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<< Profile 21 >> HTO/HTV 21t Coal Hoppers
Build Details: 1949-1959 various builders
Numbering: B340000-B340924, B345000-B346468, B410000-B433749 (all with gaps)
Bogies / Suspension:
Dimensions: 24ft 6in LOB, 12ft 0in wheelbase
Published Drawings: BR Wagons, The first half million (1/145)
Areas of operation: Throughout UK
Main liveries: Grey, Brown
Summary: The 21ton steel-bodied coal hopper was based on an LNER design and was the standard BR coal hopper until the advent of air-braked types in the 1960s and 1970s. Over 23,000 wagons were built, making them one of the most numerous types on BR and, although seen in many places, they were most at home in the coalfields of North East England. Most of the wagons were rebodied at least once, to a simplified design with fewer ribs, while over a third of the fleet eventually gained vacuum brakes. Coded HTO and HTV under TOPS, the wagons were never fully replaced by air braked wagons but colliery closures had a major impact on their numbers. The unfitted fleet was eradicated by the mid 1980s while just a handful of HTVs made it into the 1990s. Many of the wagons survived longer, at least in part, with their underframes receiving new box bodies for the departmental fleet.

History: When BR was formed in 1948, the all-metal 21ton coal hopper wagon was already an established design, having been built in large numbers by the LNER. In fact delivery of the last of the LNER orders was not completed until after nationalisation. The first three lots built for BR comprised a total of 1200 wagons to diagram 1/141. These were built in 1949, the work being divided between three private contractors. The design was indentical to the LNER-built wagons and even featured the distinctive straight brake levers, the ends of which were well above the solebars when in the off position. The brakes themselves were to the LNER clasp pattern, with two shoes on each wheel of one side of the wagon only. The angular hopper body was of welded construction with five box-section ribs up each side and two on each end. The side ribs had traingular webs to join with the top of the solebars. Discharge of the load was by means of two chutes within the wheelbase, the doors being controlled by levers beneath the solebar.

The first batches (numbered B410000-B411199) were followed in 1950 by a further seven lots to a slightly revised design, given diagram number 1/143. The main difference was the use of rivetted construction for the hopper body. The ribs were as before but now formed from T-sections, and the shape of the webs was altered slightly. 2,750 wagons were built, all by private firms, and taking the number series up to B413949.

The next set of orders was placed in 1952 and saw a further redesign. Diagram 1/146 was issued for the new style which featured side ribs that continued on from the vertical part of the hopper side, down to the solebar, resulting in a more boxed appearance. The brakes were changed to the push type, with one shoe on each wheel, and the levers were of the standard, low-level pattern. The first lot was built at BR’s Shildon works and all subsequent construction was shared between this establishment and private builders such as Cravens, Head Wrightson and Metro-Cammell. Diagram 1/146 wagons eventually totalled 16,800, to 26 lots placed over the next six years. However, in the first years some lots were placed to diagram 1/145, this being essentially identical to diagram 1/143, complete with rivetted hopper body and LNER-style brakes.

A couple of the orders for diagram 1/146 wagons were cancelled or curtailed, resulting in some gaps in the numbering series. B422750 to B423049 were cancelled from lot 3013, while numbers B429050 to B429349 were also missed. Other than these, and the diagram 1/149 mentioned below, the number series continued to B433749.

The last design to be built appeared in 1958 when a single lot of 1000 wagons was built at Shildon to diagram 1/149. Given numbers B429800 to B430799, these wagons had roller bearings and self-contained buffers. The diagram states that 100 were built with through vacuum pipes but whether this was the case is not clear. In any case, most were rebuilt with vacuum brakes in later years.

Several upgrade programmes involved the fleet over the next two decades, with a large number of wagons being modified with vacuum brakes, roller bearings and new hopper bodies. The rebodying is known to have taken place mainly in the 1970s but the other works appear to have been carried out separately as it was not unusual for un-rebodied wagons to gain the other enhancements. Curiously, in almost all cases, the brakes themselves were unchanged. This meant that the LNER-style could still be seen for many years.

