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<< Profile 42 >> MDO/MDV/MEO 21/24½t Mineral Wagons
Build Details: Various (see text)
Numbering: B200000-B202499, B280000-B283394, B290000~B290485, B310000-B317599
Bogies / Suspension:
Dimensions: 21ft 6in over headstocks, 12ft wheelbase
Published Drawings: BR Wagons, The First Half Million (1/107 and 1/115), An Illustrated History of BR Wagons (1/110, 1/115, 1/120 plus rebodies)
Areas of operation: Nationwide but particularly South Wales
Main liveries: grey
Summary: Although almost 14,000 of these larger mineral wagons were built for BR, they were overshadowed by the far more numerous 16ton variants. Two basic designs were used, both having twin side doors and one end door in their 21ft 6in long bodies, mounted on 12ft wheelbase underframes. The 24½t variant (MEO) was over a foot taller than the standard 16ton mineral, at over 9ft 10in. The 21ton wagons (MDO and MDV) were closer to the 16 tonners in height, and lasted longer both in production and in service. Rebodying in later years produced further variations. The South Wales coalfields were the types main area of operation and the last were withdrawn in about 1992.

History: Long wheelbase mineral wagons were not a BR invention. Some private owners, and pre-Nationalisation railways, had operated metal-bodied 20ton and 21ton wagons, the GWR in particular favouring them for coal traffic in South Wales. The first BR wagons to appear were four consecutive lots awarded to different contractors and built in 1950 and 1951. Metro Cammell built 1000 wagons (B200000-B200999) to diagram 1/110, while PW McLellan, Charles Roberts and BRCW had an equal share of a further 1500 wagons (B201000-B202499) to diagram 1/107. All were of 21ton capacity with 9ft 1in tall bodywork, twin side doors without top flaps, a door in one end and an unfitted 12ft wheelbase underframe. The diagram 1/110 wagons were of rivetted construction while the 1/107 examples were welded. The dimensions of the doors were the same as those on the standard 16ton mineral wagons, thus allowing interchangability, although there were no doors in the bottom.

The report by the Ideal Stocks Committee in 1950 concluded that a 24½ton capacity mineral wagon would have marginally cheaper operating costs compared to both the 21ton wagons and the established 16ton design. The report included drawings of the proposed design, very similar to the recently built 21ton minerals but with the height of the body increased to just a fraction under 10ft. It was realised that the height of the body might restrict the operations of the type (due to infrastructure such as loading screens at collieries) and just seven lots were eventually built.

Three lots, amounting to 2100 wagons, were built to diagram 1/115 at Shildon between 1953 and 1956. Numbered B280000-B282149, they were unfitted and had welded bodies and plain bearings. To distinguish the wagons from their 21ton counterparts, large yellow triangles were painted on the middle panel of each side, and many wagons had an N suffix applied to their numbers (the 21ton wagons similarly gaining K suffixes). Most of the wagons were used on circuits between collieries and power stations, and were often branded accordingly.

After a gap of a few years, the 24½ton design was modified in 1959 with minor dimensional changes and the addition of roller bearings. As diagram 1/115, another four lots were built over the next three years, divided between Shildon and Ashford works. These amounted to 1,245 wagons, taking the number range up to B283394. Although vacuum brakes were becoming more common by this stage, all of these wagons were built unfitted and none were ever converted.

Despite the recommendations of the Ideal Stocks Committee, construction then reverted to the less economic but more flexible 21ton design. The body was changed to have top flaps over the side doors, and vacuum brakes were specified. Shildon built 1000 wagons in 1961/1962 to diagram 1/119. The earlier number range could not be used as the burgeoning 16ton mineral construction programme had taken the numbers from B203000 upwards in 1953. Curiously the new numbers allocated were B310000-B310999, although the range from B300000 upwards was free. Very soon afterwards, Derby started work on a batch of 1000 wagons to diagram 1/120, identical save for the fitting of self-adjusting vacuum brakes. This lot (3390) was later cut back by 50 wagons, the underframes that would have been B311950-B311999 appearing instead as Coil A wagons B949130-B949179. Derby and Shildon built three further batches of 21ton minerals in 1962/1963, adding wagons B312000-B314999.

For the rest of the 1960s the fleet was stable and kept busy on coal workings mainly in South Wales. The branding of MIN XX was changed to COAL 21 (or COAL 21 VB) in 1963 and later to MDO and MDV under TOPS. In 1971, Shildon works started a programme of fitting new 21ton mineral bodies to the underframes of former 21ton and 24.5ton hopper wagons. No lot number was assigned to this work, which amounted to 2,600 wagons over a two-year period. The rebuilt wagons were unfitted and again lacked the top flaps over the side doors. Numbers followed on from the new builds as B315000-B317599. Later in the 1970s, almost 300 of the original 21ton mineral wagons were also rebodied, gaining distinctive bodies without end doors and with a single door to the left of each side. These retained their original stock numbers.

