For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

Yeast, Fruit, Meat and Hound Vans – Diagrams 25 – 27, 28a, 29 – 38, 42 and 43


This category of stock originated with the building of the first yeast vans and in 1897, for the purpose of describing them in the half yearly returns, the all embracing name of sundry van was introduced. The three series of 22ft van called yeast, meat and fish and fish and fruit vans were later referred to as sundry vans but never ‘sundries vans’, a term which seems to be another unnecessary invention by the modelling fraternity. The remaining types retained their original designations as described below. For the purpose of describing these types the yeast and similar vans will be dealt with first, followed by the various reclassified vehicles.

The stock series commenced in 1882 with the construction of a batch of 6 yeast vans 16ft long, built at the same time as the diagram 20 milk vans with which they shared several design characteristics. The body had a pair of doors and conventional panelling on the waist and lower part of the body, but the whole of the upper part of the body and doors had louvres to provide ventilation. Shelves were fitted around the interior either side of the doors to take trays of yeast. The requirement for these vans to carry yeast arose from imports into this country through Harwich, shortly diverted into Parkeston Quay, and its fast distribution throughout the country. The six vans were built to diagram 27 and so quickly did the traffic increase there was a need for additional stock by the following year.

However, rather than building more of the diagram 27 vans the additional stock was more economically provided by converting 6 open fish trucks into vans to diagram 23. This was accomplished by building new sides and a roof onto the existing open truck, secured by new full length timber corner pillars and end stanchions. The new full height double doors did not utilise the originals from the fish truck but nonetheless retained the characteristic vertical planking while the upper part of the new body had louvres. It was an ingenious conversion and clearly cheaper than building from new but it is interesting that within 4 years of delivery it had been found possible to permanently release 6 of the 80 fish trucks to an alternative use.


In 1888 a completely design of van was devised of which several varieties were developed over the next 11 years as a response to the considerable growth in perishable traffic which had customarily been carried in the passenger brake van. The principal demand was for a van to carry meat and yeast but suitable also for fruit, flowers, parcels and parcels post. The first order completed was for 20 yeast vans, to diagram 32. They were 22ft long and like the horse boxes introduced in the same year a conscious effort had been made to design them in sympathy with contemporary carriage stock, by the use of a tumblehome on sides and ends and body mouldings and the use of teak for some of the panels. They had double doors with droplights, identical to those used on carriage stock, louvres in the upper part of the sides and shelving fitted inside. The underframe was of steel, with bulb angle solebars, and in its details also closely resembled the underframes of the horseboxes.

A further 25 vans were completed in 1893, bringing the yeast van stock total to 57. Around 1900 four were altered to continental luggage vans, to diagram 38, to carry the smaller items of accompanied luggage not packed into the luggage boxes described under the carriage trucks. The only structural modification made was to panel over the quarter lights and remove the internal shelving. These conversions do not suggest that the perishables traffic was declining in the early years of the century; the reality was that following a steady building programme during the 1890’s a large quantity and range of suitable vans now existed.

The yeast vans were followed late in 1888 by a batch of 20 meat and fruit vans, to diagram 33, and apart from having plain panelling in the doors the design was exactly the same. These were yet another type to be given its own number series starting from No 1, bringing the total to seven. Inside the floor had a zinc covering while either side of the doors were five horizontal rails mounted at cant rail level, each having 8 sliding double meat hooks attached to them. In 1922 the decision was taken to transfer the whole class, apart from the one that had been withdrawn in the previous year, to the wagon stock which entailed the removal of the Westinghouse brake, steam heating pipe and the meat hooks. Renumbered in the wagon series, in this guise they had but a limited life and all had been withdrawn by the end of 1927.

The next vans of this general type appeared in 1896, to the same basic dimensions and profile but having two sets of double doors and square corners to the droplights reflecting current carriage stock practice and steel frames with channel section solebars.

The first to appear were 3 parcels vans, to diagram 35; although they were initially included in the passenger brake series until their redefinition in the following year when they were transferred to miscellaneous stock. This was the point at which the GER decided that if a brake or parcels van had accommodation for a guard then it was classified as a passenger vehicle, otherwise it fell into the category of miscellaneous stock. These vans had an off centre internal partition and interior shelves at each end and mounted on the partition in the larger of the two compartments.

