For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

James Holden Type 5 1886 - 1896 The Rise of the Six Wheeler


James Holden's arrival at Stratford from Swindon was marked by a number of noticeable changes to carriage stock design which clearly distinguishes his work from everything else that went before. The first feature to note was the replacement of the applied waist beading, which had characterised all carriage stock from before Sinclair's time, by moulded waist panels. The body ends instead of being flat had a turn under at the bottom and the vertical end panels were extended upwards to meet the arch rail, that is the curved profile of the roof; formerly a plain panel filled the arc between the eaves and the roof. The tops of the drop lights and quarter lights were now flat but with radiused corners and like Worsdell's Type 4 composites, the doorway height was marginally higher at 5ft 10ins with a maximum interior height of 7ft 0ins. These features were to be seen on all stock built between 1886 and 1896 with a few notable exceptions which will be described.

In considering the overall situation faced by Holden, it is important to note that carriage stock construction now fell into two clear groups. From 1885 onwards all new main line carriages were exclusively 6 wheel whilst for the London suburban services 4 wheelers continued to be built to the established length of 27ft. As already noted Worsdell had taken delivery of the last orders from contractors and therefore Holden had direct control over all new construction as well as its subsequent maintenance.

Holden's initial task was to concentrate exclusively on building large numbers of carriages to replace a high proportion of 4 wheel stock still running on the main and branch lines. The stock thus released, much of it relatively new, was transferred to the suburban services, enabling the oldest suburban stock to be withdrawn, some of which still dated from the Sinclair period.

Consequently Holden's earlier years were principally directed to increasing the stock of 6 wheel main line carriages to such effect that by the beginning of 1896 an impressive total of 1340 vehicles had been built. From 1890 onwards the pressure for additional suburban stock saw a gradual decline in building main line stock in favour of new 4 wheelers.

Considering first Holden's 6 wheelers, the 1340 carriages built between 1886 and 1896 comprised no less than 17 types but to only two body lengths - 32ft and 34ft 6ins, a visible sign of Holden's desire for standardisation. As usual a small number of designs accounted for the majority of production and of this total four types accounted for 1237 of the total. Way out in front were the 6 compartment 3rds (D404), with no less than 642 examples, the 32ft composite (D219) with the passengers luggage compartment in the centre came next with 295 put into traffic. Initially these had 1st/2nd accommodation but after the abolition of second class travel on the main line in 1893 the seconds simply became thirds. The next most common type was the 32ft 0ins brake totalling 152 examples, but built to two very slightly differing designs (D513 & D516), and lastly the 34ft 6ins brake third (D514) to a total of 148.

Of the remaining 103 vehicles, 9 were saloons for which there was an increasing demand. Built to 5 different diagrams, they included a pair of invalid saloons to diagram 12 and, for the first time, a 3rd class saloon (D10). Construction of exclusively 1st class carriages was relatively uncommon during the Holden period and only 40, with a central luggage compartment flanked by 2 compartments, appeared during this period (D105) together with four lesser varieties of composite. These included 10 slip tri-composite carriages (D204) but the 10 composites (D206) built in 1892 offered lavatory accommodation, another advance for the 3rd class passenger. Sadly the 2nd class compartments in the 1st/2nd lavatory composites (D205) built in 1890 were exceptionally upgraded to 1st's.

Turning now to suburban construction during the same period this was both modest and selective. Of the 334 4 wheel carriages built between 1890 and 1896, the great majority were 3rd class (D402), accounting for 294 vehicles, all to the standard suburban length of 27ft. Here the need was to increase the overall stock total to meet traffic demands; the existing stock was relatively modern, thanks to the progressive transfer of 4 wheel stock from main line services, so few of these carriages were required to replace outworn vehicles. The remainder of the suburban carriages comprised 10 brake 3rds for the Ongar line (D512), 6 2nd class (D304) and 24 1st class (D106).

Among the final batches of suburban construction was the first appearance in 1894 of steel frames on stock built at Stratford Works, achieved by the purchase of Fox's Patent Pressed Steel Frames. These were supplied in prepared sets to which the GER standard running gear was applied. A total of 108 frames were used under 9 of the 1st's (D106), six 2nd class (D304) and the final 93 3rd's to diagram (D402).

