Coal is King – that is certainly true for any steam locomotive. Without copious amounts of ‘Black gold’ the railways in the heyday of steam would grind to a halt.
The GWR was no exception and even had a Central Coal Office in Pontypool Road that coordinated the supply of coal from the private South Wales collieries (where much of the GWR’s coal came from) to large locomotive depots and small engine sheds alike. Large motive power depots could receive up to 3,000 tons per week, whilst small branchline sheds might only receive 20 tons.
The GWR had their own Loco Coal wagons to manage this constant flow of coal. Some would be found running in special trains, whilst many Loco coal wagons sent to local sheds would be attached to ordinary freight trains. This meant that Loco Coal wagons could be seen all across the GWR network on their way to all the Company’s sheds. Originally, wooden-bodied wagons were used. However, the first official diagram – the N6 in 1889 – had an iron body, a practice the GWR would continue.
The last 120 N19 wagons built in 1913 featured rolled corners (like that seen on the ‘Iron Mink’) with distinctive triangular-shaped capping, DCIII brake gear and self-contained buffers. A central 5ft 4in drop door was on each side – increased from 5ft on previous wagon diagrams, which allowed for easier unloading into tubs on coaling towers or onto small coal stages at remote engine sheds.
These wagons survived in good numbers well into British Railways, having carried several different liveries and lettering styles throughout their lifetime.
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