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London & South Western Railway
Open Wagon No. 91 (actual identity unclear at present)

LSWR open wagon - David Chappell - September 2008

The former LSWR open wagon at Horsted Keynes shortly after arrival. (David Chappell)

The precise identity of this vehicle is unknown although it is painted as LSWR No.91 and has obviously been in service at a Royal Navy (RN) establishment, probably RNAD Bedenham, near Gosport. A great variety of pre-Grouping wagons were put into service at military establishments during WW2. It came to us in September 2008 from the abortive Brighton Railway Museum project, prior to the demolition of the former Preston Park Pullman Car Company building.

The wagon has been heavily rebuilt at some point in RN workshops, involving the replacement of at least the solebars and headstocks. It has also been modified to carry palletised loads by the removal of the sides. The handbrake gear is some kind of bought-in kit that was popular with the RN, many of whose older internal use wagons have similar equipment. Some of the body ironwork is probably original or replicated from the original.

The length that the buffer rods protrude beyond the castings is a feature of certain LSWR open wagons. The buffer springing is by a pair of large, transverse-mounted laminated springs, mounted almost back-to-back in the centre of the underframe. The wagon is fitted with later pattern LSWR oil axleboxes, though the wheelsets certainly look a little ancient!

Our 'best guess' at its original identity so far is either:

a) A 3-plank drop-side wagon (SR diagram 1301) – The design and the drilling of the replacement curb rail suggest this, but less than 200 were built between 1887 and 1912.

b) A 4- or 5-plank open goods wagon with a drop door in the centre of each side and curved raised ends (SR diagram 1309) – This theory is based on the height of the RN ends, the nature of the end ironwork and the design of the buffing and drawgear. Over 2,000 of these were built between 1880 and 1913 but there were design differences over the years.

Recommended reading:

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
A reprinted copy of 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.

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