To conclude the review of this period, there was an interesting variety of non standard carriages to record. The first to appear was 4 wheel saloon, No 14, for the Chief Engineer, built in 1889 to the unique length of 27ft 6ins, breaking new ground by being the first GER carriage to have electric lighting. As built the saloon was evidently unsatisfactory as the body was lengthened in 1897 to 32ft and put on a new 6 wheel frame and electric lighting retained. In this form (D11) is happily still with us as saloon No 14. In the following year the last 4 wheel tramcars for the Wisbech & Upwell tramway were completed, hardly at the leading edge of technology but necessary as replacements of the original Millwall Railway tramcars purchased in 1871/2 and latterly used at Wisbech.

The introduction in 1891 of the Harwich - York dining trains comprising two sets of 3 vehicles was in complete contrast. These had rather greater headroom than the ordinary stock and the 6 wheel restaurant car boasted a clerestory roof and sides incorporating what was called a swell; almost a form of bay window! The history and development of this train is fully described in Journals 73 and 76 but it worth emphasising here that this train embodied two aspects of passenger comfort which were to distinguish the GER in later years - the provision of first rate trains on its Continental services and an outstanding reputation for its restaurant cars.

Further mail vans appeared, two to D700 (one in 1890 and the second in 1892) and a pair of D701 vans, also in 1892, all outwardly similar but with differing interior layouts. Like the 3 earlier vans built by Worsdell their length was 34ft 2½ins but embodying Holden's design characteristics.

In summary Holden's first 10 years superintendancy saw a transformation of main line services, which had been dominated by 4 wheel stock in the mid 1880's, to a position where modern 6 wheelers covered the majority of services outside the London suburban area. In turn the suburban services saw not only an influx of relatively modern vehicles but also a significant increase in numbers to meet the demands of increased traffic.

In all Stratford Works produced 1689 carriages and it is significant that less than a third or about 530 of these replaced worn out stock. The rest went to increase the total carriage stock in service, a striking illustration of the growth in traffic which occurred during the period.

James Holden Type 6 1896 - 1897 A Turning Point in Design


The previous 10 years of carriage building had seen relative stability in design and a high degree of standardisation to the extent that there were only 14 non standard carriages, a tiny proportion of the whole. By contrast 1896 witnessed another turning point in design, a year in which a bewildering variety of carriages appeared giving rise to three new identifiable types and several non standard vehicles.

The first new design to be described, Type 6, appeared as a direct consequence of a Traffic Committee decision made on 18 February 1896. This decision contains an all too rare reference to carriage design; it instructed Holden to build all new main line carriage stock with an interior height of 7ft 4ins to the crown of the roof, instead of the 7ft 0ins dimension which he had used since 1886, and an increased doorway height from 5ft 10ins to 6ft 2½ins. In all other respects the designs remained unaltered, including the continued use of radiused corners to the window heads and flitched timber frames.

The consequences of this edict was seen less than a week later on 24 February in an order placed on for two Continental trains of 8 carriages, all of 6 wheel stock, for use between London and Parkeston Quay. It will be recalled that although 2nd class accommodation had been abolished on the main line services from the beginning of 1893, this decision did not affect the London Continental trains which still offered 2nd class seats.

The new trains therefore incorporated 1st and 2nd accommodation only. The 3 1st class carriages with 32ft bodies (D108) had 4 compartments, two of which had access to a pair of lavatories in the centre of the coach. The 2nd class carriages came in two varieties, a pair with 5 compartments 34ft 6ins long, (D305) again providing access to flanking lavatories and a pair of ordinary 32ft coaches (D306) with 5 compartments. The set was topped and tailed by a 3 compartment brake 2nd (D515), a type new to the GER.

The only other 6 wheel carriages built to this type were 12 3rd class saloons (D16) built in 1896 and 1897. Unlike those built in 1887 (D10) these had two individual saloons, each seating 19 passengers, separated by a pair of lavatories making them suitable for two parties or groups.

A single batch of 12 suburban 1st's also appeared in the first part of 1896 and these, like their Type 5 predecessors, had Fox's steel underframes. They were included under diagram 304 and is another an example of the fact that several diagrams include more than one design of carriage.

