16mm Projects

RAF and Locoals Alan Poxon


With the imminent start of the Second World War, the Royal Air Force was in desperate need of underground storage for their increasing stockpile of bombs. By 1939, the RAF had converted parts of the gypsum mines near to Fauld Hall in Staffordshire into a secure storage facility controlled by No.21 Maintenance Unit. Similar in size to other underground depots, RAF Fauld contained up to 20,000 tons of high explosive bombs and other munitions, such as incendiary devices and small arms ammunition.

A 2 ft gauge railway was built underground, known officially as the RAF Fauld Depot Railway. This narrow gauge railway was also extended about 1½ miles from the depot entrance to exchange sidings with the LMS standard gauge line, across the River Dove, at the village of Scropton. The depot railway was worked by Ruston diesels that had been adapted for underground work in mines. As with all RAF bomb stores, rolling stock comprised a variety of ordnance wagons that had specifically designed for handling munitions.

One of the major suppliers of rolling stock to the RAF was Robert Hudson of Gildersome. Among the new wagons ordered in later years were all steel, drop-side ordnance wagons, both four-wheel and bogie. The smaller wagons were easily manhandled in the more restricted parts of the bomb store and the larger wagons were used to transport munitions to the exchange sidings.

David Williams of Resurgam Rolling Stock has produced laser cut wooden kits of both types of these Hudson RAF wagons.

The kits are normally cut to order but luckily they were in stock and arrived within 48 hours. The kits were well packaged and came with comprehensive printed instructions. A nice feature of these instructions was that the parts list came with an outline diagram of each component which greatly helped in identification. The component parts were very accurately cut and most could be simply clipped together to check the fit before gluing in place.

There were a large number of fine detailing parts on the bogie wagon but these went together easily, even with my shaky hands. I fabricated some additional hinge detail on the four-wheel wagon to match that on the bogie wagon. Both wagons appear robust enough to withstand the rough and tumble of outdoor running in the garden. The wagons ran smoothly as built but I have added a small amount of weight underneath to aid stability. The models accurately capture the character of the prototypes and the kits are highly recommended.

At 11:11 am on Monday 27th November 1944, an explosion occurred underground at RAF Fauld that detonated up to 4,000 tons of ordnance. This was the largest explosion ever in Great Britain and the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. About 70 people died in the event that left a crater covering 12 acres and over 100 ft deep, which remains to this day. The design of the depot underground meant that only about ⅓ of the storage area of bombs was lost in the explosion and the store continued in use by the RAF until 1966. The part of the narrow gauge railway connecting to the mainline was probably out of use by this date.

RAF Fauld was subsequently used by the United States Army for a number of years before finally being decommissioned sometime after 1973. Examples of the rolling stock have been acquired by narrow gauge preservationists, in the same county, at Apedale Valley Light Railway and Amerton Railway. However, the Hudson RAF steel wagons are probably better known from their use on the Ffestiniog Railway. Here four-wheel wagons are used for permanent way work and are known as RAFs while the bogie wagons are used for locomotive coal and are known as Locoals.

Making a start.

Ready for the Paint Shop.


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