Built by the London & South Western Railway in 1898 at their Eastleigh Carriage Works*, the "Road Van" is one of our oldest pieces of rolling
stock. It is a typical late nineteenth century goods brake van with timber underframe, weighted by iron blocks, and an outside-framed timber
body with a single open veranda. The body is an unusual layout; part is a guard's compartment containing the brake wheel, seat locker and stove,
the remainder being a goods van with access through the double side doors. This type of van has come to be known as a "road van", although it
is not believed that the LSWR used this designation.
On local goods trains, many rural stations did not warrant their own through van for general merchandise traffic so small consignments were
stowed in the road van to be put out by the guard at the station concerned. This type of operation survived until the 1920's but some of these
vans continued in light freight or departmental service into the late 1960's.
5706 was renumbered 54663 by the SR and allocated Diagram No. 1541. In June 1938 it was recorded operating on the historic section of railway
between Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow. Renumbered S54663 by BR, it was officially withdrawn in July 1958, but survived in some form of service
until 1961. It was then purchased by the Bluebell Railway as our first item of goods rolling stock, arriving on 4th May 1962. Vans of this
type survived even later on the Isle of Wight until the electrification in 1967, two of these having been preserved.
The van has been restored to its original livery of LSWR brown with vermillion ends. It is normally on display at Horsted Keynes but is
non-operational, as it awaits a structural restoration.
* The buildings which housed the Eastleigh Carriage Works still stand although they have been out of railway use since 1962.
An Illustrated History of Southern Wagons - Volume One: LSWR and S&DJR, by Messrs Bixley, Blackburn, Chorley, King and Newton.
First published by OPC, 1984, ISBN 0-086093-207-9
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.