The Southern vans seem to have stayed little from former SR routes even under British Railways ownership, though the type is an ideal companion for Dapols' Terrier locomotives and an excellent alternative to the similar BR standard design vans to add variety to goods trains.
Initially the Southern built more of the long wheelbase SE&CR 'dance hall' goods train brake vans with their full-length bodies. Formulating a new standard design the Southern used the same heavy chassis but fitted with a much shorter cabin. Emerging in 1928 the first ‘pillbox’ brake vans had even planked sides and left handed lookout duckets, allowing the guard to view the train ahead from a seated position. However the left hand ducket was right behind the door so after the first 80 vans the duckets became right handed to avoid this conflict.
The new vans quickly gained a reputation for smooth riding, guards no doubt comparing them with the much older short wheelbase brake vans they had used previously, and importantly having a good brake.
From the late 1930s new Southern vans began to use the 2+2 plank construction, allowing planks and off-cuts which had previously been too narrow to be utilised. During WW2 the Southern design was selected by the War Department for their own service, the WD vans being equipped with two vacuum train brake cylinders on one of the platforms.
Although the later British Railways goods brake vans are considered to be of LNER parentage the move towards providing a shorter cabin for the guard is evident in these Southern vans. The modern construction and the majority of the type having been built less than 20 years before nationalisation these vans served until the end of brake vans being required on all trains. The increasing proportion of vacuum train braked wagons and the end of steam traction in 1967 allowed guards to travel in the rear cab of diesel locomotives and led British Railways' Southern region to institute a ban on 'unfitted' wagons. Many brake vans continued to be used by the engineering departments, with the last being withdrawn in the early 1980s and restored examples of SR and WD vans still serve on heritage railways.
The Dapol O gauge SR 25 ton Pillbox brake van features
- Extremely detailed and accurate body shell and chassis
- Many separately added fine details
- Sprung metal buffers
- Metal sprung coupling hook and three link coupling
- Finely profiled wheels and axles with brass bearing pockets
- Superbly applied livery
- Viewing Duckets accurately modelled