GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton
Close up of the Tyseley engineer's train headed by GWR 5101
class 2-6-2T Prairie No 5152 with a mess van, tool van and a 3 plank open.
These mess vans (sometimes called tender vans) and tool vans (sometimes called
breakdown or pilot vans) operated in pairs and had interconnecting doors to
enable communication between wagons. They were constructed in the early 1900s
and allocated to strategic points on the GWR system.
Built on old four wheeled coach underframes, typically with
a 19ft wheelbase (but this detail varied) they were painted brown passenger
stock livery, but had red ends and a grey roof. The mess van had bunks for
sleeping accommodation if necessary. On the up line to the left of the
breakdown train can be seen an Automatic Train Control (ATC) ramp. This system
was introduced by the Great Western in 1906 and by 1930 was installed on all
principle routes and 2,500 engines.
It was designed to expedite operation when signals were
obscured by fog, but also acted as a warning in clear weather. The ramp
activated an audible warning in the cab (either a bell or siren depending on
the position of the associated distant signal) and in addition if the signal
was set to danger a valve was opened to apply the brakes unless the resetting
handle was operated.