Express ‘fitted’ (vacuum-braked) van trains were a frequent sight on Britain’s Railways during the steam and early diesel-era. As well as being hauled by freight and mixed-traffic locomotives, they were also often handled by glamorous express passenger engines such as Gresley and Stanier ‘Pacifics’, the ‘Castle’ 4-6-0s of the Western Region, and Oliver Bulleid’s versatile ‘Merchant Navy’ and ‘West Country’/Battle of Britain’ classes.
The Nene Valley Railway’s extensive collection of BR goods vans came to the railway from the British Sugar factory at Spalding, Lincolnshire, in 1992. They were immediately pressed into service as the railway’s demonstration goods train, featuring in a number of photographic charters with resident and visiting locomotives, some of which can be viewed below. Unfortunately the years of service with BR, British Sugar, and NVR took their toll on the timber bodywork in particular, and they gradually dropped out of use as repairs became due, to the point where none remained in active service.
“Express Freight” is the NVR Wagon Group’s exciting project to restore the van train once again to its former glory, and so these fantastic images serve as inspiration for the future…
21st June 1998: 34081 “92 Squadron”, in Southern/British Railways transition livery, charges through Wansford station with the van train. “92 Squadron” is resident on the railway once again after some time away, and is undergoing rapid major overhaul. With your support, it is possible this scene could be recreated in a few years time. Image courtesy of Ian Bowskill (C)
1994: The most famous locomotive of them all? “Flying Scotsman”, seen here in its British Railways guise as 60103, exits Wansford tunnel and hauls the van train through the cutting. This scene could so easily be the East Coast Main Line in the early 1960’s. Sadly the (now very rare) cattle van seen at the head of the train is no longer at NVR. Image courtesy of Roy Harrison (C)
1994: “Flying Scotsman” again, photographed by Steve Nakoneczny. This scene just oozes early 1960s atmosphere…
March 1993: Visiting ‘N7’ 69621 brings the vans into Wansford station, almost all of which have not yet been repainted after their industrial service at British Sugar. They wear faded BR livery with boxed ‘TOPS’ lettering, as withdrawn from BR service. Image courtesy of Roy Harrison (C)
March 1993: ‘N7’ 69621 emerges into daylight from the western portal of Wansford tunnel, heading towards Yarwell Junction. Image courtesy of Steve Nakoneczny (C)
Additional photographic contributions are always welcome. They will be credited, and can be sent to nvrwagons(at)gmail.com (Replace (a) with @).