|Title:||2-axle Private-Owner Vans|
|Numbering:||Various in range 6000-7473|
|Summary:||Relatively few vans have featured in the private-owner wagon fleet, but they have carried a variety of commodities including bagged cement, chemicals, army supplies and tinned soup. The designs reflect the evolution of wagons from small, vacuum-braked vehicles to large, air-braked ones, while the colour schemes worn made them stand out from the railway-owned vans.|
This profile covers 2-axle vans numbered in the TOPS private-owner wagon series. It does not cover private vans withdrawn before the introduction of TOPS in the early 1970s or those numbered in the RIV (international) series.
Only around 200 vans have featured in the TOPS private-owner series, although as will be seen, some of them carried more than one number during their lives. There are several reasons for the relative scarcity of this type of wagon. Firstly, general merchandise was normally carried in railway-owned wagons, and there was a large fleet of general-purpose vans and open wagons. Secondly, when the resurgence of privately-owned wagons took place in the late-1970s and early-1980s it mainly affected bulk or specialised traffics, and much of the wagonload freight was being lost to road haulage. Thirdly, many of the vans built in this latter period were registered for international use, even though many were primarily used on domestic flows.
The 200 private-owner vans can be divided fairly neatly into three groups, which also highlights the evolutions of wagon design during this period. First up are some 'traditional' designs, built in the 1950s and having vacuum brakes and short (10ft) wheelbases. Secondly are some 'evolved' vacuum brake designs, built in the 1960s with longer wheelbases (15ft or 16ft) and increased payloads. Thirdly are the air-braked designs, built in the 1970s and 1980s and with further increases in size and weight.
The oldest vans new to a private owner (and which survived into the TOPS era) were a batch of 10 built by Charles Roberts in 1959 for the Ministry of Defence. These were essentially identical to the BR 12ton ventilated van diagram 1/208, of which Charles Roberts also built a batch for BR in 1959. As such they featured a 17ft 6in long body (with planked wooden sides and corrugated metal ends) mounted on a 10ft wheelbase underframe with vacuum brakes. A pair of 'cupboard' doors in the centre of each side provided a 5ft wide opening for loading and unloading. The batch was given MoD numbers 41500 to 41509 and was allocated BR diagram number 6/495. With the advent of TOPS, new numbers MODA6000 to MODA6009 were applied and the wagons were classified as PVV-A to design code PV001A. It would appear that the vans were used for general MoD traffic (which also utilised a large quantity of railway-owned wagons) and were withdrawn by the early 1980s. Several survived in internal use at MoD depots, and Paul Bartlett photographed some at Puriton ROF in 1991.
I don't have any photos of the early MoD vans but they were virtually identical to BR's diagram 1/208 vans such as B768248.
The other 'traditional' vans were actually built between 1955 and 1957 (by BR at Darlington Faverdale), but did not become private-owners until 1967. These were 20 12t Ventilated Pallet Vans to BR diagram 1/211. This design had been built by BR in fairly large numbers from the mid-1950s and featured wider cupboard doors (at the left-hand of each side) to offer an 8ft 5in opening, thus allowing the carriage of standard pallets and facilitating loading by fork-lift trucks. The design was not a huge success and by the mid-1960s, many were being withdrawn. In 1967, 20 of the vans were bought by John Walker and Sons for use carrying casks of blended whisky the four miles from a blending facility at Barleith to the bottling plant at Kilmarnock . The wagons were given new numbers CLV197 to CLV216 and assigned BR diagram number 6/496. Under TOPS, the numbers became JW6050 to JW6069, as PVV-A to design code PV002A. Apart from a repaint, the only change to the vans was the addition of a large advertising board at the right-hand of each side, this carrying the famous Johnnie Walker logo. The vans were withdrawn in 1981 following the opening of a new blending plant in Kilmarnock, and the owners donated several of the wagons to various preservation organisations.
Again, no photos of the Johnnie Walker vans, but they were ex-BR diagram 1/211 wagons similar to B781763, seen as an exhibition support vehicle in 1989.
The first of the 'evolved' designs appeared in 1964 when the Standard Railway Wagon company of Heywood started building a batch of vans for Blue Circle Cement. Intended to carry bagged cement from depots in Kent to various destinations across the country, the vans resembled a stretched Vanwide. They featured sliding doors in the middle of each side (opening to 9ft), and metal-braced plywood bodywork. Body length was 25ft while the underframe had a 16ft wheelbase with fairly traditional suspension and vacuum brake equipment. A total of 96 vans was built between 1964 and 1966, these being numbered BV1 to BV96 (for Bag Van?) and allocated BR diagram 6/492. When TOPS was introduced, new numbers APCM6201 to APCM6296 were allocated, since Blue Circle was a trading brand of Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd. The new design code was PV005A and the TOPS code was PVV-B, although it would appear that most of the wagons were erroneously marked as PW, no doubt due to mis-reading of a hand-written instruction.
