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Horse and race traffic

The following sections are samples of what is being worked up

- LNER race horse names
- Horse box design development
- Horse box workings by:
- - Express passenger
- - Secondary passenger
- - NPCS workings
- Race horse specials
- Examples of events and their workings
- Some LMS related workings

It's a whopping subject!

New additions

New additions will be placed here temporarily, in chronological order.

A first look at individual events and how the traffic was handled.

Race meetings and workings

All the events required special excursions to be worked in, stabled, and then worked out again. The handbills give an idea of the scale of the task faced by the railway on the day. What the public didn't see is how these services were worked and how the stock was stabled during the races - it was different at every racecourse. Here are some preliminary highlights.

Doncaster and the St.Leger

St Leger 1931

This LNER handbill from 1931 was aimed at the city of London. It actually ran to four pages with more details inside. Each day was served by an express with catering but the highlight was the Wednesday - St.Leger Day. For which the LNER ran two extra trains, a normal express with catering, and a train of Pullman cars hired for the occasion, running at some speed to Doncaster with the latter only catering for 1st class passengers. A Pacific would have been used rather than a large Atlantic.

And the winner in 1931? Sandwich, soon to be carried by A3 No 2504, in BR days, No 60039.

For modellers, Cliff Parsons has been running a Newmarket Race Special Pullman on "The Gresley Beat" for some time: now we know that he can also run it as a St.Leger Day Special. :)


This racecourse had the most races, presented several of the "classics", and was close enough to London to merit a phenomenal service. Specials were also raised from surrounding cities and towns.

Handbill Newmarket

This brochure for the 1958 season was aimed at Londoners and detailed all the meetings, the leading races, and special services from King's Cross and Liverpool Street. Many winners of the two classics run at Newmarket, the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, were placed on LNER Pacifics, from Gresley A1/A3s such as Flying Fox and Sceptre, to the post-War Thompson Pacifics, such as Happy Night and Blue Peter, and Peppercorn A1 Pommern. Two "Deltics" were also honoured winners of the 2,000 Guineas, Nimbus and Creppello.

Aintree and the Grand National

Aintree handbill

This handbill for Liverpool Spring races - including the Grand National - is a fine example of an inter-regional working which was initially an NER train from Hull Paragon to the LYR's Racecourse Station, subsequently LNER to LMS, and then ER to LMR. The immense volume of inter-regional excursion traffic can be useful for modellers wishing to run a "foreign" train.

61317 Aintree special

A fine view of a Grand National Special near Glazebrook in 1950, en route from Cleethorpes. B1 No 61317, still in ex-LNER apple green, has a medium length train of ex-LNER coaches. Most are LNER-built Gresleys with an ex-GNR one behind the tender.

Wetherby races

Now for a less prestigious event. At Wetherby, steeplechase meetings had been held since early NER days and the local service came from Leeds where Leeds City and Neville Hill did the honours. Race Specials were also provided from the West Riding at large, notably from Bradford and, from further afield, Hull and Sheffield. It was quite a Yorkshire event.

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A handbill from 1939 for the steeplechases on Whit Monday for race-goers from Leeds City to the Race Course Station at Wetherby. The Specials ran every few minutes for an hour or so, picking up passengers as they arrived on the platform. The race course was two miles from the main station and a Race Course Station had been provided nearby.

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A similar procedure was followed in BR days although times were changing. First class passengers were no longer being carried and the Race Course Station had been forced to close in the late-1950s - the destination was now the main station in Wetherby (Town) and a connecting bus service was provided.

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A fairly typical example of the service from Leeds is seen passing Thorner behind Neville Hill's J39 No 64868. The carriages are a mixture of secondary stock - non-gangwayed and non-lavatory - with a former GE Section quadruplet (cascaded to the NE Region) at the head. At the far end is an ex-GCR matchboard carriage (many were cascaded to the West Riding), a 3rd brake.

J39s were much used from nearby locations. From further afield, mixed traffic 4-6-0s were common.

