GWR Goods Brake Vans

by Russ Elliott

 

GWR AA15 brake van Hornby

Hornby's excellent AA15 brake van, pictured by Robin Sweet on his layout. With its angled footboard hangers, J-hanger springs and GWR axleboxes, Hornby's model depicts the penultimate lot (lot 910, running numbers 68601 – 700), and possibly lot 888 (for running numbers, see table below), although unfortunately Hornby has chosen a running number from an earlier lot (853), which had swing-link spring hangers and round-section footboard stanchions.

 

GWR outside-framed brake van diagram AA16

Diagram AA16 in 4mm, with its original lever brakes and pre-1904 lettering, built by Dave Perkins from a D&S kit
7mm 6-wheel GWR Brake Van diagram AA1

7mm 6-wheel Brake Van diagram AA1, built from a PECO (ex-Webster) kit by Roger Bailey

 

Variations and details

Side and end plating

Early vans were of fully-planked construction, with a diagonal bracing strip (often replaced later by angle section) on the verandah sides. On diagram AA13 (of 1913), the verandah sides and ends were constructed from steel sheeting. From diagram AA14 onward, the lower sections of the sides and the outer end of the cabin were plated with steel sheeting. There was only one AA14 built (a Permanent Way Brake Van), so the first non-departmental diagram to feature steel verandahs and cabin plating was the AA15 of 1918. The plating was either ⅜" or ¼" thick.

Most older vans were retrofitted with cabin plating and/or had their verandah sides and ends replaced. Planked verandahs and unplated cabin sections could still be seen into the 1920s.

 

Handrail styles and their mounting

Handrail construction prior to 1912 was of individual forged pieces of solid bar, thought to be ¾" diameter, bent down and flattened at each end, and attached to the bodywork with bolts. Where the handrails formed a corner, the body bolt was shared. At the ends of vans, it was common for the vertical handrails to extend below the bodywork. Horizontal handrails were usually not fixed to intermediate vertical bodywork T-stanchions, although they were fixed with handrail knobs on the wooden-framed AA16s. This style of handrail was last fitted for new construction on the AA11s.

handrails on GWR brake van diagram AA1 handrails on GWR brake van diagram AA1 handrails on GWR brake van diagram AA3

 

GWR brake van diagram AA1 early style of handrails

Originally, the lower handrail was only present on the verandah sides and the last section of the cabin, as shown in the adjacent AA1 detail (c 1904), and in the AA3 17539 picture below.

(Note the guard's name painted on the sides of these early vehicles.)

GWR brake van 17539 diagram AA3

AA3 17539 in its early years has no roof rainstrips, and its verandah shows the early style of hinged seats in each corner giving access the front sandboxes.

 

From c 1902 onward, the lower handrail was extended for the full width of the cabin. With the exception of the Permanent Way vans, older vehicles were upgraded between 1904 and 1911 to the post-1902 style.

GWR brake van handrails - later style

After 1912, handrails were 1 332" o/d (nominal) gas pipe, joined with gas pipe fittings at the corners. The handrails were also secured to the intermediate T-section side stanchions. Most older vans were retrofitted with this style, but all AA16s, some AA1s and many AA3s kept the pre-1912 styles throughout their lives.

GWR brakevan handrails diagram AA23

From AA23, angle brackets held the handrails instead of pipe joints.

 

Handrails were originally painted bodywork grey, but a change to white was made during WWI.

 

Wheelbases and body lengths

Diagram Wheelbase Body length
AA1 (6-wheel) 6'6" + 6'6" 20'0"
AA7 9'0" 16'0"
AA8, AA16, AA24 11'6" * 18'0"
AA2, AA3, AA4, AA5, AA6, AA9, AA10, AA12, AA14 13'0" 20'0"
AA11, AA13, AA15, AA17, AA18, AA19, AA20, AA21, AA22, AA23 16'0" 24'0"
* there were some wheelbase variations in the AA16 vehicles, some being 11'8" and 10'0"

 

Footboard styles and their supports

Footboards were standardised in their over-width dimensions and their heights above rail level. The following sketch, based on the original drawing for an AA3, shows the development of styles – from left to right:

  • Lower footboards were suspended from vertical round section forged stanchions mounted tight to the front of the solebar, and the upper step was initially a thinner section.

