Guards Vans

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by curlcurlimp, 18 Oct 2019.

  1. curlcurlimp

    curlcurlimp Member

    Messages:
    145
    Joined:
    31 Aug 2019
    Location:
    Home
    Hi everyone,

    I'm interested to know whether guards travelling in guards vans ever stood on the verandah whilst their train was in motion.

    Thanks for reading this.
     
    Last edited: 19 Oct 2019
  2. Registered users do not see these banners - join or log in today!

    Rail Forums

     
  3. Springs Branch

    Springs Branch Member

    Messages:
    584
    Joined:
    7 Nov 2013
    Location:
    Where my keyboard has no £ key
    On some rare occasions this did happen, but I don't think it was very common. Probably only whilst the train was moving very slowly, or there was some special reason for the guard to be there.

    I think the official rules, plus sensible self-preservation dictated that guards (and anyone else who happened to be travelling in the van) stayed seated while the train was moving. If the driver and/or guard didn't do the right thing regarding keeping the couplings tight on unfitted goods trains, there could be a very severe "snatch" at the back of the train which could throw the guard off his feet and cause serious injury (or worse if he were thrown off his train).

    In the 1970s I spent many a pleasant summer evening in the vicinity of Bickershaw Colliery watching the NCB steam locos dragging wagons up from the colliery to the BR exchange sidings. Very occasionally, one of BR's unfitted coal trains would trundle off towards Springs Branch Junction with the guard standing on the rear verandah. I suspect he was there to enjoy a bit of warm evening sunshine (it certainly wouldn't be to take in the scenic views) - but this was the exception rather than the rule.

    Before the use of pairs of Class 20s, the Bickershaw Colliery - Fiddlers Ferry MGR trains were usually hauled by a single Class 47. A propelling movement was used in Warrington between Walton Old Jn and Arpley Jn. Since these trains were made up of HAA wagons and were air-braked throughout, technically they didn't need a van on the rear for braking purposes. However a group of dedicated brake vans was provided (ends of vans painted yellow **) which were positioned to be on the "rear" of the train for the ¾-mile propelling movements in both directions, loaded and empty. I assume the train's guard had to supervise this from the van's verandah, whatever the weather.

    Couple of pictures of these MGR trains and the brake vans I mentioned (but without a guard on the verandah, I'm afraid) are at:-
    http://www.wiganworld.co.uk/album/photo.php?opt=5&id=5875
    http://wiganworld.co.uk/album/photo.php?opt=5&id=10757
    https://flic.kr/p/pZiLCD
    https://flic.kr/p/8YWy8R

    [Edit] ** I've now realised the yellow-painted ends were not specific to these particular brake vans. That was the standard scheme used on BR's vacuum and air-piped vans (TOPS code CAR). They were, however, stencilled on the side as only to be used on the Bickershaw - Fiddlers Ferry circuit.
     
    Last edited: 22 Oct 2019
  4. curlcurlimp

    curlcurlimp Member

    Messages:
    145
    Joined:
    31 Aug 2019
    Location:
    Home
    Brilliant stuff! Enjoying the warm sunshine (and getting out of a stuffy and smelly cabin) would have certainly seen me on the veranda watching the world go by!
     
  5. LMS 4F

    LMS 4F Member

    Messages:
    96
    Joined:
    11 Aug 2019
    I certainly remember seeing guards stood on the verandah from time to time as freights trundled along the Midland Main Line. Not all of them but enough for it not to be thought unusual. At the point I saw most trains they wouldn't be going very fast, not that most freights did in those times anyway.
     
  6. AndrewE

    AndrewE Established Member

    Messages:
    3,131
    Joined:
    9 Nov 2015
    Guards were required to change the colours shown by the side lamps carried on the van if the adjacent track useage changed, so they would have had to go out on the verandah.
    I think the rear-facing lens of the lamp adjacent to a faster running line in the same direction had to be white, whereas on double (or singe) track all 3 would have been red. (Confirmed by http://farnhammrc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/TailLamps-2.pdf, which also says that different companies had varying policies.)
    My limited experience of brake van travel was that access was as the guard felt, and depended on what the weather or the view was like, or how roughly the van was riding!
     
  7. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

    Messages:
    5,453
    Joined:
    6 Sep 2011
    Location:
    Herts
    Plus other things - one of my Ipswich supervisors had been a goods guard , with a night job to and from Temple Mills.

    Late away one cold early morning , as they had to attach a brake van off another inwards working. Done in haste , and as lamps etc were OK , off they went. Now the stove was well alight - and as the train picked up speed with the driver homeward bound (and not much around at 4 am) , a cloying stench in the van appeared.

