This SECR brake van was being restored at Horsted Keynes by its owners (members of Southern Locomotives Ltd.). It was the second such
vehicle on the Bluebell Railway, the other one being 11916.
S 55490 was ordered as SECR 11934, 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 was probably turned out in SR livery. Its SR diagram number was 1560 and running number, 55490.
55490 was in general traffic use in the South-East until its withdrawal (as S 55490) and transfer to departmental stock by
BR on 28 November 1959. It continued in departmental service as DS 55490 until condemned on 14 January 1984. During early SLL restoration, the painted locations "Tavistock Junction" and "New Cross Gate" both became visible on the sides.
There is a photograph here of it as DS 55490 taken by Paul Bartlett on 25 April 1984 at Cardiff Tidal Sidings - presumably awaiting purchase by Woodhams and movement to their yard.
It was purchased by members of Southern Locomotives Ltd. from Woodham Brothers Yard, Barry on 11 November 1984 for £1,250. It arrived at Blunsdon four days later (15th) just ahead of the arrival of 34072 '257 Squadron', and moved to Swindon Weighbridge during November 1987. It was used by SLL volunteers as a Mess Van and apparently even hosted barbecues.
Some years later it was moved to the Bluebell Railway (arriving on 15 May 1994) remaining in SSL ownership, and some work towards its return to traffic was undertaken. It was moved on again by its owners in January 2022, to the Kent & East Sussex Railway.
Photo Right: the van at Horsted Keynes at an earlier stage in its restoration - November 2004 (Richard Salmon)
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.