By 1966 there were 1,050 fitted 21ton coal hoppers, along with over 36,000 unfitted examples. As BR built only 23,150 wagons, this suggests that a large number of LNER wagons were still in use. Lists for 1977 show that the number of fitted hoppers, by then coded HTV, had risen to 8,552 while the HTO fleet had reduced to 17,456. Part of the decline was accounted for by the rebuilding from 1971 onwards of many wagons into 21ton (and later on 24½ton) mineral wagons (see MDO/MDV/MEO). Once that programme was complete, work on rebodying the 21ton hoppers started. The new hoppers had the same shape as the originals but were easily recognisable by their having only two vertical ribs on each side instead of five. The new ribs were in the same position as the 2nd and 4th ribs were on the original wagons, and indeed the new wagons still had five webs between the lower hopper sides and the top of the solebars. Both LNER and BR built wagons were rebodied and the construction method was either welded (with box section ribs) or using Huck bolts (with U-section ribs). Some of the wagons were fitted with vacuum brakes, possibly not at the same time as the rebodying, and these wagons were repainted in freight brown. The unfitted examples should have been grey but it would appear that many of these were also painted freight brown as well.

Up to 1977, all rebodied wagons retained their original stock number, and a lot or diagram number was not issued. In a change of plan, two lots were then placed for rebodying work to be done at Shildon (where all the earlier examples had been done) and these involved new stock numbers. Lot 3916 was for HTV wagons numbered from B340000 upwards, while lot 3919 covered unfitted HTOs numbered from B345000 upwards. The spacing suggests that a large number of conversions were planned but these two lots amounted to less than 2,300 wagons. Probably as a result of curtailment, there were gaps towards the end of each series. The HTVs were B340000 to B340913, plus B340923 and B340924, while the HTOs were B345000 to B346358, plus B346411/413/414 and B340460 to B340468.

It is unlikely that any further rebodying took place after these two lots and by 1984 the fleet stood at 8,061 HTVs and just 358 HTOs. By this time, many of the wagons had been moved on to other flows, including sand, coke and aggregates. The HTOs remained on coal duties in the North East but were all withdrawn over the next couple of years. Despite receiving new bodies in the previous decade, the number of HTVs in use declined steadily due to redundancy through replacement or loss of traffic. In 1986 there were 5,345, down to 3,173 in 1987, 2,491 in 1988, 1,857 in 1989, 855 in 1990 and just 17 in 1991. Rather than being scrapped, many of the wagons were transferred to the departmental fleet and recoded as ZDV. These were almost certainly not used as such, but were being held for later modification. Three such wagons had been modified as ZDV Tope spoil wagons as early as 1984, the work involving sealing the bottom doors and reducing the height of the hopper by 460mm. Further conversions followed in 1987 but these were given new numbers in the departmental series. From 1989 a large programme of modifications and rebodying started using the former 21ton hopper fleet. As well as further Topes, others received new box bodies to form the Clam and Rudd types. All were renumbered and further details can be found on the profile.

Just over 2,000 21ton hoppers were upgraded in this programme, although many more remained in store against future requirements. When it was clear that no more were needed, scrapping of the hoppers resumed and all but a handful were gone by 1994. A TOPS list for 1999 includes just 10 numbers remaining from those allocated to the 21ton hopper fleet. Apart from one of the original Tope conversions, all were in withdrawn status and comprised 8 HTVs and 1 ZDV. All had gone by 2005, leaving just a dozen or so preserved examples.



Links: Photos of LNER-built 21 ton coal hoppers on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of LNER-built 21 ton coal hoppers rebodied by BR on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of BR 21 ton coal hopper - rivetted bodies on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of 'BR 21t hoppers - rebodied, resprung, renumbered HTO & HTV - 25ton' on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of BR 21 ton coal hopper - welded bodies on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of BR 21 ton coal hopper - rebodied welded on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of BR 21 ton coal hopper - rebodied huck bolt on Paul Bartlett's website

Updates: 15/03/2013: Photo links (finally) updated.
For more pictures see the Links section at the bottom

HTV B431103 at Barry, 10th September 1980.
Paul Bartlett

Rebodied HTO B426049 at Derby Works, 13th August 1977.
Paul Bartlett

Rebodied HTV B419092 at Wellingborough, 11th June 1978.
Paul Bartlett

Page added: 15/12/2007 Spotted an error? Got some additional info?
Please e-mail me at tom (at)
Last edited: 02/07/2008