    Previous guard had used the lip of the stove as an urinal - this was now steaming well.So poor old D had to alternative between the freezing cold veranda till driven in by cold - then driven out by the stench. Eventually it all boiled off and "normality" (for a brake van) was restored.

    Another North London Line transfer freight was stopped by signals at Camden Rd - "stop and examine" - confirmed by the box in rear of "unusual noise from the rear of the train" - it was a guard practising his newly acquired trumpet skills. Unable to do at home for obvious reasons - so deemed it OK to do so at 2 am between Acton and Temple Mills. On the veranda again.
     
  8. Ash Bridge

    Ash Bridge Established Member

    Messages:
    3,459
    Joined:
    17 Mar 2014
    Location:
    Stockport, European Union.
    Excellent post ChiefPlanner, still chuckling as I type :D

    Glad I'd just consumed my breakfast before reading the first part though!
     
  9. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

    Messages:
    5,453
    Joined:
    6 Sep 2011
    Location:
    Herts
    Old D , a stickler for right time running , considered displaying a red light to Ilford Car Sheds box , or Romford - but realised that would have made them late (and exceedingly unpopular with the driver , plus it was not exactly a safety of the line issue) , just got on with it.

    Another guard (a Welsh one) , explained to me what "Platelayers tips" - newspaper parcels - but you can probably work that one out. A feature not unknown in the North West either - as signalman at Romiley had one against his box. He stopped them on the way back - and explained very politely his utter displeasure.....
     
  10. Ash Bridge

    Ash Bridge Established Member

    Messages:
    3,459
    Joined:
    17 Mar 2014
    Location:
    Stockport, European Union.
    I'm sure you could quite easily fill a book (or two) with your many railway tales/anecdotes such as these, I'd happily purchase it!
     
  11. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

    Messages:
    5,453
    Joined:
    6 Sep 2011
    Location:
    Herts
    A crowded market ! - but maybe I ought to put something down on paper ! - thank you.
     
  12. randyrippley

    randyrippley Established Member

    Messages:
    2,249
    Joined:
    21 Feb 2016
    Just how rough was the ride in a guards van? Was the suspension "passenger" class or was it simple cart springs?
    I've got visions of guards being shaken to bits, trying to wedge themselves into a seat...
     
  13. furnessvale

    furnessvale Established Member

    Messages:
    3,349
    Joined:
    14 Jul 2015
    One of the old tricks if you didn't like your relief!
     
  14. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

    Messages:
    6,752
    Joined:
    15 Apr 2016
    Location:
    Devon
    I’ve ridden in a couple of guards vans on preserved railways and they were quite rough over the joints.
    The ex GWR Toad I went in once seemed to ride fairly well, but that was probably as much to do with the track condition as anything else.
    I’ve heard a few good stories about novice guards standing and not holding on properly as a long train starts. By the time all the slack was taken up in the three link couplings the van at the back could go from 0-15 mph in 1 second!
     
  15. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

    Messages:
    5,453
    Joined:
    6 Sep 2011
    Location:
    Herts
    I think it depended on the maintenance of the vehicles - the standard BR built (CAR tops code) from my limited experience rode quite well , at speeds of 60 mph , and was certainly fine at local trip working - BUT - it depended a lot on a loose coupled freight on how the man at the front handled his train. If he drew the slack of the couplings out in a sympathetic manner , it was probably OK. Confession time - and it cannot be proved now - I was allowed under supervision to drive a partly fitted freight "somewhere in South Wales" , - and going into a main line loop , got slightly spooked by running up to the controlling red signal and despite being told to "run the train out" , put the straight engine / train brake on too early with the result that the fitted head was OK - but the tail of loaded HTO's wagons cannoned into the front of the train. We stopped well short and had to draw up. The exasperated driver , once we had come to a proper stop and train secured , ordered me back to apologise to the guard.

    I did so , with great humility , who just laughed and said "I felt it coming boy - do not fret" ......a lesson learnt all right. Those drivers handled their trains superbly , something to do with years of experience. (and a deep route and train handling knowledge)

    In any case - fast running brake vans were increasingly rare by then , with most guards comfortably esconced in a warm rear cab , in a comfy and well padded seat.
     
  16. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

    Messages:
    5,453
    Joined:
    6 Sep 2011
    Location:
    Herts
    That and making sure there was not a scrap of coal left for your relief. Coaling of vans was very hit and miss - but a seasoned guard knew how to get around that ....especially if working a train of "house coal" ..

