Should be S2526S, not S2526S! A tale of pre-Nationalisation numbers
Posted by Thomas Young
at 18:57 on 15/02/2023
When I designed the database that runs the LTSV-RD website I tried very hard to make it capable of covering all possible numbers carried by mainline railway stock since at least 1948. Though I had no plans to add every single number, there would be separate series for ex-GWR coaches, ex-LMS wagons and so on. Until today I thought I had done this right.
Then I received a note to say that one of my renumberings was wrong. Apparently I had DB975375 down as having originally been Southern Railway 2526, whereas it was actually originally Southern Railway 2526. To clarify, the correspondent said that I had linked the renumbering to the record for a CCT (Covered Carriage Truck) numbered 2526, while it should have been linked to a Bulleid Brake Third numbered 2526! I had made the assumption that all ex-Southern carriages were numbered in a single series, but of course I was mistaken. They actually had a separate series for NPCCS (Non Passenger-Carrying Coaching Stock), and many numbers were used in both series.
Pre-Nationalisation coaching stock is not something I know very much about, but I do have the two brilliant books by Hugh Longworth that detail all carriages that passed to BR in 1948. This confirmed that there were two numbering series for Southern stock, which presented me with a slight problem. Every number in my database has an ID that uniquely identifies it, as is necessary to enable a database to function properly. Most IDs comprise a 2-letter prefix (to show the number series) followed by the number itself (with leading zeros, if required, to enable sorting). Thus the one record for ex-Southern 2526 had an ID of CS-02526. To add a second 2526, I could make a 're-use' ID, such as CS-02526_2, which would be displayed as 2526 (2). But this was not technically a re-used number. Ideally I needed to create a whole new number series, which meant deciding on a ID prefix code. Looking at the existing prefixes, I realised that each of the Big-Four was indicated by a single letter, and the subsequent letter in the alphabet was still free. For example, CS could be changed to apply only to ex-Southern PCCS (Passenger-Carrying Coaching Stock), with CT added for ex-Southern NPCCS. This plan had two advantages. Firstly, it could be extended (if required) to the GWR, LMS and LNER (with codes CX, CN and CF added to the existing CW, CM and CE). More on this in a minute. Secondly, it would retain some logic to the default sorting, as (for example) ex-Southern NPCCS numbers would appear in order after the ex-Southern PCCS.
The downside to this plan was that I would have to review and change a large number of existing records. First I would need to check each number, to determine whether it was PCCS or NPCCS. Then, if NPCCS, the ID would need to be changed, along with the linking ID in any related listings, sightings, renumberings and photos. The database currently has over 2,700 SR coaching stock numbers in it, so this would be a sizeable job. Although, to be fair, a lot of these numbers were on EMU coaches and would not need any changes.
I figured I should also check the other three companies while I was at it. Referring again to the Longworth books, it seems that (by 1948 at least) all LMS coaches (both PCCS and NPCCS) were numbered in a single series. The situation with ex-LNER stock was less clear-cut, but it looked as though I could probably get away with keeping it all in a single series. There was some duplication but it was related to vehicle's ancestry rather than its configuration. Which left the GWR, and they had no fewer than six different numbering series for coaching stock, with potential duplication between many. To give an example, there was a Collett Auto Trailer, a Collett Gangwayed Passenger Brake, a Horsebox and an Open Carriage Truck that all carried the number W195W under BR. There was also an ex-Hammersmith & City 4-wheel coach numbered W195, though this was withdrawn in 1948. The others remained as such into the 1950s or 1960s.
Given the quantity of GWR design parcels vans (such as Siphons) that survived into the TOPS era or were renumbered into the departmental series, I think it is certainly worth adding at least one new number series. I am proposing that ex-GWR NPCCS will be given IDs with prefix CY. The reason for this is that two of the other GWR series (Diesel Railcars and Auto Trailers) were for PCCS. If the scope of LTSV is later expanded to include these, they can be given IDs prefixed CX, so that they are still grouped with the other ex-GWR PCCS (prefix CW). I then have the flexibility to also add a series prefixed CZ to cover the Horse Boxes or Carriage Trucks if needed.
I haven't made any of these changes yet. Let me get the functionality improvements out of the way first.
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