Parcels and General Vans – Diagrams 41, 44, 45, 46, 48, 49, 51
After the completion of the series of 22ft 4 wheel sundry vans in 1897 a period of 16 years was to elapse until any further general purpose vehicles were added to stock.
The first of these occurred in 1913 when an order for 30 general vans was completed, to diagram 44, followed by two further batches of 10 in 1914 and 1915. These were 32ft long, on a 6 wheel steel underframe, with 3 sliding doors and 4 fixed windows. Allowing for the slightly greater length they were very similar in appearance to the diagram 40 milk vans to diagram 40, the main difference being the inclusion of deeper louvres on the body sides.
These evidently proved useful in contributing to the war effort as during 1918 end doors and flaps were fitted, making them effectively carriage vans. Between 1927 and 1930 these doors were fastened up but for some unexplained reason only on the initial order for 30 vans so the remaining 20 ran in their altered condition until withdrawal which occurred between the early 1940’ s and the mid 1950’s. Apart from the construction of the 5 open carriage trucks in 1920, over 6 years after the order was originally placed, these vans were the last miscellaneous stock vehicles to be built and all subsequent additions were vans, all obtained by the conversion of former carriage stock.
This process had started in 1910 with the gradual conversion of redundant 4 wheel 27ft first, second and third class suburban carriages into fruit vans, becoming diagram 41. They had been built between 1878 and 1884 and were among those not widened during the period 1902 to 1904 and were the oldest vehicles in the suburban stock to be so converted. In their role as fruit vans the interior furnishings were removed but the partitions retained, in fact it is possible that for the 3rd class examples new partitions may have been installed to make them suitable for their new role. Inside a single slatted shelf at waist height was fitted extending the full width and length of each compartment so that two tiers of fruit boxes could be carried. The first was completed early in 1910 and 25 each year converted over the next 3 years to a total of 75 by the middle of 1912.
As converted they were given running numbers in the departmental rolling stock series, their numbers prefixed EX; suggesting that a short life was envisaged. In the event they were adapted for military traffic as bread vans in 1914, undergoing quite extensive modification in the process. The shelving and internal partitions were removed and all but the centre pair of doors sealed up and two tiers of shelves fitted around the interior. The door droplights were replaced by horizontal louvres and in this form they were allocated diagram 46. After the end of the war they were all restored as fruit vans, but not exactly as originally converted. The doors either side of the centre doors were reopened and the shelving for bread trays cut back accordingly and the louvres retained, and becoming diagram 49. Despite undergoing this second conversion within such a short period by early 1919 only 8 of the 75 remained in service, although the last one lingered on until 1927.
The early withdrawal of the fruit vans may have been made possible by the conversion of 50 31ft 6ins main line 6 wheel composite carriages built between 1880 and 1885, carried out between June and August 1918. These were now life expired and as all had a central passengers luggage compartment, with double doors, this made them particularly suitable for loading with minimal structural alteration.
The whole of the interior was stripped out; two of the original gas lamps retained but apart from the double doors the other 8 were sealed up, with the exception of 3 vans where the extreme end doors were retained in use. As converted the carriages became diagram 45 and renumbered but as a class they were not long lived and had all been withdrawn by the end of 1925.
The final conversions to augment the miscellaneous stock arose as a result of the repurchase of GER built ambulance train vehicles after the end of the war, and although most became passenger carrying carriages some 50ft vehicles were converted into parcels vans.
The diagram 48 vans all started life as diagram 541 main line brake thirds, built between 1911 and 1914, apart from two constructed as ambulance train carriages from new. Following repurchase the existing bodies were rebuilt with four pairs of double doors leaving the interior essentially open throughout apart from some shelving along the sides. In appearance they were similar to passenger full brakes but because there was no accommodation for a guard they were allocated to the miscellaneous stock. A total of 14 vans was converted during 1920 and 1921 and the last withdrawn from service in 1961.
The second series of vans, to diagram 51, had their origins as full brakes which, as designed, had three sets of double doors, a feature which was retained after conversion, making them readily distinguishable from the diagram 48 vehicles. Of the 8 vans to this diagram seven were built between 1913 and 1915 with the remaining carriage built as an ambulance vehicle in 1915. Conversion was effected between 1920 and 1922 and they had a marginally shorter life, the last 3 being condemned in 1957.