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The S&MLR was in many ways created in a most unusual way, even by Stephens’s railways standards, and rolling stock procurement was no exception. In a reversion to early Victorian practices under the terms of their contract the ‘Contractors’ (Stephens and the company solicitor Matthews) building the railway had to supply the rolling stock to run the railway. The work was financed by the mysterious Severn Syndicate who also seems to have owned some of the initial coaches. As a consequence there is no trace in the Board minutes of the acquisition of the necessary items. Only copied notes of a typed list and some fragments of notes remain as hard evidence.
The Midland Coaches
For the opening, the railway was supplied with a batch of fully refurbished second hand coaches of Midland Railway origin, freshly fitted with acetylene lighting to Stephen’s specification. There were four bogie carriages and two 4 wheeled brake vans They were bought in April 1911 through a well-established and long lived business that normally specialised in rail supplies and ropeways, R. White & Sons of Widnes.
Vans No. 1 and 2 were D529 25ft passenger brake vans, either MR built at Derby in 1877-1894 or, less likely, one of a small batch built for the Midland & Scottish Joint Stock in the same period. Van No. 1 was piped for steam heating and had the end windows probably fitted later by the S&MLR. Inexplicably one brake disappeared from stock returns in WW1, and it is possible that this was a casualty of the bad derailment on Shrawardine bridge in July 1915 when one of the Midland brakes was in the train. The returns show a passenger brake reappearing in 1924. This may be the arrival of the North London van (No 18) mentioned below .However, to venture into the realms of speculation, it may be that No 2 van repaired and reinstated. Even so it largely eluded the photographer except in a distant shot of Kinnerley works in 1937and it was photographed in Ford siding scrap lines in 1942 along with No 1. They were both scrapped soon after during 1943 along with the majority of the S&MLR running stock. Coach No 2 has been recorded as installed as a p/w van at Nesscliff (where it was recorded as remaining till at least 1960), was but this was not the ex-Midland van but a very ancient coach originating from the Mawddwy Railway (no 2) that Stephens bought from the Cambrian Railways at Oswestry for this specific purpose.
Of the carriages Thirds Nos 3 & 4 were MR Drawing 490 43ft thirds of a type built at Derby from 1882-1885. Composites Nos 5 and 6 were of similar in appearance but there are however several candidates for their precise design. The most likely is MR’s 40ft brake composite of lot 69 to Drawing 332 built at Derby 1882, the original layout of which was 3rd, 3rd, 1st, 1st, 3rd, brake. Drawing 332 was an 1870s design modified under lot 69 to vehicles with iron framed bogies with elliptical springs and a former luggage compartment space was utilised for a guard. In 1883 more of the luggage composites were built at Derby to lot 83. Many of both lots had the 3rd class compartment adjacent to the brake/luggage space incorporated in guard’s compartment, to make it larger, although there was no change to their external appearance. No. 5 is probably a lot 69 compo brake whilst No. 6 could be a modified carriage from any of the batches.
These vehicles were reported at the time to have been painted crimson lake, probably full Midland livery, no doubt at Derby before being sold. Certainly the style looks very similar to that used by the Midland. The basic Midland livery was light grey roofs, crimson lake sides and ends. Raised beading was black edged with gold leaf; the latter edged either side vermilion. Letters were gold, shaded red, shadow shaded black. Iron work was black as was the running gear. Interior seating was first class blue cloth and third crimson plush. All would have been oil lit as new but replaced by Pintsch oil gas from the late 1880s and Stephens had this replaced with his favoured acetylene gas system. All were disposed of in 1943
The LSWR Carriages
In June 1911 six 4 wheeled carriages numbered 7 to 12 were obtained from the batch of ex L&SWR coaches that Stephens had obtained in 1908 for the opening of the PD&SWJR’s Callington railway; there were three 5 compartment thirds, one 2x1st /3x3rd composite and 2 three compartment 3rd Brakes.
In the absence of accurate dimensions the precise details of these carriages must remain uncertain. The brake 3rds (Nos 10 &12) and, 5 compartment all thirds (Nos 7 , 8 & 11) were almost certainly from the 28 ft carriages from the 1879 Block Sets built to Diagram 2577 and 2570 over the period 1879-85 although the brakes had lost the guards ducket or ‘birdcage’ top with which they would have been built. No7 was built by Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Ltd and thus dated from 1885. However the composite (No 9) is more of a puzzle and the author has not been able to identify a photograph of it. It may well be a 32ft composite that was originally a six wheeler tri-composite built at the same period as the other carriages, but unless and until more is known this must remain a guess.
One interesting feature of these LSWR coaches is that some, if not all, were fitted with extra horizontal grab handles under the windows. This may well have been to assist guards walk between compartments for ticket issue, a somewhat disreputable practice common to most Stephens railways. This was often alleviated by cutting internal corridors in coaches, something that does not appear to have occurred in the SMLR.