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Trains from Bradford were also provided with secondary non-gangwayed stock, but with a sprinkling of lavatories. An unidentified J39 is passing Arthington and of the carriages visible, half have lavatories, many of the semi-corridor lavatory type, both Gresley teak and Thompson steel-panelled. At the head is a lavatory composite twin (BT-CL).

Pre-Grouping stock was still being used with another ex-GCR matchboard carriage in the formation. Surprising as it may seem, several Gresley 51' 1 1/2" Firsts have also been deployed. This was quite common, many ending up like this, redundant from the city suburban traffic they had been built for and converted into composites or, on a race day, pasted with stickers for the lower class only. Note how the handbills no longer advertised 1st class fares. For modellers who may view secondary all-1st carriages as not required in BR days, in excursions they were plentiful!

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J39 No 64870 from Neville Hill is arriving with a train from Leeds. Only a few coaches with lavatories have been provided but the mixture of types is little changed. Behind the Thompson 3rd brake is a Gresley lavatory 3rd (TL), another cascade from the GE Section.

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During the races the Specials were sent back to Leeds (Neville Hill carriage sidings) or stabled locally. This is Collingham Bridge on Easter Monday in 1957 with empty trains in the sidings and a light engine approaching from Wetherby while a local train from Leeds runs into the station.

These are longer distance excursions which have been provided with gangwayed sets and much old stock is evident. On the left the outer end is an ex-GCR matchboard, while the set on the right contains five ex-NER and ex-GER carriages, long since cascaded into excursion traffic. After a pause during the afternoon while the locos came free and whizzed around, changing direction for the return journey and running round their trains, they were despatched back to Wetherby to load up once more and begin streaming through again on their way home.

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LNER Pacifics named after racehorses

Horse traffic varied a good deal and the race traffic was only part of it, but such an indelible impression was left by the LNER policy of naming most of its Pacifics after thoroughbred winners that it's appropriate to start here.

There's quite a story behind the naming policy which, in brief, began with Gresley's A1 class in the 1920s, continued with changes in emphasis during later A1s and the A3s, and after a break for the A4s, was picked up again for the Thompson and Peppercorn Pacifics with yet more adjustments to the policy - until a BR naming committee (dominated by ex-LMS men) began to throw its weight around.

Here are some examples which will also help introduce the classic races which drew the largest numbers of followers and the biggest crowds - colossal by today's standards because unlike a football match, for example, it was a whole day out and people travelled from far and wide.

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A classic view of a Gresley A1 at King's Cross, No 2558 Tracery from the large early series of GNR-period winners with harmonious names - in this case of the St Leger in 1912. Photo: A. Swain.

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From the same batch and now as A3 No 60046 Diamond Jubilee, Treble Crown winner in 1900 of the Derby, St. Leger and 2000 Guineas. Seen in 1956 with the "Heart of Midlothian" near Wymondley. Photo: Geoff Goslin.

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Another example from the same batch (it was the largest one!), this time as A3 No 60067 Ladas, Double Crown winner in 1894 of the Derby and 2000 Guineas, seen at Wood Green in 1952 with the 3.30pm KX-Newcastle. Note the superbly turned out restaurant triplet set in the middle of the formation, transferred from the pre-War "Silver Jubilee". Photo: BKB Green.

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Gresley A1 No 4481 St. Simon has the Yorkshire Pullman in the 1930s. The loco, built in 1923, was part of the first batch to carry racehorse names. The stallion had won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1884 but his greatest claim to fame came from his descendants - his was an exceedingly long and successful blood line that produced many winners of the classic races, among them Persimmon, Diamond Jubilee, Isinglass and Prince Palatine.

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An unusual study of A3 60109 Hermit at Grantham in 1962. Also built in 1923 from the first batch of A1 Pacifics it received the name of one of the oldest winners - the stallion had won the Derby in 1867 at a time when he was deemed to be the fastest horse of all time; hyperbole perhaps, but other events around the race made it memorable and it was a worthy choice for the loco. Photo: Eric Oldham.


