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.
The majority of these brake vans were less than 20 years old at nationalisation in 1948 and being of modern and robust construction had many years of service in them. The vans were repainted into British Railways liveries as they were overhauled or needed repairs and initially did not stray much from the Southern region. As the need for brake vans on goods trains declined in the 1960s many SR vans were transferred to engineering service and began to appear on other regions, with the last being withdrawn from service in the early 1980s.
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