For enthusiasts and researchers of the Great Eastern Railway

Principal Carriage Stock Developments

Before examining in detail the progression of carriage designs it is worth taking a general view of late ECR and GER carriage development. At the start of the period carriages were very basic in design and layout, with an average body length of 24ft, built exclusively of timber and running on 4 wheels. All had separate compartments lit by oil and lacked any form of continuous brakes or passenger communication.

By Grouping passengers were able to enjoy in the latest well upholstered main line carriage electric lighting, steam heating and corridors which gave access not only to lavatories but often to a restaurant car. The body was 54ft long with ample headroom, carried on a steel underframe with 4 wheel bogies. Comforts were fewer for the suburban traveller, here compartment stock reigned supreme to afford the maximum number of seats; corridors and lavatories could not be justified for the short journey times but they were provided with heating and electric lighting.

One consequence of these many improvements achieved over two thirds of a century was a dramatic rise in carriage weight per passenger, particularly so in main line stock. For example, Sinclair's 3rd class carriages in 1864 carried 50 passengers in a 24ft long 5 compartment carriage weighing 7½ tons, or 336 lbs per passenger. Comparing this with the final design of 3rd class 54 ft corridor carriages this carried 56 passengers in 7 compartments and two lavatories it weighed 29 tons 9 cwt, or 1180 lbs per passenger, more than a threefold increase.

Even making a comparison with the most recent 3rd suburban carriage, which like the Sinclair stock, was dedicated to packing in as many passengers as possible, the carriage weight per passenger was 501 lbs, representing a 67% increase. No wonder much thought, effort and money was spent on making engines larger and more powerful.

The introduction of the main technical improvements to the carriage stock are included in the description of the design types but to paint a more coherent picture of the way these elements were introduced a summary follows outlining the development of continuous brakes, lighting, heating, wheels and bogies.

Underframes: Although John Gooch used wrought iron frames for some of his carriages in the early 1850's Sinclair always employed timber frames, with the solebars, headstocks and other members of 10ins or 11ins x 4ins timbers. This frame was used extensively from 1856. Added strength to the frame was gained by the addition of flitch plates, that is, a 3/8ins steel plate bolted to the front face of the solebars, a feature introduced in the early 1870's.

The use of steel frames by the GER was first seen in 1879 in an order for ten 6 wheel main line composite carriages supplied by the Metropolitan Railway Carriage & Wagon Co. These had channel section steel frames with the 'Cleminson's Flexible Wheelbase', in which each pair of wheels was carried on a separate frame in an attempt to reduce the rigidity of a conventional frame. The tenth vehicle had Grover's Flexible Wheelbase fitted, a variation of the same system. The Cleminson system was also fitted in the following year to a pair of 6 wheel luggage luggage firsts. Neither system was ultimately successful and as early as 1886 a conventional underframe was provided for one of the composites.

No further steel framed stock was supplied as the flitched timber frame was considered to be equally suitable for the new, longer 6 wheel underframes as well as the shorter 4 wheelers. Not until 1894 were steel frames again tried, resulting in three types being utilised.

The first saw Fox's Patent pressed steel underframes applied to a series of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class 4 wheel suburban carriages. Stratford Works was not yet equipped to manufacture steel frames and so Fox's frames were supplied in prepared sets with holes drilled ready for riveting. These frames were of channel section and the solebars were distinctive by having a deeper section in the middle, a feature sometimes referred to as a drop belly. The 1896 dining train, comprising a 12 wheel dining saloon and two 6 wheelers also had these frames, together with Fox's bogies for the dining car. In all 123 carriages were built using this type of patent frame.

In December 1896 a different type of frame was used, again on three classes of suburban carriage but to a new body design. The solebars of these frames were distinguished by having a channel section, of consistent depth throughout,

However, in April 1897, before many of the suburban carriages had been delivered, a third frame variation appeared on the Prince of Wales saloon, a 41ft long bogie vehicle, which had solebars fabricated from bulb L sections, a profile consisting of an inverted L profile with a thickened lower edge, used in conjunction with channel section headstocks.

These frames were also used on the first 48ft 3ins main line bogie carriages in 1897, a batch of 6 wheel main line brakes and brake 3rds and two more royal saloons. Again they were probably purchased in kit form by the GER but assembled at Stratford.

By now the GER had all the necessary machinery at the new Temple Mills Wagon Works with which to handle steel sections and the channel section solebar was adopted as standard. It spelt the end of the flitched timber frames, the last appeared during 1899 on one of the early batches of 6 a side suburban carriages.