Out of use by 1986, Blue Circle Palvan APCM6224 had lost its buffers and was soon to be scrapped. Note that the TOPS code of PVV had actually been applied as PW!
Changes in requirements saw about half of the vans being sold back to Standard Wagon in 1981/82, these then being rebuilt for various other uses. APCM6262 became RLS4300 rebuilt as a rod coil wagon to TOPS code PXV-F, design code PX019A. There don't seem to be any photos of this conversion and it was apparently not a success. The wagon was rebuilt again as a PMA open mineral wagon, with new number RLS6328 allocated to follow on from the other PMAs (q.v.). This number seems to have been cancelled and the wagon eventually emerged as POA scrap metal carrier RLS4608 in 1989. Van APCM6222 was fitted with a new open body featuring a roll-over canvas covering. It retained its vacuum brakes and was renumbered RLS95900 but there are no details of any new TOPS code or traffic usage, and it may have been just for development purposes. A photo of the wagon at the research centre in Derby appears in David Tandy's book about SRW . A batch of similar open bodied conversions followed later in 1981/1982, with bodywork to three different styles. These wagons were given new numbers following directly on from the van fleet and comprised PMV SRW6297-SRW6302 with high-sided open bodies noticeably shorter than the underframes, PRA-C RLS6303-RLS6316 with high, short open bodies featuring canvas covers and intended for china clay traffic, PMV SRW6317-SRW6325 with low-sided open bodies to the full length of the underframe and finally PMA RLS6326-RLS6327 (shown as low-sided in the SRW book  but photos on-line show 6326 with a low, long body and 6327 with a high, short body). Paul Bartlett has photos of freshly-converted PMV wagons at Heywood in July 1982 but it would appear that all were further modified as PMA-C before release to traffic. This would account for the design codes of PM004C (high) and PM004D (low), with PM004A and PM004B perhaps being assigned to the original vacuum-braked conversions. The SRW prefixes on these wagons were also soon changed to RLS. Most of the PMA and PRA wagons were again rebuilt as POA scrap metal wagons in 1989, with new numbers in the RLS4585-RLS4606 range.
Seen at Standard Railway Wagon's Heywood works in April 1986 with chalked number RLS4300, this wagon has a box body very like the tall PMA wagons (q.v.). However, it was rebuilt from an experimental Rod Coil wagon, itself rebuilt from a Blue Circle Palvan. Although later allocated number RLS6328, it is thought not to have entered service as such, eventually being further rebuilt as scrap carrier RLS4608.
Another of the Palvans was rebuilt as PMV SRW6297 but was modified to a PMA before entering service. When seen at Heywood in July 1986 it had a non-standard metal framework around and across the top. Presumably to allow sheeting, this was probably just for trials and not used in service.
Ten of the PMA wagons had shorter (in height) but longer box bodies fitted. The use of the same TOPS code may have been because the capacities (both in weight and in volume) were almost identical. The height difference is evident between RLS6318 and RLS6299 on the right, seen at Reddish in July 1986.
The PRA wagons were similar to the taller PMA type but with the addition of a roll-over canvas roof, to protect their cargo of china clay. They also had access platforms at each end. Was this why the bodywork was shorter than the underframe? Perhaps the taller PMA wagons were built with short bodies so that they could later be converted to PRAs if required.
This accounts for 33 of the former Blue Circle vans, but only 45 vans were stated to have survived into the mid-1980s . The other 18 vans may have been used to provide parts for a fleet of barrier wagons built by Standard Wagon in 1980 (RLS4900-RLS4917), though this would seem to pre-date the return of the vans from Blue Circle and some sources describe the barriers as being new-build. The new wagons were considerably longer and had different suspensions, meaning that if any parts were re-used it must have been minimal. Still, the numerical coincidence is appealing.
The remaining 45 vans were stored at various locations around Kent, often with parts such as buffers removed. In December 1985, one van (APCM6275 ) had its vacuum brakes isolated and a through air pipe fitted, making it a PVQ (design code not known). Another van was similarly modified (number unknown ) and there were some trials but the decision was made in 1986 to scrap all of the remaining vans . Unlike the earlier disposals, there does not appear to have been any re-use of the underframes.
