince of Wales it had a 26ft long body on a 6 wheel underframe, of a design which although basically Sinclair in appearance had many extra embellishments as one might expect of such a vehicle.

Johnson and Adams Type 2A 1867 – 1877 A change in style


Samuel Johnson arrived at Stratford in July 1866 and had quite different ideas about carriage design. He introduced plain recessed top panels, with bulbous vents set above the door drop lights, window heads had 3 centre radius curves and the waist had applied beading of a more robust section to that used by Sinclair. The body side turn under was more pronounced although the ends remained flat. Underframes, wheels and lighting remained much the same.

The first Johnson carriage was a type new to the GER but destined to become very common indeed, the 'brake composite' best known to us today as the brake 3rd. They were to the odd length of 21ft 8ins, a dimension later increased to 22ft 8ins (D501). The late 1860's were troubled years financially for the GER and carriage building was very restrained but quantities of 5 compartment 3rd's (D400), 24ft 3ins long appeared together with four compartment 1st's 24ft in length and a small batch of 2nd's with 21ft bodies.

From late 1870 rolling stock building resumed in earnest. The chief advance was the introduction of 26ft long stock for 1st class (D101), 2nd class (D300) and 3rd class (D400A) carriages with the continued construction of the 24ft 3ins long 3rd (D400) for main line use. A pair of 1st/2nd composite slip carriages with 24ft bodies was built and a unique pair of 22ft 8ins brake vans, a venture not repeated.

Much of the new building was in response to the formation of the London suburban lines although in practice it is likely that most suburban trains consisted of demoted main line stock, allowing the replacement carriages to be enjoyed by the longer distance traveller.

The only non standard designs to appear during Johnson's term of office resulted from the purchase of 4 tram cars in 1871/72 for service on the Millwall Extension Railway. These were the traditional tramway carriages of the period, initially horse drawn and supplied by the well known tram car builder George Starbuck of Birkenhead.

William Adams succeeded Johnson in August 1873 but this event had no discernible effect on carriage stock design. Adams was evidently content to continue the designs devised by his predecessor and consequently further quantities of Johnson's later types appeared, all to a length of 26ft except for the 22ft 8ins brake third for the suburban area where only limited brake van capacity was required.

Adams initiated the introduction of 6 wheel family saloons of two types to meet the increasing demand from well healed families for exclusive accommodation. Five were built at Stratford, the first in 1875 (D1) was a modest 28ft long, but the other 4 built 1875/76 had 33ft bodies. Both types had a 1st class saloon and lavatory accommodation, 3rd class seating for the servants and ample space for the households luggage. Although in design they had a close affinity to his general service stock they all benefited from having more generous doorway and interior heights.

Over the 8 year period up to early 1876 a total of 621 Type 2A carriages were supplied, split evenly between replacements for those withdrawn and additions to stock which now stood at 1847 vehicles.

Adams and Bromley Type 2B 1875 – 1881 6 wheel carriages appear


Late in 1875 the first of a new type of 20 main line 26ft brake vans (D505) appeared. These introduced a minor variation of the Johnson/Adams style in that the top or eaves panels above the doors and the panels between the drop lights were flush instead of being recessed. Although constructionally it was a trifling alteration the visual result was nonetheless distinctive. A less obvious alteration but rather more useful was an increase from 5ft 7ins to 5ft 9ins in door height but sadly the interior height remained unchanged because at the same time the radius of the arc roof was increased.

These full brakes proved to be the last 26ft bodied stock to be built because 1876 saw a new range of carriages introduced, all to a body length of 27ft. This proved to be significant because this dimension became the standard for virtually all the remaining GER 4 wheelers and was reflected in the later development of bogie suburban stock.

The bulk of the 27ft carriages comprised 1st class (D100), 2nd class (D302) and 3rd class (D402) and brake vans (D508) with a small number of 1st and 2nd composites to diagrams 217 and 233. There were a few exceptions to the new standard length, these being 3 more of the 3 compartment smoking saloons (D104), to the original 1863 length of 24ft and a solitary 21ft 6ins long hearse coach (D218) with 1st and 2nd class accommodation flanking a central 3 bier compartment.

