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<< Profile 46 >> STV Tube Wagons
Build Details: 1949-1961 at various works
Numbering: B730000-B733459
Bogies / Suspension: n/a
Dimensions: See table below
Published Drawings: BR Wagons, The First Half Million (1/445), An Illustrated History of BR Wagons (1/448 and 1/449)
Areas of operation: Nationwide
Main liveries: Brown or grey
Summary: Ask a wagon enthusiast what is longer, a pipe or a tube and they will tell you it is the latter! Both Pipe and Tube were well-established wagon types by the time BR was formed in 1948, and many more were built over the next 14 years. As with the shorter Pipe wagons, the Tubes survived in some numbers into the 1980s, thanks to the vacuum brakes fitted to many. By the 1990s, only departmental wagons remained, although these included some of the earliest built by BR. The last few Tubes were withdrawn in about 2007.

History: The GWR, LMS and LNER had all built quantities of Tube wagons prior to nationalisation and BR went on to build further examples of each company’s designs. All were broadly similar being about 30ft over headstocks with a five-plank body. There were however marked differences in the provision of doors. First to appear, in 1949/1950, were two lots to the LNER design, assigned diagram number 1/445. Numbered B730000 to B730499, these were unusual for wagons of the period in being fitted with vacuum brakes. They also differed from all later Tube wagons in having two drop-side doors per side, forming the whole length of the wagon. These two factors resulted in these wagons having long lives and no fewer than 132 were still in stock in 1990.

The second diagram number issued (1/446) covered a single batch built at Swindon to the GWR design in 1950. Numbered B731000 to B731099 these unfitted wagons were unique in having four plank sides, though the small centre door arrangement was common to later builds. The short door could not be used for unloading tubes but was presumably to allow staff easier access to pass crane slings or chains around the cargo. Due to their low sides and lack of continuous brakes, the GWR design Tubes were considered non-standard and all were withdrawn by 1977.

Three lots to the LMS design followed between 1951 and 1953, these being given diagram number 1/447. Unusually for precursor company designs, these were not all built at their ‘home’ works, Darlington and Swindon sharing the work with Wolverton. 490 wagons were built, numbered B731100 to B731589 and all were unfitted. The body had a small centre drop-down door and corrugated metal ends (the LNER and GWR designs had planked ends). Most were withdrawn before the 1980s, and the last survivor was a ZSO runner withdrawn in the early 1990s.

The first BR-originated design was diagram 1/448, the first examples appearing from Darlington in 1954. This was similar to the LMS design but with the wheelbase and body length slightly increased. 2350 wagons were built to this design over the next 7 years, all but the first 450 being vacuum braked from new. The number series ran from B731590 to B733219 then returned to mop up the gaps left between the LNER and GWR design wagons. The final lot, built in 1961, filled this range and was therefore split between B730920 to B730999 and B733240 and B733459. In a seemingly shortsighted move, numbers from B733500 upwards had been allocated to Conflat L wagons in 1955.

One more diagram number was issued for Tube wagons, this being 1/449 for 20 wagons built in 1959. Similar to diagram 1/448 but intended for use on train ferries, the wagons had dual brakes (air and vacuum), roller bearings, self-contained buffers, ferry tie-down points, lashing rings on the wagon floor and steps and handrails at each end. More importantly, the single drop-down door was replaced by a pair of slightly longer doors, with a removable stanchion inbetween. Domestic numbers B733220 to B733239 were allocated and the wagons later carried UIC numbers 21.70.6190.040 to 059.

Table 1: Key dimensions of BR Tube wagon diagrams

Diagram Wheelbase Length over headstocks
1/445 19ft 30ft 4.75in
1/446 19ft 6in 30ft
1/447 17ft 6in 30ft 6in
1/448 18ft 6in 32ft
1/449 18ft 6in 32ft

Livery for the fitted Tube wagons was bauxite, while the unfitted examples were grey (some may have had unpainted planks). Due to the slight variations in length, all Tube wagons had the interior length painted on the right-hand end of the bodysides. Another common branding was BATTEN, to indicate the fitting of wooden battens across the floor to raise the load.

