For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

8.   Postcript

With the appointment at Grouping of Nigel Gresley as CME it was inevitable that the practices and designs he had pursued at Doncaster with the Great Northern Railway would prevail in future on the LNER. These were quite different to those of the GER, in particular in the continued use of timber for underframes. Additionally the new Company reviewed the role of its various inherited works and decided that Temple Mills would cease new construction and concentrate on repair and maintenance work only.

It is not the purpose of this review to trace in detail the eventual fate of stock in LNER and British Railways hands but it may be useful to provide a broad indication of withdrawal rates.

Of the total of 30104 wagons handed over to the LNER in 1923 this figure had declined to about 7800 by 1941 or 25% of the original stock. Based on the assumption that stock was being withdrawn principally on an age basis few pre 1905 wagons remained by 1941.

This indicates, for example, that the 5 plank high sided wagon, built in such vast quantities during the 1890's and forming the mainstay of the GER's merchandise fleet, was virtually extinct. The characteristic 16ft outside framed van had almost disappeared too outside the confines of Stratford internal stock.

Exceptions to this rough and ready rule would be certain specialised wagons, such as weighbridge vans and gas tank wagons and some departmental stock. On the other hand some rather newer wagons would have been withdrawn, notably cattle wagons and the 17 ton brake vans.

In 1948 British Railways became the owners of 4500 former GER wagons, or about 15% of the original total inherited by the LNER 25 years earlier. This survival rate tallied well with the Great Central and North British stock but it is noteworthy that the rates for the Great Northern and North Eastern were appreciably higher at 22%.

The remaining wagons largely comprised stock constructed from 1911 onwards, with the exception of cattle wagons which may well have been extinct at Nationalisation

The final reliable indicator of surviving wagons is contained in the Wagon Stock Reduction List, issued by BR in 1956 to wagon repair depots. Its purpose was to ensure that any wagon listed coming in for repairs, however minor, would at once be condemned. All pre-Grouping traffic stock, excluding departmental stock, was listed and for the GER amounted to 526 survivors.

Over half were covered vans, but over 50 20 ton brakes and open wagons were still in service. Only 23 loco coal wagons survived and 17 single bolsters.

There were various departmental wagons still in running, limited to gas tanks, a few ballast wagons and brakes, and weighbridge vans the last of which lasted into the 1960's.


Sources of Information    


To help those who might want to pursue their own research I have set out in full all the material consulted, most of which may be found at the National Railway Museum and The National Archives as follows:

1901 Wagon Diagram Book: In private ownership

The 1901 wagon diagram book was the only one prepared by the GER and was progressively added to with the introduction of new types until 1939.   It remained in use, with additions and amendments, until 1963. The Stratford Carriage Office copy of the book was transferred to Temple Mills Wagons Works and is the only complete copy known.

The diagrams are drawn at 1/4in to 1 ft scale and measure 17 ins by 5 ¾ ins and show a simple side and end elevation of the wagon type with principal dimensions and load. Examples of these at a smaller scale are used to illustrate this article.

Half Yearly Reports of the Locomotive, Carriage & Wagon Department: TNA References RAIL/227/398 to 402.

These cover the period 1885 to 1910 and contain an unparalleled record of construction and costings supported by a vast array of statistical and financial detail, including comparisons with all the other leading railways. This is a much under used resource, I suspect, and it deals with the construction of all locomotives, carriages, wagons and road vehicles with details of other work for which the Department was responsible.

Half Yearly Reports: TNA Reference RAIL/1110/158-163 (GER) and RAIL/186/122 (ECR)

Every railway was obliged to prepare reports for the information of its shareholders; these were half yearly from the early 1850's until 1912, thereafter they were produced on an annual basis. The reports provide an ongoing record of the financial fortunes of the Company, the state of the traffic and the development of important new services and facilities. A schedule of rolling stock totals, broken down into categories, is also included.

Minute Books: TNA Classes RAIL/186 (ECR), RAIL/227 (GER)

The minute books for the ECR and GER are held at the Public Record Office and numerous references to carriage stock are found primarily in the Board minutes and the proceedings of the Locomotive and Traffic Committees. Other Committees dealt with specific carriage stock issues, notably the Continental Committee for stock associated with services from Parkeston Quay, and the Stores Committee for the supply of components in the early years and, in the post war period, when the GER was obliged to purchase stock from contractors. GERS Information Sheet M102 provides a comprehensive list of all the minute books and other relevant material available to readers at the PRO.

General Arrangement Drawings:

For full constructional details of carriage stock, both external and internal, there is no substitute for the general arrangement drawings prepared at Stratford Works. A very wide selection of these are available as prints from microfiche from the NRM and are listed in Information Sheets N117, N123, N126, N129 and N135 and cover the period from the late 1850's to 1924. The microfiche may also be consulted in the NRM Search Engine.

Appropriations Book: GERS Collection reference D/Z 346/1499

From 1856 onwards every order for locomotives and rolling stock was allocated an order number, the first being A1 running to Z1 then from A2 to Z2 and so on. The last order placed was G90 in February 1924 for 40 LNER refrigerator wagons. Although this system was the cornerstone of the financial control of all activities at the Works is a sad fact that this book is the only surviving list. The document starts on 1 January 1879 and runs through to Grouping when the system came to an end; it was a working document, used in the Works itself and while it appears to include all new construction there are many gaps in the series. This means that no comprehensive record now exists of many of the alterations and modifications made to stock.

John Watling  June 2014