GWR standard goods stock livery

From c 1898, an overall dark grey livery was adopted for general service goods wagons and vans, and was used up to nationalisation. For a discussion on the exact changeover from red to grey livery, see the preceding page. Unlike most other companies, the dark grey extended to the underframes also.

The exact shade of the dark grey is somewhat unknown, but is likely to have varied. It is thought the GWR used a mix of black to white in a 7:1 ratio. Didcot Railway Centre uses a mix in a 14:1 ratio, but this is intentionally overdark to allow for the effects of ageing and fading. Precision Paints P19 is generally regarded as a good 'ex-works' colour. Goods vehicles were rarely, if ever, cleaned, and in service the grey would fade considerably and get a lot grubbier.

Van roofs were painted all-over white until 1939, but as they were never washed they quickly turned a dirty grey. From 1939, the GWR finally gave in and painted roofs on newly-built stock all-over grey.

The insides of open wagons, and interiors of vans and cattle wagons, were unpainted.

The earliest lettering on grey-liveried GWR wagons took the form of 5" white G. W. R lettering painted directly on the wagon, along with tare numbers etc.

From c 1894, lettering and numbers on some newly built wagons were carried on cast plates. The cast plates continued until c 1904, but contemporary photographic evidence indicates that the use of the cast plates never became widespread.


Iron Mink diagram V6 with pre-1904 5" G. W. R lettering. Click on the image for a bigger version. Image courtesy of Gareth Price.


GWR brakevan AA16 in pre-1904 livery

Pre-1904 livery with 5" G. W. R lettering
This early-condition AA16 brake van was built from a 7mm WEP kit by Dave Stone. It should probably show its depot name, in script lettering. Brake van handrails were originally body colour (grey), but were thought to have been first painted white during WWI.


In 1904, large 25" G W lettering was introduced. Where there was not enough room to use this size of lettering because of outside wooden framing, 16" was used. For 2- and 3-plank wagons, 14" lettering was initially used, although most 3-plank wagons seem to have adopted the 16" size later. On some wagons, e.g. the diagram W2 cattle wagon, the sides had 16" lettering and the ends had 25" lettering.

The '25" era' lasted until c 1920 when 16" lettering became standard.

Painting of numbers on the ends of new build general purpose vehicles ceased c 1929.


Adrian Marks' GWR diagram O3 open

1904–20 25" G W lettering


Slater's Cattle Wagon, GWR diagrams W1/W5

1920–1936 16" G W lettering
Image courtesy Slater's Plastikard


Some goods brake vans had a white star or a white 'S' below the depot allocation to indicate they had been weighted to 25T. Further details.

The general service vehicles never saw use of the GWR Roundel when this was introduced in 1933/34, but in 1936 the 5" letters were re-introduced on all grey stock, lasting until nationalisation.

GWR 5 inch wagon lettering

Style of 5" wagon lettering introduced 1936, seen here on a diagram O13 china clay open. Click on the image for a bigger version. Image courtesy of Gareth Price.


Note that special vehicles often had variations in livery design. Cattle wagons were among the few types to have the 'G W' on the ends also, as seen above. Meat Vans were of a different colour scheme altogether, being white with red lettering. Some water tanks of the DD1 diagram were painted white. The experts are still arguing when, and even if, all-black became the livery for permanent way, loco coal, and engineering wagons, but the prevailing view is that such vehicles carried normal grey livery.

In the latter part of WWII, new goods vehicles are reported to have been painted in a reddish-brown colour, probably the same colour as that being applied for coach repaints from 1942-5, with open wagons being mostly bare wood with reddish-brown patches for markings. It is likely this livery applied only to new vehicles – repainting of older stock was most improbable. The normal grey livery was resumed after the war.

GWR diagram V6 Iron Minks in special WWII livery

Two V6 Iron Minks made a minor contribution to the WWII war effort. They were repainted in 1940 with a bright blue body colour (similar to the 'Electric Blue' that British Railways would use twenty years later for their new generation of overhead electric locos). 47528 had white roundels, and 47305 yellow roundels. 'Salvage' and the slogan 'Save for Victory' lettering was prominent on the sides, the idea being to encourage passengers to bring their salvage to a station and deposit it patriotically in the special van for re-use and recycling.