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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 the first of the 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 60mph maximum with a Gross Load of 45T, or could reach 75mph 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.

After the 209 vehicles that formed Lot 3685, several different experimental suspension designs were tried out on small batches until BR Long Link suspension was chosen for the remainder of production as Diagram 1/257. Ashford Works built Lot 3726 of 75 vehicles between November 1970 and August 1971. These 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. Vehicles 200250 - 200299 were fitted with a through Vacuum pipe, while vehicles 200300 - 200324 were Air brake only.

After a gap of 3 years, during which production had switched to the COV CD design (available as the VCA pack:, Shildon Works built a further 100 vehicles to Lot 3840 which were Air braked only and delivered in the new Maroon livery. When coded under TOPS the first 50 vehicles of Lot 3726 were VBB, with the remaining 25 as VBA. Lot 3840 were incorrectly coded as VAA when new, but were later changed to the correct VBA.

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