57949 at Horsted Keynes Keith Leppard
The Southern Railway had little need for bolster wagons for commercial use, as there was little heavy industry generating suitable traffic on the SR network and timber traffic was in decline. 30 flat wagons to a LSWR design, which could be fitted with bolsters, were built in the mid 1920s. These could carry lengths of 45-foot rail. The SR started to use 60-foot lengths of rail during the 1920s, and standardised on this length in 1936. New bogie bolster wagons with eight bolsters, capable of carrying this length of rail, were built to SR diagram No.1598 and the first of them appeared in 1937.
No.57949 was part of the third batch, and was constructed at the SR's Ashford Works in September 1945 as part of order A2503 for 50 wagons, placed in May 1943. It was allocated to the traffic or commercial department, but would have doubtless spent the majority of its life carrying steel rails from the manufacturing steelworks (probably Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire or Workington, Cumberland) to the SR. Other batches were specifically ordered for the Engineering Department.
The wagon was built with a chequer plate steel floor, which was later covered with timber planking. On 29th March 1969 it was transferred to departmental service with the BR(S) Chief Civil Engineer and renumbered DS 57949. Withdrawal took place on 27th September 1975. It was subsequently sold to the Bluebell Railway and arrived at Sheffield Park on 13th June 1977, having been delivered to Haywards Heath by rail.
On the Bluebell Railway 57949 is used as an engineers' wagon for carrying rail, components for pointwork and any long load such as felled timber. The details of its 2008 repair may be found here.
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.
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