Gif of LNWR Emblem
London & North Western Railway Society
Cattle Wagons of the LNWR

Diagrams 21 & 22 Medium and Large Ordinary Cattle Wagons

Because of the similarities of their design details and historical development the two sizes of cattle wagons will be discussed here together. The earliest surviving record that separately identifies the quantity of each type is the 1863 stock valuation list, which records a total of 1433 cattle wagons of which 964 were identified as 'Medium' and 469 as 'Large'. The meaning of the terms 'Medium' and 'Large' seems to have varied with time. An 1889 Goods Conference minute states that a medium cattle wagon was 15ft 4in long externally, while the length of a large one was 17ft 10in. The medium wagon shown in the photograph below has 15ft 4in and 15ft 0in painted on the cantrail. Presumably, these dimensions were the external and internal lengths respectively. The earliest surviving official drawing of a medium cattle wagon, Earlestown GA 12, dated 1895, is reproduced below. The external length is 15ft 6in, but later surviving drawings and minute references record an increase in external length of a medium cattle wagon to 16ft 2½in to allow an internal length of 15ft 6in. At the same time the large cattle wagons were increased to 18ft 9in externally, 18ft internally.
The reason behind these changes appears to have been complaints from livestock dealers who in 1894 reported the Company to the Board of Trade over the use of movable partitions that reduced the internal space of the wagon below that laid down in the Act of Parliament. The company replied that in the reconstruction of the present stock and in the building of new, they would make the dimensions correspond strictly to those named in the Act. The standard minimum inside dimensions laid down were: 'Small' 13ft 6in 'Medium' 15ft 6in and 'Large' 18ft, which were the respective distances between the wall at one end and the inside face of the movable partition at the other. The drawing of the large cattle wagon shown below is Earlestown GA no. 60, dated 1910 and shows the frame, complete with notches, to support the movable partition at the left-hand end of the body.
Early cattle wagons were roofless and open at the ends above waist level as well as at the sides. During the 1860s there are several minute references to boarding up the ends and adding a roof. An 1870 minute records that future cattle wagons are to be fitted with sprung buffers and also comments that some small old wagons rated at 4.5 tons had sprung buffers at one end and dumb buffers at the other.

Shows sample photo of class, file name Diag21.jpg


Shows sample photo of class, file name Diag21 dwg.jpg


The mechanical specification of both the ‘Medium’ and ‘Large’ cattle wagon designs evolved in step with general changes in the company goods stock. Around 1890 vehicles had 3-bolt round based buffers, grease lubricated axleboxes with 6in by 3in journals, a single wooden brake block and, perhaps surprisingly, screw couplings. Prior to 1879 a three-link coupling would have been normal. By 1898 a single cast iron brake block had started to replace the wooden one. Around 1911 the 7ton ‘Medium’ wagons were up-rated to 10tons by the fitting of oil filled axle boxes of the first pattern with 9in by 4in journals and larger springs. Those not up-rated were reduced to 6tons capacity. At about the same time hand operated brakes were fitted to both wheels on each side. Vacuum pipes, but not brakes, had been fitted to all new cattle wagons from 1898 onwards. A drawing, dated 30.8.1910, of a ‘Large’ cattle wagon to this specification is shown below. In this context it is worthy of note that, even as late as 1919, only two each of the ‘Medium’ and ‘Large’ cattle wagons were fitted with full vacuum brakes.
Modellers should note that in addition to the more obvious changes listed above there were small changes in strapping detail between 1895 and 1910. Even beyond that date the design continued to evolve. Buffers were changed to a 4-bolt square base with first a single rib and later a double rib to strengthen the buffer housing. The exact date of introduction of these changes is unknown to the author at present, but as a general guide, prior to 1912 the 3-bolt round base buffer would have been normal. From 1912 to 1918 the single rib 4-bolt square base type would have coexisted with the earlier type and it is unlikely that the double rib type was much in evidence before 1918.
Certainly the rate of introduction of these changes was slow. For example 832 out of a total of 1433 ‘Medium’ wagons still had grease axleboxes some 10 years after the introduction of the oil filled type.
Progress from ‘one side’ to ‘both side’ brakes was similarly slow and the effect of these changes can be seen in the tare weight of vehicles. In the 1880s a ‘Medium’ wagon weighed about 5.16.0, but by 1910 the same size wagon fitted with all the above new features weighed over 7 tons.

Shows sample photo of class, file name Diag22.jpg


Shows sample photo of class, file name Diag22 dwg.jpg


Livery Style

The livery worn by cattle wagons changed with time too. For all periods the body was painted grey with white lettering. All the running gear below the solebars was painted black when new, but no doubt did not stay that way long when in service. Most modellers will be aware that until about WWI a lime wash was used to disinfect the bodywork between each journey. Photographs show that characteristically the white residue spread to the outside of the lower planks. Although in no way part of the official livery, this whitening is essential to an accurate portrayal of a 19th century cattle wagon in service. Up to 1908, the only mark of ownership, apart from the cast iron number plate on each solebar, were the two white diamonds on each side of the body centrally on the next to the top plank of the end side panels. Prior to 1896 the wagon running number was painted in white 2in letters centrally on the top plank of each end. Thereafter it was transferred to the top plank on the right hand side panel to make it more easily accessible to the cattle inspectors. Note also that the wagon label holder is placed on the second plank up to keep it out of the mire! From 1908 to about 1916 the letters LNWR were added to the two white diamonds on each side of the body, as shown in photograph of the large cattle wagon above. After about 1916 the diamonds were omitted, but again the rate of change was slow.

Running (Register) Numbers

In the 1862 renumbering scheme the stock of 1680 cattle wagons and sheep vans were assigned the numbers between 14520 and 16200. Later batches, built on capital account, were given new numbers at the top of the then current list. The surviving photographs support these assertions and recent research by the author has discovered some 600 or so written records in the form of cattle tickets [invoices] or number takers book references spread over five or six locations and dating between 1862 and 1922. The numbers fall into closely defined groups and are in close agreement with the building records.
In LMS days the running number was derived from the LNWR one by the addition of 200,000 so that 14701 became 214701.

MEDIUMTare Wt.LARGETare Wt.
16055 5.17.2.154837.14.2.
2147016.15.0.30909not visible
2152196.15.2.2063297.7.0.
2152236.10.0.2325847.5.2.
215931not visible265692not visible

One of the documentary sources mentioned above is held at the Public Records Office under the reference RAIL 410/1381. This consists of 250 Cattle Tickets in a bound volume comprising a weekly record of shipments from the LNWR agent at Chapel en le Frith between Oct. 1880 and Nov. 1885. The wagons are identified as S or Small, M, Medium or 15ft. and L or Large. Various other descriptions such as L as Half or M as S indicate part loads although proper partitions are not thought to have come into use until 10 years later.