WHR brake vans

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

WHR Brake Vans, sometimes spelt Break Vans, ex NWNGR or FR.

NWNGR brake vans, general[edit]

It is evident from published photographs[1] that most WHR passenger trains used one of the Pickering brake-composites for the Guard, but in addition to these there were two four-wheeled brake vans of NWNG origin which passed to the WHR. They were similar in constructional style but not identical, having internally-sliding doors in the centres of the sides, windows in the ends (but none in the sides) and no end platforms. One van was WHR No. 2[2] (not to be confused with the FR brake van known in early preservation days as no. 2) which was fitted with continuous brake, the other van had no visible evidence of continuous brake and no visible number[3]. This one had single swing doors in the sides at one end, but the other van (No 2) did not. Further differences between the two vans are in the number and width of the horizontal boards of the sides and ends, and the number and position of the vertical bracing timbers on the ends (two on each end of No 2 and four on each end of the other). No 2 was lower than the other (certainly lower than the roofline of the carriages [4]) and was definitely narrower than the other, being about the same as the 5ft width of a WD 'D' type wagon, whereas the other van was about a foot wider, compare iBase 3036 (No 2) with 3027 (goods brake). These differences suggest thay may have been built (or rebuilt) at different dates, though the similarities of construction particularly around the corners and the external framing imply they were built by the same hands, possibly at Dinas. Actual build dates are unknown and they do not appear in Official Returns as goods brake vans until the WHR period, though Major Spring's report of 1922 mentions one of them and another list of the same year includes both. It seems likely that both vans date from the NWNGR period.

Both vans were awaiting repair according to the Schedule for the 1934 lease to the FR. They may never have run again, certainly when H. F Wheeller photographed No 2 in 1935 it was in a line of derelict wagons and looked rather neglected (iBase 867).

One curious feature in WHR days was the livery - the ends of both were painted a lighter colour than the sides, but only as far out as the outer vertical bracing timbers on the ends, the remaining portions of the ends outside this area being the same darker colour as the sides.

The unfitted goods brake[edit]

The swing doors are both at the same end, and constructed of horizontal boards, rather like garden-shed doors. It seems odd to have these doors adjacent to the sliding doors, and it is possible that they were a later addition, to enclose what was originally an open-sided platform separated from the van body by a bulkhead, but this is merely speculation. There was a single stepboard beneath each of these swing doors, not extending below the sliding doors.

As reported by Boyd [5] correspondence in 1890-1 between the NWNGR and the Board of Trade mentions that the Company had no goods brakes at that time, and goods traffic was worked in mixed trains with a brake-compo coach at the rear. The Westinghouse brake was fitted to all passenger stock 1892-6, and in the latter year the Company stated that they had given up mixed trains and worked passenger and goods traffic separately - but an accident report in February of that year proved that they still used brake carriages on goods trains. A further accident in 1906 involved a wagon breaking away from the tail of an uphill train and running back to hit the following train, indicating that there had been no brake van on the end of the first train. This may have prompted the construction of a goods brake van.

There is a picture of a goods train at Dinas hauled by Gowrie in 1909 (or c1911 - opinions vary on the exact date) with the non-No 2 brake at the rear[6][7]. It was probably mostly used on the Bryngwyn trains in WHR days. iBase 3023 is a good picture.

It is tempting to think of it as 'No 1', but there is no actual evidence that the non-No 2 brake ever carried a number. It probably did in NWNG days but it may have become illegible when the time came to rebrand the stock with the letters 'WHR'.

WHR No 2[edit]

The passenger stock returns for 1902-1912 include one vehicle in the category 'other vehicle attached to passenger trains' which could be the same item as the 'luggage brake van' in the 1923 BoT report[8], which is likely to be No 2. At this time it would have had Westinghouse brake. It did not have swing doors or stepboards, but it did have a large lamp housing or ventilator in the centre of the roof.

