For enthusiasts and researchers of the Great Eastern Railway

An Introduction to the Great Eastern Miscellaneous Stock

by John Watling

This article first appeared in the October 2002 issue (No 112) of the Great Eastern Journal. Apart from the use of line diagrams in this version to replace the photographs used to illustrate the original article the text is largely unchanged.

The object is to set out for the first time an outline history of the GER miscellaneous stock, starting with a definition of a miscellaneous stock vehicle, an explanation of the system of running numbers before describing the six main groups of stock concluding with a note on information sources..

The GER’s Definition of Miscellaneous Stock

The definition of what the GER regarded as non passenger carriage stock evolved over many years and it is worth summarising the progressive increase in the quantity and variety of types by reference to the GER half yearly returns and the miscellaneous stock register.

Until 1874 only two categories of non passenger carriage stock existed, these being carriage trucks and horse boxes. In June 1875 they were joined by milk vans and by fish trucks in December 1878 and although both types had existed for many years they had been classified as part of the wagon stock. The fish trucks were of significance as they were the first non passenger carriage vehicles on the GER to be built with the Westinghouse brake, Mansell wheels and oil axleboxes, the three key features which distinguished all future deliveries of miscellaneous vehicles from the wagon stock.

Further types followed; in December 1882 the first yeast vans were introduced, followed in June 1888 by passenger train cattle boxes. Each of the six categories of stock so far listed had its own running number series starting from No 1 and in December 1888 a seventh series commenced with a batch of meat and fruit vans which were included under the heading of yeast vans in the half yearly reports.

From June 1897 the all embracing term sundry van replaced the yeast van heading in the returns to include not only the yeast vans and meat and fruit but also a new batch of fish and fruit vans together with ten vehicles previously numbered in the carriage stock series. These comprised a hound van, seven calf vans, a stores van and a bullion van, all transferred from the passenger brake stock list to be joined in December 1897 by 3 parcels vans also previously regarded as passenger brakes. A consequence of this reappraisal was that from June 1897 onwards the headings in the half yearly returns were consolidated to comprise horse boxes, cattle boxes, carriage trucks, milk vans, fish trucks and sundry vans. In June 1910 the headings were further rationalised by incorporating the cattle boxes and milk vans into the sundry van totals.

Finally, in December 1913 onwards the format of rolling stock returns was completely changed under the provisions of the Railway Companies (Accounts and Returns) Act, 1911, making a direct comparison with most of the previous headings more difficult. The returns reduced the headings to four; horse boxes, carriage trucks, fish trucks and miscellaneous, the latter heading including the sundry vans.

Numbering and Diagrams

As new types were introduced they were each allocated their own number series starting from No 1 until no fewer than seven separate number series had been created and it is an interesting piece of idle speculation to consider whether all seven No 1’s ever came together one day in a single train.

Horse boxes and carriage trucks were originally in a single number series, starting from No 1, but steps were taken after 1886 to gradually separate them out. This was done by numbering all new horse boxes built after 1881 from No 401 upwards. By 1895 only 59 boxes, delivered between 1869 and 1870, remained in stock carrying numbers allocated to the carriage truck series so they were given new numbers in the range 544 to 602; by the end of 1901 all had been withdrawn with few receiving their new numbers.

A major revision to miscellaneous stock numbering also went hand in hand with the stock reclassification of 1897, allocating blocks of numbers to the main vehicle types within a single numerical series as follows:


First No

Carriage Trucks


Horse Boxes


Cattle Boxes


Milk Vans


Fish Trucks


Yeast Vans


Sundry Vans


This left the carriage trucks and horse boxes, always the most numerous types, with their original numbers while the remainder had their existing running numbers increased by the appropriate figure. The list was later expanded by the addition of the 1600 and 1701 series of general vans.

Although in my carriage stock article I recorded only new stock, specifically avoiding reference to any subsequent reclassifications or conversions, here that approach is not feasible. Many miscellaneous stock vehicles underwent conversion and additional stock drafted in by the alteration of obsolete carriage stock and to ignore these would omit an essential part of the story.