Adams was also active in two important aspects of carriage stock improvement - continuous brakes and lighting. Trials were made of several different braking systems during his term at Stratford which continued after his departure. However, he saw the adoption of the Pintsch system of gas lighting for the suburban carriage stock late in 1877, although it was not until after his successor was appointed that the fruits of his trials were seen on carriage stock.

Adams left at the GER end of January 1878, moving to the L&SWR at Nine Elms, and was replaced by Massey Bromley, latterly Works Manager at Stratford. He too was content not to meddle with overall design features and to him goes the credit for the introduction of 6 wheel stock for the ordinary fare paying passenger.

The first of these appeared in 1879 taking the form of 10 composites with 34ft 0ins bodies (D220) with a central passengers luggage compartment flanked by 1st and 2nd class compartments, a layout repeated in the majority of succeeding 6 wheel composite carriages. They were built by the Metropolitan RC&W Co and ran on iron underframes, 9 having Cleminson's Flexible Wheelbase and the tenth with a Grover's Wheelbase, a variation of the same principal. A pair of 4 compartment 37ft firsts also with Cleminson's underframes were delivered in 1880 with a central luggage compartment, but Bromley quickly settled on conventional flitched timber underframes and a body length of 31ft 6ins for the remainder of his 6 wheel stock.

These comprised 30 4 compartment 1st class (D102), 20 1st and 2nd class composites with a central passengers luggage van (D200), 100 5 compartment 2nd's (D303) and 25 brake vans (D509). The leg room afforded by 7ft 8ins wide compartments in the 1st's was never equalled, let alone improved upon; in succeeding years the average was 6ft 9ins. This stock was delivered during 1880 and 1881 and was probably the first to be equipped during construction with the Westinghouse Automatic brake. The absence of any 3rd class accommodation will be noted; it was still considered that the 4 wheeler was more than satisfactory for this category of passenger, however long the journey. By contrast, the train guard and the accompanying luggage enjoyed a more superior ride.

The last two Bromley types to describe were both specials. The first was a solitary 4 wheel mail van (D702), built to the unique length of 27ft 2ins and graced by a clerestory roof. Bearing in mind that contemporary stock had a maximum headroom of 6ft 8ins at the centre of the compartment the use of a clerestory roof was one way to ensure postal staff could stand up straight while letter sorting. The last type was what was called an Extra Luggage Van, an outside framed 16ft long van of which 7 were built in 1879 intended to carry excess amounts of passengers luggage in the summer months. There was subtlety in the title displayed on the sides as it disguised the fact that in the winter months they were used to convey calves.

Bromley departed abruptly in August 1881 after the discovery that he and the Stores Superintendent had defrauded the Company. With the final delivery of Bromley stock in April 1882 a total of 608 carriages to this type had been provided, of which 187 were main line 6 wheelers.

Worsdell Type 3A 1882 - 1883


Although Bromley was obliged to resign at a few days notice it is an odd fact that the last order placed under his superintendency was in the previous November, 9 months earlier. Malcolm Gillies, the Works Manager, was appointed acting Locomotive Superintendent until Thomas Worsdell commenced work at the beginning of 1882 and his sole order was for 4 more diagram 508 brake vans built at Stratford.

Again the arrival of a new Superintendent did little to change the outward appearance of the carriage stock but a slightly smaller radius to the arc roof was adopted which had the effect of increasing the interior height to 6ft 10ins or 6ft 11ins, an improvement of 2ins or 3ins over the Bromley period, thus marking the difference between types 2B and 3A. Worsdell's arrival coincided with the decision to adopt the Westinghouse brake for all existing and future carriage stock.

Initially Bromley's designs continued to be ordered but with the improved interior dimensions, the majority of which was of 27ft long 4 wheeled stock, comprising 1st class (D100), 2nd class (D302) and 3rd class (D402) carriages and the full brake (D508), all types already noted, and a new variety of brake 3rd (D507). What is significant is that apart from the main line 3rds, all the passenger carrying 4 wheelers were being built for suburban use while the main line brakes reverted to 4 wheelers. The only new type at this stage was a 3 compartment brake third (D503) specifically built for the suburban services.

