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British Railways inherited orders for over 5000 covered merchandise vans from the Big Four companies that preceded nationalisation and the Ideal Stocks Committee decided that the standard BR van should follow the practice of these vehicles. A vehicle rated at 12 tons, with a 10ft wheelbase on a 17ft 6in vacuum-braked underframe was the result. It combined LMS type pressed steel ends with GWR style planked sides and doors with angle bracing, hinged doors providing a 5ft opening. Over 19000 vehicles were produced, along with examples that employed plywood panels for the doors and sides, with further examples being mounted on a shock absorbing chassis for delicate cargoes.

To allow for the handling of palletised loads and loading with fork lift trucks, the LMS had modified 3 of their vans to be fitted with double sliding doors, but when BR authorised their first pallet vans in 1953, they were unusual in having double hinged doors located at the extreme left hand end of each side, to give an 8ft 5in opening. Just under 2400 of these Palvans were built, but the design was not a success, as wear through use caused them to become unstable at speed and they didn’t last in service for very long.

BR returned to a design suitable for palletised loads in the early 1960s and effectively copied the 3 experimental LMS vans. The vehicles to Diagram 217 had centrally fitted double doors on each side that pulled out before sliding back to give a useful 9ft door opening on the standard 17ft 6in body length. They were still on a 10ft wheelbase and rated at 12t.

Wolverton & Derby works constructed 1894 vehicles to Lots 3391 & 3392 in 1962 and these are the vehicles represented in this pack. A further 100 vehicles were constructed to Lot 3421 with translucent roofs, but these are not modelled, likewise the 6 vehicles to Diagram 234, included in Lot 3392, that were fitted with shuttered louvres in the doors instead of the normal end vents.

The Vanwides were assigned several codes under the TOPS system, and these variations are represented within the pack. The original design with Plain Bearing axleboxes and Oleo buffers were coded VWV. Those fitted with Roller Bearing axleboxes received the code VEV. A further code of VMV was issued to vans that were meant for Military traffic and the opportunity has been taken for the examples in the pack to be fitted with an alternative style of Plain Bearing axleboxes and Self Contained buffers.

As BR moved on to producing longer wheel base air braked vans, an issue arose in the late 70’s, when these newer vehicles were deemed unsuitable for use over the tight curvature found in several military depots and to that end, a total of 500 Vanwides were refurbished with air brakes and coded VEA. These Air Braked conversions will feature in a future expansion pack.

The remaining vans were gradually withdrawn in the 1980s, as BR sought to eradicate vacuum braked stock and some bodies were sold removed from the chassis. An example of one of these grounded bodies is included for use in adding a little variety to scenarios.

Brake Vans

Dia. 1/506 was the diagram given to the official British Railways 20T brake van based on a design by the LNER. With plain axle boxes, spindle buffers and just a handbrake. As construction progressed through a number of different lots at Darlington (Faverdale) Works various changes took place including lots (or parts of lots) that were vacuum fitted, vacuum piped or fully vacuum braked. Axle boxes were changed from plain to roller and various buffer types were used. By the time we get to lot 3129, built in 1958-9 and the basis for some of the brake vans in this pack, photographs show vans to be fitted with roller bearings and hydraulic buffers. The diagram book states a mixture of vacuum braked, vacuum piped and unfitted vans contained in the lot with photographs generally supporting this (only one vacuum braked example found) during the period of the stock pack. Other sources show the entire lot as vacuum braked or vacuum piped at the time of construction and as a result we have hedged our bets with the models included!

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