History of BR Rolling Stock Numbering System (use of suffix to denote ex-Big 4)

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tbwbear

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I was looking at some photographs of the old Class 502 Liverpool to Southport EMUs recently and it made me recall that they were numbered M283XXM etc..

That second (suffix) "M" was part of a numbering system that denoted that they were pre-BR and originally owned by the LMS.

That system was applied across BR with W, S, and E being added to the end to denote the original ownership by the other 3 companies.

I am old enough to remember seeing "Gresley Buffet Cars" that used to have an E on the end of the numbers too.


I am just curious -

When did that system first start ?
Why was it so important to make that distinction ?
Was it comprehensively applied ?
Did it apply just to the age of the design or the age of the vehicles themselves / Weren't some post-BR builds of pre-BR designs numbered in the same way (e.g. replacement 503's in 1950s) ?
What was the last surviving item in service with a suffix letter ?
 
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eastwestdivide

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What was the last surviving item in service with a suffix letter ?
Possibly the SR-design EPBs to 1995? They had motor coaches S14xxxS and trailers S15xxxS (and driving trailers S16xxxS for the 2-car variants)

Did it apply just to the age of the design or the age of the vehicles themselves / Weren't some post-BR builds of pre-BR designs numbered in the same way (e.g. replacement 503's in 1950s) ?
Yes, e.g. those EPBs were built from 1951, so BR-era to an SR design using the SR number series, hence the suffixes.
 

Gloster

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I am just curious -

When did that system first start ?
Why was it so important to make that distinction ?
Was it comprehensively applied ?
Did it apply just to the age of the design or the age of the vehicles themselves / Weren't some post-BR builds of pre-BR designs numbered in the same way (e.g. replacement 503's in 1950s) ?
What was the last surviving item in service with a suffix letter ?
I believe it started as soon as BR sorted out its scheme, which I think was within a year or two.

With four constituent companies, plus private owner vehicles, there were plenty of duplications, e.g. three or four of the Big Four might have a vehicle numbered, say, 1001. It is absolutely necessary that every vehicle had its own unique number, otherwise how do you know which one needs repair, is loaded with a certain traffic, needs to be sent to a particular station, etc.

It took a while to be fully applied, but yes, I believe it was eventually comprehensive.

It appears that just about everything built before BR got a suffix letter. The situation with vehicles built after the creation of BR was less consistent, with some vehicles being to pre-nationalisation orders, other being continuation orders and yet others being new orders that followed on (and there are probably of other possibilities). It is enormously complicated and there is probably no single answer.
 

d9009alycidon

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Most bizarre application of a suffix was the Newton Chambers built double deck car carriers built in 1961-2, they got an "E" suffix for some reason.
 

tbwbear

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It was very common on the Scottish region, where Sc would be the prefix and E or M (or even S) the suffix

Presumably also on the North Eastern Regoion before it merged into the Eastern ?

I assume anything on the NE that was ex LNER - would have been NE XXXXX E ?
 

Beebman

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Most bizarre application of a suffix was the Newton Chambers built double deck car carriers built in 1961-2, they got an "E" suffix for some reason.

There was also the glass-fibre bodied BR Standard design suburban coach S1000S which is preserved today on the ESR (Flickr photo):
https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5642534613

I think I read somewhere that anything which wasn't 'standard' in the sense that it was unusual or experimental received suffix letters - maybe thet was why the car carriers had them and it could also be the reason why the LT Tube stock which went to the Isle of Wight in 1967 had 'S' suffixes.

Was there ever a situation where the prefix and suffix were (legitimately) different?

Here's a Flickr photo of W9135E, a Gresley buffet car transfered to the Western Region:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/robertcwp/5264054255

And here's Thompson buffet car SC1705E:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/nigelmenzies/12725807863/

Some Gresley buffets also ended up on the Southern Region, this rather small B&W photo of S9117E is the best I can find:
https://sremg.org.uk/coach/pics/rs_s9117e.jpg
 

Clarence Yard

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Most bizarre application of a suffix was the Newton Chambers built double deck car carriers built in 1961-2, they got an "E" suffix for some reason.

Because they were an ER style design - they even got the LNER body profile. There seems to have been a decision to move away from the 71xxx series for ER design car carriers and go to 962xx in the main BR NPCCS series. The short lived 9620x rebuilds were another example of this.

The NE prefix was quite a short lived application some years after nationalisation (as was the very short lived GE prefix) - the ER and NER regions seemed to maintain a common approach to their overall LHCS fleet management.
 

