WHR covered goods vans

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The Welsh Highland Railway operated two covered goods vans, numbered 2 and 4. These vans were not identical but close inspection of photographs indicates most strongly that they were converted from two of the the Railway’s large open coal wagons.

It has previously been asserted that these Vans were inherited from the NWNGR, but this seems highly unlikely for the following reasons;

1) None of several independent assessments of NWNGR stock carried out ahead of the formation of the WHR made any reference to these vehicles.

2) The NWNGR did report 3 “Covered Goods” vehicles for many years, but this number reduced to 2 in 1906 and to 1 in 1909. They ceased to report these vehicles after 1912. These almost certainly were the ridge-roofed vans.

3) There are a number of photographs of the WHR Vans but the earliest that any of of these can reliably be dated is to 1928. [1] Whilst the lack of known photographs earlier than this date is not proof that the vans did not exist this is nevertheless highly suggestive.

4) The Welsh Highland reported no “Goods Vans” until 1929 when 2 were reported. The Railway continued to show 2 vans until returns ceased after 1933. [2]

5) If, as has been suggested, this goods stock retained their allocated numbers through their histories, it follows that Van No. 4 would have been converted from Coal Wagon No. 4. However, we know that this wagon was involved in an accident at Beddgelert in October 1927 and the accident enquiry clearly identified the damaged vehicle involved as ‘Coal Wagon No. 4’. [3] Therefore if this WAS the base vehicle converted into Covered Van No. 4, this conversion could not have been undertaken before the winter of 1927/28.

Covered Van Details - General

Although the vans differed one from the other they had a number of features in common. From his earliest writings on this topic [4] Boyd maintained that the goods vans had doors on one side only;

“There were a few goods vans of plain box-like appearance. These, too, had but a door fitted on one side only.”

The ‘too’ referred to the smaller NWNGR wooden wagons some of which, according to Boyd, had ‘drop doors’ on one side only.

This description was continued through his subsequent volumes [5] [6], however photographic evidence clearly shows that both vans had doors fitted to both sides. [7] [8]

As it appears neither vehicle was ever in NWNGR service it follows that Boyd's assertion that their 'original roofs' had been replaced by corrugated iron is also probably untrue. It is more likely that this simply was the material to hand when the conversions were carried out in the late 1920s. Since the pitch of corrugated iron was usually 3" it can be seen that both vans were close to 10 feet long. The doors on van 2 were 2'6" wide and on van 4 4'3".

Van 2

The doors fitted to Van 2 were double and rectangular constructed from vertical boards with hinges arranged such that they could be secured at the centre by inserted pins. [9] Detailed comparisons between the doors on Van No. 2 and those fitted to the Ridge-roofed Vans strongly suggests that the door metalwork was recovered from one of the withdrawn NWNGR covered wagons and re-used with new longer boards. Also the corner plates are re-used from a covered wagon but upside down. Note in iBase 2985 that the side faces of the plates have evenly-spaced bolts with the bottom one very close to the edge, also that the end face is angled upwards at the top to match the slope of the roof. In iBase 873 the bolt spacing is the same except that the hole that is now at the top is unused, and a new hole has been drilled lower down. In iBase 3023 the end face of the corner plates can be seen with what is now the bottom sloping downwards to brace the headstock.

Van 4

Van 4 was fitted with double doors on both sides but in this case to a more sophisticated-looking curved top design. Quite why such an extravagant design might have been adopted seemed problematic until detailed examination of these doors in photographs indicated an almost exact match with the doors fitted to the FR End-door Covered Vans, specifically those with the lower-curvature roof profile, e.g. FR Van No. 132. [10] This strongly suggests that these doors were sourced from withdrawn FR vans. Of course, the conversion of Coal Wagon No. 4 into Van No. 4 would have required the doors from 2 such vans.

Evidence as to whether any such vans were withdrawn from FR service towards the end of 1927, or had been withdrawn from service before then, would obviously be helpful in clarifying this possibility.

The corner plates on this van are different from those on van 2, the pitch of the bolt holes is closer. These plates may well have come from a coal wagon.

There is a curious hook attached to the vertical strapping to the right of the doors (iBase 873) which appears to have no function, but it resembles a hook on a coal wagon at Beddgelert in 1923 (iBase 3128) in front of the brake van, where this hook (to the left of the doors) supports a bracing bar across the doors of the wagon.

This appears to be an NWNG coal wagon but most unusually has double side-hung doors on the same side as the brake lever. Sadly its number is not visible. It seems probable that this vehicle sourced the iron work for Van 4, in which case the coal wagon seen at Beddgelert either was no. 4, or was built to the same design as no. 4 as it seems highly unlikely that two coal wagons would have been used in the Van 4 conversion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Locomotive Publishing Company No.1661 – iBase 3111
  2. ^ Boyd, J.I.C. (1989) Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire, Oakwood Press, Vol 2 p. 71
  3. ^ Welsh Highland Heritage Issue 69, December 2015, p.4
  4. ^ Boyd, J.I.C. (1949) Narrow Gauge Rails to Portmadoc, Oakwood Press, p. 122
  5. ^ Boyd, J.I.C. (1972) Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire, The Oakwood Press, p. 226
  6. ^ Boyd, J.I.C. (1988) Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire, Oakwood Press, Volume 1 p. 237
  7. ^ Welsh Highland Heritage, Issue 70, March 2016 pp. 2-4
  8. ^ Welsh Highland Heritage, Issue 71, June 2016 pp 8 & 9
  9. ^ Welsh Highland Heritage, Issue 71, June 2016 pp 8 & 9
  10. ^ Welsh Highland Heritage, Issue 71, June 2016 pp 8 & 9