Another example from the first batch when really famous winners from the past were being chosen. Gresley A1 No 2568 was built in 1924 and named after Sceptre, a filly which won the 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas on consecutive days in 1902. In fact, she was a real star for she also won the St.Leger and the Oaks, totalling four of the five classics, and the only horse ever to have achieved this feat. She would have been well known to travellers in LNER days and remains the greatest filly of all time.

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Moving on to Pacifics introduced as A3s, No 2795 was built in 1930 and is seen charging along with the "Flying Scotsman". It was named after an almost contemporary winner, Call Boy who had won the Derby in 1927. This kind of picture exemplifies the link between racehorse and the iron steed so cleverly exploited by Gresley and the LNER. Photo: Author's collection.

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Built as an A3 in February 1935 and the last of the line, No 2508 was named after Brown Jack. He never won a classis race but, instead - for 6 consecutive years - he won the Queen Alexandra Stakes. A feat never remotely equalled in the sport. Photo: Author's collection.

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Moving on now to post-A4 names applied to post-WWII Pacifics, this is Thompson Class A2/3 No 60511 Airborne on an ECML express. The loco was built in July 1946 and named after the winner of the Derby only a few months earlier. Two months after construction, Airborne won a second Classic: the St.Leger, making him a Double Crown winner. Photo: Photomatic.

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The next Pacifics were the Peppercorn A2 and this example was captured at S.Rollox in 1964. No 60535 Hornets Beauty was built in 1948 and named after a relatively old win, the 1913 Portland Handicap. Attractive double-barrelled names were being sought, among which the best known became famous after preservation, Blue Peter, no less. Photo: Steve Banks.

A1 60117 pc

A commercial postcard shows Peppercorn A1 No 60117 Boid Roussel with the "Queen of Scots" Pullman, with my apologies for tweaking the picture and changing the blood & custard Pullman cars to their proper livery!

These were the last LNER Pacifics to be built and naming was supervised by a BR naming committee, which only approved a dozen or so racehorse names. Bois Roussel had won the Derby in 1938 and had been passed over when the Thompson and Peppercorn A2s were being named. Perhaps because he was a French horse who created quite an upset?

In fact, the stallion was bought by an English owner and, in the Derby, made only the second start of his career, and was unfancied, with long odds of 20/1. He was away slowly and entering the final straight, was among the back markers. But in the final quarter mile he produced an astonishing burst of speed to sweep past the favourite and Scottish Union at such a pace that he won by four lengths. It was quite an upset!

A1 60117 name

For many years Bois Roussel was allocated to Copley Hill and a favourite name, even though none of us youngsters knew why it had been chosen. It remains one of the finest examples in life of a late developer, whether human or horse, coming good. :)

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Barely a dozen Peppercorn A1 Pacifics were granted racehorse names and No 60144 became Kings Courier for winning the Doncaster Cup in 1900. Seen at Greenwood in the early 1950s when allocated to Copley Hill with the Down "West Riding". Three streamline twins were in the post-WWII formation, soon to be reduced by a catastrophic on-board fire. Photo: Author's collection.

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And finally for now, no scraping of the barrel for No 60148 which was named after Aboyeur for winning the 1913 Derby at which a suffragette threw herself into the riders and was killed. Seen at Leeds Central in 1962 backing onto the "White Rose". Photo: Colin Walker.

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Horse box design and development


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Ex-NER horse box No E391 was captured in 1954 at Chalfont and Latimer on the former Metropolitan & GC Joint line. It appears to have been marshalled at the rear of a goods train, evidently an empty working. Once again, the appearance is time- and service-worn, and that includes the windows. On the solebar it's just possible to read that its last service had been in October 1952, which means that it had weathered to this condition inside a year and a half.

Note the carriage-size spoked wheels. A detail that I have never seen modelled (and also shows on the picture below) is straw peeking from the bottom of the lower drop flap. Photo: H.F.Wheeler collection.

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My apologies for the iffy quality, this is not the best print and I have tried to fix it as best possible. The picture was taken in 1959 at Wolverhampton Low Level with an ex-NER horse box behind the tender of a Western Region express. The larger view shows more of the scene but there isn't enough for the loco to be identified. Photo: Coutanche Collection.

