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Southern Railway Van C (BY) No. 404
4-wheeled guards' brake van built in 1937

SR Van C 404 - 8 March 2008 - Richard Salmon
The van, seen at Horsted Keynes in March 2008 (Richard Salmon)

Interior of Guards Van of No.404 - Richard Salmon - 7 June 2006 Interior of Guards Van of No.404 - Richard Salmon - 7 June 2006 This Southern Railway 4-wheeled guards brake van is used regularly in our vintage branch line train. The orange panels indicate that the van was one fitted with a stove for heating the guards compartment, when not attached to a steam-heated passenger train. Consequently the few stove-fitted Van Cs frequently saw service as guards vans on goods trains during the war.

The Van Cs were used for the carriage of parcels, newspapers, and many other forms of general merchandise. Equipped with facilities for a guard, including a hand brake, two periscopes to provide a view forward and, in this vehicle, a stove, they were rated to run in passenger trains, but were also used on parcels trains.

Of very simple design, with the metal framing exposed, and planked on the inside, they are easy to maintain. A total of 250 were built between 1936 and 1941. Most of them were withdrawn from service between 1966 and 1978, but a few continued in departmental use on BR right into the 1980s and early `90s. No. 404 was owned by the Southern Coach Preservation Group prior to a transfer of ownership to the Bluebell Railway in 2016, and was originally preserved at Ashford as a workshop for Bulleid Pacific Clan Line.

A web page is available showing photos of the interior of the small (4' 6" wide) guard's compartment, complete with its coal-fired stove, periscopes, etc.
See also the van's 2003 internal refurbishment.

In 2016 a start was made in refurbishing the vehicle with the intention of having it available for use as a support vehicle for filming work, a role previously (and incongruously in train formations) taken by the Queen Mary goods brake. The work has seen a major overhaul of the doors and a cosmetic overhaul of the body, with some major renewal of parts as might be expected on an 80-year-old vehicle.

Paint Colours:
  • Olive green: "Mid Bronze Green" BS 223
  • The "stove fitted" orange was originally described as "Strong Orange" - the original paint is believed to have faded over a few years to yellow, which would explain why some contemporary reports refer to a yellow colour. The HMRS SR Livery register reports a paint sample supplied by Ashford: 0-004 BS 2660 (1955); on the Bluebell we use what appears, from comparisons of standards charts, to be the modern equivalent: 0860-Y50R Clementine BS 06E51. As can be seen from the two photos, where the orange paint is actually the very same colour, the lighting conditions play a big part in the rendition of such colours!
  • Careful research has also been undertaken for the internal colour used in brake vans, and our best match is NCS 3050-G40Y (measured from samples from the interior of Bulleid Brake 4035 and very similar to samples found in SECR 3363 (from SR days) and 6686).

SR Van C 404 - Tony Pearce Type: Van C (Passenger Brake Van) - BR classification: BY
Built: 1937, underframe at Ashford, body at Eastleigh
Original No: 404
Other No: S404S
Length: 36'
Weight: 16 Tons
Withdrawn: June 1971
Preserved: c1972 by the Southern Coach Preservation Group
To Bluebell: 10 May 1978
Owner: Bluebell Railway plc (transferred from Southern Coach Preservation Group in 2016)

Photo, Right: The van at Horsted Keynes in the spring of 2000. (Tony Pearce)

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Last updated by Richard Salmon, 25 October 2020
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