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Gresley 51'1 1/2" steel-panelled stock

Having shown this stock in use in the West Riding, I thought I would run over construction of some models based on the original Kemilway kits. These were just about the first etched brass coach kits to be made in 4mm scale and no longer available, although unbuilt ones do crop up on bring & by sales stands and eBay from time to time. They were quite primitive by today's standards but a fine model can be built using the sides married to more modern components. I described my approach in two articles:

British Railway Modelling, November 1999

Model Rail, February 2005

This is an overview based on some of the pictures from the original articles and fresh ones added. For the model, the original text is more detailed and describes parts and techniques that cannot be covered in captions so if you want to go ahead, I should get copies of the originals: both are well illustrated with slightly different pictures, but only the later one has during-construction views.

The odd problem

When Gresley designed his first steel-panelled coaches in 1935 (the gangwayed "steel quintuple sets"), for reasons unknown so far, he reverted to GNR-style opening toplights over the doors instead of ventilator bonnets - and among the non-gangwayed stock built to lengths of 51'1 1/2" (and 54'1 1/2" for the odd Diagram for the GE Section) both kinds were provided, despite Gresley approving going over to the more modern design in May 1939. Matters are further complicated by division of construction between Birmingham RC&W, Cravens, Metropolitan-Cammell, R.Y.Pickering, and York, and that at least one Diagram is known to have had both types.

I have not been able to resolve everything yet so this aspect is a work in progress as information and pictures are found and worked up.

Michael Harris's second book on LNER carriages, the blue one of 1994, reprinted by Noodle Books in 2011, is useful for listing where many of these coaches were deployed.

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Pickering must have been proud of this coach which they built in May 1938 for they went to the trouble of painting out the background on the negative, which explains a little raggedness here and there. They also used old-fashioned Orthochromatic film which doesn't "see" red, so the simulated teak finish ended up almost entirely black: I have tried to correct this with Photoshop so that you can see the skill with which the work was done, and how individual panels varied around the body. Personally, I feel that some of the preserved steel-panelled Thompsons went overboard a little... and I remember being told of an observer saying how the finish on a original was so good that at first he really thought that he was looking at a wood-panelled carriage!

The toplights are the ex-GNR style and clearly visible is a great deal of the underframe and details that I didn't fully understand when I built the Kemilway models some years ago, fitting some of them with battery boxes on both sides. In fact, a long battery box was fitted on one side only (the far side in this case), with a regulator box on this side. I got wise to this later with Thompson carriages which were equipped the same way. Gresley's regulator box had a diamond shaped front and was also carried by his TPOs.

In between is the steam heat pipe, freshly wrapped in white asbestos as insulation, and it's a fitting worth modelling, even if mucky in-service, on these rather open underframes and Gresley BGs which also only carried a single battery box. Photo: LNER PRO, author's collection.

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Gresley SP CL

A recently overhauled Gresley 51'1 1/2" semi-corridor lavatory composite E88290E, built 1940 to D.299. The rectangular windows are typical of a Gresley carriage, and the relatively high pitch of the trussing on the 51'1 1/2" coaches. In essence, this was a straightforward modernisation of the well-established teak-panelled original built to D.49 and D.50, the obvious differences being in the panelling and trussing - and, as mentioned above, reversion to GNR-style opening toplights over the doors.

In fact this picture illustrates the problem with the toplight/ventilator variations rather well for two batches of this Diagram were built by York in 1939-40 for which the Diagram dated 1939 shows the hoods - yet the picture above of a carriage built in 1940 shows the opening toplights.

Gresley SP

A fine view of the opening toplight version is seen in this twin at Darlington in 1957.

It's part of D.269 (BT-T) that was built in 1938 (Metropolitan-Cammell) and 1939 (Birmingham RC&W and York) to D.269. The Diagram dated 1939 for the two contractors shows opening toplights, as seen here in a twin of 1939. The brake is to the left.

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A pair of Thirds to D.276 at Penistone behind C13 67434 that shows the different ventilation arrangements over the doors in the same Diagram and the same train (in order from behind the loco):

3rd   b.Pickering 1938   D.276   E82624E  - with glazed, opening toplights over the doors.
3rd   b.York          1940   D.276   E82618E  - with ventilator bonnets over the doors.

