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Ford's Tank Wagon

Ex Fords Oil Tank on Down Yard running line

Robert Frise - Ex Fords Oil Tank on Down Yard running line

Ex Fords Oil Tank alongside Buffer Depot in Down Yard

Ray Jackson - Ex Fords Oil Tank alongside Buffer Depot in Down Yard

One of two tank wagons that arrived on 4th December 2002 from Fords' of Dagenham. They have been donated as a result of the photo-charter involving Peckett No. 2087 during 2001.

This wagon is believed to be over 75 years old, and possibly over ninety years old. It was probably used for storing oil or diesel at the factory compound at Dagenham, possibly one of a number of second-hand tankers they acquired for internal use from Charles Roberts in 1933. A 10-ton saddle-mounted tank wagon, it once belonged to Esso, and the logo of that company can just be seen in a good light, beneath the paint, scrolled across the three sections of the tank.

At first glance it appears to be in somewhat of a distressed condition, but it is largely complete. It lacks a buffer, and has some damage to its brake hangers, some of the bearing surfaces of the springs and brakes are very worn. Also the wheels are reduced close to the size at which they would in service be scrapped. However there is no sign of the residual oil inside leaking out, suggesting that the tank has no holes, and as far as can be seen a thorough clean and repaint, removal of the accretion of pipes and cocks attached in later life, and some straightening out of the brake hangers would be all that is necessary for museum purposes, if a representative set of plates and notices could be fabricated.

Railway Clearing House design specifications for tank wagons were updated at various times, of which the significant dates for this vehicle are 1907 and 1911, but other specifications relating to standard wagon build, notably 1889 and 1923, are also relevant. It would not be unusual for an old vehicle to have had a number of rebuilds, modifications and repairs, and to be employed in the carriage of various classes of goods in the course of its lifetime. Although the wagon carries no date and bears elements of design specifications of various years, some inferences can be made regarding its age and origin.

Registration Plate Detail

Ray Jackson - Registration Plate Detail

Although the plates are missing their impressions remain in the many layers of paint. Where the registration plate was fixed two numbers can be seen impressed in the paint. This plate was fixed on private-owner wagons and showed the name of the railway which had inspected the wagon and cleared it for use, also the registration number and date. The figure 1205 is visible, and what may be 1910, 1918 or 1919. The shape of the maker's plate, coupled with the crossed-over arrangement of the tie-cables securing the tank, suggests this vehicle was built by Hurst Nelson of Motherwell. That the steelwork of the chassis was manufactured by the Lanarkshire Steel Co. possibly supports this.

The tank is secured by two cables wrapped round the filler, a requirement which was abandoned in 1925 and is absent from the 1927 drawing. Its dimensions are 7'4" by 5'10" suggesting it to be a 10-ton class B unit built to the Railway Clearing House drawing 72 of 1907, although it has the siphon-tube and vent of a class-A tank, (drawing 100). It is mounted on two cradles and has two end-stops. The tank was designed to run either full or empty, lacking the internal baffles specified for vehicles permitted to carry part loads, as can be seen by the lack of rivets on the tank outer surface. The lid of the filler port (flat, 1907 specification) carries the warning, cast into its perimeter, that the tank must be filled to an internal marker bar which is now missing. A fleet number, 165, is painted on the inner surface of the lid. The filler port - which is the pre-1927, 2'6" diameter size - has no control gear for a bottom discharge valve. Because of the danger of spillage through leaky valves, bottom discharge pipes had to be removed by the end of 1906 on class A tankers and were replaced in 1908 by siphon-pipes and vents on the tank top. This tank it seems was either built as a class-A carrier but to class B size or has been modified from Class B to Class A leaving no trace of its original bottom-discharge control gear and valve. Saddle-mounted tanks suffered from leaks at the points where the tank rested on the saddles, and at some time in its career this one has had a major repair, in the form of a plate welded the length of the bottom, and the normally riveted drain plate is welded on.

