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GCR carriages - 50' London Suburban

This stock tends to be forgotten despite its longevity and eventual widespread use. It was built 1905-8 after the clerestory designs, initially for non-lavatory suburban trains operating out of Marylebone, the bodies similar to the preceding clerestory versions. Originally painted in the two-tone brown and cream livery, then stripped and varnished.

This is now in several sections:

- The carriages
- In service at Marylebone
- Further north on the GCLE
- On other parts of the LNER and BR(E)
- The brake composites
- Modelling and livery notes

New additions placed here temporarily.

The 3rd brake

There were four Diagrams:

GCR 3A3

BT(5)

LNER Hollerith 5082

  9 built 1905

GCR 3A4

BT(5)

LNER Hollerith 5083

21 built 1905-6

GCR 3A5

BT(3)

LNER Hollerith 5084

  1 built 1907

GCR 3A6

BT(4)

LNER Hollerith 5084

  2 built 1907

It's hard to explain why small numbers of the BT(3) and BT(4) were added later and I can only suggest intended use in secondary services further north where extra van space was required.

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I've chosen to show this Diagram because it was the first built to the dominant Diagram for the London Extension. The next Diagram was the same but 2" wider. If the battery boxes look confusing it's because they were offset (see photographs below). Running numbers were:

563-571

The second version was numbered: 572-595.

which the LNER prefixed with "5" and BR further prefixed (and in the case of survivors also suffixed) "E". The "O" in the title stands for Ordinary, a term that was also used by the LNER for its secondary carriages. Use of "van" for carriages with a guard's position, however, was not, "brake" was preferred. Source: author's collection.

The BT(5) became a staple on the GC-Section.

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This service view shows their longevity in Marylebone service which by 1938, was second-tier. It's a Dufaycolor picture (hence the diagonally sloping texture) was taken at Aylesbury in 1938 and was reproduced in "The Big Four in Colour, 1935-50", David Jenkinson, Pendragon/Atlantic 1994, which is one of the all time great railway books for its stunning pictures. Alas, the captions were mainly about the locos and misinterpretations abounded. I was in touch with Jenkinson at the time but he didn't want to know. The content in this picture was fabulous but largely missed - here is an attempt to remedy that. As an aside, the image is quite heavily vignetted, which I have repaired. The book reproduction used a reduction in tones instead.

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The date - was not given in the book but my Colour-Rail slide states "12/38", although that can't be right as the B3 No 6165 Valour was transferred to Immingham the previous month so November 1938 at the latest is probably right. You may think that I'm trying to split hairs here but the point is that loco allocations are available and can be looked up, as can a great deal more.

The time the picture was taken can be established by the shadows and indicates about 2pm on a winter's day when a through express called so by turning to the nearest Working Timetable all three trains in view can be identified:

1 - The express on the left hand side of the view was not seen by Jenkinson. It's the 10am Bradford-Marylebone, forerunner of the "South Yorkshireman", which was scheduled to stop for one minute between 2.06-2.07 and with the signals off, is about to restart. It was normally headed by an ex-GCR Atlantic but a B17 could have been in charge by this time (it's hard to tell).

2 - Neasden's B3 No 6165 Valour stands in the Up bay (which was added in LNER days as the Outer Suburban traffic boomed) and not simply with "a stopping service to Marylebone" but the Saturdays Only 2.19pm Aylesbury-Marylebone Ordinary Passenger. Being an extra service instead of an A5 tank engine normally used on these Outer Suburban services any adequate vacuum fitted loco in steam would have been provided by Neasden, hence the rather powerful B3 4-6-0.

A standard formation was not provided for the carriages either - which by this time was mainly LNER-built twins - but a made-up formation using whatever was available in the carriage sidings.

  TO

3rd open

LNER Gresley 61'6"

BT

3rd brake

Ex-GCR 50' London Suburban

   T

3rd

Ex-NER 52'

... rem not visible

The leading Gresley gangwayed carriage has been added as a strengthener (another picture shows the same service without it). Behind it is a London Suburban 3rd brake to the normal format of BT(5) and beyond that, an ex-NER cascade. A similar one can be seen in the picture at Darlington. It's an excellent example of a Saturday extra shoe-horned into the normal service.

The liveries are interesting for the leading carriage is in reasonably clean varnished teak but the two carriages behind it are distinctly different because they were panelled with mahogany to take a painted finish and later stripped and varnished when varnished teak became the norm for new construction (or in the case of the ex-NER carriage, painted brown).

3 - The third working is on the right with ex-Metropolitan H2 4-4-4T No 6420 which is shunting the yard with the 11.26am Class D (goods pick-up) from Neasden. Note the LMS 5-plank open merchandise wagon - it's actually the only wagon attached but this is not visible on the Colour-Rail copy. The photographer took the picture as it passed by, hence capturing a busy few minutes and all three trains at the station and was almost certainly planned in advance. As the saying, goes, every picture tells a story....