Modifications to Tube wagons were not common. Some of the wooden ended wagons had their ends extended to 8-plank height while two other conversions in the 1960s were involved with the traffic of beer. First up were the Ale-in-Cask wagons, which were simply standard Tube wagons with the sides and doors extended by the addition of a single plank on top. The metal ends were extended to the same height using a metal channel. The Ale-in-Cask wagons were replaced by further conversions branded Ale Pallet. These were more extensive rebuilds, with all bodywork removed and replaced with tall plywood panels. Each side was formed of four removable sections, each with two diagonal braces. It is not known how many wagons were converted to these two designs but all were out of use by the late 1970s. Four Tube wagons were fitted with air brakes for use in trials on the Western region in the 1960s (three of which survived into the 1990s as departmental ZDAs and ZDBs). The wagon fleet in September 1966 included 5150 Tube wagons, implying that a large number of pre-nationalisation wagons survived in addition to the 3460 BR-built examples.

As with the Pipe wagons, Tubes saw use on a lot of traffics apart from their eponymous one. The short doors (and resultant limited access) on most of the Tubes may have restricted their use but the LNER design wagons, with their full-length doors, were often treated as general-purpose open wagons.

Under TOPS, the standard wagons were given codes STO and STV, while the surviving Ale Pallet wagons became ULV (although most were soon relegated to use as barriers under code RBV). The ferry-fitted wagons were coded OIX in the open wagon series. It has been suggested that some of the air-brake trials wagons were coded STB (following the fitting of a vacuum through pipe) but this has not been confirmed and they were most likely in departmental use by this time. By March 1977, 2879 STVs were in stock along with just 6 STOs and 4 ULVs. The design was proving popular for departmental use, most of the transfers being recoded ZAV (with fishkind Cod), ZDV or ZGV. They were particularly suitable for the transportation of concrete cable troughing sections, for which the signals and telegraph engineer took a large number of wagons.

The revenue fleet of Tube wagons declined rapidly over the next few years and by 1984 there were just 428 STVs in stock along with a handful of OIX. Many of the STVs were actually in departmental use, although revenue flows remained in the form of timber traffic in the West Highlands, imported steel between Goole and Sheffield and general freight for the Ministry of Defence. Most of the other flows had by then been taken over by air-braked opens of types OAA, OBA and OCA. It is notable that the prototype OBA was for a time coded as a Tube AB with TOPS codes SCA and SDA.

The quantity of revenue STVs reduced more slowly during the latter half of the 1980s and the last handful were withdrawn in 1990. TOPS continued to show 2 STVs for several years but it is thought that these were wagons that had already been transferred to departmental use and later condemned. It was not hugely unusual for there to be a discrepancy between TOPS records and reality as the updating was dependant on manual inputting information.

As already noted, the Tube wagon design lasted a while longer in departmental use. The 536 in stock in 1990 reduced to 167 by 1994. Some wagons had had through air pipes added, resulting in a recoding to ZDW, while some also received the new Satlink livery of overall red with the top two planks in yellow. By 1999 TOPS was listing 73 wagons that had originally been Tubes, now with a variety of codes. 1 STV was still shown, along with 2 ZAV, 2 ZDB, 33 ZDV, 19 ZDW, 4 ZDX, 8 ZGV, 1 ZSO and 3 ZSW. Most were in withdrawn, reserve or zero maintenance pools, but an active allocation to Three Bridges comprised 8 of the LNER design wagons, by then around 50 years old. Three of the former ferry wagons remained in use as ZDXs based at Allerton. By 2008, just five Tube wagons remained on TOPS, and none had been used for several years. Fortunately, the extended lives of many of the wagons meant that about 40 were eventually bought for preservation.



Links: Photos of diagram 1/445 Tube Wagons on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of diagram 1/446 Tube Wagons on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of diagram 1/447 Tube Wagons on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of diagram 1/448 Tube Wagons on Paul Bartlett's website

Photos of Ferry-fitted Tube Wagons (OIX/ZDX) on Paul Bartlett's website

Updates: 04/04/2013: Photo links (finally) updated.
For more pictures see the Links section at the bottom

STV B733275 at Tinsley, 21st September 1986
Paul Bartlett

ZDW KDB730330 in Satlink livery at Radyr, 20th September 1992.
Paul Bartlett

Page added: 01/01/2008 Spotted an error? Got some additional info?
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Last edited: 26/06/2008