Two batches of vans built in 1968 were also to what I have called the 'evolved' traditional design. Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon built a batch of 16 for the Ministry of Defence, featuring a 16ft wheelbase with air brakes and a through vacuum pipe, and a 26ft long metal body with wide cupboard doors at the extreme right hand end of each side. Pre-TOPS numbers were 41000 to 41015 and BR diagram 6/490. Under TOPS they became MODA6800-MODA6815 to TOPS code PVB-C and design code PV003A. Most of the vans were withdrawn in 1981 or 1982, with a few remaining in internal use at Eskmeals and Long Marston . Just two retained main-line registration and were used for use carrying re-railing equipment. MODA6804 was based at Longtown and MODA6811 at Marchwood , while the TOPS code re-shuffle of January 1990 saw them recoded as PTB-C  to design code PT007A. They were eventually de-registered in 2000 .
The second 1968 batch of vans has proved to be a little enigmatic. Converted at Standard Railway Wagon Co in 1968, they were previously either silo wagons  or twin drop-side wagons , although the previous numbers are not known either way. The exact quantity is also unclear, with the original numbers being in the 903 to 912 range. Six were added to TOPS when it was introduced in the early 1970s with numbers PR6850-PR6855 and design code PV004A. The initial TOPS diagram book page gave the TOPS code as PVV-B, though this was changed to PVF-C on issue 2 (brake type F indicated vacuum brakes with Accelerated Freight Inshot, a method of making the brake application more rapid). The vans had 15ft wheelbases and 23ft long bodies featuring two large sliding doors making up the full length of each side. They were owned by Procor and leased to ICI Mond, remaining in traffic until the early 1980s. They then survived in internal use at ICI's Willesden terminal until 1985 , which makes it slightly surprising that I cannot find any photographs of the type. Speculating once again, it is notable that Standard Wagon also built a batch of dropside wagons for ICI at around this time. It has always struck me as odd that the batch was quoted as comprising 36 wagons numbered in the range 4201 to 4240. Looking at the TOPS diagram sheet for this batch (PX003A), the actual numbers given are '4201, 2, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14-40', implying that that there were actually only 34. Could it be that six of this batch were changed to be vans instead? The wheelbase and length details are the same, though the dropsides had screw brakes and pneumatic buffers with 343mm heads while the vans had lever brakes and hydraulic buffers with 406mm heads. There is also the issue that the vans were said to be built under SRW contract number 6 , seemingly predating the dropside wagons to contract 18.
The first batch of properly 'modern' vans emerged in 1972/1973 when Standard Railway Wagon Co built 15 for use carrying pallets of canned soup from Kings Lynn to Scotland. Although used by Campbells, the initial black livery of the wagons only advertised the owners BRTE (British Rail Traffic and Electric Company). The vans had a 22ft wheelbase underframe with air brakes and modern suspension units (BSC Friction Pedestal), while the 34ft long bodywork had internal partitions to divide it into 8 sections, accessed by four large sliding doors on each side. Numbered as BRT6900-BRT6914 they were coded PVB-D to design PV006A. The solid doors proved to be the types Achilles heel, as they had a tendency to jam if the loads shifted. As a result, 8 of the vans were rebuilt by Procor in 1981/1982 with curtainsides and reclassified as PVB-G to design PV006B. The new curtains were red with huge Campbells Soups Limited lettering, with reference to the owner now only provided by the BRT prefixes to the numbers. The 7 unmodified vans were withdrawn and seem to have been scrapped. The availability of higher capacity vans (q.v.) led to the modified wagons being taken off the Campbells traffic, though they retained the lettered curtains. In 1989 and 1992 they were in store at Healey Mills , while at least one van (BRT6913) had its through vacuum pipe removed and was recoded as a PVA. A new design code should have been issued for this (perhaps PV006C), but I have no record of this. Class leader BRT6900 was rebuilt in 1990 as a prototype log carrier (CAIB4800 PNA to design code PN021A, photo in Rail magazine issue 120 ) but was out of use within a couple of years and was reported disposed of in 2007. The remaining seven vans eventually moved to the Central Ordnance Depot at Bicester. By 1998 they had been there for 'some years' , having been sold to the MoD for internal use . That year they were taken by road to Marcroft Engineering at Stoke for overhaul, along with some of the later PVAs (q.v.) . New TOPS code PMA-A was issued and the wagons were renumbered as MODA7420-MODA7426 to design code PM008A. New curtainsides in plain blue were fitted. It is not known how much mainline use the PMAs saw, and by 2008 all were assigned to stored wagon pools and were located at Marchwood or Bicester. They were removed from TOPS in 2011 .
