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SHELL/BP
Class A Spirit Tank Wagon No. 4497

Shell/BP 4497

One side of 4497 showing BP lettering, Richard Salmon

Built in 1930 by Hurst Nelson of Motherwell for Shell-Mex and British Petroleum Ltd., No. 4497 is a Class A Spirit Tank Wagon for the carriage of highly inflammable liquids with a flash point below 150F, such as petrol and aviation spirit. Being a privately-owned wagon it was registered with the LNER as No.27287 in 1930. The rail tanker fleet of Shell and BP remained combined for many years.

The construction of these was subject to close regulation from 1902. The tanks had to be cylindrical and the underframes made of metal. Bottom or "Foot" valves were banned from 1905 after numerous leaks; the contents having to be pumped out from top discharge pipes thereafter. From 1902, the livery had to be light stone/buff with a 6" wide horizontal red stripe around the whole of the tank, with safety warning lettering. This would have been the initial livery of 4497.

From March 1939, tankers started to appear with black solebars and running gear with the top of the solebars and the tank in aluminium paint. The red band now would only extend a short distance onto the tank side, leaving more space for the owner's lettering. However, after the outbreak of WW2, a January 1941 instruction required the top of the solebar and the tank to be painted matt dark lead grey. Post-war, the livery reverted to aluminium with no stripe, but a red solebar. The privately-owned tanks remained in the oil companies' ownership during WW2 and were not Nationalised in 1948.

Shell/BP 4497

A view of the SHELL side of 4497, taken 18 February 2005 at Kingscote, Chris Dadson

The black star, 2 feet across, together with the cast star plate on each solebar denotes that this wagon conforms to the requirements to run in goods trains having an average speed of 35 m.p.h. and stopping at least every 40 miles and, further, that it has run at least 100 miles in slower trains before being "starred". The latter requirement was waived in late 1937. This tanker was star-plated by the LNER in November 1930. It was built with handbrake only.

As larger tank wagons with vacuum brakes and roller bearings were introduced from the 1950's, this type of tank saw less and less main line service. Shell/BP 4497 arrived on the Bluebell Railway in July 1970, wearing a pristine version of its present livery. It was used as a mobile water supply by the Bluebell Fire Dept. but is out of service awaiting repairs and is presently located at Kingscote.

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Text © Martin Skrzetuszewski.
Page last updated by Nick Beck, 16 January 2014.
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