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Proposal to create a National Museum dedicated to the preservation,

restoration and operation of modern wagons

Outline Proposal:

To establish a working museum for the preservation and restoration of wagons built during the British Rail Diesel and Electric Era from the 1960s onwards to the present day. The main emphasis would be on Air-Braked wagon designs that were introduced from the 1960s onwards to the 1990s.


The collection would therefore be composed of suitable Air-Braked freight rolling stock built by British Rail and the Private wagon companies.

Wagons that are vacuum or dual-braked would be included where suitable.


To succeed the museum would need to be allied with one of the pro-diesel preservation heritage railway lines as the freight stock would be more suitable for Blue-era diesels and electric traction types rather than steam.


For example, how good would a BR large logo liveried Class 37 or 47 look when hauling a Speedlink type consist of mixed Air-Brake freight stock? At present, there are no dedicated rakes of ‘modern’ Air-braked freight stock that can be hauled by the large numbers of preserved diesels that are in the whole painted in BR blue and sectorised freight liveries. The fleet would include examples of wagons which introduced innovative features such as the 45t Monobloc tanker, AFI brakes, experimental suspension systems etc.



Ideally, the museum would seek to obtain at least one working example of each of the major TOPS code types as classified by BR from 1973 onwards. In the BR TOPS series there are at least 25 different codes, which could be saved.

Former revenue freight stock that has been transferred and modified for Engineers traffic would be considered for inclusion. Many wagons from the Bogie, Open, Steel and Van series have been recoded into the Y Engineers Bogie and Z Engineers 2-Axle code ranges according to their usage.

Privately built wagons or those owned and operated by Private companies would also be included and again it is intended that at least one example from each class of wagon be preserved.

It is recommended that wagons eligible for preservation be restricted initially to those that were in operation until the onset of Privatisation of British Rail.

In many cases, the prototype of first-built production wagons may have been scrapped or converted for further use. However, if such vehicles still exist then all efforts would be made to secure the vehicle for preservation.


The stock would be made available to any diesel or electric group, which wishes to haul an authentic rake of Air-braked wagons. Gala weekends and themed operating timetables have become popular during the past decade on most preserved railways and there are now numerous diesel only weekends put on to cater for the enthusiasts. The freight stock would be hauled as required along the chosen railway by suitably liveried diesel or electric locomotives.

A future option that would be worth considering would be to look into the possibility of ensuring that all stock owned and operated by the museum is maintained and overhauled to national standards. This would then allow the stock to be moved using mainline-certified locomotives from one preserved railway to another. The only proviso is that the lines are connected to the National rail network and have sufficient storage space to stable the freight stock for the duration of the visit. There are at least ten preserved railways, which have a connection and the storage facilities.

As an aside to this movement of the stock between preserved railways, the opportunity would be created to run well-publicised freight stock movements – a kind of free photo charter on the mainline.


As new and efficient freight vehicles enter service to replace older stock, it is inevitable that the older stock will be withdrawn from service and perhaps after a period of storage will be sent for disposal.

Some wagons have escaped disposal and have been converted and given a new lease of life until they eventually become life-expired. It is a sobering thought that certain examples of BR and Privately Owned wagons are now extinct and have met their fate in the hands of the scrapman. Many others exist in storage around the country but slowly these will be disposed of over time.

The creation of the museum will depend on the goodwill of the freight operating companies and the wagon owners to release or donate wagons deemed to be surplus.

The other big requirement would be money! The main expenditure would the museum buildings, utilities, trackwork, land – all the things needed to create the foundations of a good preservation facility. Before the museum is established we may have to store vehicles that have been donated or acquired on preserved railways or at private locations before they can be brought together under one roof.

With your help the creation of a museum for the preservation of modern Air-braked wagons could become a reality.

© Paul Harrison 2nd March 2005. Updated 10th June 2007