  • The rear vertical piece of the lower footboard was made higher from diagram AA13 onward, and the upper footboards were thickened up to the standard (approx 2") thickness. Some vans retained their original lower footboard style, but most older vans were retrofitted with the newer-style lower footboards.

  • From diagram AA15 onward, angled T-section hangers were introduced for the inner two hangers of the lower footboards. Some AA15s had all four lower footboard hangers of the new pattern. Most subsequent diagrams retained a mixture of the two types.

  • The lower footboard height above rail level was lowered from diagram AA21 onward.

GWR brake van footboards

 

Lettering and branding location

For post-1904 25" lettering, the bottom of the G and the W was in line with the bottom of the 5th plank down. For post-1920 16" lettering, the bottom of the G and the W was in line with the bottom of the 4th plank down.

Where the name was short enough, the depot branding was usually placed in the penultimate panel at the verandah end, on the 3rd plank down. If the name was long, like 'Severn Tunnel Junc', it was spread over the two middle panels. Some early vans had the depot branding on a cast plate.

The positioning of the running number varied according to era.

Between 1922 and 1936, those AA3s weighted to 25T had a white star (in the fifth plank down) below the depot allocation. Between 1934 and 1943, AA20s 68753 – 90/2 – 6, and all AA21s, carried a white 'S' below the depot allocation to indicate they had been weighted to 25T and/or had been fitted with vacuum brakes.

 

Verandah and interior layout

On the verandah of early vehicles, front sandboxes were contained under separate hinged seats, but there seemed to be a change during the early AA3 construction to a single cross-seat across the end of the verandah, with enlarged sandbox pots sitting on the cross-seat. This cross-seat style was adopted in subsequent diagrams, except AA21, where the vacuum cylinder occupied the space between the front sandboxes. On the AA15, additional seats were provided on each side of the verandah inboard from the verandah doors, but these side seats did not appear in subsequent diagrams. The interiors of the verandah were in bodywork grey, with the underside of the roof painted white. The verandah floor was unpainted. On vacuum-fitted vehicles, the brakesetter was painted red in BR(W) times.

In the cabin, a cross-seat was provided at the end for the sandboxes in a similar style to the verandah. Additional hinged seats/lockers were provided, and, in late diagrams, a desk. The stove was offset approximately 16" from the vehicle centreline, with its flue angled to the chimney position. The interior was painted dark chocolate up to waist level, cream above the waistline, and white for the roof underside. The stove and fittings were black. In diagrams AA19 and AA20, the guard's seat was apparently padded, and "about 3' away from the desk". No interior lighting was provided. The colours in this interior shot of a preserved Toad are possibly a little too modern and gaudy, but shows the general painting scheme.

 

GWR brake van chimney positions

Chimney position

Chimneys (4" in diameter) were on the centreline of early vehicles, but were offset from diagram AA12 onward.

 

GWR brakevan cabin window modification

Cabin windows

Windows on the ends of cabins were initially of a two-pane style, but from 1918 (diagram AA15 onward) were a single-pane style, in a higher position, and quickly acquired rain strips and sills, as did the lamp hatches. Most older vans were retrofitted with the single-pane style.

 

Running gear details

  • Brakes   On the AA16 vans, 4-shoe lever brakes were fitted, often modified later to 8-shoe clasp-type. On all other diagrams, 8-shoe clasp-brakes were fitted as standard (12-shoe in the case of the 6-wheel AA1).

  • Axleboxes   Grease boxes were initially fitted on the AA16, AA3, AA6 and AA8, but soon were replaced by oil boxes. On the lighter vans, 8" x 4" and later 8" x 4½" oil boxes were normal, and on the heavier vans, 10" x 5" boxes were used. RCH 10" x 5" fittings prevailed from the last AA15 lot and subsequently.

  • Springs   Springs were 4'6", suspended from J-hangers or swing-links. The 6-wheel diagram AA1 had swing-links on the outer axles, but J-hangers on the centre axle. Springs on the heavier vans were a bit larger than those on the lighter vans.

  • Buffers   1'6" buffers were standard, of various types, with the self-contained type making an appearance on diagram AA15 and last appearing on the AA18. RCH style prevailed from AA19 onward. Those vehicles having screw couplings had 1'8½" buffers.

  • Couplings   3-link couplings were fitted initially to the older vans, but instanter couplings became standard from c 1918 for the unfitted vehicles, and were usually fitted subsequently to older vehicles. Screw couplings were fitted to all vehicles that were fully-fitted.