Gloster

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The NE prefix was quite a short lived application some years after nationalisation (as was the very short lived GE prefix) - the ER and NER regions seemed to maintain a common approach to their overall LHCS fleet management.
According to Keith Parkin’s HMRS book on Mark 1s, NE was only used for the North Eastern Region’s share of the Eastern pool from 1961 to 1968; previously E had been used for the lot. GE was used on general stock (i.e. not vehicles such as catering vehicles) from 1961 to 1964.
 

edwin_m

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That second (suffix) "M" was part of a numbering system that denoted that they were pre-BR and originally owned by the LMS.
...
When did that system first start ?
Why was it so important to make that distinction ?
Was it comprehensively applied ?
Did it apply just to the age of the design or the age of the vehicles themselves / Weren't some post-BR builds of pre-BR designs numbered in the same way (e.g. replacement 503's in 1950s) ?
What was the last surviving item in service with a suffix letter ?
The main point to be aware of, as implied by other posters, was that the suffix denoted whose numbering system the vehicle was numbered into. Thus all inherited coaching stock should have got a suffix and those built by/for BR to pre-nationalisation designs may or may not have received one.

As with everything on the railway there were exceptions. The really strange one to my mind was the Glossop-Hadfield units of Class 506, numbered MxxxxxM but to a LNER design, and (according to Wikipedia) they originally carried the same numbers with an E suffix. The very similar Class 306 Shenfield units were (Wikipedia again) originally numbered in the LNER series but seem to have been a rare example of re-numbering, as in actually getting a new number, into the BR series.

I think wagons got a prefix instead, with "B" for the post-nationalisation number series.
 

tbwbear

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Am I correct in assuming, from Wikipedia, that the M, E, S, W suffix started out at nationalization in 1948 as a prefix to denote numbering series, but was moved to being suffix when the first BR built stock appeared in 1951.

or another way to ask, when exactly were the regional prefixes first applied - I guess the obvious one to ask about would be SC.


And on the subject of the NE prefix - were the Tyneside electrics ever NExxxxE ? In photos I have seen they seem to have been ExxxxxxE even in the 60s.
 

Gloster

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The main point to be aware of, as implied by other posters, was that the suffix denoted whose numbering system the vehicle was numbered into. Thus all inherited coaching stock should have got a suffix and those built by/for BR to pre-nationalisation designs may or may not have received one.

As with everything on the railway there were exceptions. The really strange one to my mind was the Glossop-Hadfield units of Class 506, numbered MxxxxxM but to a LNER design, and (according to Wikipedia) they originally carried the same numbers with an E suffix. The very similar Class 306 Shenfield units were (Wikipedia again) originally numbered in the LNER series but seem to have been a rare example of re-numbering, as in actually getting a new number, into the BR series.

I think wagons got a prefix instead, with "B" for the post-nationalisation number series.
The Glossop-Hadfield units were ordered by the LNER, but not built until 1950, by which time the line that they were restricted to was part of London Midland Region. This was presumably why they gained a suffix M, even if it is a little illogical.

BR wagon designs were given a B prefix, while those built by the Big Four had an E, M, S or W; former private owners had a P. Which option was used on wagons built by BR to pre-nationalisation designs seems to have been a bit haphazard: it possibly depended on the interpretation of the rules by each works. As wagons were mainly common user, they did not have regional allocation: if they were intended for particular traffic or localities, this was painted on (Return empty to...etc.) There is the problem that a, say, Western Region allocated coach could share a number with a former GWR wagon.
 

randyrippley

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Was there ever a situation where the prefix and suffix were (legitimately) different?
I can remember a Gresley Pigeon Van turning up on Waterloo-Exeter that was either WxxxE or SxxxE
I think it was W- but from memory I can't be certain

Also didn't the Western get some Gresley buffets cars that were similarly numbered?
 

Journeyman

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Most bizarre application of a suffix was the Newton Chambers built double deck car carriers built in 1961-2, they got an "E" suffix for some reason.
The first batch of Isle of Wight tube stock got S prefixes and suffixes.
Possibly the SR-design EPBs to 1995? They had motor coaches S14xxxS and trailers S15xxxS (and driving trailers S16xxxS for the 2-car variants)
Both the prefixes and suffixes had long gone by 1995. They began falling out of use all over the system from the mid-eighties onwards, by which time duplicate numbers had disappeared, and sectorisation made regional allocation irrelevant. But yes, they were the last pre-nationalisation number series vehicles in service (regularly, at least).
 
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Beebman

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