A useful increase in 6 wheel stock was made in between 1882 and 1884 by the construction of further Bromley stock, 10 1st class, (D102), 37 composites (D200) and 10 2nd class (D303). An innovation was the solitary 32ft 1st/2nd composite (D201) of 1882 which while retaining a passengers luggage compartment included a lavatory compartment for the first time in an ordinary carriage, accessible from one of the two 1st class compartments. This idea was improved upon in the following year by placing a pair of lavatories between the two 1st's so all of the superior class passengers had access to it; 11 to this layout were built in 1883/84 with 34ft bodies to diagram 202

Worsdell Type 3B 1882 - 1884


For some unknown reason the decision was taken early in 1883 to reintroduce the recessed eaves panel. To the uninformed eye this was a reversion of the design first introduced by Johnson in 1867 but it now applied to stock with an improved interior height and with longer bodies. The modification was made without any other design changes and thus this stock is allocated to Type 3B.

The last 3 years of Worsdell's tenure saw further construction of 4 wheel stock, all 27ft long of what had now become the 4 standard classes, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and brake 3rd.

Main line 6 wheel carriages continued to be built with a 31ft 6ins body length for 1st, 2nd and 1st/2nd composites. But of particular note was that for the first time the 3rd class passenger was provided with 6 wheel accommodation in the shape of a 6 compartment 34ft carriage (D403) and, new to the main line service, a 31ft 6ins brake 3rd (D511). The arrival of the last main line 1st's and composites early in 1885, but ordered nearly 2 years earlier, marked the end of construction by contractors; from now on all new stock was to be built at Stratford.

During the Worsdell period a number of interesting non-standard carriages appeared. Best known are the Wisbech & Upwell tramcars, comprising 4 wheel 1st/2nd composites (D600) and 3rds (D601) and bogie composites (D602) and 3rds (D603) for passengers and a 12ft luggage van (D604), perhaps laying claim to the shortest standard gauge coaching stock vehicle ever built for a British railway. All ran on 2ft 9ins diameter Mansell wheels, introducing a variation on the standard diameter of 3ft 6½ins. It is also curious to observe that this tramway was the first place where a GER third class passenger could ride in a GER bogie vehicle, no less than 13 years before they appeared on the main line.

A year earlier and at the other end of the social scale a fine 12 wheel directors saloon (D8) with a 53ft body was completed at Stratford, replacing a relic originally provided by Gooch in 1855. Finally 3 mail vans, with 34ft 2½ins bodies (D703) appeared in 1885. They were not only the first on 6 wheel underframes but it is likely that one of their number was the first on the GER in 1891 to have mail catching apparatus fitted.

Worsdell Type 4 1886


The last carriages attributed to Worsdell were to single order for 20 composites which uniquely appeared with two different interior layouts, 14 main line composite carriages (D219) with central luggage compartments and 6 slip tri-composites (D229). They were ordered on 20 May 1885, before Worsdell's departure to the North Eastern Railway, but built following the arrival of Holden from Swindon. As built they embodied a unique mixture of Worsdell and Holden features.

In terms of design they followed Worsdell's practices, having applied waist beading but their 32ft body length and 5ft doorway height anticipated a Holden standard as did the tumblehome ends, appearing here for the first time and to be repeated on all subsequent main line carriage stock. It is not possible to discover whether Worsdell had initiated this design as a last fling or if Holden brought some influence to bear during his first few days of his superintendency, whatever the truth the design was not repeated.

Looking back at the previous 10 years of production, from the introduction of Adams style 2B to the final Worsdell stock, a total of 1265 carriages had been built. In that 10 year period the total carriage stock had increased from 1840 to 2965, thus no less than 1122 of the new carriages were additions to stock.

The carriages built as replacements had enabled the remaining stock inherited from the constituent Companies to be withdrawn, but over 200 of Sinclair's carriages built during the latter years of the ECR were still in service but having the merit of conforming to the early GER designs.