No 2 was photographed in a passenger train, apparently in use as the brake van, as the carriages (the Buffet Car and a summer coach) have no other accommodation for the Guard[9]. This photo was dated to 1928 by Peter Liddell in a posting to the WelshHighland Yahoo Group on 20 Jan 2012. Most pictures of it in use date from after this (there don't seem to be many). iBase 3036 shows No 2 on a mixed train in WHR days, when it is coupled behind a D wagon behind an Ashbury summer coach. In this position the Guard would be unable to apply the continuous brake to the loco and carriage. There are other pictures of these vans out of use in sidings[10].

There was a different WHR vehicle, a goods van, which also carried the number 2. This seems to indicate that Brake Van No 2 was numbered in a different series from the other goods stock - it may even have been numbered in the NWNG carriage list after the withdrawal of the Ashbury brake-compos, particularly if it was intended as 'non-passenger coaching stock' mainly for use in passenger trains. It should be noted that the original brake-compos (both Ashbury and Gloucester varieties) had only small Guard's compartments with little space for passengers' luggage, so luggage may have been the original main purpose of this van. Up to this time the only suitable vehicles for luggage would have been the Ridge-roofed wagons. One of these was withdrawn in 1906.

'Brake Van 4'[edit]

There was also a brake van converted from Type 3 Quarrymen's carriage No.8 (not the present Quarryman's Carriage 8) in July 1921 (or Sept 1922 according to Boyd) with dual Westinghouse and vacuum brakes but no end platforms. It was seen in the siding at Beddgelert in 1923 in iBase 3128. In addition to the dual brakes, the conversion included fitting two windows in each end, and metal dumb buffers instead of the spring buffers usual on Type 3 Quarrymens. (There was also a curious wooden overlay around the sides at floor level looking like a skirting board, but this has also been seen on some unconverted Quarrymens, eg in iBase 1883 taken in 1906.) This van was stated by Boyd to be No 4 in the Festiniog list, however photos[11] of it in use on the WHR in the 1920s show it to be clearly lettered 'WHR' on the doors, but no number is visible. Most pictures of it in use date from the 1920s. Boyd believed it remained FR property, was returned to Boston Lodge and was scrapped before 1939. However if it actually belonged to the WHR (or looked like it did) it is likely to have been scrapped with the other WHR wagons. If indeed it was numbered 4 it should not be confused with WHR goods van 4.

Pictures of it in use show it marshalled after the passenger stock but with unfitted wagons behind. Was this really what the Board of Trade had in mind?

FR Van 5[edit]

In June 1923 FR goods brake 5 (the present Van 6) was fitted with Westinghouse brake in addition to the vacuum brake for use on WHR trains. This van was also a Quarrymans conversion but with a platform at one end only. This appears to have been an emergency measure to cover for one of the Pickerings which was unavailable for service.

FR bogie brake vans[edit]

Up to 1925 complete trains of FR stock including bogie brake vans were seen on the WHR, but rarely thereafter.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Boyd, James I.C. (1989). Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire, Vol. 2, The Welsh Highland Railway. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-383-4.
  2. ^ iBase 3008
  3. ^ iBase 3023
  4. ^ iBase 3098
  5. ^ Boyd, James I.C. (1972). Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire. Lingfield, Surrey, England: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 9780853611158. OCLC 707587. pp243-4
  6. ^ Boyd, James I.C. (1972). Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire. Lingfield, Surrey, England: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 9780853611158. OCLC 707587. 1972 single-volume edition, 8 pages after p192
  7. ^ iBase 2978
  8. ^ Welsh Highland Heritage, Issue 40, p5
  9. ^ Johnson, Peter (2002). An Illustrated History of the Welsh Highland Railway. Hersham: Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 0-860935-65-5. OCLC 59498388. 1st ed, p73, bottom. Also iBase 3098.
  10. ^ iBase 867(1935, showing vacuum brake pipe), 3008, 3032 (showing both vans, distantly, probably after closure).
  11. ^ Welsh Highland Heritage, issue 26, p4, also issue 53 p9,10.