Next came the fish and fruit vans, to diagram 34, again with double doors, with shelves at each end but no partition. Two batches, each of 10 vehicles, were constructed during the year and a further 10 in 1899. Although they were numbered as a continuation of the original yeast vans series all the 22ft vans, despite their various titles, were equally suitable for carrying a wide range of perishable traffic. Three of these vans were altered for parcels traffic in 1897 by the installation of an internal partition, joining the original 3 built to diagram 35. Another was transferred for use as a continental luggage van and, like the conversions to diagram 38, entailed blanking off the droplights but retaining the interior shelving.

The final 22ft van to record is the solitary bullion van to diagram 36 built in 1893. This was unique in having three pairs of double doors, the centre pair access to a heavily reinforced compartment specifically intended for bullion while the two outer ones, which had a single louvred quarter light, were for other commodities of lesser value.

In all 96 22ft vans were built to slightly varying designs, between 1888 and 1899, representing a period in which the miscellaneous stock had several design characteristics common to carriage stock. Apart from the meat and fruit vans reclassified as wagon stock the 22ft vans had an average life of 35 to 40 years and except from a few examples entering departmental stock, all had been withdrawn by the late 1930’s.

The final vehicles to be noted which fall under the heading of sundry van were a very mixed bunch indeed and they are described in diagram number order, as good a way as any in view of the diverse types.

The first was a stores van, 16ft long, having double doors and louvres in the upper part of its sides. Little is known about it; it may have originated as a passenger brake van in about 1865 and rebuilt in 1880 but continuing to be classified as a brake van until brought into the sundry van series. It was to diagram 28, and was withdrawn in 1909 and is not to be confused with the replacement diagram for the 1910 horse boxes.

The extra luggage van, to diagram 29, was another example of the ingenuity and economy practised to such good effect by the GER. In the late 1870’s the need arose for a van to convey passengers luggage during the height of the summer season to supplement the accommodation in the guards van and luggage compartments provided in these trains. This need also coincided with the end of conveying calves in horse boxes because of the insistence by the Board of Trade that the boxes should be disinfected and cleansed after each journey, a process which would quickly ruin their interiors. A 16ft truck was built to meet both requirements having outside framing and in layout and design very similar to that adopted in 1888 for the diagram 25 cattle boxes described above. Thus in the winter months they were employed in carrying calves and after, it is assumed, a good clean out in summer they were loaded with passengers luggage.

The GER’s hound vans were all converted from passenger stock, sharing the same basic internal layout. A single compartment was retained at one end for the kennel man while the remainder of the interior furnishings and partitions were removed to create an open area in which the hounds roamed.


The earliest hound van was converted in 1892 from a 24ft third class carriage with 5 compartments built in 1869. This had a short life and was withdrawn in 1904, too early to be allocated a diagram in the 16648 series. A second van was converted in 1901 from a 27ft 3rd, built in 1880, becoming diagram 30 followed by a further carriage in 1904, to diagram 31, being a replacement for the 1892 conversion. This too was from a 27ft 3rd but of more recent construction, being only 12 years old and this remained in service until 1939. The final conversion was in 1912, using for the only time a 6 wheeled vehicle, a 34ft 6ins 6 compartment 3rd built in 1891, becoming diagram 43 which lasted in service well into the Nationalisation period.

As described above, the diagram 24 open fish trucks had all been converted into fruit vans during 1909 by the addition of a top section. One became a laundry van quite early on, to serve the Company’s laundry at Colchester, but was quickly withdrawn by the LNER which reclassified the whole class as wagons and renumbered them accordingly. All but one van were withdrawn during 1929, the solitary survivor finding a new role at Liverpool Street as the oil van, containing the supplies of oil needed for train head and tail lamps and hand lamps used by the staff lasting until late 1944.

The final oddity was the unique elephant van, built in 1912, to diagram 42. In design it resembled the diagram 10 covered carriage truck rather than an enlarged horse box as might be expected. It was 21ft long, with a pair of double doors, louvres along the upper part of the body sides and two small fixed lights. As with the covered carriage trucks the ends had a drop flap and full height double doors for loading while inside it was apparently equipped for carrying a wheeled vehicle, raising the possibility that the truck was designed to accommodate an elephant travelling in its own road vehicle and not ‘loose’ like the horse and cattle traffic. By 1938 the vehicle had obviously outlasted its usefulness and, logically, the LNER converted it into a carriage truck with few modifications being necessary, and in this guise served until 1944 before passing into service stock.