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Movement by passenger train

This was for relatively small numbers of horses and covered quite a wide range of applications, and depending on that, different modes of working. It divided between traffic in working animals (for farms and on the roads), auctions and sales, for breeding or for training, and to and from special events and racecourses. We tend to forget just how large a part of the community the horse used to be. While I write up all the variations, here are some sample pictures on main and secondary lines to give a feel for the variety of trains that were involved. All are in chronological order.

With expresses

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This mid- to late-1920s view shows a southbound cross-country express getting away from York behind ex-GCR D9 No 6027. The horse box behind the tender is an ex-GNR one. Photo: R.S. Carpenter.

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D16 No 8787 in charge

This example from the 1930s shows the 2.4pm Cambridge-King's Cross secondary express (on which there's a chapter in LNER Passenger Trains & Formations, where the illustration on p.131 mentions a horse box behind the tender, but not that it's ex-GER). The picture above shows the same working between Hatfield and Brookman's Park with D16 No 8787 in charge but the horse box this time is from the SR, actually ex-LBSCR, presumably being returned after the previous day's racing at Newmarket.

D49 327

Expresses to quite a high level were allowed to carry horseboxes and two can be seen in this mid-1930s picture behind D49 No 327 Nottinghamshire at the head of one of the cross-country expresses, either the "Ports to Ports" or the "Glasgow-Southampton", which alternated LNER/GWR and LNER/SR formations, respectively. Both horse boxes are GWR, one of them a vintage "Small" one without a fodder compartment. They would have been on their way back to their parent system. The location is unknown but north of York. Photo: LGRP.

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Another view of an express on the ECML to which a horse box has been attached. The date is between 1934-38 and C1 No 4428 is at Dringhouses near York with a heavy northbound express off the GC Section. The GWR horse box would have been attached while the train was passing through GWR territory south of Banbury. Photo: Cecil Ord collection.

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Two views showing ex-NER horse boxes attached to passenger trains, beginning with an undated LNER view of D20 No 2026 leaving York with a secondary express made up with ex-NER non-gangwayed clerestory and elliptical roof carriages. This was the final design of NER horse box with an elliptical roof. Photo: author's collection.

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With secondary services

D2 No 4339 with ex-GNR horse box

An Ordinary Passenger train near Marshmoor heads south behind D2 No 4339 with an ex-GNR horse box behind the tender. This could have been a general movement, or a racehorse being sent to a meeting from a trainer in the Cambridge area. The passenger formation comprises two LNER Gresley 55'6" twins (BT-CL,CL-BT) introduced in 1935.

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An undated picture at an unknown location - but clearly the GE Section in the 1930s - shows B17 No 2804 Elveden hauling a secondary passenger train. It's made up with 7-8 assorted carriages and, at the head, a cluster of NPCS/ECS with, behind the tender, an ex-NER horse box.

I wish I could be kind about its condition compared with the gleaming "Sandringham" at the head; it had seen much service but rarely encountered the carriage cleaners. A bit of a shock for modellers who only deign to weather goods wagons. If you want to see a cleaner one, have a look at the picture below of the train behind N7 No 471 which contains two ex-NER horse boxes: one is equally scruffy while the other had recently passed through the shops and even sports a white roof - an extremely rare sight on rolling stock of any kind. Photo: Photomatic.

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King's Cross Inner Suburban trains are not generally known for their flexibility but as this picture shows, horse boxes could be conveyed. This set, hauled by N7 No 471 is heading north near New Southgate with three loaded boxes at the head. Most unusually, stock from two companies is running together. The leading box is SR (ex-SER), the other two, ex-NER, possibly a coincidental working along the axis to and from Newmarket.

D20 62396

D20 62396 waits to depart from Hull Paragon in the 1950s with an East Riding Ordinary Passenger and a horse box behind the tender, one of the BR/Earlestown-built batch of 1954-55, a development of the 1938 LNER lavatory design.

