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South Eastern & Chatham Railway
25 Ton "Dance Hall" Goods Brake Van 11916

Dance Hall Goods Brake Van 11916 at Kingscote - Jack Gregory - 10 October 2020

Dance Hall Goods Brake Van 11916 at Kingscote
(Jack Gregory - 10 October 2020)

The prototype or "pattern" vehicle for this design was built by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway in 1918. The 12 inch deep underframe contained compartments filled with scrap metal, giving it its tare weight of 25 tons. It was a thoroughly modern vehicle and significantly heavier than most vans in use on other pre-Grouping railways. The high tare weight was considered necessary for working long freight trains, composed of wagons with handbrake only, on some of the lengthy descending gradients in SECR territory. A production batch with detail differences to the pattern van, was built in 1921 (SR Diagram 1559). The underframe was subsequently re-designed with a 15 inch deep solebar; this design being allocated SR Diagram No. 1560.

11916 was one of a batch of 20 vans ordered to be built by the SECR at their Ashford (Kent) Works. It was completed in 1923 (after the Grouping) and although an SECR number had been allocated, was probably turned out in SR livery. Its SR number was 55477.

20 more vans were built to this design by the SR in 1926/27 at the ex-LBSCR Lancing Works.

The nickname 'Dance Hall' was applied by SR crews on account of the large cabin area available, which was generally occupied only by the Guard. One can imagine a dry-humoured railway goods guard exclaiming that it was, "big enough to hold a dance in!".

55477 was in general traffic use in the South-East until its withdrawal (as S55477) and transfer to departmental stock by BR on 2nd May 1959. 10 vans had previously been converted in 1953 to provide accommodation for P.Way Dept. staff but ours was not so altered. It continued in departmental service as DS55477 for the next 20 years. We do not have precise records for our vehicle but, in BR departmental service, this type of van could be found working anywhere in the country - including Scotland! When condemned on 25th February 1978, DS55477 was located at Chaddesden Sidings, Derby. It was tendered for and purchased by the Bluebell, arriving on 20th. March, 1979.

Dance Hall Goods Brake Van 11916 as first repainted - Richard Salmon On arrival at the Bluebell the roof was recanvassed, the windows reglazed and the van soon emerged as a traffic vehicle in the SECR livery shown on the right (photo by Richard Salmon) and remained in use almost continuously until autumn 2007. Initially, its large size made it suitable for carrying working parties out on the single line. In subsequent decades it was regularly used in connection with Clive Groome's Footplate Days and Ways.

Subsequent research (published in 2000) indicates that:
i) The van probably never wore SECR livery,
ii) If it did, the grey would have been much darker,
iii) The words "Goods Brake." were omitted by 1922,
iv) There is no evidence to suggest that these particular vans had red ends prior to repainting in SR livery.

At the time of writing, SECR 11916 is stopped for minor bodywork repairs, and a fractured spring plate. In the interim it has been cared for by the Friends of Kingscote, and repainted into the correct SECR Livery. It is hoped to return it to service within the next five years.

Type: SECR 25 Ton Goods Brake, SR Diagram 1560
Built: 1923, Ashford Works
Original No: 11916
Later Nos: SR 55477, BR S55477, DS55477
Length: 24' over headstocks, 27' overall
Weight: 25 Tons
Withdrawn: 1959, cond. 1978
Preserved: 1979
Owner: Bluebell Railway
To Bluebell: 20 March 1979

Recommended reading:
An Illustrated History of Southern Wagons - Volume Three: SECR, by Messrs. Bixley, Blackburn, Chorley and King;
Published by The Oxford Publishing Company, 2000. ISBN 0 86093 493 4.

This book may be available new from the Bluebell Railway Shop.

A used copy may be available from the Carriage Shop at Horsted Keynes which is open most weekends.

An OO scale model of the very similar SECR Diagram 1559 brake vans was first produced by Bachmann in 2022, and may be available from our shop.

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Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional! Text © Martin Skrzetuszewski, with additional research by the late Ted Crawforth
Page updated by Nick Beck, 29 January 2014,
Text updated with additional photo, and reformatted by Richard Salmon, 4 November 2022

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