Brake vans on early coal trains

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Brake vans on early coal trains

Postby Support Crew Chef » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:53 am

Good Morning all

I've heard for a few sources that the early coal trains ran without brake vans. Most literature suggests brake vans were used by early railways from the 1840's but suggestions are that South Wales didn't use them until later. Can anyone clarify this for me please?

If this is the case was there an incident that changed the rules to make a brake van mandatory?

Many thanks

Iain
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Re: Brake vans on early coal trains

Postby s.w.johnson » Sat Jan 27, 2018 5:49 pm

You need a Taff Vale expert to answer this but my recollection is that they were the main culprits and they were heavily criticised for it by the Board of Trade. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a few guards fell of the last wagon and died or worse. If you think about all those 3 link couplings when the snatch of the last coupling reaches the last wagon the acceleration could be from nought to 10 or 20 mph almost instantaneously. If you are the guard perched on a load of coal.....
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Re: Brake vans on early coal trains

Postby Support Crew Chef » Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:37 pm

Thanks for the information, I'll concentrate on the Taff Vale. I;ve seen photos of early Guards accomodation being an open wagon with an upright handbake fitted. The Guards were certainly in a precarious job on those early trains!
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Re: Brake vans on early coal trains

Postby Noel » Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:37 pm

s.w.johnson wrote:If you think about all those 3 link couplings when the snatch of the last coupling reaches the last wagon the acceleration could be from nought to 10 or 20 mph almost instantaneously.


The point is valid, but I suggest it is unlikely that the train would even achieve 10mph, let alone 20. Reaching 10mph down a Welsh valley in those circumstances probably means that the train is already out of control... I would guess that the train would move at no more than walking speed, and the guard [and any brakesmen aboard] would be on and off the vehicles, applying and lifting brakes, as the gradient changed on the way down. Tramway style operation with longer trains, if you like. I gather from reading that even a 56XX with a 20T brake on the back didn't go much faster, albeit with a heavier load.
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Re: Brake vans on early coal trains

Postby Newport_rod » Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:48 pm

Not a primary source I'm afraid, but in Barrie's book on the B&M he says 'for many years the formality of goods brake-vans were dispensed with on [the Rhymney Valley] section (as it was at one time on the Taff Vale), and old-timers told of pretentious caravans of from 80 to 120 loaded coal wagons gently pushing a single engine down to Bassaleg'. As Barrie points out the gentle, and relatively consistent, gradient would have facilitated the practise.
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Re: Brake vans on early coal trains

Postby Support Crew Chef » Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:57 am

Thanks for the responses, they help a lot.
As the coal traffic increased and profits rolled in I can see a temptation to leave brake vehicles out of the rake of wagons to increase flexibility & profitability. Any further contributions are welcome - I am researching the history of guards vans.
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Re: Brake vans on early coal trains

Postby glynrhedynog » Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:27 pm

There is an eye witness confirmation of Taff Vale coal trains running without brake vans by the respected railway author E.L.Ahrons who was active more than a century ago.
In a series of articles published in the Railway Magazine, he wrote:
"During the period 1887 to 1890, when I saw a good deal of this line, I noticed that a large number of coal trains used to come down past Crockherbtown into Cardiff without rear brake vans......in all such cases tender and not tank engines were employed. Whenever a tank engine was used, there was a brake van at the rear of the train.
"It was a method of working to which I was unaccustomed, and the tailess coal train looked somewhat of a curious phenomenon."
Ahrons added that many of the trains hauled by tender engines did have brake vans. He also pointed out did not recollect any tailess coal trains bound for Penarth over the loop which crossed the Great Western main line at Ely.
The article was published in the Railway Magazine in 1922. It is also reproduced in volume 4 of Ahrons series of book entitled "Locomotive and Train Working in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century", published by Heffer and Sons of Cambridge in 1953. I m afraid I do not have the ISBN number.
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Re: Brake vans on early coal trains

Postby Support Crew Chef » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:44 pm

Thank you for that. It looks like this was a "semi-official" practice within the Taff Vale Railway. It must have helped to speed up the delivery of coal wagons to the docks by removing the shunt for the brake van at both the docks and back at the coal exchange sidings.
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Re: Brake vans on early coal trains

Postby Rhobat Bryn » Tue Apr 17, 2018 7:48 pm

"Locomotive and Train Working in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century", published by Heffer and Sons of Cambridge in 1953. I m afraid I do not have the ISBN number.


I don't believe it has an ISBN number.
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