Source: Photographer unknown, Colour-Rail NE129/Pendragon Collection.

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An example of a BT(5) in BR days, at an unknown location. The number is unclear but may be E5588, to the most numerous second Diagram 3A4. Author's collection.

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The carriages

3rd

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An ex-works view of 3rd No 798 from the batch built by BRC&WC 1905-06 in the original brown and cream livery. This is an original print but alas not very well prepared. Photo: LNER Official RO/100, author's collection.

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1st

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It's 1st September 1956 and this secondary service at Darlington contains stock from at least three different sources: ex-NER, ex-GCR and ex-LNER. In the middle, built in 1906 as a London Suburban 1st, is No 819, now E5819 and redesignated as a composite, C(2,5).

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In service - Marylebone

A fresh batch showing the carriages in Marylebone's Outer Suburban service after the bodies were stripped and varnished, and a later view after cascading on the Banbury Branch.

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A relatively early view c1910 near Denham on the GW&GCJ behind 9L (LNER C13) No 1124 when the original 3-sets were still in use:

BT

3rd Brake

  F

1st

BT

3rd Brake

A simple formation with a dedicated 1st in the middle for well-heeled London commuters. With two milk vans on the rear. Photo: Author's collection.

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Around the same time, also on the GW&GCJ with 9L (LNER C13) No 1121 in charge and the 3-set extended to a 4-set by addition of a 3rd. Photo: Author's collection.

BT

3rd Brake

50' London Suburban

  F

1st

              "  

BT

3rd Brake

              "  

  T

3rd

50' clerestory

Note how the extra carriage was placed outside the 3-set, a practice that held for some time.

Many sets were to be extended further, especially for rush hour and the 4-4-2Ts were about to be replaced by Class 9N (LNER A5) 4-6-2Ts.

It's also interesting to muse that exactly half of these trains ran bunker first, which was almost never photographed!

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A complete London Suburban 5-set stands in the carriage sidings near Marylebone station in September 1915. The formation is:

BT, F, F, T, BT

There was plenty of demand for 1st class seats at the time. Later, conversions were made into composites. Photo: Topical, Fleet St., author's collection.

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A wonderful view of a recently built Class 9N (LNER A5) in charge of an early evening rush hour Outer Suburban train as it passes the Metropolitan's station of Neasden & Kingsbury (it became plain "Neasden" later) with admirers looking on. No 165 has what became a standard 5-set (BT,F,F,T,BT) with a 6th carriage added behind the loco. Photo: Author's collection.


  T

3rd

50' London Suburban

BT

3rd Brake

              "  

  F

1st

              "  

  F

1st

              "  

  T

3rd

              "  

BT

3rd Brake

              "  

This was a period of multiple transition and this picture was probably taken in 1911 when the loco was built and matchboard stock was about to be introduced. I've seen it suggested that this kind of train was typical before WWI but it was actually quite brief. The matchboard stock was introduced into the extant sets as it arrived and there's a picture lower down with the same formation with a 60' matchboard replacement as the sets were modernised.

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When the 9N (LNER A5) locos were introduced at Marylebone photographers rushed to capture them and the service of the time was immortalised in many b&w images and colour postcards based on them. Indeed, this one was published by LPC repeatedley. And very little showing how the service was modernised in these years with Robinson's matchboard carriages. Small wonder that it's led to misinterpretation of how enormously the service changed before the Great War. To be honest, it's not the only example of railway misperception through biased railway photography and inattention to what was actually happening, but there we go...

I've included it for other good reasons. To begin with, it shows a Marylebone Outer Suburban train still based on London Suburban carriages and the same 6-set as in the b&w pictures (T, BT, F, F, T, BT) and in glorious colour. It's well known that Robinson adopted varnished teak for panelled carriages just before he introduced his matchboard style, and that previous stock which had been painted was stripped and varnished. You can see in b&w photos where old and new designs were paired how the older stuff was darker, because it had been panelled with mahogany because, unlike teak, it's not oily and takes paint well. That's why these carriages have such a different hue compared with varnished teak. I remember being told by an observer that this difference was still plain to see a great many years later. The same would also have been true of ex-GCR gangwayed carriages. Postcard: Author's collection.

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A view credited to "May 1913" and a train "for the GW&GCJ line" - but was probably 1911 and the train the 3.20pm to Aylesbury - shows GCR 9N (LNER A5) No 450 between Preston Road and Harrow-on-the-Hill with a down Outer Suburban train without lavatories. The basis of the formation is a 50' London Suburban 5-set, strengthened to a 6-set and being modernised with matchboard stock:

  T

50' London suburban

BT

              "  

  F

              "  

  F

              "  

  T

60' matchboard

BT

50' London suburban

Note the two Firsts, a common arrangement for the Marylebone service, and partial modernisation with a Robinson matchboard carriage in the formation. This 60' 3rd had 10 compartments and was built between 1911-13. Photo: author's collection.

