For enthusiasts and researchers of the Great Eastern Railway

The Identification of Carriage Types

The attempt to classify GER carriage stock is prompted by the knowledge that body styles varied considerably over the years and at times in a seemingly random fashion. Some changes could be explained by the appointment of a new Locomotive Superintendent but at other times this appeared to make little or no difference.

For example, the 6 a side suburban carriages built at the turn of the century with their round top doors and deeply recessed waist panels were very different in appearance to their immediate predecessors with square topped doors. Similarly, the final design of main line bogie stock clad with sheet steel panels had a quite different arrangement of body mouldings to those with teak panels, although both were built to the same profile and principal dimensions. A constant feature was the progressive increase in interior headroom and body width.

The result of this classification has been to identify 14 distinct body design types of which 5 have been sub divided to reflect visible variations. The main determining features have been body style and width, interior and doorway heights and roof profile. Body length in itself is not a determining factor and at certain periods the same design type may be found in the form of 4 or 6 wheel stock and 6 wheel and bogie vehicles.

Although the vast majority of carriages have been accommodated within the 14 types a small number defy any reasonable classification, without creating additional categories which would often comprise a solitary example. Two minor classes of carriage are all specials - the trams and mail vans but so too are 5 designs of saloon and a few dining vehicles. They only amount to 23 vehicles and all will be briefly mentioned in the narrative.

The 1906 diagram numbers are freely quoted in the narrative as Dxxx but as an accurate guide to carriage types they have their limitations. This is because minor increases in body height or variations in window design did not merit a new diagram as from an operating viewpoint these differences were of no consequence. As a result some diagrams cover more than one of the design types identified in this article and therefore may be referred to more than once.

The development and building of new types generally appeared chronologically, but the completion of final orders to a particular style often overlapped the introduction of a new design and this means that the date stock was ordered is more significant than date of its completion. Exceptionally, at the turn of the century, more than one design of carriage was being built simultaneously.

Royal train vehicles are treated a little differently; the first royal saloon was built in 1864 by Sinclair but it was not until the early 1890's that what could be regarded as a royal train came into being, largely created by the conversion of existing carriages. In design terms royal stock incorporated a number of unique features and as the 9 vehicles built between 1892 and 1906 shared many of the same characteristics they are separately described as Type 14.

The royal train even in its prime lacked the grandeur of the LNWR and GNR trains, homely might be a more apt description. The distances travelled by the GER train were relatively short and non gangwayed stock sufficed.

A change of style or increase in body height and width did not always relate to the appointment of a new Locomotive Superintendent. It would appear that both Samuel Johnson and James Holden had their own ideas of how carriages should be designed but to what extent the GER Board imposed design features on their Locomotive Superintendents, as distinct from the layout of accommodation and level of comfort, is far from clear. Other post holders were either content to continue the style already in production or, perhaps, told that 'stamping their own mark of individuality' on new carriage stock was not part of their job description; we shall never know!

Introduction to the Design Types

The main object is to provide an overall appreciation of carriage stock development. Readers will search in vain for details of liveries, running numbers, train formations or details of subsequent alteration and use.

Finally, it must again be emphasised that the classification system on which this article is based is purely my own invention and there may well be better ways of doing it. Hopefully its use here will make an understanding of carriage stock development more digestible and make life easier for the modeller who will be able to identify a range of carriages all built with the same design characteristics, and thus enjoy the same advantages that standardisation brought to the GER.