The increasing use of pallets and mechanical handling systems for loading goods in the years after WW2 required wagons with a wider door opening to allow loading.
British Railways first PalVan design featuring cross-cornered cupboard doors proved something of mistake. Not only could the hinged doors not be opened when the wagon was alongside a loading dock but, while the door opening was wider, one end of the wagon could be conveniently loaded. In service the wagons quickly proved to be proved to be highly unstable due to the resulting uneven loading and in 1962 British Railways produced a completely new design.
The VanWide featured double sliding plug doors, providing a clear opening of 9 feet and equipped with opening bars operating on both the top and bottom runners for ease of opening. Unlike hinged cupboard doors sliding doors can be opened and closed while the van is spotted alongside a loading dock or door and gave access to the central portion of the van. Loads were now placed safely between the vans' axles, giving better weight distribution, resolving the uneven loading difficulties.
The VanWide design proved very successful, with around 2000 being built and from 1978 over 500 fitted with updated suspension and air brakes, suitable for 75mph running in Railfreight Speedlink services. The last vacuum braked VanWides were withdrawn in the mid-1980s, as BR steadily eliminated vacuum braked goods trains in favour of air braked services. Many remaining VanWides were purchased by the MoD as internal user wagons at military depots, while the air braked VanWides served until 1994, mostly allocated to military traffic to and from those same depots.
The last example of the traditional era of British railway wagons 17ft 6in length 10ft wheelbase RCH underframe the VanWide neatly links the changing railway freight scene from green and blue diesel era through to Railfreight Speedlink and clearly points the way to the large doors of the next generation of goods wagons.
The Dapol O Gauge Vanwide and VEA models will feature:
- Extremely detailed and accurate body shell and chassis
- Correct suspension types for original Vanwide and later VEA
- Many separately added fine detail parts to accentuate the underframe detail
- Spring metal buffers
- Metal spring coupling hook and working instanter couplings
- Finely profiled wheels and axles with brass bearing pockets
- Compensated chassis for smooth, trouble-free running