The livery of the LSWR coaches on arrival is uncertain. They probably carried their PD&SWJR livery for a time and were almost certainly repainted in ultramarine with vermillion ends and cast metal lettering painted yellow, a livery that seems to have been adopted by the early 1920s for all carriage stock. No 11 was sold on to the Weston Clevedon and Portishead in 1925 consequently the 3rd class carriage stock was reduced by one with a net loss of 50 seats. And it became their No 16 . Five LSWR carriages remained on the S&MLR.in 1941 and Nos 9, 10 & 12 disappeared early in 1943 but patched No7 (latterly a breakdown van) and No 8 lasted a little longer.
Also from the Callington line came the ex LSWR royal saloon whose history has been fully covered elsewhere.
Three carriages arrived between 1915 and 1919, and are shown on the returns for the latter year. Tonks says that all three were 4w ex North Staffordshire carriages. However only 2 composite (3 x 3rd, 1 x 1st) (the 1941 army inventory shows No 14 as 2 x 3rd, 2 x 1st but this is not supported by photographic evidence). ex NSR carriages arrived in August 1917 becoming Nos 13 and 14. These two carriages continued in use well into the 1930s on excursions but were disposed of in 1943.
The third stock addition was probably the ex-Great Eastern Railway carriage that arrived from the K&ESR in 1916. It was a three compartment Brake 3rd, K&ESR No 10, which was despatched on 20 November 1916 to become S&MLR No17. The carriage was built by the Ashbury Railway Carriage and Iron Company to the GER’s diagram 44 in 1870 and was GER No 255. It had been bought by the K&ESR direct from the GER in March 1902. It had already been modified at the time of its purchase by the K&ESR with an inside ‘corridor’ for the guard. It was later reported in Blue livery with one red end so was certainly in use for passengers at one time. Latterly this coach was photographed on its own or with wagons and with elongated vertical grab irons for all compartments, indicating its possible use as a p/w vehicle, before being finally relegated as a store at Abbey station where it survived as a virtual wreck until 1952.
According to stock returns a further 3rd class carriage arrived in 1923 giving a net increase of 16 seats. An explanation for this might be that Gazelle’s Tramcar trailer (No 16) was added to the returns for the first time although. This vehicle is recorded as arriving on the Railway in October 1911 but languished at Kinnerley for about twelve months before being despatched to the Midland Wagon Works adjacent to Abbey Station, Shrewsbury where it was extensively modified. It was reportedly the last job undertaken in that works before it was closed and removed to Birmingham in late 1912. The miniature carriage was probably ex works in June 1912.
A North London full Brake of the characteristic type for that line was acquired at some date, possibly 1924 and certainly after 1916, and became No18. It seems that it was probably acquired from dealers Wm. Jones of London but no record of its acquisition has been found. Unless it is the second passenger brake in the returns mentioned above it seems never to have appeared in the stock returns. Painted light brown with red ends it was certainly latterly used as a wagon and was fitted with wagon brakes. There are no known photographs of this van in use and it became a store at Shrewsbury Abbey until broken up in 1952.
S&MLR wagons are extraordinarily difficult to describe definitively. There were initially 32 in the 1911 returns plus a crane and a stores van and there were some additions and deletions over the years. About this time the identifiable wagons are
- Nos 1-10 low sided ballast wagons, probably of Midland Railway origin, obtained in October 1910 from the well-known dealers, J F Wake of Darlington.
- Nos 15-24 Covered wagons obtained in June 1911 from J F Wake.
- Nos 30-33 Cattle wagons also from Wake in July 1911.
- Nos 33-38 High-sided opens obtained in February 1913 from Bute works Supply Co., Cardiff. Six unspecified wagons were recorded as being purchased by hire purchase through the Wagon Finance Corporation in November 1913 and these are probably those
- A five ton travelling Crane of probable Midland Railway origin obtained from R White and Sons in May 1911. This was matched with two crane runners from Bute Works Supply in January 1914 possibly numbered 0001 & 0002, but these disappeared in March 1917.
- An ex-GER goods brake van obtained in October 1910 and apparently initially numbered 1.
- Three timber wagons of unknown origin from J F Wake in October 1910 numbered 1-3 in a separate series.
Two open wagons and one van disappeared in the later WW1 period when no stock returns were recorded. We can only positively identify the van as No 19 which was withdrawn in July 1915 and was probably the one grounded at Llandrinio Road. A handsome horse box appeared in October 1917.
So far as can be ascertained from the scarce photographic records the low sided opens and most of the box vans surviving in 1941 were ex Midland Railway except that two box vans were definitely NER[Nos?]. Somewhat surprisingly No 18 was piped for vacuum and steam heated. The high side opens are difficult to trace as photos are very scarce, but three, No 34, 35 and, probably, 37 showed the old company markings of the Great Northern through worn paint and were characteristic of that company's commonest open goods. There was also a dumb buffered ex PS&NWR low sider dated by Perkins as built in1849 that survived to be used by the SMR. Number unknown, it does not seem to appear in the stock returns. Tonks records that the remains were broken up in 1936.