Lighting: Carriage lighting from the earliest days was by oil, the lamp being inserted into a hole in the roof on the centre line of the carriage, a method which remained unchallenged for many years. The quality of light achieved was poor and the practice of providing only the first class passengers with a complete lamp to each compartment ensured that the level of illumination enjoyed by the lower classes of passengers venturing out in the hours of darkness was meagre.

During the 1870's the GER investigated alternatives to oil and followed with interest the experiments with the Pintsch system of lighting being tried by the London & North Western and Metropolitan Railways in 1875. In the event the GER was second only to the Metropolitan Railway in adopting gas lighting. An agreement was signed on 27 September 1877 with Messrs. Pintsch Pischon & Co. for the supply of an oil gas works, erected at Stratford, gas fittings sufficient to equip 230 carriages and 4 travelling gas tank wagons enabling the first carriages to be fitted with gas lighting during 1878.

Gas lighting was installed initially on suburban stock on the Enfield, Walthamstow and Palace Gates services and gradually extended in the early 1880's to stock used on the other suburban services. All main line carriages remained oil lit, largely because only a small proportion could be regularly gassed at Stratford, without incurring lengthy empty working.

From 1880 onwards all new suburban stock was fitted with gas lighting but progress in fitting the existing oil lit carriages took some years to achieve. For example, in 1888 more than a quarter of the stock was still oil lit but it was determined to complete the task of conversion as soon as possible and also to fit up 50 main line carriages with gas, all of which had regular access to Stratford for recharging.

This was evidently a success as in 1893 it was agreed to equip further main line stock, with the intention of completing conversion work by 1902, and to fit all new main line carriages as they were built.   To make this possible the gas works at Stratford was enlarged, a new works established at Norwich and extra travelling gas tank wagons built to convey gas to outlying stations all over the system.

The Civil Engineers saloon, built in 1889, was the first carriage to be fitted with the electric light; no doubt so he could keep an informed eye on its functioning in preference to inflicting untried technology on the unsuspecting fare paying passenger. Surprisingly the next application did not appear until 11 years later and then on the bogie suburban set of 1900, bringing the benefit electric lighting to the ordinary passenger. Some early 6 a side 4 wheel suburban carriages also had electric lighting but the next set train to be lighted throughout was the Hook of Holland train in 1904 followed by the York - Harwich train in 1906 then the Norfolk Coast Express in 1907. At this time a number of the new standard 50ft carriages were equipped with electric lighting but this was short lived and there was a reversion to gas lighting.

The reason for this was the introduction of incandescent gas in 1907, which provided a much better level of illumination than the old flat flame or the more recent duplex burners and was also more economical in the use of gas. In continuing to fit gas to the main line stock the GER had regard to the dire warnings being given by the Board of Trade against its use, particularly following the Hawes Junction accident in 1910, the first in which it was proved that gas was the cause of the resulting fire.

Nonetheless, gas was still judged to be the best method of carriage lighting and to replace all existing stock with electricity would have been a costly exercise and so it continued to be fitted to both main line and suburban stock until the outbreak of war in 1914.

In the post war years electric lighting was adopted for all new stock, main line and suburban alike, but of the substantial quantities of gas lit stock inherited by the LNER only the newer bogie carriages were converted.

Brakes: At the beginning of the period under review the only train brake power available was obtained by the guard operating his hand brake in the guards van. This was of limited effect, thus any but the shortest trains were equipped with several brake vans, each manned by its own guard.

At an early stage the GER showed a healthy and active interest in fitting continuous brakes but was hindered by a distinct lack of apparatus living up to the claims of its inventors. Several experiments using the more feasible and reliable systems were initiated from the early 1870's onwards, including Fay's Manual, Clark's Chain and Barker's Hydraulic. At the end of 1874 it was agreed to include the Westinghouse brake in the trials and Smith's Simple Vacuum brake. In 1875 Smith's was being judged as most satisfactory for suburban trains with trials being extended to some main line trains. Late in 1877 comparative trials between the Westinghouse Automatic and Smith's brake were conducted and a year later approval was given to fitting several more main line trains with Westinghouse equipment.

As a result of these quite lengthy trials with a wide variety of different makers brakes, especially with Smith's and Westinghouse, the Traffic Committee finally resolved in January 1882 to adopt the Westinghouse system for all its carriage stock. This was a timely decision because increasingly the Board of Trade was agitating for continuous brakes to be fitted to every passenger train and in March of that year expressed its intention to seek powers in parliament requiring this to be completed by 1885.

