top of page

The VOBR Wagons

Updated: Jan 8, 2023

I thought I would collect the information I have on the wagons at Sharpness.

The Torpedo Wagon

Dated May 1940, the first Admiralty order (8931) was for six 12-ton covered vans (numbered 1 to 6) and the second (8932) for ten two-axle 20 ton platform wagons (numbered 7-16) for the Royal Navy Propellant Factory at Caerwent.

Gloucester RCW photograph 5139 - also dated July 1940 and carrying the extra reference number R 1200005 - showed the platform wagon as being very similar in design to contemporary Deal wagons built for the LMS Railway but without bolsters. Purchased to carry torpedoes, RNPF wagon 7 was dimensioned as Length over headstocks 27', Length over buffers 30', Width over curb rails 8', Height from rail to top of floor 4' 3/8", Tare weight 7 14 -0.

The platform wagon delivered to the National Waterways Museum in 1993 was numbered 267 but had been numbered 11 in 1940 and cost £ 595.00 compared to the £ 375.00 apiece asked by the Ministry of Defence for covered vans 289 and 321.

Still attached to the centre of the solebars was a rectangular plate with the words "Owner Superintendent RN Propellant Factory Caerwent Chepstow Mon." The platform wagon was also fitted with nine-hole adjustable Morton brake gear suspended on simple V hangers with "GLOUCESTER" embossed on the blocks and a painted note "Do not use after 8-94".

In 2009 the Gloucester RCW built torpedo platform wagon was still next to the National Waterways Museum and being used to support a 30' horse drawn icebreaking boat built in Victorian times for use on Cheshire canals and only being retired in the 1960s.

The 5 Plank

More enigmatic are the two wagons which were parked alongside the barge arm at Gloucester Docks. Little is known about their activities beyond the last twenty years which were spent storing lengths of timber at Sharpness Docks. During this time their central falling doors were removed to make loading and unloading easier. Although they now boast a smart grey livery with the initials of the Docks applied to them, the exact nature of their markings is unknown. Any pictures of them in action at Sharpness would be welcomed by the Museum!

More from Gazette.

The Vale of Berkeley Railway (VoBR) group said they are delighted to have acquired the wagon, which once was used on Sharpness Docks.

Alan Price of the volunteer run heritage railway project said: “It is estimated that over a million of this most versatile and basic design were built for Britain’s railways and this is one of just a handful left.

“Built originally for the Great Western Railway around 1910, this 10 ton capacity 5-plank open wagon was bought by the dock company to transfer bagged cargo like cement and flour from ship to

warehouse along the port’s once extensive internal railway system.

“Many of these vehicles were built by the Gloucester Carriage and Wagon Co. and saw extensive railway use until rail freight demands changed rendering them surplus to requirements.

"That it worked through WW11 is indicated by its GWR running number 12544 being stamped on the sole bar, in case the wooden body and identification numbers were destroyed by enemy action.”

The wagon is believed to have been sold for internal use on Sharpness Docks in the 1950s.

Being left in the open for many years it deteriorated to the point where it had become rather sad and neglected.

It was eventually rescued by a VoBR Trustee.

VoBR would be grateful for any further information about this wagon. More info about 13154 at the SVR (Interesting about the spring hangers?)

13154 received a further overhaul at some time between 2008 and 2011. A couple of floor planks and several side, end, and door planks were replaced. All 8 spring mounting brackets also had to be replaced, as they were worn where the end of the spring leaf sat and had become corroded beyond acceptable limits. New brackets were therefore pressed to shape, using blanks which had been obtained some time earlier for that purpose, and were riveted to the solebars. The sheet supporter was modified to match that fitted to 5 plank Open Goods Wagon 108085, being a more accurate style for the wagon. On completion of the overhaul, 13154 was again repainted in GWR grey livery.[7]

During 2015 excessive wear was noted in some of the parts of the handbrake mechanism. The wagon remained in use while new components were machined,[8] before being moved into Bewdley Down Yard in April 2016 for further attention. The floor planks were replaced with a mixture of new and used planks, while the braking equipment was also renewed and refurbished. Pictures of some of the work involved appeared on the SVR-Online forum.


bottom of page