Background

Into the 1960’s British Railways mainly provided 12T vehicles for the covered carriage of general merchandise, the exception being those vans intended to work on the train ferry services to Europe. While nearly all these vehicles were fitted with continuous train brakes, they were vacuum braked & in conjunction with their short wheelbase of 10ft, this limited them to running at 45mph.

In the mid-1960’s British Rail started to make the move towards using air brakes and after Merry Go Round coal hoppers and container flats had been successfully introduced, attention was turned towards providing new vans. A few experimental designs were tried out before a definitive production design appeared.

Ashford Works began delivering these new production series vans from the middle of 1969 to Diagram 1/248. These vehicles were a major step forward from the vacuum braked fleet, with a carrying capacity of 29T and 2 sliding doors of nearly 16ft long each. With a 20ft 9in wheelbase and Double Link suspension, they could run at 60 mph maximum with a Gross Load of 45T, or could reach 75 mph if the load was reduced to 35T Gross. They were fitted with Air-brakes that operated on wheel mounted discs and also had a through Vacuum pipe, to allow them to run with existing freight stock.

The 209 vehicles that formed Lot 3685 were given the Telegraphic Code COV AB and were delivered in Freight Brown livery with the corporate BR Double Arrow. A yellow disc with the letters ABN in black was also applied to denote they were intended to be used on the Air Braked Network, which was a precursor to the more familiar Speedlink network of the late 1970’s & 1980’s. For some unknown reason, 20 of these vans were fitted with end ventilators.

When TOPS coding was introduced, the vans with end vents (200100 - 200119) were coded as VAB, the remainder (200000 - 200099 & 200120 - 200208) were to be VBB. Some depots misapplied the codes, so some of the vehicles without vents appeared with the incorrect VAB code, though the correct code was applied at a later date.

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