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Construction of D.276 had been as follows:

1938 R.Y. Pickering, for the GE Section
1939 R.Y. Pickering, for the GE Section
1940 York, for the NE Area

The Diagram I have refers to construction in 1938 by Pickering with opening toplights, as seen above, and it appears that York went over to the more modern type without a new Diagram being raised - this sort of detail change didn't always lead to a new Diagram, modellers beware!

Evidently, these D.276 3rds had been transferred from the GE Section and the NE Area, to the former GC Section.

When looking at train pictures in the West Riding, the bonnet version dominates according to two Diagrams built by York in 1941:

D.310 - BT(5)-CL(3/4)
D.319 - BT(6)

Which Michael Harris recorded as having been built for the West Riding and Nottingham Districts. I have yet to find another type in the West Riding District and all the pictures below show bonnets on the doors.

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N1 No 69452 gets a West Riding service under way from Leeds Central in 1953 with a Gresley 51'1 1/2" steel-panelled twin at the head, followed by a Thompson 3rd brake.

The twin is a BT(5)-CL to D.310 with ventilator bonnets over the doors. The number appears to be E80327 but I cannot find this number in the Harris listings!

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C13 67445

Here's another example of the version with shielded ventilators over the doors with C13 67445 between Leeds and Wakefield hauling a single and a twin: BT, CL-BT. The twin is another example of D.310, paired with a similarly outfitted BT(6) to D.319.

PS - There was another BT(6) which had been built in 1940 for the GC Section's suburban traffic in Manchester as part of a BT-T twin to D.312 and it's likely that the bodies were the same (on the Diagrams, they are indistinguishable).

. N1 69474

A shorter formation waits at Keighley on the Queensbury lines system behind a smart N1, No 69494. The 2-set has been provided with a D.310 twin, BT-CL.

More examples as used in West Riding secondary services are here.

New section

BT-T and C to D.311 and D.312

The next batch of steel-panelled carriages was built in 1949 and 1943 as part of continuing modernisation of suburban services without lavatories around Manchester, and somewhere on the GN Section which I have yet to identify. Both were built by York with ventilator bonnets above the doors and the indications are that they were intended to run as complete 5-sets. But first, two general views of the stock in service:

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A classic view of a 5-set behind C13 No 7401 on a Manchester-Hayfield working, a distance of around 15 miles, near Strines on 6th September 1947. Modernisation of a complete train was rare, it was normally done in stages, but as can be seen here, an effort was made for the Manchester services and it appears that four trains were made up with recently built 51'1 1/2" steel-panelled twin and single carriages to D.311 and D.312:


The carriages were seven years old when this picture was taken and it's an impressive formation, albeit with one of the twins inside out. Reflections off the sides conceal that the livery would have been simulated teak. They would soon be re-painted crimson. Photo: R.D. Pollard, author's collection.

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Another fine service picture taken in 1947 shows C13 No 7424 with a train for Hayfield leaving New Mills tunnel. Only the leading carriage can be seen, possibly marshalled outside a formation with twins in it. Photo: R.D. Pollard, author's collection.

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Composite to D.311

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The Diagram for this C(4/3) is essentially a steel-panelled version of D.51 and pretty unremarkable except that by this time relatively few stand-alone 51'1 1/2" carriages were being built - these were required to fit between 3rd class twins with minimal 1st class seating in a single carriage.

Compartment widths in this carriage (and D.51) were a little unusual, luxurious, even. In normal carriages, whether gangwayed or not, the 1st class compartment was normally 7'3" wide, and the 3rd class one, 6'2". In this design, where a compartment had to be sacrificed, both compartments were enlarged - to 7'6" and 6'8 1/2", respectively. It made the lower class compartment almost as wide as the normal higher class one (and a far cry from just over 5ft in the King's Cross Suburban quadruplet sets)! One wonders if regular commuters on discovering the generosity of leg room in this design made a bee-line for it?