The holding straps terminate in line with the inboard leg of the W-irons, again denoting the 1907 diagram. The two small platforms either side of the filler, and perhaps the ladder, date from the time of the second world war.

The chassis appears to be built largely to the Railway Clearing House drawing 97 (1911) specifications for 10-14-ton tankers, but with a 9'6" wheelbase. It is 18' over the headstocks and 6'10" wide with a four-hole rack plate. The transverse buffering and drawgear spring has 14 leaves and 11" buffer casings as fitted between 1911 and 1923. The buffer casings visible in the photo are the 1923 ribbed type but the one not seen is of the 1907 unribbed variety.

The wheels can be seen to be an early type with split spokes, which were designed to counter casting stresses. They are worn down from their original 37.5" to about 35.3", and would normally be scrapped before wearing to 35". The bearing springs have 5 leaves. Note that the brakes are independent, lacking the Morton dog-clutch and cross-beam, the handles operating each on two wheels. The standard 9"x 4.5" axle boxes are oil rather than grease filled, a feature introduced from 1913 to allow inclusion in 'fast' (35m.p.h.) trains.

Paint samples in red and yellow can be seen among the layers. In 1913 a livery was decreed for wagons carrying class A - highly volatile - fuels of stone coloured tanks with red solebars, this changed to aluminium for the tanks about 1939 and to grey during the war. Class B carriers were bauxite but this was superseded later by black as more suitable for oil, tar etc.

Extract from photo cat. no. ABH209

Courtesy of HMRS - Extract from photo cat. no. ABH209

Esso Tank Car 981, photographed at Huntingdon in about 1937 and built during the time of the first world war, appears to be identical to our vehicle, which may once have looked like this. However, if it was running as a class A carrier would have been silver or stone with blue lettering, and prior to the second world war would have had a red longitudinal stripe. Note the unusual early E of ESSO. Esso Petroleum dates from 1951 but started trading in 1888 as the Anglo American Oil Co., using the trademark ESSO. Fleet numbers, from Anglo-American No. 1 in 1888 had reached 1400 by 1920. There have been a number of other liveries carried, this car may therefore have once been lettered for Anglo American, Royal Daylight (after 1927), or one of several subsidiary firms and products, many of which had colourful liveries.

Impression of the Express star plate location Impression of a second plate on the solebar

Ray Jackson - Impression of the Express star plate location
Ray Jackson - Impression of a second plate on the solebar

These impressions in the paint layers of the solebars show where the various plates were fitted. The star plate on the left shows that the vehicle was allowed to run in fast (35mph and up to 40 miles between stops) trains, being built to the latest standard (in 1913) and having oil axle boxes instead of grease. There would have been another, painted, star 2ft high on the right-hand corner of the tank. The plate was cast, and showed the railway which had cleared the vehicle for use, the particular works which had done the inspection, the vehicle's serial number and a letter A or B for its class of traffic and the date of inspection.

The right-hand plate may have been that of the owner, but could also have been to indicate the maximum weight of the vehicle. It was not mounted level and might have been a late addition.

Impression of the wagon builders plate location

Ray Jackson - Impression of the wagon builders plate location

This plate mark is probably that of the wagon builder, thought to be Hurst Nelson, but there appears to be the marks of two or three plates. Perhaps this indicates general repairs by other firms. Two axleboxes bear the name of the Wagon Repair Co. There is a Hurst Nelson photograph archive in Motherwell which might provide the information necessary to conclusively identify this tank wagon. Further research avenues remain to be explored, and in time further confirmation of the origins of this vehicle may be possible.

Research and text prepared by Ray Jackson - details of sources in the Acknowledgments section

Origin :- Unknown Date Built :- Before 1920? Number :- Unknown
Diagram :- Unknown Lot :- Unknown
Capacity :- - Tare Weight :- 10 ton Gross Weight :- -
Type :- Fuel Tank Builder :- Hurst Nelson? Wheelbase :- 9' 6"
Owner :- QRS Status :- Awaiting Restoration Location :- Down Yard
Accession No: W/0111 Arrival Date :- 2003    

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 27 September 2017