The non standard construction for 1896 comprised two very different sets of carriages. The first was the completion of another 3 coach dining car set for the Continental service and built with the advantage of experience in running the 1891 trains. The new set incorporated a 50ft bogie restaurant car flanked by first and third class compartment 6 wheel coaches with lavatory accommodation and corridor gangways to the restaurant. All three carriages had clerestory roofs, an expensive feature which was apparently now being employed to distinguish the best that Stratford could provide from the rest. All three carriages had Fox's underframes and in the case of the restaurant car Fox's bogies with GER axleguards and wheel sets. This new set supplemented the 1891 sets, both of which were in daily use, and its completion allowed each of the original 6 wheel restaurant cars to be withdrawn for enlargement to a similar form as the new 50ft car.

In complete contrast to the fine dining car set was the pair of 6 wheel tram carriages, built for the Stoke Ferry branch. For some reason, not so far discovered, these reverted in body style to the Worsdell period, with raised waist beading and the rather inferior internal height of 7ft 0½ins; neither was their 30ft length shared by any other GER vehicle or the use of 3ft diameter Mansell wheels, a size never used on another vehicle. The design remained unique; the carriages were certainly not an adaptation of older vehicles or even the resurrection of an obsolete design.

Holden Type 14 1892 - 1906 The Royal Carriages


As noted at the beginning of this article carriages built for the royal train had a style of their own, not conforming to the other identified types and varying in some details. Although I have called these Type 14 in view of the period in which they were built they are better considered here

In a commendable effort to assemble a train having at least a strong family likeness if not an identical appearance the nine vehicles built between 1892 and 1906 retained several design features otherwise discarded in the development of the ordinary stock from the mid 1890's onwards, including radiused corners to the window heads. For this reason they are now described as a complete group rather than dealing with them in strict chronological order.

The first to be described appeared in 1892 in the shape of a saloon for the Princess of Wales. It was the first new carriage for royal use since Sinclair's saloon in 1864 and had a body length of 34ft 6ins (D4) and contained a small saloon with adjoining lavatory, a 1st compartment and ample luggage space. Neither this carriage nor any subsequent royal stock were fitted with gangways.

This was followed in 1894 by a royal composite (D207) built for the Duke of York and completed in time for his marriage to the future Queen Mary. Unlike most other royal carriages it lacked an open saloon but it did have a small boudoir, a facility one looks for in vain in today’s trains.

The next vehicle was a 41ft long bogie saloon (D17) for the Prince of Wales, completed in 1897. It comprised an open saloon, lavatory facilities, a separate smoking compartment and a compartment for servants. In the following year the Princess of Wales was favoured with her own saloon (D5), to the improved length of 48ft 3ins which gave sufficient space for a saloon at each end as well as the other accommodation provided for the Prince of Wales. Both these saloons had Fox's steel frames.

A pair of 41ft long luggage composite carriages (D210) also appeared in 1898 having two 1st class compartments and two 3rd's all with lavatory access and intended for carrying royal guests.

On 22 January 1901 Queen Victoria died and in May an order was placed for a new 50ft royal saloon (D21) for the new King. Alone of the royal stock this had a clerestory roof, in contrast to the low elliptical profile used for all the other new and converted carriages. The saloon had conventional timber frames; the unease with which the GER viewed steel frames for its superior saloons is emphasised by the early replacement of the Fox's frames in favour of timber for the Princess of Wales saloon.

The last royal vehicles in this group were another two luggage composites (D228) for royal guests of similar layout to the 1898 examples. These had 48ft 3ins bodies, an odd length for the period, but one which allowed the inclusion of an additional 3rd class compartment.

James Holden Type 7A 1896 - 1903 Square Tops to Lights


Returning now to the general purpose carriage stock in May 1896 a further change in body style was made with the introduction of square corners to the tops of droplights and quarterlights, replacing the softer lines provided by the radiused corners. This was probably a slightly cheaper form of construction and remained standard on all subsequent main line stock with the exception of the royal vehicles described above.

The first carriages to be built to the new style were 20 6 wheel brakes with 32ft bodies (D518) completed in October, followed by a new type of 34ft 6ins 1st with luggage compartment (D109) of which 12 were completed in the following month. They had conventional timber underframes and although subsequent output used a mixture of frames timber predominated. There is no discernible trend in how the two frames were employed, either by length or class; it may have been determined solely on comparative cost or the capacity at that period to handle the new medium of steel.