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Further north on the London Extension

Replacement by Robinson matchboard carriages allowed the London Suburban stock to be cascaded around the LNER and subsequently BR(E) in secondary and minor lines service, with roof destination boards fitted. The first two pictures were taken c1924 on the approach to Rothley station and show a London Suburban 4-set in Ordinary Passenger service:

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D10 No 431c Edwin A. Beazley is carrying the early LNER livery with consisted of the GCR green livery and number on the tender with a "c" suffix and L&NER above it. The date was March 1924. This was a Neasden loco at the time and appears to have been borrowed.

The main formation is a former London outer suburban 4-set which has been strengthened behind the tender by a matchboard BT(6), suggesting a Saturday or a market day along the line:


ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

60' matchboard

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

  F

1st

              "  

ex-GCR

  T

3rd

              "  

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

              "  

The roster was unusual in that it was the only 4-set allocated to Chesterfield and used for Ordinary Passenger all-stations services. The day began with the 5.15am "Parliamentary" working to Sheffield. After a layover of an hour and half, the set was probably taken by a loco from Neepsend for the 7.55am to Nottingham, where there was another layover, this time an hour and a quarter. A fresh loco would have been used for the 11am to Leicester, during which this picture was taken.

Yet another layover followed before being worked back to Nottingham where the roster ended. It was a 2-day roster and the set served the same stations the next day before ending the day at Chesterfield. The opposing set was based at Nottingham.

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The 11am from Nottingham is photographed again at Rothley, this time behind D9 No 1038c, an Annesley loco.

The strengthener is at the far end and cannot be identified except for the profile of a matchboard carriage. It's possible that this may have been the opposing set. Even harder to make out is a van of some kind on the rear.

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D9 No 6022 was captured in 1928 approaching Loughborough from the north with a non-gangwayed Ordinary Passenger 4-set. This is believed to be a Leicester-based 4-set which worked in the Leicester-Nottingham area. The formation was (BT, F, T, BT) and made up predominantly with London Suburban carriages:

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

  F

1st

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

  T

3rd

60' Robinson

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

50' London Suburban

The "other" carriage in the train was a Robinson 60' 3rd with 10 compartments. Photo: W.L. Good.

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This view from around 1930 shows C13 No 6060 is leaving Banbury for Woodford with the "Banbury Motor" (the long lasting nickname for the service). Photo: authors collection.


Milk van

  T

3rd

50' London Suburban

BCL

1st/3rd lavatory brake

50' clerestory

Horse box

To save messing about, the milk van was a permanent part of the formation. The horse box on the rear looks like an ex-NER one which suggests that it was being returned empty, in which case it wouldn't have needed to be placed behind the loco. Banbury's station pilot would have placed it against the buffers in the north bay ready for arrival of the train from Woodford.

Dare I add that I have a train like this on my layout in the loft? :)

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On other parts of the LNER and BR(E)

C13 No 6065 has an Ordinary Passenger train c.1933 near Wortley, between Penistone and Sheffield, with a secondary 4-set:

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

  CL

1st/3rd lavatory

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

  T

3rd

50' London Suburban

ex-GCR

BT

3rd brake

50' London Suburban

The lavatory composite was built in 1906-7 and I suspect not for Marylebone service but further north. Two Diagrams were produced, 4L7 and 4L8, four each, the later Diagram on 10' bogies. This looks like one of the first ones.

On the far end is a 4w passenger brake van, probably one of the D.120 clones built for the GC Section to D.170/176/177. Photo: E.R. Morten.

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In this charming view from Wrexham on 13th August 1950, N5 No 69349 waits with a secondary 4-set to Hawarden Bridge with a train of assorted types going back to around 1905-15.

BT

50' London suburban

  T

50' clerestory

  C

60' matchboard

BT

50' London suburban

The barely visible 3rd brake at the far end is inside out. Note that for the 1st class passengers, a 60ft matchboard carriage has been provided, the most modern one in the train, or the least old, if you like! The layout of its 9 compartments was (3T, 4F, 2T).

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Another example of how mixed formations in secondary service in rural districts used to be. This West Riding view is dated "July 1955" and shows Copley Hill's N1 No 69450 moving an empty 5-set on the approach to Harrogate with carriages from four different decades:

BT

  52'4" Thompson

  T

  50' ex-GCR London Suburban

  CL

  51'1 1/2" Gresley - with turnbuckle trussing

  CL-BT

  56'6" Gresley twin - on steel angle trussing

Looking closer at the Thompson carriage, it has radiussed corners to the windows and the running number is just discernible as E87186E - which was built in 1951. Indeed, it looks brand new so the date on the back of the print of "July 1955" may not be all that accurate. The upshot is that we're seeing a BR-period train of carriages from three eras: pre-Grouping, LNER and BR running together.

