Background

The 1970’s and 1980’s saw a large program to convert existing wagons to the air braking system as British Rail attempted to modernise and increase the speed and profitability of it’s freight services. The vast majority of the BORAILS (150 out of 165 constructed) passed through the BR works in Shildon for air brake conversion that was to radically change the appearance of the wagons.

The bogies were replaced with 1.8m wheelbase Y25C bogies fitted with hand brake wheels. Alongside this, the body was totally rebuilt with new 8-inch high sides with six (later eight) pockets for ratchet tensioners to allow the use of nylon straps for securing loads, a new deck was fitted along with six new bolsters. The mounts for the original securing rings were retained and used to support the new body and the wagons were finished in Railfreight flame red and grey livery.

However, the membership of the revenue fleet was to be short lived as in early 1983 the entire fleet was transferred to the Civil Engineers department where they gained the TOPS code YLA and FISHKIND of ‘Mullet’, generally stencilled on a central yellow panel along with a DC prefix to the number. Eventually the wagons gained the engineers yellow and grey livery and some have been repainted into EWS livery. Many of the wagons have gained additional ratchet tensioners both to increase those originally fitted with 6 tensioners per side to 8 or in some quite random locations possibly related to a specific load at some point.

As seems to have been common in vacuum brake days the length of the wagons has been seen as useful and many pictures exist of them in revenue traffic with a wide variety of loads, a selection of which are presented in this expansion. This usefulness was further emphasised in the early 1990’s when a small pool of YLAs was created for steel bar traffic from Cardiff.

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