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

Diagram 53 Traffic Coal Wagon, to carry 8tons

Between 1883 and 1894 a total of 6835 of wagons to Diagram 53 were built at Earlestown, see Table below, and the total stock was maintained at about the same level for many years by replacing any wagon which was withdrawn by one of largely the same design. After 1894 small numbers were built each year to replace accident victims. By 1910 the replacement rate had risen to about 200 per year as the earliest wagons were condemned, but the total stock never exceeded the 1894 level.


Design Details

Initially, the wagons were only 15ft long over headstocks by 7ft 2in wide rather than the 15ft 6in standard length of the normal L&NWR merchandise wagons at that time. The wheelbase was the usual 9ft long. Presumably for such a high-density material as coal, 8 tons could easily be packed into a 15ft long wagon and the ever-frugal L&NWR could see no point in wasting wood through using longer planks than necessary. With the change in company policy to increase the length of the standard wagon to 16ft in 1888/9, the Traffic Coal wagons built subsequently were lengthened to 15ft 6in. A general arrangement drawing, Earlestown No.8 [HMRS 1137] dated 23.1.89, shows a similar wagon to that shown in the photograph, but fitted with later brake gear including its characteristic curved handle. The wagon in the drawing scales to only 15ft long against the other major dimensions. Closer inspection reveals that the lettering ‘15ft’ has been crudely erased and ‘15ft 6inch’ substituted, presumably to extend the life of the drawing. Note also the bottom doors that facilitate the unloading of coal at staithes and other raised wharves. In keeping with the engineering style of the times the wagons were fitted with round base 3 bolt buffers and the larger grease filled axleboxes necessary to accommodate the 6in x 3½in journals needed to support 8tons.


The original livery of all LNW wagons was as shown in the photograph. The body and solebars were painted a mid-grey colour with the ironwork below the solebar being painted black. The only evidence of company ownership was the intials L.N.W. on the cast iron number plate in the middle of the solebar. Additionally, there was the company ‘logo’, two white diamonds 11in x 5½in, sometimes referred to as illiterate marks, situated in the centre of the side panels on the next plank to the top. The tare weight of the vehicle and the label holder were placed on the solebar just above the left hand wheel. There was also a legend painted on a metal plate situated at the right hand end of the bottom plank giving instructions for the return of the empty wagon to its home base. In the days before the introduction of the 'common user' arrangements coal wagons shuttled between a home colliery and their owner’s wharf. Working timetables were liberally laced with ‘Coal Empties’ running from centres of population towards the coalfields.
In 1908 the London and North Western decided to display its initials on the side of each wagon. After much debate they settled on 'L N W R' in 16" high letters placed on the side of the wagon as shown in the photograph of the D54 wagon. Note that the diamonds are now displaced towards the ends of the wagon, but they fell out of use during the WW1 period so the livery then became as in the photograph of the D90 wagon. The legend on the top planks, in 6" characters, was introduced to counteract overloading, particularly when similar 8ton and 10ton wagons were in use at the same time.


The circular announcing the introduction of Traffic Coal wagons in 1883 states that they were to be numbered consecutively starting at 47501. In that year about 1400 were built out of a total of 2300 wagons built that year. Consequently, under the terms of the circular, all register numbers from 47501 to 48900 would have been carried by Traffic Coal wagons. Large quantities of these wagons were built in succeeding years so that the majority of the 6800 carried numbers in the 5xxxx range and some at least appear to have been numbered in continuous blocks. Examples are shown below:

The above numbers are taken from LNW Coal Invoices used for loads of coal to Chester Road, on the Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield line in the 1890s, when the only traffic coal wagons that existed were of the D53 type.

Shows sample photo of class, file name Diag53.jpg

The photograph above is believed to date from 1885 and shows a 15ft. Diagram 53 Traffic Coal Wagon in its original condition. In keeping with engineering style of the times the wagons were fitted with round base 3 bolt buffers and grease filled axleboxes. Note the pre-1908 livery with only the white diamonds and the LNW on the cast number plate to indicate the owning company.

Shows sample photo of class, file name Diag53 dwg.jpg

The above general arrangement drawing, Earlestown No.8 [HMRS 1137] dated 23.1.89, shows a later development of the wagon illustrated in the photograph above. The wagon in the drawing is 15ft 6in long and is fitted with the later brake gear. The side and end planks are 9in by 2¾in and the side doors are 4ft 9in wide. Note the bottom doors, which measure 4ft 4in by 2ft 2in. In an empty wagon their longitudinal planking would be visible on the floor and their operating levers can be seen under the solebar below the side door hinges.