  • Vacuum-fitting   Some of the members of the following diagrams were fitted with through pipes (and thus becoming telegraphic code 'Toad A'): AA2, AA5, AA6, AA11, AA15, AA20. All of AA7, AA9 and AA10 were so fitted. These vehicles did not have a vacuum cylinder, although AA5s were fitted with a cylinder in the 1900s. AA21 was fitted with full vacuum brake gear, with a cylinder, and had screw couplings. A few of the AA23 vans became fully-fitted in BR days.

  • Wheels   8-spoke were the norm in early GWR days, with 3-hole disc wheels making an appearance on AA19 in 1927, and becoming the norm for subsequent new build.

 

AA3 56400 with GWR buffers, light springs, swing-link spring hangers, round-section footboard hangers, and shallow rear upstand on lower footboard

Thanks to Gareth Price for these detail pics. Click on the image to go to the original picture, from which other GWR brake van pictures can be reached.

AA15 68684, with GWR self-contained buffers, GWR 10" x 5" axleboxes, J-hanger spring hangers, and angled footboard hangers.

AA21 17410 with RCH buffers, RCH boxes and footboard in the lower position

 

Other detail variations

  • Side stanchions    On diagrams up to AA23, stanchions on the sides of the cabin 'tucked under' at the solebar in traditional GWR fashion, but on AA23 they went straight down below the bodywork, attaching to the bottom of the solebar.

  • Cabin side bracing    Diagram AA11 had diagonal L-section bracing on the end panels of the cabin sides. Some AA11s were later modified with large A-bracing across across all four side panels. Diagonal bracing was fitted to the middle two side panels on some AA19, AA20 and AA21 vehicles later in their lives.

  • Roof rainstrips    Although possibly not fitted initially on the early diagrams, many later brake van diagrams had shallow rainstrips on the roof in GWR times, and most vans had acquired them by the BR(W) era. Some early AA16s were fitted with rainstrips of a 'double shallow vee' shape in the 1920s.

  • Lamp hatches    On early diagrams, the lamp hatch at the end of the cabin was flush with the bodywork, but on later diagrams it was slightly recessed. There were slight variations in the height setting of the lamp hatch.

 

GWR brakevan diagram AA23 verandah

Verandah of an AA23 brake van at Didcot, showing the sandboxes, sanding levers and brake standard. Brake standards were offset from the vehicle centreline, the offset distance varying between diagrams. Verandah floors were unpainted. Photo courtesy of Godfrey Glyn.

 

Diagrams, build dates, lot numbers and running numbers

Below is a table of GWR Goods Brake Van diagrams for 1874 onward. The listings are GWR designs only, and do not include absorbed types. For illustrations and details, refer to 'GWR Goods Wagons' by Atkins, Beard & Tourret. Thanks to Steve Daly for providing the initial information for this listing.

Sample allocations of GWR Brake Vans, with an emphasis on the post-grouping era, is given in this Microsoft Word file.

Dia Build period Tare weight
(T – c)
Lot numbers, running numbers, quantities and totals
(os = old series of lot numbers)
1874 – 1881 ≈ 10 – 0 osL126 17770 – 94 (25); osL151 17807 – 26 (20); osL154 including 8759/65; 8835, 17827 – 41 (30); osL157 14678/9 (2, Engineers Dept); osL159 17842/3 (2); osL160 3236, 17844 – 61, 27743 (20); osL168 17865 – 82 (18); osL215 including 3228/32/8/44/50/3/5/6/60/6/71, 3924, 8327, 8826 – 8/33, 8875, 10115/32, 17885, 17934, 27733/4/6/42/88/9, 29737 (100)
(total 217)    (these were 'AA16' outside-framed bodies on wooden underframes, but never survived long enough on the GWR to be given an official diagram number – the first 3 lots were initially built without a roof over the verandah section)
AA1 1900 – 1902 24 – 0 L336 56975 – 84 (10); L351 56965 – 74 (10); L358 56945 – 64 (20); L383 56923 – 44 (22)
(total 62)    (6-wheel)
AA2 1902 – 1910 24 – 0
(later
25 – 0)
L387 56905 – 22 (18); L388 17602 – 5/7 – 12/4 – 7/21/4/7 – 30 (20); L417 56885 – 904 (20); L464 17524/83/92, 17606/13/25/6/31 – 5/7/9 – 45/7/9/50/2/5 (25); L477 56855 – 84 (30); L523 56835 – 54 (20); L540 17619 etc (50); L549 17706 – 17/9 – 36/8 – 50/2 – 8 (50); L592 56810 – 34 (25); L642 17759 – 62/4 – 72/4 – 8/80/1 (20)
(total 278)
AA3 1889 – 1901 16 – 0
&
20 – 0
&
25 – 0

