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<< Profile 12 >> YGB Seacow / YGH Sealion / YGV Walrus 40t Bogie Ballast Hoppers
Build Details: 1954 Metro-Cammell, 1971-1974/1981-1982 Shildon/Ashford
Numbering: DB980000-DB980250/DB982440-DB982927 (YGB/YGH), DB992481-DB992530 (YGV)
Bogies / Suspension: GWR plate, Gloucester or Y27CS
Published Drawings:
Areas of operation: Nationwide
Main liveries: Black. Olive Drab. Grey/Yellow. EWS maroon.
Summary: Although seemingly built over an extended period, the basis of this type was actually a design by the London and South Western Railway first introduced in 1903. Apart from the bogies there were only very minor changes between the oldest and the newest builds, a testimony to the soundness of the original design. Most of the examples built in the 1970s and 1980s remain in service today, working alongside newer autoballasters and a growing number of box wagons.

History: Featuring a large hopper with slab sides, each with 7 vertical ribs, the type had three discharge chutes, one to the outside of each rail and one in the centre. At each end of the wagon was a control platform with three large handwheels to control each of the chute doors. The first batch of 50 wagons built for BR appeared in 1952 and was numbered DB992481-DB992530. Like the Southern Railway examples they were built by Metro-Cammell and fitted with vacuum brakes, although the BR examples had GWR plate type bogies in place of the diamond frame type fitted to the SR ones. The fishkind of Walrus was applied to both builds and all were eventually given the TOPS code of YGV.

No further examples were built until the 1970s, although a batch of 90 similar but longer bogie hoppers called Whales was constructed in 1966. In 1971 a total of 128 wagons was built at Shildon works, still to the basic Southern Railway design but mounted on Gloucester bogies. 100 of this batch (DB982440-DB982539) were fitted with dual brakes to allow the most operational flexibility. The vacuum brakes were of the AFI (Accelerated Freight Inshot) type, which allowed faster emergency braking. The result was that one end of the wagon carried a small air brake cylinder, while the other had two larger cylinders for the vacuum brakes. Under TOPS this particular combination of brakes was assigned the letter H, so these wagons were coded YGHs and given the fishkind Sealion. The last 28 (DB982540-982567) were intended for the Southern Region, where adoption of air brakes was more advanced. As such, they had air brakes only but with the addition of a vacuum through pipe. Coded YGB, this variation carried the name Seacow.

Between 1972 and 1974 a further batch of 360 Sealions was built at Shildon and numbered DB982568-DB982927. Finally in 1981 and 1982, 251 more Seacows were built, shared between Shildon and Ashford. This last batch (DB980000-DB980250) presented a slightly different appearance as the hopper body was now primarily welded instead of rivetted and the vertical ribs were formed of box rather than U-sections. The wagons were also mounted on more modern looking type Y27CS bogies

When the Walruses were delivered, standard engineers fleet livery was black with yellow lettering. By the time the Sealions and Seacows came along, this had been changed to olive drab, and a further change to grey with a yellow top almost coincided with the delivery of the last batch. Wagons that were overhauled or repaired were repainted in the current livery but many served for long periods without a change. Local variations were fairly common and examples of the later types (Sealion/Seacow) appeared in yellow/black and yellow/white. Certain wagons received Mainline blue or Loadhaul black/orange while Transrail logos were carried by others. With the advent of EWS, an increasing number of the more modern wagons are appearing in maroon with a yellow top rib.

Modifications to the fleet have been relatively minor, the earliest and most widespread being the fitting of a protective shield on the platforms at each end. This comprised a square of mesh mounted on top of four tall poles, the purpose being to prevent staff from getting too close to overhead wires when they climbed up to inspect the hopper interior. From the early 1990s many wagons had their brake equipment rationalised. YGH Sealions had the vacuum brake removed and became YGB (if a vacuum through pipe was retained) or YGA. In most cases these were recoded as Seacows. At the same time, some of the YGB Seacows lost their vacuum pipe to become YGAs. A third modification was the fitting of lights. Some wagons have these on the protective shields, while others also have lights fitted to the hopper sides to aid operation at night. A new fishkind of Stingray was introduced about this time and is thought to refer to the fitting of lights, or perhaps the generators fitted to some of the conversions to power the lights of an entire rake.

Of the BR-built wagons, the vacuum only Walruses were the first to go, over half being withdrawn by 1989 and the remainder by 1994. The much newer Seacows and Sealions lasted longer with over three quarters (559 wagons) remaining in stock at December 2005. Throughout their lives, operation of the fleet has covered much of the country, either in block trains or in sets as part of mixed departmental workings.



Links: Photos of Walrus wagons on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of Sealion and Seacow wagons on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of later-build Seacow wagons on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of Sealion and Seacow wagons on Martyn Read's website

Photos of YGA wagons on Andy Jupe's website

Photos of YGB wagons on Andy Jupe's website

Photos of YGB Stingray wagons on Andy Jupe's website

Photos of YGH wagons on Andy Jupe's website

Updates: 15/03/2013: Photo links (finally) updated.
19/10/2008: Link to "Lippys Wagon detail shots and more" added.
For more pictures see the Links section at the bottom

YGB DB980152 at Tame Bridge, 25th March 2005.
Martyn Read

Page added: 01/10/2007 Spotted an error? Got some additional info?
Please e-mail me at tom (at)
Last edited: 19/10/2008