The number of seats is puzzling, however. Harris quoted C(32/30), that is with four 1st class compartments each seating 8 passengers; and three 3rd class ones for 10 passengers each. But the Diagram quotes 40 Third Class seats , which is self-evidently not divisible by 3. It's a Drawing Office "typo" chaps - not for the first time I remind modellers to use their grey cells when looking at official documents: they were not cast in stone and all man-made artefacts can be mistaken or misleading.

Four were built for the GC Section (first digit "5") in 1940, plus another two in 1943 for the GN Section which Michael Harris noted as "SP Replacements", reason unknown; they would have fitted in with the twins built at the same time for that Section:

57800-3 (Thompson/BR 88323-6)
45958-9 (Thompson/BR 88321-2)

D.311 detl

An enlargement from the train picture shows the ventilator bonnets over the doors well and the painted "teak" finish is elegant. The number can just about be read and is either 57800 or 57803.

Brake 3rd twin to D.312

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The arrangement of D.312 to BT(6)-T(8) is seen above and the basics are similar to the Composite to D.311 with shielded ventilator bonnets and steel angle trussing. Compartment width in the BT(6) was the normal 6'2" and in the T(8) very slightly wider at 6'3 1/16". Note the standard (light) bogies at the ends and heavy bogie in the middle.

The title for both Diagrams is worth a comment, too: not "suburban" as the RTR trade (and thus a lot of modellers) is wont to call all non-gangwayed carriages, but "Ordinary". There's a lot to be said for plain English!

Again both batches were built in 1940 (8 for the GC Section) and 1943 (4 for the GN Section):

BT : 54000/2/4/6/8/10/2/4  (Thompson 86967/9/71/33/5/7/9/81)
  T  : 54001/3/5/7/9/11/3/5  (Thompson 86968/70/2/4/6/8/80/2)

BT : 44421/31/41/51  (Thompson 86959/61/3/5)
  T : 44422/32/42/52  (Thompson 86960/2/4/6)

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7401 detl

An enlargement which shows the leading twin and the composite in the middle of the formation. Note the deeper trussing on the twin (same as 61'6" stock) and shallower on the stand-alone composite. Battery boxes were one side only on alternate sides. The running number on the leading 3rd appears to be 54009. The Manchester set number is painted on the end, although whether No 8 or a number in the 80s I cannot tell.

The models

Kemilway twin

When I first came across these kits, my first attempts to build them only used the body sides, with Comet underframe and roof, which is the BR Mk.1 type, plus ABS bogies and some fittings from MJT, but the result was visibly a hybrid of sorts and for further models, LNER components via MJT were used extensively with satisfyingly better looking results, as the following pictures show.

kemilway sides

The Kemilway etched sides complete with the rebated guard's end. In the etchings, the opening toplights were quite primitive so I fitted ventilator bonnets. The ends were made from brass sheet to marry with the sides and the roof.


For the underframe I used 1.6mm copper-clad as the base and 3x1mm channel for the solebars - that's the trickiest part. An alternative solution is to use Plastikard. The whitemetal trussing was from MJT, which is for Thompson stock and I reduced in height. All the other fittings also came from MJT. Additional details were support straps under the battery boxes, dynamo belt and brake linkages. I later discovered that battery boxes were only carried on one side with a regulator box on the opposite side.

kemilway body

Simplicty is worth striving for because it makes for easier and more enjoyable modelling, and that always gives a better result.
Here is the body unit complete: strengthened Kemilway sides with solid ends and the whole thing literally drops on the underframe/floorpan, as a press fit. Painted and weathered. After glazing and fitting the handles etc., the interior will go in, another snug fit, right against the sides. Last of all, the roof, another press fit, between the sides and the ends. All these modules (is that the right word?) were built and painted separately with no masking. Sorry to be brief here, the articles cover several pages!

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The model complete in BR crimson livery. Note how compact the underframe is.

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Kemilway end

Close-up of the guard's end showing all the fittings.

Kemilway twin

And finally, a 3rd Brake in a twin. This is an earlier model, before I realised that the guard's handrails were steel and painted black.

Kemilway Gresley twin

Lest anyone doubts the elegance of steel-panelled carriages and articulated twins, here's a broadside view of the complete BT(5)-T twin.

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