The ex-GNR N1 0-6-2T was allocated to Copley Hill around this time so this was probably a West Riding formation.

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The brake composites

I have added the brake composites because they were built quite late, in 1906-8, and concluded construction of "London Suburban" style designs. All had lavatories for all passengers. Prior to this, four Diagrams of 50' clerestory BCL had been built in 1903 (Diagrams 4H2-4H5, a total of 13 carriages) and when the concept was revisited in 1906-8, only four more added. The type could have been useful for Outer Suburban service at Marylebone but it had already been well stocked and lavatory types were not used. I suspect these later designs were built for secondary services further north.

Two Diagrams were built:

Built

Type

Diagram

LNER Code (1938)

------

------------

-----------

---------------------------

1906-7

BCL(2,3)

4H6

5151

1908

BCL(2,3)

4H7

5152

Only two each were built in 1907-8, total=4.

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At this point, what was quite simple has been turned into a confusing mess by modern hands. When built, the abbreviation "O" stood for Ordinary, meaning non-gangwayed (this was also used by the LNER) and "van" was used to indicate a vehicle with a brake compartment. Hence all seven GCR Diagrams for this type - from 4H2 to 4H8 - were labelled:

O Lavatory Van Composite

as shown above, for example. Unfortunately, in his book about pre-BR Coaching Stock, Hugh Longworth invented descriptions that don't make sense and, here, shows four of the Diagrams as:

"Luggage Van Composite"

- which is false because the term "luggage" had a specific meaning for a small compartment for passengers, which none of these Diagrams had. He shows another one of these Diagrams as:

"Barnum"
"Lavatory Van Composite Corridor"

- which is multiple baloney - it was neither a Barnum nor a corridor coach, much-repeated errors by Longworth.

Railway terminology was purposeful and it does not help to invent things and get them wrong (there's a separate review of this book under Prototype and Traffic). After the Grouping, the LNER adopted two terms unambiguously - "brake" and "locker" for a non-guard compartment, the latter concept going out of vogue except for some ECML expresses to Scotland where Gresley used it to save space and weight in long-distance portions.

The London Suburban-style BCLs had four lavatories with the 1st Class ones slightly better laid out, and a short corridor at the longer 3rd Class end, so, not entirely a semi-corridor carriage although every passenger was able to reach a lavatory. They differed in layout because, ahead of the guard's end, the interior was reversed, and the first Diagram was originally dual-braked - an interesting decision. Unusually, they were fitted with 10ft bogies, quite a luxury for a secondary 50' carriage.

Longest lived was 4H6 as shown above, having come from Gorton in 1906 (No 221, later 5221) and Brush in 1907 (No 1594, later 51594). In 1940 the former was converted to 8ft bogies. Author's collection.

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And here they both are in the same train at Guide Bridge on 13th June 1949, running under ECS lights with 5221 behind the loco. In between is an ex-NER clerestory 3rd cascaded to the GC Section. It may look a bit of an oddball, especially with both brake ends inside out, but it's typical of so many secondary services where old cascaded carriages were kept ticking over. The 1st class designation can be seen on the middle doors of the nearest carriage; the lower class was no longer being indicated. Photo: author's collection.

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Modelling and livery notes

It is possible to make some of these carriages by modifying a Perseverance kit of the clerestory version although only the 3rd is possible. The main requirement is the low ellipical roof and a matching end to suit it. Actually, that's not as hard as it might seem and I described a similar tweak when building a clerestory type (see link below).

I have seen adverts for these carriages under "3D Printed GCR Carriages" per Simon Dawson and Shapeways, which show artwork images. I have no personal link nor experience of them so can say no more.

Livery - originally painted in the two-tone brown and cream livery. After the varnished teak scheme came in around 1908 they were stripped and varnished. Some modellers find this hard to believe but it happened alright (some GCR gangwayed carriages went on to be LNER-lined as well). A key aspect is that mahogany panelling appears to have been used for the original painted finished and when subsequently varnished, they looked slightly darker than teak panelled carriages, especially when marshalled together in b&w photographs. Indeed, observers from LNER days recall them as distinctly dark and dowdy. In BR days pre-Grouping stock was routinely painted plain brown.

To be continued...

Links to related subjects:

GCR Barnum carriages

GCR carriages - matchboard

GCR London Extension - expresses

Modelling GCR clerestories

The book referred to above is reviewed here:

BR Pre-Nationalisation Coaching Stock

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