    It used to amuse me how these "Old boy guards" had a practical view on life - enough stuff in their bags to meet most eventualities - a bottle (!) of paraffin , all their essential paperwork and enough food of various kinds to keep hunger at bay , - as one stalwart said on an 8 hour shift , he brought food for 12 hours , on a longer shift , brought food for a day. Wise guys - some had shovels , frying pans , tin-openers , canned food , tea etc. Bit like a rail based outward bound exhibition. With pay.

    Remember they had no lighting - bar a bardic hooked onto the ceiling. And the vans were never , ever cleaned. Internally.
     
  17. delt1c

    delt1c Established Member

    Messages:
    1,107
    Joined:
    4 Apr 2008
    Had quite a few rides in guards vans in the 70's. They were not the most comfortable place to be and the stove could provide some very unpleasant smoke in the van. good communication between driver and guard was imperative. Otherwise was interesting to say the least
     
  18. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

    Messages:
    5,453
    Joined:
    6 Sep 2011
    Location:
    Herts
    Best Welsh anthracite - from West Wales was 100% smokeless and gave a great heat - once the fire in the stove had a proper base. Would not mind getting hold of one - but it is probably 30+ years too late for that.
     
  19. bluenoxid

    bluenoxid Established Member

    Messages:
    1,979
    Joined:
    9 Feb 2008
    Can I second this request.
     
  20. LMS 4F

    LMS 4F Member

    Messages:
    96
    Joined:
    11 Aug 2019
    I made good use of a Guards Van parked behind Knootingley station many years ago. It was a good spot to watch for and catch locals who used the yard as a short cut on Sunday afternoons after the nearby pub shut. Also used to watch out for those who used the wagons of coal parked nearby as their private coal bunker. Passed many an hour in comparative comfort, with sometimes good results.
     
  21. Bevan Price

    Bevan Price Established Member

    Messages:
    4,273
    Joined:
    22 Apr 2010
    Until the 1960s, it was not unknown for railtours to consist entirely of brake vans; also BR sometimes attached additional brake vans to scheduled freight services, to carry paying enthusiast groups to travel with that freight. It is a long time ago, but from what I remember, riding qualities were no worse than a typical Pacer. Some of the passengers certainly travelled on the verandahs. I only did a few such trips, but they included a trip over Woodhead to & from Wath Yard (Class 76), and Widnes to Long Meg sidings with the anhydrite "empties" and a Class 9F 2-10-0; the 9F then took our brake vans to Carlisle, so that we could catch a southbound passenger train.
     
  22. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

    Messages:
    6,752
    Joined:
    15 Apr 2016
    Location:
    Devon
    Absolutely green with envy here Bevan...
     
  23. curlcurlimp

    curlcurlimp Member

    Messages:
    145
    Joined:
    31 Aug 2019
    Location:
    Home
    Really interesting stuff. I would have loved to have been on a brake van special on the Cromford and High Peak Railway. At least one of these specials ran in the last couple of years of the C & HPR's existence.
     
  24. Springs Branch

    Springs Branch Member

    Messages:
    584
    Joined:
    7 Nov 2013
    Location:
    Where my keyboard has no £ key
    One anecdote I remember about guard's van (can't remember where I read it):-

    Post-Beeching and into the 1970s, BR was scrapping lots of surplus guard's vans, along with huge numbers of other goods wagons of all types.
    An enterprising scrap merchant decided he wanted to get in on the action.
    He submitted and won a tender (no pun intended!) to buy a quantity of brake vans from BR for scrapping, based on the value of metal he anticipated getting from each vehicle.

    Although not that obvious to the eye, in simple terms, a classic BR guard's van was actually a slab of concrete in a metal frame, with four wheels underneath and a shed on top - the concrete ballast being necessary for the van to perform its braking function effectively.

    The scrap man was a bit disappointed to find he'd bought himself a good many tons of worthless concrete.
    His loss was partially offset by finding, on jack-hammering the concrete for disposal, that the Works who'd built the vans had sometimes disposed of various bits of wagon ironmongery (coupling hooks and the like) by setting them into the concrete.

    Not sure whether or not this is one of those apocryphal tales.
     
  25. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    Messages:
    44,276
    Joined:
    6 Jun 2005
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    Ah yes...
    As I said before...
     
  26. GusB

    GusB Established Member

    Messages:
    1,779
    Joined:
    9 Jul 2016
    Location:
    Elginshire
    You are evil!
     
  27. Cowley

    Cowley Established Member

    Messages:
    6,752
    Joined:
    15 Apr 2016
    Location:
    Devon
    Got an early night last night, let’s just see if there was anything happening on the forum overni... OH HELLO!! :lol:
     

Share This Page