Most of the new carriages to the new style were effectively a continuation of types introduced earlier, many to the same diagram but now with square topped lights. These comprised a further 45 32ft lavatory firsts (D108), first seen on the 1896 continental train and, for the Hertford service 10 34ft 6ins 1st's with 5 compartments (D105) in 1897 and 25 32ft 2nd's (D306) in 1899. In 1897 the final 50 6 compartment 3rd's (D422) were completed bringing to an end construction of the most common type of 6 wheel carriage.

The remaining carriages were all to new diagrams, a 34ft 10ins lavatory composite (D208), of which 27 were built in 1897 and no less than 180 lavatory 3rd's in 1898 and 1899. These were the successors to the 6 compartment 3rd's and although with 34ft 6ins bodies one compartment was sacrificed in favour of providing lavatory accommodation to the 3rd class passenger on a wide range of main line services. Neither of these types had corridors and thus intending users had to anticipate their needs in advance by getting into a compartment adjacent to the lavatory. Over the 5 year period 110 brakes (D518) were completed with a mixture of timber and steel frames and 35 34ft 6ins brake 3rd's (D519).

The most important development of this period to record is the appearance of the first general service bogie carriage, a 48ft 3ins lavatory composite (D209) of which 12 were built in 1897, just in time for service in the newly introduced Cromer Express, the forerunner of the Norfolk Coast Express. It finds a place within this type because the body was merely an enlongation of the contemporary 6 wheeled lavatory composite, the steel underframe had bulb L steel sections and, uniquely, Dean bogies were used.

Within this group of construction the only two non standard types was the pair of 6 wheel mail vans in 1903 (D704), the last to be built by the GER.

This period was complex in regard to the types of frames used, a feature not directly reflected in the carriage diagrams. It was a time of transition from timber to steel but for a time both materials were used and for steel frames both the bulb L and channel sections appeared.

Of the 508 main line 6 wheel carriages built to Type 7A, 814 had the traditional flitched wood frames, 87 the steel bulb L section solebars and 107 with the channel profile, the type finally adopted as standard.

James Holden Type 7B 1899 – 1906 8ft 6ins wide bodies


In 1899 a development of the 1897 bogie composite carriage was introduced, to diagram 211, which embodied a number of new features but within the same body length. The interior was rearranged with the luggage compartment at one end and a pair of lavatories in the centre to which internal corridors provided access for all passengers. Incorporating a corridor was made possible by increasing the long established body width of 8ft to 8ft 6ins, the feature which distinguishes this design type from type 7A.

As will be seen later, no further arc profile roof bogie carriages were built but the final batches of 6 wheelers had 8ft 6ins wide bodies still with arc roofs. For the Hertford service 30 brake 3rd's (D533) were built in 1901 and 1902 followed by 20 1st class 5 compartment carriages (D116) in 1903, both classes having 34ft 6ins bodies.

As had always been customary, main line brake vehicles lagged behind in design practice and 6 wheel versions with 32ft bodies continued to be built, 30 in both 1901 and 1904 and the final batch of 10 in 1906, all to diagram 532.

The last vehicle of this design type to appear was a solitary and rather uninspiring arc roofed 32ft saloon for the Traffic Superintendent, built in January 1906, coinciding with the final brake vans

James Holden Type 8 1896 - 1898 Austere Suburban


It is now necessary to return to 1896 to look at the third new type of carriage introduced in that year. It had again become necessary to augment suburban stock numbers and this was achieved by building a total of 55 vehicles of the familiar compartment type. They were 20 3rd class (D410) in 1896, 15 1sts (D115) in the following year and 20 2nds (D307) in 1898.

It might have been expected that these would have been built to Type 7A specifications already described but this was not the case. Somewhat dramatically the new design dispensed with the waist panel, a traditional feature present from the earliest days of British carriage building. The lower part of the body below the windows was sheeted with vertical panels sub divided by mouldings and even the door panel was in two vertical sections.

The body remained at 8ft wide but the finished coach looked very austere, giving an impression of economy in construction although surviving costings are inconclusive. Besides the revolutionary design the three classes had channel steel underframes, constructed at Stratford Works, making their first appearance on GER stock. In the event this new design was short lived as an even more striking development was afoot.