The diagrams were numbered in a single series with the principal drawing number of 16648, with sub numbers for each vehicle type. The various types were grouped together in the order of carriage truck, horse box, cattle box, milk van, fish truck and fruit and yeast vans. Inevitably new types appeared and their diagrams took the next available number and thus the tidy arrangement achieved by grouping the carriage stock classes together was not possible with this system. However, the saving grace was that by at Grouping the series totalled only 52 diagrams.

Unlike the passenger carrying stock, the LNER did not allocate its miscellaneous stock to specific areas and with the absence of other pre Grouping types being drafted in, requiring additions to the diagram book, it remained almost static in content. The only exceptions were the addition of diagram 45 in 1926 for an LNER designed 32’ general van, replacing a diagram of an obsolete type while diagram 52E showed a horse box converted from a diagram 28 vehicle. Although outside the scope of this article it is of interest to record two final diagrams, 53E and 54E were added in 1956 and 1957 in respect of parcels and motor car vans converted from redundant GER suburban carriages. The diagram book continued in use until the early 1960’s when virtually all stock it contained had been withdrawn, including that covered by the last two diagrams.


Before examining each of the stock types it is worth taking a general look at the overall totals for specific years during the GER period to see how they varied.

Miscellaneous Stock-Totals for Specific Years







Carriage Trucks







Horse Boxes







Cattle Boxes







Milk Vans





















General & Parcels Vans














The table records stock totals spanning the GER period for the 7 main groups of stock and show that the total of 243 vehicles, limited to two vehicle types, in 1863 had grown to 1182 at the eve of Grouping, accompanied by an increase in the range of types.

In 1863 only carriage trucks, all open at this time, and horse boxes were identified as passenger train vehicles. Seventeen years later, in 1880, carriage truck numbers had risen by about 10% but the stock of horse boxes had grown by about 75%, probably reflecting in particular a marked increase in horse movements based on the horse racing and training facilities at Newmarket. Milk vans and fish trucks appear in the miscellaneous list for the first time; the late 1870's marked an important phase for the development of miscellaneous vehicles in that the GER had adopted the Westinghouse brake as standard for all its passenger rated stock; thereafter all new additions were equipped with the continuous brake or through pipes, oil axleboxes and running gear to passenger train standards.

By 1890 the carriage truck total had increased by a mere 16 but again the horse box totals continued to surge ahead. New vehicle types had appeared reflecting the demand for perishable goods to be conveyed at passenger train speeds. There was a considerable increase in this class of traffic during the 1880's which was always more lucrative to the railways generally than merchandise or goods traffic. Consequently cattle boxes for prize beasts had joined the ranks and various designs of yeast, fruit and flower vans appeared for the first time.

In 1900 the range of stock types remained unaltered but overall numbers have risen by more than 50%, a consequence of a general increase in traffic of all kinds. Even the carriage truck totals are appreciably higher and now include 15 covered trucks. The cattle box total has jumped by 35, the milk van stock more than doubled and a further 50 fish vans built.

By 1912 the overall total had again grown by about 15% but the proportions were changing. The fish stock had fallen by 59 due to their conversion to fruit vans and 75 parcels vans had been added to stock by converting obsolete carriages.

On the eve of Grouping the stock total had become almost static, seeing an actual decline in carriage truck numbers which had peaked during the war. Fish trucks as a class had disappeared, compensated in numbers by 50 general vans, and a substantial number of parcels and fruit vans, converted from further obsolete carriages and former ambulance train carriages, had been added to stock. The stock total had largely been maintained by the conversion of former carriage stock rather than any appreciable new building and this had resulted in the overall age of stock increasing since 1910.

For the purpose of describing the miscellaneous stock the headings used prior to 1897 have been adopted, with some variations to reflect types subsequently added, comprising carriage trucks, horse boxes, milk vans, fish trucks, yeast vans and parcels vans.