Showing the distinctive Campbells Soups livery BRT6913 had been recoded from PVB to PVA when seen in Bescot in 1989.
A second batch of curtainsided vans was built between 1982 and 1985 and these had a similar history to the Campbells vans. However, I first need to mention two one-offs. In 1976 Procor built a prototype van numbered PR6400 (PVB-E to design PV007A). There is a photo at https://www.flickr.com/photos/blue-diesels/36922013260. Similar in size and configuration to a BR VDA van, it used a combination of cupboard and sliding doors to offer loading access to the whole length of the wagon (not all at the same time though). It was painted in a distinctive white and blue scheme, not unlike the BR coach livery, with large Procor lettering and the various door handle recesses picked out in red or yellow. It was initially trialled by William Cory and Son Ltd and carried their logo on the bodysides. Then in 1981 it was modified with all but one of the door handle recesses on each side plated over. It was repainted brown and cream (coincidentally not too unlike GWR carriage livery) and was used by Ben Chairs of Frome in Somerset. The design had not proved a success and it was placed in storage at Procor (Wakefield) by early 1987 . It appears to have been removed from TOPS a few years later, although it had been allocated new code PUB-E in the reshuffle of January 1990. Surprisingly it was still mainly intact at Wakefield in 1998 (See Paul Bartlett's photos in links below), though it is presumed to have been scrapped not long afterwards.
The second one-off was TRL6950, marketed as the Railiner. This was another curtainsided design and had been built by C C Crump of Connah's Quay in 1981. It used the underframe of a former Cyclohexane tank wagon built by Charles Roberts in 1969/1971, and had a 19ft wheelbase, double-link suspension and a 30ft body with a relatively flat roof profile. The curtainsides were yellow with huge RAILINER lettering. TRL6950 was coded PVB-F to design code PV008A and saw use carrying bagged china clay from Cornwall for English China Clay Ltd. Recoded PUB-F (PU008A) in January 1990, it had been put in store by 1992 and was presumably broken up in due course.
One-off TRL6950 at Wolverton in 1985.
The final batch of new-build vans comprised 20 built by Procor in 1982-1985. They were physically the largest, with a huge 29ft 6in wheelbase (the same as on the class 140/141/142 etc railbuses) and had 42ft long bodies with full-length curtain sides. Numbered as PR6915 to PR6934 (TOPS code PVA-G, design code PV009A), they had a blue livery with large Procor lettering in white, and were intended for spot-hire. They were used on various flows, including the Campbells Soups traffic from Kings Lynn to Scotland, bagged fertiliser from Middlesbrough and Ince & Elton, bagged cement from Coatbridge to Aberdeen and from Scunthorpe to Ardwick . Despite this variety, all of the vans were stored by 1992 , including one that had been reliveried in CAIB white in 1989 in a bid to attract new users. The whole batch was later sold to the Ministry of Defence for internal use. As with the Campbells vans, they were overhauled in 1998 and allocated new numbers MODA7427 to MODA7446 as PMA-A to design code PM007A (TOPS code PMA had originally referred to 2-axle mineral box wagons - as mentioned above - but had been unused since these were all withdrawn). It would seem that not all were renumbered, with 9 of the PR69xx numbers still current on TOPS in 2008 (8 of which were apparently still in internal use at Marchwood as of 2020 ). There is little evidence of the renumbered vans seeing much main-line use and they were removed from TOPS (along with the un-renumbered vans) in 2011 .
The stretched appearance of PR6934 can be seen in this 1986 photo.
The story of Army vans does not end there, because a variety of former BR vans were also bought by the MoD and overhauled in 1998. These included former VCA, VDA and VJX (ferry van) types, although most had latterly been in departmental use. A new TOPS code PDA-A was allocated for 'MoD van, centre doors. Ex VCA, GLW 46 tonne'  and the first allocations were former Electrification Department ZYA-U and ZYB-U vans (originally VCAs) assigned new numbers in the range MODA7450 to MODA7472 . Design codes were PD006A/B/C/D depending on the former ZYA/ZYB design code. The former ferry vans were not registered for main-line use and gained internal MoD numbers in the 4271 to 4282 range . This is despite the assignment of new TOPS codes PDA-B (MoD van, ex-RIV GLW 80 tonne) and PDA-C (MoD van, ex-RIV GLW 40 tonne) . The 80 tonne vans must have been bogie vehicles, though it is not clear which vehicles this was intended to refer to. A list at the start of 2001 suggests there were 15 PDA wagons current, along with 18 PMAs , while photos show that the PDAs were actually used on the mainline, with examples noted at Didcot and Eastleigh. As with the PMAs, not all of the planned PDAs were renumbered. A further TOPS code of PDA-D (MoD van, ex VDA) was later added  and 200677 (latterly a departmental ZRA) became MODA7473 to design code PD007A. The entire fleet of MoD PDAs was removed from TOPS in 2010 or 2011  .