Other movements

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Empty horse boxes did not have to be behind the loco and B1 No 61241 Viscount Ridley is conveying one behind a Thompson BG on 29th July 1952. This might possibly have been a stock train delivering the horse box at short notice to a station, with the guard riding in the bogie van, or simply a short parcels/ECS working. The horse box is ex-LMS.

The loco was allocated to Tweedmouth near Berwick at the time, but the location is Saughton Junction on the western outskirts of Edinburgh, where the line to Aberdeen came off (the more distant pair of tracks here). The train is approaching on the line from Glasgow to the west. With thanks to John Howell for recognising the location, I've improved the scan of the picture to show more of the signal box and the ex-NBR signals. Upper quadrants had replaced them by 1957. Photo: Author's collection.

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 A3 60053 St.Gatien

A very unusual sight, of a loaded horse box attached to a parcels train. A3 60053 St.Gatien is on the ECML near Aycliffe in the early 1950s with a long-distance parcels train, possibly Edinburgh-KX and with the window open, the horse box is clearly loaded for an unknown destination. It's the LNER 1938 design with lavatory and the best available at the time (ref. the Parkside kit).

Race horse specials

These trains served race meeting and generally travelled out in the morning and returned in the evening, or the following day, and it was well organised. Again the pictures are in chronological order.

GWR horse train on Lickey

In a scene from around the time of the Grouping, a humble 4-4-0, MR No 304, ascends the Lickey Incline with a horse train that it has collected from the GWR. The final destination could be one of the racecourses on the LMS or LNER territory.

SECR-built 2-6-4T No 791 passes through Honor Oak Park

SECR-built 2-6-4T No 791 passes through Honor Oak Park c1923 with a racehorse train being worked from Epsom back to Newmarket. All the rolling stock is GER-built.

/61287 Redcar-Newmarket

A view from the early 1950s showing a racehorse special returning to Newmarket on the outskirts of the town. It's quite an enlargement so not very sharp but visible at the head is a portion of the best available horsebox at the time which had been supplied extensively to Newmarket - the LNER 1938 design with lavatory for the groom (a BR version followed a year after this picture was taken). A kit is available from Parkside of the horse boxes in this train. The supporting carriage is an ex-LNER Gresley 61'6" brake-end, probably a BTK, possibly BCK. Another portion further back is harder to analyse but seems to contain more of the same horse boxes.

K1 62066

K1 62066 enters Ely with with a horse train for Newmarket, exemplifying the impact when BR really modernised its stock for the race traffic with the Mk.1 design.

Some LMS-related workings

The nature of inter-company traffic will be obvious from the above and that a clear division between the companies is not really feasible. A sub-section focussing on use of LMS horse boxes is just about possible:

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I begin with two pictures from the 1920s, firstly showing an NBR-built Wheatley 0-6-0 approaching Carlisle with a train of 6-wheel and bogie passenger carriages; a 4-wheel passenger brake van; and an LNWR horse box. The headlamps are not RCH-related but a local one so I cannot tell if this was an express or ordinary passenger train. I suspect that the code probably indicated the route being served, a practice which lasted beyond the Grouping in several parts of the UK.

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LGRP 21135 detl

A close-up of the two non-passenger vehicles shows more of the LNWR horse box.

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The second view shows an LMS train in 1925 at Blackwell being banked up the Lickey Incline. 2P 4-4-0 No 521 has an Ordinary Passenger train comprising four bogie carriages, mostly clerestory, flanked by vans: ex-Midland Railway 6w at the front and, on the rear, ex-LNWR, still in LNWR livery, a common sight during the 1920s. Five horse boxes had been place behind the loco and give the appearance is of a delivery from a horse sale, or movement of empty stock to the north - horse sales used to be as common as second-hand dealerships in cars are today. There used to be a weekly horse sale at Crewe which would have generated traffic on the railway in both directions.

