Cooper-Craft cattle wagons

by Graeme Pettit


These cattle wagons first entered service in 1888. Between introduction and 1904, 1260 were built, and they remained in service until at least the 1960s.

The wagons were originally provided with lever-brakes on one side only, and grease axleboxes. Later on in life (post-1902), many but not all carried DCIII vacuum brakes and oil type axleboxes (some being converted, others being newly built), as provided for in the kit. The non-vacuum types were given diagram W1, while the vacuum-braked types were diagram W5.

It was with this van that the use of a movable partition within the van ("S" for Small, "M" for Medium and "L" for Large) was patented, and later adopted by other companies so that one van could be used instead of the 3 sizes previously made available – such were the early steps in Swindon standardisation. This allowed users to be charged for the space they needed to use, rather than be charged for the size of van available at any given point in time.
GWR cattle wagon diagram W5

GWR cattle wagon diagram W5

Two examples of my own early builds of the W5 vacuum-fitted vans

The kit

The kits are a good beginner's cattle van. In my own models I have replaced the guard wire in the body with Gibson wire, and fitted brass buffers. The tiebars between the axleboxes are prone to breaking, so these could also be replaced. You might also consider adding pipework, improving the tiebars, and fitting the internal partitions. Add some stock, stood on a representation of straw, weather them, and they will look a million times better for it!

GWR cattle wagon diagram W5

Maurice Pearce's excellent example of what can be done with this kit. You can see more of it here.

An important note when modelling the internal partition is that the framing should face away from the area in which the animals would be – this is for the benefit of livestock welfare, and would reduce incidence of harm caused to the livestock by the framing when in transit.

Small nuances in the kit as provided date it to the 1920s onward: During the 1920s, the right-hand bottom slot was filled in (see photo) as it was fouling the brake handle. During this same period, three rows of slots in the ends were also filled in. These changes are not incorporated in the kit, but it should simply be to open out the missing slots if required, thereby back-dating the version modelled.

Later in life, some of these wagons had the sides blocked in for use as ALE wagons, and a conversion to this type should not be too difficult.

Suggested reading

  • G. Gamble: "Railways in Profile Series: British Railway Wagons #5: Cattle and Brake vans", Cheona Publications, 1997

  • Geoff Kent: "The 4mm Wagon Part 2: Build details and prototype photos", Wild Swan 1995

  • Atkins, Beard & Tourret: "GWR Goods Wagons", Tourret Publishing 1999