The fleet of 24½ton mineral wagons, which had been assigned TOPS code MEO, was also the subject of some late rebodying. 651 wagons were fitted with new bodies to the simplified layout described above, retaining their oiginal numbers. Also in 1977, two lot numbers were issued for the construction of new 25 tonne mineral wagons on a variety of redundant underframes. The source wagons included 21 and 24½ton minerals and 24½ton hopper and the new bodies were to the simplified design, although it would appear from photographs that these were to the lower height as used for the original 21ton mineral wagons. To distinguish their greater capacity, the rebuilds were given new numbers in the B290000-B290485 range, although not all numbers were in the event used. Curiously, despite their increased capacity, the wagons were coded as MDO/MDV. In any case, most were later downrated to 21tons (or 21½tons). Most of the rebuilds were MDOs to lot 3920 but three were MDVs to lot 3921, the source wagons being older MDVs. These were numbered B290200, B290210 and B290214, none of the other numbers between B290200 and B290219 being used. All three were later transferred to departmental use as ZHV, this code being mainly used for former 16ton minerals. The trio reverted to MDVs in 1986.

It is perhaps surprising that even in the late 1970s, 'new' unfitted wagons were still being built. Predictably, they were not to last very long. In March 1977 there were 4922 MDVs, 4460 MDOs and 2838 MEOs. By May 1984, the number of MDOs had dropped to 1934, of which only 310 were still in use, working between Llanelli and Swansea Docks. The remainder were in condemned status while all the MEOs had by then been withdrawn or downrated. 4571 MDVs remained however, mainly in South Wales coal traffic but also carrying scrap metal, rock salt and gypsum elsewhere. In 1985 a small programme to fit through air pipes to MDVs was started at Perth Carriage and Wagon works. The treated wagons were those used on scrap metal traffic in Scotland and the change allowed them to be used in mainly air-braked Speedlink trains. A new TOPS code of MDW was applied. The original plan was to modify 125 wagons but work was stopped in early 1986 after just 80 had been dealt with. In March of that year, 1178 MDOs and 3563 MDVs remained in stock alongside the MDWs.

A second round of MDW conversions was proposed in 1986 for wagons employed on scrap metal flows from various points in north east England to Lackenby steel works. Of a planned 230, 42 had been completed by September, rising to 104 by early 1987. It was later decided to concentrate the two fleets on the Lackenby services. By April 1987, 192 MDWs were in stock, along with 810 MDOs and 2752 MDVs. All the MDOs were withdrawn by the end of the year.

The closure of many coal mines in the aftermath of the miners strike of 1984 had a marked affect on the remaining MDV fleet, as did the arrival in 1987 of a batch of private owner flat wagons used to carry containers of coal to Swansea docks (It was reported at the time that over 1,000 MDOs were still in use in this area, suggesting that either the earlier active total of 310 was incorrect, or that many had been reinstated). Late 1988 saw the arrival of two new prototype designs of wagon rebuild for coal traffic, to TOPS codes MAB and MEB.

Fleet statistics for spring 1989 show a total of 943 MDVs still in stock. As well as South Wales Coal, 20 were employed on scrap metal services to the Rover car factory at Longbridge, south of Birmingham. The MDW total was down to 132. Later in 1989, 29 MDVs were sold to scrap metal contractor Christie and Sons of Camlachie, Glasgow. These were recoded as PMVs with new numbers CHR4609 to CHR4637 and design codes PM006A and PM006B. Christie was taken over by MC Metals and the batch saw little use. Twenty of the wagons were used for internal movements within the steelworks at Ravenscriag, while the remainder were repainted in grey with MC lettering and held in storage. It is not known whether they ever entered service. It is worth noting that many other MDO, MDV and MEO wagons were transferred to internal use, mainly at British Coal locations in South Wales, such as Onllwyn Washery adn Coed Bach Disposal Point. Many of these were given numbers in the BR internal user series while others were assigned British Coal numbers.

By the beginning of 1990, the fleet was down to 542 wagons, comprising 512 MDVs and 30 MDWs. The year also saw the introduction of a production batch of MEA conversions, which were allocated to coal traffic to Swansea. A list of TOPS AARKNDs at the time included four codes for the 21ton mineral fleet. MDV-E and MDW-E were the as-built wagons, while MDV-R and MDV-S were for wagons rebodied with one door per side. 10 of the B290xxx wagons were still in stock at the start of the year (although they had been in condemned status for many years), with design codes MD015R/U/V and Y. Four original MEOs also remained, recoded MDO with design code MD015M. Codes for the rest of the fleet were MD008B (diagram 1/120 MDV), MD008C (diagram 1/119 MDV), MD008D (diagram 1/119 MDW) and MD008E (diagram 1/120 MDW). Condemnations continued over the next couple of years such that only 10 wagons remained by the start of 1992 (9 MDV and 1 MDW). All were withdrawn during the year, although two remained on TOPS into 1993.

Transfers to departmental use were far less common than with the 16ton minerals. Apart from the three ZHVs mentioned above, only a handful of MDVs (perhaps as few as four) are known to have been used, mainly by the Electrification Projects engineer as spoil wagons with LDB prefixes. These were recoded as ZDV (ZD160A and ZD161A) or ZYV (ZY127A). All four were still in use in 1994 but by 1999 there was just one, ZDV LDB311717 allocated to contractor Fastline at Doncaster. This last survivor was later reported withdrawn at Three Bridges, and was removed from TOPS by 2005. Surprisingly few 21ton mineral wagons have been preserved.



Links: Photos of various BR mineral wagons on Paul Bartlett's website

Updates: 04/04/2013: Photo links (finally) updated.
For more pictures see the Links section at the bottom

MDV B311281 at Chester, 27th August 1979.
Paul Bartlett

MEO B283263 at Wellingborough, 16th April 1981.
Paul Bartlett

Page added: 01/01/2008 Spotted an error? Got some additional info?
Please e-mail me at tom (at)
Last edited: 01/07/2008