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GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

GWR Route: Hatton to Stratford on Avon

Wilmcote Station: gwrwil511

GWR 2-8-0T 5205 class No 5233 is seen at the head of a train of brand new mainly 12 ton five-plank wagons as it climbs Wilmcote Bank on 4th August 1940

GWR 2-8-0T 5205 class No 5233 is seen at the head of a train of brand new mainly 12 ton five-plank wagons as it climbs Wilmcote Bank on 4th August 1940. At the far end of this very long train there appears to be several covered vans attached at the end of the train in front of the guards van. Built at Swindon works to Lot 225 in July 1924 No 5233 was to remain in service until August 1963 when it was withdrawn from 86A Newport Ebbw Junction shed to be scrapped in May 1964 by R Hayes of Bridgend. Photographer H W Robinson courtesy and © of Steam Archive

The new five plank open wagons are unfitted with a ten foot wheelbase and Morton lever brake gear (fitted on either side to comply with Board of Trade requirements). The livery on these wagons incorporating five inch lettering was introduced in February 1937 as an economy measure to reduce painting requirements. These open wagons are likely to be diagram O32 wagons of which 11,885 were built between 1933 and 1940. The external diagonal side support steelwork appears to extend below the floor level, which was a feature first introduced on these wagons. These five plank wagons were seventeen foot, six inches long over the headstocks and designed to have an internal height of three foot, three inches. This height was obtained by using four off, seven inch wide planks and one off, eleven inch wide plank. On Great Western Railway open wagons, the deep eleven inch wide plank was originally placed at the top position, but from 1931 this was repositioned and became the second plank up. All the diagram O32 wagons had it in this position. The door width was four foot, nine inches clear and the door had the standard ‘tapered foot’ feature. This sloping bottom plank was introduced in 1919 to provide a flatter surface, to facilitate loading with sack trucks when the wagon door was lowered on to an adjacent standard height platform.

In April 1916 the Great Western Railway agreed to place all its non-vacuum braked open wagons (three plank or greater) in the Railway Clearing House (RCH) common pooling arrangement. This meant that these wagons did not have to be immediately returned empty if they had been used to transport goods into another company’s area. As a result these unfitted ‘common user’ open wagons were generally not provided with a sheet support rail, as this would have increased the construction costs when the company may not have seen the benefit.

Traditionally pine planks (called Red or White Deal) were used in the construction of wagon side sheeting and floor. These planks had been imported from Northern Europe, where the climate resulted in slow growth, which made the timber denser, stronger and less susceptible to rot. The best timber was known as Red Deal, which came from an area of elevated land in Sweden adjacent to the Gulf of Bothnia. This had a reddish appearance attributed to the soil. During the Second World War there was a shortage of this imported timber and as an alternative, home-grown hardwood (oak) planks were used for wagon construction. These Oak planks were cut slightly narrower than the traditional pine planks and when used as replacements were generally packed to ensure the same internal dimensions, but arrangements on wagons where the entire wagon sheeting was built from oak planks are not known. It was normal for wagon interiors to be unpainted, but in this photograph the top plank is a noticeably different shade to the lower planks which leads one to question if this might be due to the plank material - either the higher quality Red Deal or possibly a home-grown Oak plank.

Below are the details of the five plank unfitted (diagram O32) open wagon lots constructed during the war period with those recorded as their wagon sheeting being constructed entirely with Oak planks identified:

Lot Ordered Completed Quantity Const. Running Numbers
1308 31st March 1938   392   138397 to 138788
21st December 1940 1 Oak 138789
  160   138790 to 138949
  198 Oak 138950 to 139147
30th August 1941 49   139148 to 139196
1309 31st March 1938 24th February 1940 698   137697 to 138394
1360 19th May 1939   846 Oak 140069 to 140914
  11 Oak 140922 to 140932
2nd January 1943 78 Oak 140937 to 141014
1374 10th November 1939 4th May 1940 150   136345 to 136494

Robert Ferris