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LMS Hopper Wagon 691804 History

This wagon was owned by the 2857 Society between 1985 and 2014

LMS Hopper Wagon 691804The London Midland & Scottish Railway ordered the construction of these 20 ton hopper wagons for iron ore from various independent carriage and wagon builders in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It has been suggested that each batch was built using a different grade of steel for durability comparisons. Wagon No. 691804 was built by Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Company in 1936.

After withdrawal by BR it was sold to the National Coal Board, and used in a small coal yard next to Stockport station. Whilst the 2857 Society is primarily interested in items of GWR interest it was long felt that the opportunity should be taken to broaden the SVR’s magnificent collection of freight vehicles by the addition of vehicles from companies other than the GWR. Consequently when this LMS hopper wagon was spotted by a keen-eyed Society member as the Stockport coal yard was about to close it was purchased by the 2857 Society for the astonishingly low sum of £25-00. It was moved to the SVR by road, though the low loader was inadvertently routed to the valley by a highly scenic route involving steep hills, narrow lanes and sharp corners well to the west of Shropshire before final unloading at Highley Station on Saturday 23rd November 1985.

During 1988 it was given a brake overhaul and the worst of some major dents straightened out. The springs were in a deplorable state, with rusting between the leaves forcing them apart at all angles. It was decided that the cost of a professional overhaul of these springs would easily exceed the cost of the whole wagon, so Society members stripped them down themselves. Once the rust had been removed the spring leaves tended to spring back to their original shape, enabling new central buckles to be made and welded into position. Reassembly was followed by a repaint into LMS grey livery, the job being completed just in time for the wagon to feature in the Anniversary Goods Train organised by the Society to celebrate 2857’s 70th birthday. This goods train was one of the first to be sponsored entirely by photographers, voluntary contributions raising about £455. After cost of coal, publicity etc a small surplus was made, divided equally between the ‘2857 Society’ and the SVR Wagon Department who had given much encouragement and assistance in the wagon’s restoration.

Whilst this hopper wagon featured in several photographers’ freight train demonstrations it never physically earned its keep on the SVR. A complete re-design of the drop door mechanism to allow a controlled discharge was seen as particularly difficult, though not impossible, when trying to retain the authentic appearance of this historic vehicle and unsurprisingly this never got completed.

At the 2012 Society AGM it was mentioned that the ‘Living Ironstone Museum’ (formerly the ‘Rutland Railway Museum’ at Cottesmore) was amassing a collection of ironstone hopper wagons and had expressed an interest in acquiring our LMS Hopper. This announcement was intended as a bit of 'quirky' news which might motivate the Society to dig the wagon out and restore it for further SVR use. However, the reaction did not quite go according to plan, as the general consensus was that this was a golden opportunity not be missed; it would let us off having to restore it over again, it would save us trying to engineer a revised door mechanism to make it useful to the SVR, it has never looked ‘authentic’ as a one-off wagon not part of a rake, it would go to a good home where it would be restored, looked after and really appreciated as part of their main collection and it would free up a bit of space on the SVR. All in all it could be regarded as something of a no-brainer and in the end it was concluded that the best option would be to sell the wagon to LIM outright. As regards price, we felt we owed it to the Society to ask a reasonable sum rather than just its book value of £110.68. We calculated the scrap value was now around £1,200-00, but that seemed a bit steep, so a half-way house of £600-00 seemed to us to be reasonable to both parties.

Somewhere around ‘Day 1’ of the proceedings it was discovered that LIM had an early GW ‘Mink’ van for disposal, believed to have been built circa 1916. We informed the ‘813 Fund’ who naturally became very keen to acquire it for the SVR to add to the Fund’s enormous collection of GW wagons. A potential deal was struck for a straight swap whereby we would get paid for the hopper and only have to try and arrange to get it to a suitable location for loading on the SVR. Transport would be arranged by and paid equally between LIM and 813, with the ‘Hiab’ lorry making just one round trip. We therefore approached the SVR Board, through the official internal SVR procedure, with a one on/one off proposal, which looked as if it would work a treat.

Of course, it didn’t. A major problem quickly reared its ugly head in that the hopper wagon was in the PWay siding at Eardington, next door but one to the buffer stop. This location is completely inaccessible for loading onto any lorry, ‘Hiab’ or no ‘Hiab’ and, with the siding almost full of engineering wagons, there was no room to reposition it in the siding next to the platform without a major shunt, rendered impossible with mid-week running season having just started. From then on it was a dispiriting catalogue of lost messages, people too busy for such a trifling task, who’s going to do what and so on until we all felt like giving up!

A ‘Fitness to Run’ exam was carried out in October, when it was found to have water in only one axle box, plus some minor glazing on the pads. It was also found that there was about a foot depth of ballast in the bottom of the hopper, adding a little to the weight. Finally the PWay Department suddenly announced on 18th December 2013 that our hopper was now out and heading for Kidderminster ready for loading.

And so matters rested over Christmas. Then, on 11th January 2014, a tragedy befell the project. Simon Layfield, the site manager at Cottesmore, was out for a Saturday morning bike ride and suffered a heart attack. He was found and taken to hospital where his body recovered but, alas, his brain did not and his full recovery seemed very unlikely. Then, on Sunday 2nd February, Simon passed away, aged only 49. This was appalling news. Simon was a really excellent guy and team leader who will be sadly missed. His father, Peter Layfield, amazingly picked up the pieces from Simon's notes and organised a new contact for us.

With the transfer of the hopper wagon to Kidderminster the SVR Co. appeared to have completed their part of the bargain, but life is never so simple. To say that there was to be a two-way swap with an early GWR ‘Mink’ van would be an over simplification, as the new arrival had itself to do a further swap! In the SVR station compound which contains the old Bridgnorth bus garage, opposite Kidderminster Signal Box, the wheel-less body of an even older outside framed GW van, dating from around 1880 – the broad gauge era! – had been secreted away. This specimen (No. 37150 for the really hardened gricers out there!) had arrived from Williton on the WSR and has been rebuilt for use as a shed on platform 1 at Kidderminster, a wonderful re-creation of true GWR parsimony when it came to the provision of new buildings! The first task was thus to move this van body to make space in the compound for the ‘Mink’. Because it had to cross London Midland’s car park, London Midland wanted a full risk assessment. The 813 Fund somehow managed to persuade their haulier, Haynes Transport of Pershore, to put together such a document for this operation and so the restored GW van body was finally craned from the car park compound onto its specially prepared brick foundations in the dock platform, on Tuesday18th February 2014, thereby clearing the way for our long awaited wagon movements.

At last the ‘Mink’ no. 95353 was transported the 90 miles from Cottesmore to Kidderminster by LIM’s in-house team from ‘Deeping Direct Deliveries’ on Wednesday 26th February 2014 and was unloaded from the lorry’s trailer, following which our hopper was loaded. The whole procedure went well, apart from a tyre on the trailer which burst with a deafening bang during manoeuvres of the ‘Mink’ van. With the lorry’s immediate return journey back to Cottesmore it was possible to transport the hopper wagon there the same day.

“Sell wagon and allow others to move it from A to B” sounded so simple when we embarked on this marathon in October 2012! We got there in the end and are sure the hopper wagon will be well looked after in its new home where it will make a useful contribution to the Living Ironstone Museum display, while the ‘Mink’ will equally make a great contribution to the SVR superb collection of GW wagons.


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