osL388 17862 (1); osL432 (part) 35827 – 9/31 – 65/7 – 76 (48); osL492 17505/18/20/35/9/40/54/6/8/69/96, 17822, 10085, 10100 etc (30); osL534 3251, 10131, 12023/4, 12775, 17512/5/7/55/7/71/81, 17651, 22783/90, 35792 – 826 (50); osL537 35692 – 791 (100); osL584 35672 – 91 (20); osL627 35622 – 71 (50); osL662 35602 – 21 (20); osL680 56001 – 20 (20); L5 56021 – 40 (20); L7 56041 – 60 (20); L11 56061 – 80 (20); L38 56081 – 100 (20); L57 56101 – 50 (50); L74 56151 – 70 (20); L94 56171 – 90 (20); L96 56191 – 210 (20); L136 56211 – 30 (20); L158 56231 – 60 (30); (10 special wheels); L174 56291 – 310 (50); L195 56311 – 30 (20); L221 56331 – 70 (40); L249 17503/7 – 10/3/23/6/9/31/2/4/7/8/46/9 – 51/61 plus one (20); L268 56371 – 95 (25); L282 56396 – 430 (35); L298 17506/64/5/7/8/70/2/3/7 – 81/4/6 – 91 (20); L327 17600 (1) (for Pontycyllio Branch, with side doors, screw couplings and vac brake); L338 56431 – 80 (50)
(total 840)
AA4 1892 14 – 0 osL432 (part) 35830/66 (2); osL648 35953 (1)
(total 3 plus ?)     (Severn Tunnel)
AA5 1893 – 1901 14 – 0 L21 40370 (1); L24 40371 (1); L26 40372/3 (2); L31 40374/5 (2); L46 40376 (1); L50 40377 (1); L60 40378 (1); L64 40379 – 81 (3); L188 40384/5 (2); L213 40912 – 7 (6); L344 60760/1 (2); L361 60759 (to replace 14494) (1)
(total 23)    (Ballast Plough and Brake Van)
AA6 1890 – 1900 14 – 0 osL531 14101, 14794, 40346 – 53 (10); osL564 BG 7826 Rb 40356 (1); osL575 BG 6586 Rn 40354 (1); osL594 BG 6635 Rn 40355 (1); osL642 40356/7 (2) (40356 was BG rebuild); osL665 40358 – 63 (6); L4 40358 – 63 (6); L115 40382/3 (2); L150 40923 – 30 (8); L199 40921/2 (2); L214 40918 – 20 (3); L244 40910/1 (2); L262 40908/9 (2); L269 60765 – 70 (6); L305 60762 – 4 (3)
(total 54)    (Permanent Way Brake Van)
AA7 1897 – 1898 13 – 0 L206 56985 – 96 (12)
(total 12)    (for Metropolitan lines)
AA8 1888 – 1890 12 – 8 osL445 17590/1 (2); osL523 17594 (1); osL568 17595 (1)
(total 4)    (for Pontnewynydd Branch)
AA9 1905 – 1908 24 – 0 L489 60756 – 8 (3); L556 60754/5 (2)
(total 5)    (Permanent Way Brake Van)
AA10 1908 – 1909 25 – 0 L605 60753 (1)
(total 1)    (Ballast Plough and Brake Van)
AA11 1912 – 1913 13 – 0
&
16 – 0
L707 56483 (1); L724 56484 – 92 (9); L748 56493 – 502 (10); L749 56503 – 17 (15)
(total 35)
AA12 1914 – 1915 22 – 0 L799 (part) 17819 – 21/3 – 38 (19)
(total 19)    (ex-PW Brake)
AA13 1913 – 1918 20 – 0
(24 – 0)
L757 17901 – 50 (50); L773 17871 – 900 (30); L779 17839 – 54/6 – 61/3 – 70 (30); L799 (part) 17787 – 91/3 – 818 (31); L817 56518 – 82 (65); L840 56583 – 632 (50)
(total 256)
AA14 1914 – 1915 24 – 0 L795 (originally intended to be 60771 – 90, but only one built, given the number 14678; order closed 1928)
