For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

1880 to 1889

The early 1880’s saw both a demand for an increased stock and a need for some new types for which conversion of existing wagons would no longer suffice.

Firstly, a strong traffic in wool was the cause in 1880 of 50 wool wagon s being ordered to transport the sheeted bales. Supplied by Brown, Marshalls they had steel frames, the first wagons to be so supplied. As a long, single plank wagon it was used for a wide range on commodities besides wool, thus ensuring a long and useful life.

Secondly, the impending opening of the GN & GE Joint line was seen in 1881 to require 500 additional wagons. These were judged to be 200 box or covered trucks, 150 cattle and 150 ‘half moon’ or round ended wagons.

A further factor influencing the GER’s approach to wagon supply was the activities of the Midland Railway (MR). It was busily buying up private owner wagons in its area, a process being closely monitored by the GER. By early 1883 it had bought 15700 wagons and the Great Northern Railway (GNR), although considering a similar course of action decided, instead, to increase its own building rate for open wagons of a design suitable for goods and coal.

The GER decided to adopt the same solution and Thomas Worsdell, appointed at the beginning of 1882, was instructed to build 20 wagons a week at Stratford, to a maximum of 1000 per year. They took the form of five plank high sided wagons, the cost of which was estimated at £70 each, plus ironwork at £21 12s 0d per set and wheels and axles at £20 15s 0d per set, a total of £112 7s 0d.

One effect of this change of policy was to bring to an end in 1885 the building of round ended wagons which were designed for general merchandise, sheeted as required. These had been built from early ECR days, modified over the years and most recently updated by Worsdell under whose Superintendence the last 230 were erected at Stratford.

The decision to have a plentiful supply of wagons equally suitable for coal as for merchandise was taken despite the GER’s policy of encouraging coal merchants to provide wagons of their own. Allied to this policy the GER may well have been ahead of many other companies in respect of private owner wagons. It prepared specifications for the construction of private owner wagons intended to be used on its system and affixed registration plates, many years in advance of the mandatory system introduced through the Railway Clearing House in 1887.

Continental Traffic

The growth and development of the Continental traffic, conducted from Harwich until the completion of Parkeston Quay in 1883, gave rise to several specialised wagon types.

The first type introduce was the egg truck in 1880, probably unique to the GER. It resembled a long covered van with side doors but lacking a roof; instead a removable tarpaulin rail was provided. Its body size was determined by the dimensions of the imported Italian egg boxes which could be closely packed in the new wagon and its open top permitted loading direct by quayside crane. Twenty were built and it was equally useful for carrying light Continental goods.

Gas for Carriages

In 1877 the GER entered into an agreement with Messrs. Pintsch, Pischon & Co of Berlin for the supply of a gas works at Stratford to enable the suburban carriage stock to be lit by gas. Although most carriages were charged at Stratford, via a network of gas pipes from the works to the carriage sidings this arrangement required all carriage stock to visit Stratford on a frequent basis. As a consequence travelling gas reservoirs were introduced in 1884 to convey gas to places like Enfield and Wood Street. At first they were rather primitive affairs, with pairs of reservoirs mounted on batten wagon frames. The concept was successful, however, and the well known steel framed single cylinder version appeared in 1892 followed by further batches until 1912.


By the end of the 1880’s good progress had been made in increasing the total wagon stock. Some 8180 new wagons had been supplied between the beginning of 1880 and the end of 1889. As a result the total wagon stock increased by 3773, or a third, from 11120 to 14893.

About 4440 of this new construction had gone to replacing outworn stock, effectively eliminating all ECR stock and most of Sinclair’s wagons. As at the end of 1879 the oldest stock was still in the region of 30 years old but with the advantage that overall the construction and maintenance were of a higher order.

The majority of the additions to stock came in the form of high sided open wagons, 3200 had been built together with 1340 round ended wagons but, as already mentioned orders for this type ceased in 1883.

The standard types, defined in the late 1870’s by the Goods Manager, had been supplemented by wool and egg trucks. Several designs of steel frame wagons by James Holden were built, including a modern 14 ton capacity machine truck.

16 high sided goods wagon

18 low sided wagon

15 covered good wagon                         

29 single bolster wagon          

30 double bolster wagon

03 cattle wagon medium

25 14ton machine wagon     

39 ballast wagon

01 10t goods brake

38 10t permanent way brake