The horse box (numbered 15 in the carriage series, but also carrying the number 7121,and painted in the carriage livery of blue with red ends) was a unique vehicle for a Stephens line and was of Great Western origin; probably a diagram N1 of the 1870s. One cannot imagine a regular business in internal movement of thoroughbred or hunting horses on the railway so it must be assumed it was acquired for an unknown purpose but latterly seems to have part of the crane set with two runners. It should be remembered that this set of wagons was not intended for train breakdowns .The 4 wheeled crane seems to have been numbered 2 (possibly its ex Mainline number) and been built in June 1885 and was a hand operated and wooden jibbed affair with only a 5 ton capacity. It would have been used as a mobile station crane for loading timber etc. and for light bridge and track work. The horse box disappeared during 1943 but the crane survived to be withdrawn on 3 October 1952 and transported to Swindon Works on 20 July 1953 where it seems unlikely to have survived much longer.
With the coming of peace three cattle wagons were purchased in 1921, two (41&42 from the NER in April for £113 and one from the GWR (a W2) in May at a cost of £135, although the three did not make the returns till 1927. These were followed by three timber trucks (Nos 24-26) from the LMS in December in 1924, two of which were ex-Caledonian. Two seem to have carried the numbers 41985 and 43420 rather than the numbers 24 and 25 apparently allocated. There is confusion here particularly as the number 24 was already on a Box van.
Goods stock was supplement by the acquisition for £90 from Cranes Ltd, Dereham in 1924 of an unnumbered goods trailer for the railmotor. This had a miraculous life. It was hardly used with the railmotor, obtained side buffers for use with Gazelle and was then used on its own, probably as a P/W trolley, surviving into the 1950s. It may well have been the last surviving of all SMLR rolling stock.
The remaining 8-ton trucks were not written off till 1931 though two had probably gone many years before and the others had probably been out of use for some time as a, unspecified, number of K&ESR wagons (probably up to six of their opens) were on hire during 1927 and 1928. Six 10 ton ex private owner trucks ( Nos 44-49) came from Cambrian Wagon Co as replacements in 1928.
There were however no further official reductions in stock in the 1930s even though they were beginning to fall to pieces as internal traffic disappeared and repairs ceased .The last return available to the author for 1938 shows 38 wagons, plus a travelling crane, the same number as listed in the inventory compiled by Louis Taylor & Sons on 10 March 1941 at the time of the WD takeover. At that time the inventory listed 1 goods brake van; 6 timber trucks; 8 low sider wagons; 9 box vans (plus one stores van); 6 high sided open wagons; and 7 cattle wagons. The army list also shows two low siders converted to flats (probably Nos 8&9) for use with the crane which had not appeared in any railway returns since 1920. The Army appears to have conducted a review of rolling stock with the SMLR in 1947 and there was a write-off of stock on 16 April 1947, probably of virtually all of the carriages and open wagons, but details have now been lost. It is however fairly certain that virtually all the ‘running’ stock (excluding those used for storage) were disposed of it 1943, most before the 27th August (when a retrospective return was compiled). At Nationalisation Austen was valuing rolling stock and claimed 1 ‘Luggage and Parcels van' valued at £7; 17 wagons at £5 each and 1 crane at £10. 16 of the 17 wagons must have been the box and cattle wagons used for grain storage at Abbey until 1952 but the other survivor, if it really existed, remains unknown.
There was a grand clear out of wagons and coaches at Abbey station in early 1952 and all existing box and cattle wagons and the remaining three coaches there were towed to Hookagate and scrapped by 3rd July. However 10 box van bodies were reported as grounded for use as huts. Tonks records that six were still in use in 1960 at Edgebold, Horton Lane, Shoot Hill and Kinnerley (3). One or two survived, possibly including earlier groundings, beyond that; e.g. at Llandrinio Road till 1970 and beyond, and the vestigial remains of one of the Kinnerley ones was still to be found in 2012.
To summarise the wagons listed at the time of the army takeover in 1941:
- 1 to 8 Low sided open ex Midland Railway
- 9 and 10 (possibly miss-recorded) Crane runners converted from low side opens
- 11 to 14 Unallocated
- 15 to 24 Box
- 24 (duplicate) to 26 Bolster Flats
- 27-29 Unallocated
- 30 to 33 Cattle wagons
- 34 to 39 not allocated
- 40 Goods Brake van
- 41 to 42 Cattle wagons
- 43 Cattle Wagon
- 44 to 49 High sided open wagons<
- An unnumbered hand Crane ( recorded elsewhere as No 2)
- 1 to 3 (Separate series) bolster flats
Wagon livery was probably always Grey with ‘Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway' in full with in plain white lettering. Later the letters S&MR seem to have been used, with the 10 ton opens arriving in 1928 having the full title but treated in an even more cavalier fashion with little new paint except too mark ownership.
Sources and Acknowledgements
S&MLR Annual Reports and copy of 1941 Inventory held in Colonel Stephens Railway Archive
NRM Search Engine, PHS series