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<< Profile 36 >> Air-Braked Bogie Steel Prototypes
Build Details: Various (see text)
Numbering: Various (see text)
Bogies / Suspension: Various (see text)
Published Drawings: BLA: British Railways Wagons - The First Half Million (Don Rowland, David & Charles, 1985)
Areas of operation:
Main liveries: Various
Summary: Five types of bogie steel wagon were built between 1976 and 1990, none of which entered serial production. First was the BLA of 1976 (a stretched BBA), then the YXA of 1985 (built to test new bogies). Finally the BGA/BHA/BJA family of 1990, a concerted effort to find replacements for the ageing BDA fleet as well as to provide better protection for steel loads.

History: A single wagon was built to lot number 3896 at Ashford Works in 1976, being basically a BBA stretched by 11ft. It was 61ft over headstocks with FBT6 bogie centres at 47ft 6in. Although this represented a natural progression of the BAA/BBA series (the BBA having been 10ft longer than the BAA), the TOPS code of BCA could not be used as this was reserved for air-braked Bogie Bolster Cs. Instead the new wagon was coded BLA (design code) BL001A, the L perhaps standing for long! The number applied did follow the sequence however. BAAs started at 900000, BBAs at 910000 and the BLA became 920000.

It is not known what use the BLA was put to but it is clear that it was not deemed succesful. In 1982 it was transferred to the Civil Engineers fleet based on the Southern region and given the unique fishkind name of Goldfish. At about the same time it was given a through vacuum pipe (actually fitted on the outside of one solebar) resulting in its new TOPS code of YNB (design code YN044A). The original livery was presumably bauxite but it had been repainted grey by 1985. It suffered an early fate, particularly for such a relatively young and air-braked wagon, being scrapped at Cardiff Cathays in 1988 or 1989.

Next contender was YXA (YX047A) RDC921000 built at BREL Derby in March 1986 under lot number 4059. This was never intended as a prototype but was for use by the research department for testing new bogie designs, hence the departmental TOPS code and number prefix. The YXA was essentially a BAA with BBA-style ends and mounted on BR-designed low track force (LTF) bogies. These bogies, which were later developed by Gloucester and used on several production wagon designs, had a curious appearance. The axle bearings were inboard of the wheels, exposing most of each wheel plus the disc-brake pads and actuators. The YXA was operated in service trains, intermingled with BAA and BBA types, though it also made periodic returns to the Derby research headquarters. By 1988 it had gained longitudinal coil cradles and appears to have been withdrawn between 1994 and 1999.

The last types covered by this profile are the BGA/BHA/BJA family, built by RFS, Doncaster in 1989 and handed over to the Railfreight Metals sector in February 1990. Designed with a view to replacing the ageing fleet of BDA bogie bolster wagons, the new wagons followed continental practice in having full height ends and a retractable canvas hood. Three different lengths were ordered, with four wagons to each. Lot 4065 covered 13 metre BGA wagons (BG002A) numbered 961000-961003, lot 4066 was for 16 metre BHAs (BH002A) 962000-962003 and lot 4067 was for 19 metre BJAs (BJ003A) 963000-963003. All three designs were carried on cast Sambre et Meuse Y25 bogies and the two shorter variants had deep, fish-belly solebars behind which was a well in the body to accomodate steel coils. Fold-down flaps and movable bolsters enabled this to be converted to a flat bed for other loads. The longer BJA had no outer solebars and the bogies were mounted some distance in from the headstocks.

The wagons were painted in black with red hoods upon which was prominent ‘Railfreight Metals’ lettering. Although numbered in the domestic series, all the wagons had ferry fittings and indeed had RIV number prefixes (31 70) already painted on. It is believed that BR International Diagram numbers E721 to E723 were allocated. After testing at Derby, the wagons entered service in April 1990 and almost straight away some of the design codes were modified. The retractable hoods were completely removed on six of the wagons and these were recoded BG003A, BH003A and BJ004A respectively. The AARKNDs were also changed in each case from A to B (eg BJA-B).

The new wagons were not a huge success and all but one were out of use at TeesYard within a year of entering service, along with a quartet of VBA vans used to store the hoods that had been removed. Following some modifications to the suspension, the BGAs and BHAs saw use in coil services from Lackenby and Immingham, while the BJAs were allocated to workings in South Wales. The introduction of new BRA and BYA wagons rendered the prototypes non-standard and by 2008 all were back in store at Tees Yard or Margam, while three had been removed from TOPS (1 BGA, fate unknown, and 2 BHAs cut-up at Booths).

The last of the prototype wagons were sent for scrap at Thomson's in Stockton in late 2014. Rail Express magazine for February 2015 reported that the four BGAs (961000-961003) plus BHAs 962000/001 and BJA 963003 were moved from Tees Yard on 12th December. It added that BHAs 962002/003 had been cut up at Booths in 2007 and BJAs 963000-002 in 2008.



Links: Photos of BLA wagon (as YNB) on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of BGA/BHA/BJA wagons on Paul Bartlett's website

Updates: 10/05/2015: Disposal details added.
15/03/2013: Photo links (finally) updated.
For more pictures see the Links section at the bottom

YNB (ex BLA) DC920000 at Woking, 16th November 1985.
Paul Bartlett

BGA 961001 with hood, Tees Yard, 11th August 1991.
Paul Bartlett

BGA 961002 without hood, Tees Yard, 11th August 1991.
Paul Bartlett

BHA 962003 at Immingham, 3rd April 1997.
Paul Bartlett

BJA 963003 at Tees Yard, 11th August 1991.
Paul Bartlett

Page added: 23/12/2007 Spotted an error? Got some additional info?
Please e-mail me at tom (at)
Last edited: 10/05/2015