16mm Projects

Alan Poxon : Two vans

Early industrial railways often had relatively level, horse-worked sections interspersed with

gravity-worked, or later steam worked, inclines.

Many of these inclines were of a gentle gradient that allowed larger numbers of wagons to be moved at one time. Metallurgy was not as advanced as it was in later years, consequently, breakages of couplings and incline chains were not unknown. One solution was to attach a break van with a guard to operate a hand brake to control wagons that broke loose.

This method of working persisted a surprisingly long time on what had been originally the Ballochney Railway in 1828 and then the North British Railway from 1865. The main incline on the railway above the station and shed at Kipps Incline Foot in Lanarkshire always attached one break van to every coal train and two break vans to every passenger train. Guards were allotted to each break van whereas the brake man, who applied the brakes on the individual wagons, rode on the train itself. I had seen models, in a number of scales, of the Kipps type break vans but photographs and drawings were much harder to come by.

None-the-less, I decided to build a 16mm version, not least because the original gauge of the Ballochney Railway was 4 ft 6 in and so was technically narrow gauge. The key characteristics of the Kipps break vans were that they had a platform at either end plus a small cabin, containing the hand brake, which was just wide enough to accommodate a seat for the guard. The body of my Kipps break van was built on a Houstoun Gate Loco Works flat bed truck that has been the basis for many of my other projects. The cabin and balconies were built from wood and scribed to represent the planking. Using thin strips of balsa, the panel edging and balcony rails were then glued in place. A roof was fabricated from plasticard sheet and window from perspex. Final details were added, including brass door handles from Swift 16 and steps made from plastic offcuts.

Early main line railway companies that used locomotives, such as the Liverpool & Manchester Railway that opened in 1830, also adopted break vans to control carriages and wagons that broke loose. At the time, one factor that limited the length of a train was the braking power of the locomotive. However, the additional braking power supplied by the guard in the break van allowed longer trains to be run. By about 1870, break vans came to be known as brake vans, as an indication of their changing role on the railways.

When the London & North Western Railway opened in 1846 it operated coal trains with break vans that were little more than adapted mineral wagons that offered minimal protection for the guard. Again, I had seen models of an early type credited to one Henry Henson but this time I was able to find plans in the 1896 book Railway Machinery by Daniel Kinnear Clark. This book is available on-line thanks to digitisation by Google and, because of the date it was written, the Henson break van in question was by then called a brake van.

The basis of the Henson brake van was again a Houstoun Gate Loco Works flat bed truck that comes with metal wheels and brass bearings. The simple wooden body is essentially a coal wagon with the front end removed to give a clear view of the coupling from the seat provided for the guard. The wooden body was scribed to represent the planking and, as with the first van, balsa edging was then applied. The rudimentary shelter provided for the guard had no windows but a plasticard roof was cut to size and glued in place. This second brake van was a 16mm interpretation of the standard gauge prototype but it has a certain old world appeal that fits well with my other narrow gauge rolling stock. I finished the model with a brass door handle from Swift 16 and a couple of signal flags fabricated from small plasticard tube offcuts. Both vans had a little weight added underneath to aid stability when running and were painted in my goods fleet livery of matt LMS Freight Bauxite brown.

I must admit, that I had as much fun researching the history of these two vans as I had in building the two models







Contact Us | ©2007 Yorkshire Group