(total 1)    (Permanent Way Brake Van)
AA15 1918 – 1927 20 – 0 L845 56633 – 82 (50); L853 56683 – 730 (48); L863 56733 – 82 (50); L888 17514/23/41, 17601/23/36/53/6/8/62/5, 17718/51/73/9/82 – 6, 17951 – 8/64/5 (30); L910 68601 – 700 (100); L932 68501 – 600 (100)
(total 378)
AA16 1882 – 1887 12 – 0 osL253 410, 3230/48/65/8/72, 8755/64/6/71/8/83/4/9/91, 8801/5/20/3 – 5/30/62/5/71/5, 10109/18/30, 17515, 17618, 17959 – 72, 22351, 31290 (50); osL260 35961 – 36000 (40); osL270 including 3231/7/52/7, 3921, 4110, 8798, 8806/11/31/4/67, 10096, 10103/14/20, 17973 – 18000, 22771, 31294, 35958 – 60 (50); osL300 including 3229/33/5/45/58/62/4/9/70, 4111, 8758/80/1/7/93/9, 8802/3/8/17/9, 10086/8/92/8, 10105/5/7/11/6/7/9/26, 12007/17/8, 22766/76/90 (50); osL324 35908 – 57 (50); osL326 No 2 for LNWR and GWR Joint Rly Ballast train (1); osL332 including 3234, 4112/3, 8763/8/70/7/86/96, 8800/7/14/5/29/80, 10001/84/91/5/7, 10102/6/8/10/2/25/33, 12008/26/8 (30); osL355 including 3261, 4109, 8754/6/61/73/85/90/7, 8804/10/3/35/68/9/77/81, 10121/3/7/8, 12006/9/12/4/5/20/2/6/7, 17506/25/7/33/63/82, 17668, 22347 – 50/2 – 4, 22779/84, 31291 – 3 (50); osL364 including 8757/82/92, 8832/73, 10090/9, 12010, 17502/11/9/36/43/5/60/86/9, 17884, 22769, 35877 – 907 (50); osL378 Ballast brake vans 14888 – 97 (10); osL406 Road van 8864
(approximate total 392)    (these are outside-framed wooden-bodied vans with iron underframes, and some variations in body style, subsequently given the generic diagram AA16)
AA17 1919 – 1920 20 – 0 L856 56731/2 (2)
(total 2)    (Severn Tunnel vans)
AA18 1926 – 1927 20 – 0 L981 68913 – 5/9/20/42/8/50/61/3/5/7/8/71 (14)
(total 14)
AA19 1927 – 1931 20 – 0 L1000 114901 – 86 (86); L1017 114851 – 900 (50); L1034 114791 – 850 (60); L1049 114776 – 90 (15); L1074 114740 – 9 (10)
(total 221)
AA20 1934 – 1943 20 – 0
(some 25 – 0)
L1171 114750 – 75, 114987 – 90 (30); L1190 68851 – 900 (50); L1226 68791 – 850 (60); L1277 68701 – 31/3 – 90, 68972 – 96 (114); L1383 17206 – 305 (100)
(total 354)
AA21 1939 – 1940 20 – 0 L1370 17390 – 489 (100)
(total 100)
AA22 1939 20 – 0 L1332 68997 (1)
(total 1)    (Severn Tunnel van)
AA23 1942 – 1949
(& BR)
20 – 0 L1432 35877 – 926 (50); L1451 35928 – 52/4 – 70/4 – 6/8 – 80/8/9 (50); L1470 68462 – 500, 68901 – 11 (50); L1497 35201 – 3/5 – 12/4/7 – 21/4 – 40/2/3/5 – 9/51/2/5 – 7/9 – 69/71/2/4 – 8/80/1 (66); L1527 35290 – 305/7/15/7 – 20/8/ – 30/2 – 5/7/8/40 – 4/6 – 50/2/3 etc (50); L1588 35354 – 9/61 – 73/5 – 84/6 – 92, 35408 – 16/8 – 20/2 – 33 (60)
(total 326)    (BR numbers not given)
AA24 1949 ? B950540/1 (these are the BR numbers)
(total 2)    (GWR design of 1947 for the Pontnewynydd Branch)