A selection of GWR water cranes

by Dave Harvey

Watering at Witney

Taking water at Witney. The hopper is positioned at the rear of the platform. Picture by Ben Brooksbank, and reproduced by Creative Commons Licence


Metro tank 1499 at Marlborough, 23 May 1929

Metro tank 1499 running round a train at Marlborough, 23 May 1929. There is no hopper, just a grated drain. (An H C Casserley picture)


These pictures illustrate some variations, and show relative heights of crane arms and locos:

  • Column: short (platform mounting) or tall (ground level mounting)

  • Arm: straight (original) or cranked (later)

  • Arm length: short (between tracks) long (serving both sides of a platform)

  • Bracing rods: single (front stay only) or double (additional backstay) I suspect that the backstay is mainly used with the longer arms.

  • Air vent at the bag end of arm (original) on ball at top of column (later?). Sometimes both are fitted. *

  • There are also variations in the size of the flange between ball and arm, which I haven't seen a pattern in yet.

 *  Vents allow the water in the pipe and bag to drain drain more quickly. This would help keep the arm empty – an advantage in freezing weather. Provision of vents could therefore help do away with the need for fire devils. From a perusal of engine shed books, and irrespective of era, it seems there were more water cranes with both vent and devil than there are with only one, and there are a few with neither.


1   Tall, short straight arm. Oxford shed September 1965

2   Tall, long straight arm. Oxford shed September 1965


3   Tall, short(?) straight arm. Oxford shed 1963


4   Tall, long cranked arm. Banbury station 1963


5   Tall, short straight arm, no bracing. Didcot Railway Centre November 2012


6   Tall, short cranked arm, both vents. Bicester North June 1964

7   Tall, short straight arm, centre vent. Princes Risborough 1964

8    Short, long cranked arm large flanges. Oxford station May 1965


9   Thame Station December 1965


10   Thame Station, December 1965

11   Hereford station, May 1964

12   Princes Risborough, January 1965


13   Oxford station March 1965


14   Gloucester March 1965



Further references

Detailed drawings of standard GWR 8" water crane, hopper and fire crane, 1911