The GER had equipped a substantial number of engines and carriages with several different systems of continuous brakes and as this equipment wore out it would be replaced by the Westinghouse brake.

Several daily services had GER carriages running onto other railways, particularly the LN&WR and Midland which had adopted the Vacuum brake. It was therefore necessary for some GER carriages to be dual fitted and the first of these were equipped in 1892.

Through working subsequently increased and further main line stock had vacuum equipment fitted. The stock of saloon carriages, which travelled the most frequently off GER rails, were all soon fitted with dual brakes.

Wheels and Bogies: The Mansell wheel had quickly been adopted as standard for carriage stock following its invention in 1848 and was thereafter used without exception for all new carriage stock until about 1914. The standard diameter was 3ft 6½ins but there were a few notable exceptions.

A 2ft 9ins diameter version was employed on the 6 wheel bogies of the 1883 directors’ saloon; the bogies were very individual and designed at Stratford and had timber frames. As a first essay into the world of bogies it was by no means a failure but they were not replaced until about 1955!

The 2ft 9ins wheel was also used on all the Wisbech tram cars, first introduced in 1884, two of which were also bogie vehicles. For some unknown reason it was found necessary to use a 3ft 0ins diameter wheel on the two 6 wheel Stoke Ferry branch trams in 1896, for stock that on the face of it did not need to have special equipment at all.

The period from 1896, when the first royal saloons and general service bogies carriages appeared, to 1904 was characterised by a period of experimentation with bogie design, both 4 and 6 wheel. Some designs appeared on only a few carriages for example on a 12 wheel bogie dining car with a 11ft 10ins wheelbase in 1896, repeated only for the conversion of the two original 6 wheel dining cars into bogie vehicles. A further one off design with 4 wheels and a wheelbase of 8ft was provided for the Prince of Wales saloon in 1897 while four sets of dining cars in 1899 featured 4 wheel bogies with the unusually long wheelbase of 10ft.

In 1897 the first main line composite bogie carriages appeared and these were carried on Dean type bogies, no doubt owing much to Holden's previous employment at Swindon, but it was not repeated. In 1899 Fox's Pressed Steel bogies were purchased for use under four royal train carriages and four more dining saloons.

A few of these initial designs apparently did not adequately serve their purpose and some were changed, but the original bogies unfailingly reappeared not long after on newer vehicles obviously judged to be a more suitable recipient. The 4 and 6 wheel bogies for the 6 a side suburban train of 1900 with compensating beams although never repeated were clearly a success as they lasted the 48 years life of the set.

In 1901 a 8ft wheelbase inside framed bogie with 4ft bearing springs was used for 64 carriages, marking the first mass use of a single bogie type. The design was modified in 1904 by the use of 4ft 6ins springs. A variation in design of bolster occurred in 1907 and although two further drawings were prepared they embodied only slight alterations in solebar section and the later use of 5ft springs. In later years they appeared to be interchangeable.

The steel disc wheel probably first appeared in 1914 on new carriages and applied to all new stock thereafter. As the Mansell type required replacement it gradually disappeared during the Grouping on bogie stock in favour of the disc wheel but most of the 6 wheelers retained the wood centred wheel until withdrawal.

Heating: The only form of carriage heating available in the early days was by the foot warmer, a metal tank, usually made from copper, filled with hot water. This modest method of heating was probably first seen in 1862 and limited to the principal main line trains and enjoyed only by first class passengers.

By the late 1870's an elaborate system for foot warmer supply had been created throughout East Anglia with heating boilers installed at strategic points to charge a stock of some 3,000 foot warmers. The Company resolutely refused to extend this facility to any 3rd class passenger unless they were taken ill en route.

A few saloon carriages had heating stoves fitted in the 1880's but the 1904 Hook of Holland train was the first to have steam heating extending throughout most of the train. The 1906 York to Harwich and the 1907 Norfolk Coast Express trains were similarly fitted. In 1910 it was resolved that all new main line carriages be equipped with steam heating from new and a start on existing stock was made in 1911 by fitting the royal carriages with the apparatus.

The suburban traveller had to wait much longer, it was not until 1921 that heating was fitted to the newly built suburban trains and those who continued to travel in 4 wheel stock had to await their protracted replacement by Quint-Arts by the LNER before enjoying the benefit of warmth.