This former VCA van has been preserved in its final guise as PDA MODA7454.
|Links:||N.B. Links will open in a new window.
Photos of MoD vans MODA60xx and MODA68xx on Paul Bartlett's website
Photos of Johnnie Walker Palvans on Paul Bartlett's website
Photos of Blue Circle PVV Palvans on Paul Bartlett's website
Photos of PMA box wagons (ex Blue Circle PVVs) on Paul Bartlett's website (Includes both high-sided and low-sided variants and some as PMV)
Photos of PRA china clay wagons (ex Blue Circle PVVs) on Paul Bartlett's website
Photos of Blackadder POA scrap wagons on Paul Bartlett's website (Includes some rebuilt from PMA/PRA rebuilt from PVV)
Photos of Railease PXA barrier wagons on Paul Bartlett's website (May have been built using parts from Blue Circle PVVs)
Photos of ICI dropside wagon PR4228 on Paul Bartlett's website (The type that may be related to the ICI Palvans)
Photos of Campbells Soups vans on Paul Bartlett's website (Including before and after conversion to curtainsides)
Photos of PR6400 in Ben Chairs livery on Paul Bartlett's website
Photos of TRL6950 Railiner on Paul Bartlett's website
Photos of Procor curtainsided PVAs on Paul Bartlett's website
No notes have been left yet. ?There may be some notes posted but which have not yet been approved.
|Data tags: ?Tags are mainly intended to show links to relevant profiles when looking at the detail page for TOPS codes, designs, batches etc. Here they work 'backwards' and will take you to the detail pages.||
Design/Diagram: PM004A 2-axle Mineral Box Wagon (ex Cement Palvan)
Design/Diagram: PM004B 2-axle Mineral Box Wagon (ex Cement Palvan)
Design/Diagram: PM004C 2-axle Mineral Box Wagon (ex Cement Palvan)
Design/Diagram: PM004D 2-axle Mineral Box Wagon (ex Cement Palvan)
Design/Diagram: PM007A 2-axle Curtain-sided Van
Design/Diagram: PM008A 2-axle Curtain-sided Van
Design/Diagram: PT007A Palvan
Design/Diagram: PV001A 12t Van Ventilated
Design/Diagram: PV002A 12t Covered Goods Van - Ventilated
Design/Diagram: PV003A Palvan
Design/Diagram: PV004A Palvan
Design/Diagram: PV005A Palvan (Bagged Cement)
Design/Diagram: PV006A 46t GLW Palvan
Design/Diagram: PV006B 46t GLW Curtain Sided Palvan
Design/Diagram: PV007A 51t GLW Pallet Van
Design/Diagram: PV008A 46t GLW Curtain Sided Wagon
Design/Diagram: PV009A 46t GLW Curtain Sided Pallet Van
Design/Diagram: PX003A 36t GLW Tube Wagon
Design/Diagram: PX019A 36t GLW Rod Coil Wagon
TOPS Class/Code: PDA-A
TOPS Class/Code: PDA-D
TOPS Class/Code: PMA-A 2 Axle Van, Curtain Sided
TOPS Class/Code: PMA-C P.O. Mineral, no doors, 2 axle
TOPS Class/Code: PMA-C P.O. Mineral, no doors, 2 axle
TOPS Class/Code: PMV
TOPS Class/Code: PTB-C P.O. Palvan, 2 axle
TOPS Class/Code: PUB-F P.O. Palvan, 2 axle, curtain sides
TOPS Class/Code: PVA
TOPS Class/Code: PVA-G P.O. Palvan, 2 axle, curtain sides
TOPS Class/Code: PVB-C
TOPS Class/Code: PVB-D 46t GLW Palvan
TOPS Class/Code: PVB-E 51t GLW Pallet Van
TOPS Class/Code: PVB-F 2-axle Curtain-sided Van
TOPS Class/Code: PVB-G P.O. Palvan, 2 axle, curtain sides
TOPS Class/Code: PVF-C Palvan
TOPS Class/Code: PVV-A
TOPS Class/Code: PVV-B Pallet Van
TOPS Class/Code: PXV-F
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