Background

VDA Vans

The VDA was the penultimate design of covered van for freight use designed by British Rail, and in many respects was the last variant of the traditional goods van. Built from 1975 - 1978 the VDA was the fourth and final design in a series of vans that had begun with the COV AB (later to become VAB) constructed in 1966. The wagon has a tare of c.16.25t and can carry up to 24.5t, on a 20’ 9” wheelbase. There are three openings per side with hinged doors at the outer ends and a pair of sliding doors in the centre with the sliding doors not being able to open while the hinged doors are in use and vice-versa. The wagon was designed to be loaded by forklift and has a strengthened floor to ease loading. Designed with the Air Braked Network/Speedlink in mind, the vans were able to travel at 75 mph whether loaded or empty.

Four distinct lots were produced between 1975 and 1978, the first three lots at Ashford and the final lot at Shildon. Each of the lots incorporated a number of differences.

Lot 3855: The 330 wagons built to the original lot number were built with disc brakes, short door hinges and brake levers.

Lot 3856: The 100 wagons to this lot were built using experimental Taperlite suspension. Although the arrangement looks very flimsy it was a success but future use was ruled out on account of it being more expensive to produce than standard suspension, all other details remained as lot 3855.

Lot 3890: These 20 wagons were fitted with clasp brakes with all other details as lot 3855. Numerically they fit between the two lots above and it is possibly safe to assume that the clasp braking was an experiment making use the last 20 wagons in lot 3855 which had already been authorised.

Lot 3908: The final 300 vans saw a change of construction location being built at Shildon. The change of location also brought other changes, the hand brake lever was lengthened, the design of hinges for the outer pairs of doors was amended while the running gear design reverted to that of lot 3855. An extra complication while modelling was the variation in the application of the Maroon livery by Shildon compared to Ashford.

Notable for use on the East Coast mainline were a considerable number of vans fitted with extra insulation to carry confectionery products for Rowntrees between their factories in Newcastle and York. The modified vans were easily recognisable as they had received white painted roofs, with at least one example from lot 3890 being painted completely white.

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