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Real 17363 detl

A close-up of the horse boxes. The trailing three are ex-Midland Railway designs, of which there were several different types, both flat-sided and with tumblehome, arc roof and elliptical. At the head there are two more LNWR boxes. Philip Millard, well known for his LNWR researches, has come forward to identify these boxes in both pictures and I quote him thus:

"A considerable number of these 21ft boxes was built by the LNWR to Diagram 436. In all, 692 were produced between 1890-1923 and the ones at Blackwell are earlier examples built on steel channel frames with rounded ends to the headstocks. They have the 1901 pattern of oil boxes. The first one is a pre-1896 example with horns outside the solebars. The second appears to be post-1896 with horns inside the solebars.

The one at Carlisle is a later, post-1899 build on bulb-iron frames with square-end headstocks, and it too has oil boxes, of the 1916 type.

There were still about 699 of these horseboxes in capital stock at the Grouping, and 247 in 1933. The type did not become extinct until 1954".

In a related theme, there is on page 75 in Peter Tatlow's "Historic Carriage Drawings, Volume Three, Non-passenger Coaching Stock" (Pendragon, 2000), a pair of photos and a drawing of Maryport and Carlisle horse box, No 4, which Peter concluded was the sole survivor listed in the LMS renumbering in 1932. The body profile and several details are similar and it seems that, although built by R.Y. Pickering of Wishaw near Motherwell in Scotland, it was based on contemporary LNWR designs with a few simplifications, such as one less door to the fodder compartment.

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At this point it's fair to show the preceding LNWR Diagram 438 to 19'6" because it is covered by London Road Models, whose illustration is shown above. The website states that this Diagram had been built between 1883-1889. 150 were constructed, 88 of which were still running in 1915. By 1920 they had all been replaced by the newer design. London Road Models can be found via the Useful Links section in the main menu.

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A fine picture from the 1930s of an unidentified "Jubilee" between Watford and Euston with a horse special, alas too head-on to be sure of the formation, but it has a passenger coach on the rear, then what may be an ex-LNWR 6w passenger brake van, and six ex-MR and LMS horse boxes. The purpose of the train is unclear, possibly a troop special for the officers? Photo: Author's collection.

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An awfully run down ex-GCR B2 heads south towards Chaloners Whin in the late 1940s with a secondary express of LNER and ex-NER carriages. Behind the tender is the classic LMS horse box with planked sides (see details underneath the next picture). My apologies for the modest quality despite repair with Photoshop but it is useful historically in showing an inter-company working. Photo: P. Wilson.

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This picture tells quite a story! It was taken in July 1956 at Sudbury, which lies on GE territory on the line to Colchester, with a train whose starting point was somewhere to the north - from Long Melford, Bury St.Edmonds, Newmarket or Cambridge. It's a pity that the whole train - probably a country district set - cannot be seen. Visible here is (CL,BT) - Thompson 52'4" semi-corridor lavatory composite, and Gresley 3rd brake, BT(4).

Behind the loco, D16 No 62618 (31A Cambridge), is a recently overhauled horse box that had been built by the LMS in 1926 as a development of the Midland Railway design with planked doors for the horse, but panelled either side. After 50 of these were built the LMS went over to planking of the whole side, of which some 550 were built in LMS and early BR days. By then, the LNER had developed a version with a lavatory for the groom and that was also built by BR, mainly for race trainers. Many of the more basic design continued to serve over relatively short distances, at least greater than was gobbled up by the roads, and this looks like a good example in which a 30-year old horse box has been employed.

It's interesting to add that I have seen pictures of LMS-design horse boxes all over the place, notably on GW lines, and that in Paul Bartlett's photo archive there are two more pictures on the GE Section, taken at Bishop's Stortford in 1958-59, of quite similar 1921-built Midland Railway horse boxes. Let's face it, the SR never built any new horse boxes at all, simply modernising pre-Grouping ones. It underlines not only how many new horse boxes were built in Big Four days (by the three other companies) but how useful old ones were for relatively short distance trips for horses used on the land, or for minor sports and leisure. Photo: Colour-Rail BRE 1949.

Models - There is an etched brass kit from London Road Models for the Midland Railway design (see Useful Links) and, from Hornby, a RTR model of the more common LMS design with full planking.

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Modelling article: GCR/LNER horse boxes: is here.

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