The origins of the ‘Y4’ date back to May 1918 when an order was given to turn 300 general purpose Dia. V16 ‘Mink A’ vans into insulated meat vans to cover a shortage of such vehicles.

These converted vans were given the new diagram number ‘X6’ (also available from Rapido Trains UK) and were re-coded as ‘Mica A’. The changes were internal; the bodies were insulated with cork and meat hooks were fitted to the roofs.

The conversion was only deemed a temporary measure, so in 1921 the process to convert ‘X6s’ back into ‘V16s’ began.

At the same time, the trade in bananas was booming. The delicious fruit was picked before it was ripe, being transported across the Atlantic in steam-refrigerated ships to keep it green. Upon arrival in Britain, the bunches of bananas would be loaded into steam-heated vans to quickly ripen them as they were taken to their destination.

Rather than turn the remaining 258 X6s back into general purpose vans, they were fitted with steam heating and a new end ventilator to become the Diagram ‘Y4’ banana van.

The door locks and handles were relocated to be within easy reach of dock workers, as the wagons were loaded whilst ‘on the move’ through the warehouses at Avonmouth.

Photograph courtesy of M Shed Museum, Bristol Culture

During the Second World War and the resultant shortage of available merchant ships, banana traffic was paused (the British government bought the entire crop to try to prevent economic disaster in the Caribbean, and the crop was burned). When imports resumed in 1945, the ‘Y4s’ went back to work, lasting well into the BR steam era.

Rapido’s new ‘Y4’ is to feature an all new body, sharing its chassis with the ‘V16s’, with the addition of steam heating pipes. A Mica ‘X6’ is also being added to the range.

Three main eras are represented by the liveries on offer; inter-war, post-war GWR and steam-age BR.

The order book is now open, browse the options below and ‘ave a banana!

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