Coal is King – that is certainly true for any steam locomotive. Without copious amounts of ‘Black gold’ the railways in the heyday of steam would grind to a halt.
The GWR was no exception and even had a Central Coal Office in Pontypool Road that coordinated the supply of coal from the private South Wales collieries (where much of the GWR’s coal came from) to large locomotive depots and small engine sheds alike. Large motive power depots could receive up to 3,000 tons per week, whilst small branchline sheds might only receive 20 tons.
Like the other railway companies the the GWR had a fleet of wagons allocated to locomotive coal supply and lettered LOCO to ensure the constant flow of coal to depots. Some would be found running in special trains, whilst many Loco coal wagons sent to local sheds would be attached to ordinary freight trains. This meant that Loco Coal wagons could be seen all across the GWR network on their way to all the Company’s sheds. Originally, wooden-bodied wagons were used however the GWR began using iron and steel for wagon bodies in the broad gauge era. While the GWR generally returned to using wooden body construction in the 20th century the robust all-steel construction was continued for locomotive coal and engineering wagons and like the 'iron minks' lasted well into the British Railways era.
The first iron bodies loco coal wagons were diagram N9 of 1889, the diagram number being allocated later and in 'biggest and newest' order N1 was allocated to the 40-ton capacity steel bodied bogie loco coal wagons used to supply the GWRs biggest locomotive depots. Smaller wagons were far more numerous, being useful for supplying smaller depots and branch sub-sheds. The last of the 120 diagram N19 wagons built in 1913 featuring rolled corners like ‘Iron Mink’ with distinctive triangular-shaped capping. These wagons were equipped with the Dean-Churchward cross-cornered spring applied hand brake, generally coded DCIII, and self-contained buffers. A central 5ft 4in drop door was provided each side, larger than the 'standard' 5ft door opening on previous wagon diagrams, which allowed for easier unloading into tubs on coaling towers or onto small coal stages at remote engine sheds.
These wagons survived in good numbers well into British Railways, having carried several different liveries and lettering styles throughout their lifetime, many of which are being reproduced by Rapido Trains to provide wagons suitable for any period between WW1 and the end of steam on the Western region in 1966.
- BR No.W9331 N19 steel-bodied loco coal wagon
- BR grey livery
- Spoked wheels running in metal bearings
- High level of detail above and below the floor line
- NEM coupler pockets
- 1:76 scale (OO gauge)