This is one of 40 vans ordered from the Southern Railway by the Ministry of Supply during WW2. This type of van is essentially a 1942 version (the bodyside planking being pairs of narrow planks) of a SR diagram 1579 goods brake van (see 55993) but fitted with vacuum braking and a through Westinghouse air brake pipe. Emergency brake application valves were fitted inside the cabin. The profile of the edge of the roof was non-standard on these vans, which the MoS described as "Express" Goods Brake Vans.
Order number A1852 was for the second batch of 20 and was placed on 23rd. December 1941. The vans were built at Ashford Works, Kent and completed/released to traffic on 25 March 1942. As the vans were "privately" owned, they were registered with SR (1942), this one being No. 1032. Its original painted number was reported as WD11037.
Some vans saw service abroad, particularly in North Africa. Others seem to have worked only within ordnance and supply depots at home. The early history of this van is at present unknown, but in May 1949, it (together with WD11029) was acquired from the MoS (Lot No. 1599) for service with British Railways. It was given London Midland Region number M360328 (WD11029 was given M360327). Its length of duty is unknown, but at some point it must have returned to the WD.
Over succeeding years, the WD became the MoD and the Army took over responsibility for all MoD rail operations. Our van ended up as ARMY 49018. It was purchased from RAF Chilmark near Salisbury, Wiltshire by Tom Simcock and Martin Skrzetuszewski in August 1991 and was delivered to Bluebell Railway by road.
After arrival and the replacement of a section of vacuum pipe, the van entered service. It was painted in SR colours. Although much of the timberwork is original, some was replaced with plywood whilst in military service. One sandbox had been removed in the process and this has been replaced by a dummy replica box. The stove was also removed but the coal box left in place.
Having vacuum braking the van was heavily used, being part of almost every Imberhorne spoil train, and is now showing signs of wear. Once SR 25 Ton "Queen Mary" brake 56290 entered service, the WD van was much less used, it's final use being for the "Muppets Most Wanted" filming.
Thanks to a consortium of C&W members and Wagon Group supporters, the vehicle was donated to The Bluebell Railway Trust on 2 February 2021. The Bluebell's Goods Division (wagon group) plan to include its overhaul, hopefully to include the replacement of the stove, at some point in the coming few years.
An Illustrated History of Southern Wagons - Volume Four, by Messrs. Bixley, Blackburn, Chorley and King; published by The Oxford Publishing Company, 2002.
ISBN 086093 5647.
This book may be available from the Bluebell Railway shop.