NER 20T hopper – prototype history

18 November 2022
With Accurascale's announcement of a range of hopper wagons for 'OO', here's a history of the prototype vehicles.

All images of prototype wagons surveyed at Beamish museum. ACCURASCALE

Having been influenced by witnessing coal haulage operations in the United States, where tradition didn't hinder working practices and facilities, the board of the NER decided to improve the ratio between capacity and tare weight of its waggons by building larger capacity rolling stock.

NER wagon Beamish museum

NER CD 46153 requiring a little TLC at Beamish Museum.

Ideally, this would have meant moving to steel-bodied bogie hopper wagons, with a 40T to 60T capacity, but the restrictions placed upon wagon stock by the cramped rail layouts of many of the collieries, the height of the loading screens and the investment required in modernising the shipping staithes and coal depots under its control meant that the NER needed to standardise on wooden-bodied 20/23T four-wheel hopper types.

Related: Read the specification of Accurascale's new models here

Mindful that colliery owners would resist investing in new facilities, the first of the new enlarged vehicles to be ordered was the Diagram P6 hopper in April 1902, with a capacity of 15T, a wheelbase of 10ft 6in, a length of 20ft and 8ft 3in in height.

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1,800 vehicles of this type were produced with both side and end brakes, but they were essentially an interim design, created to make the new approach palatable to the colliery owners. Within a month, in May 1902, a 20T prototype version was created, fitted with higher sides at 9ft 10in and better suited to incline operations. The Diagram P7 hopper was built in huge quantities, the majority by Shildon – the original order for 550 vehicles increasing to over 12,000 by Grouping in 1923 and again, both side and end braked versions were built, as well as with modifications to the end panels that made for safer operation on curved inclines in the Central and Northern Divisions.

NER wagon Beamish museum

An unidentified NER hopper wagon looking worse for wear. Some traces of grey remain on the bodysides.

A further development by the NER saw the fitting of anti-friction rollers to the type, resulting in an increase in capacity to 23T, creating the Diagram P8 hopper. The friction rollers decreased the starting resistance of a train and from 1906 around 6,400 wagons were fitted in this manner, before having the friction gear removed around the time of Grouping, when they reverted to the classification of diagram P7 and a reduction in capacity to 20T.

NER wagon Beamish museum

Replacement planks evident, this wagon leaves little trace of its private-owner use – lettering is just about evident on the sixth plank. 

As with the haulage of commercial coal, the transportation of locomotive coal was transformed at the beginning of the 20th century by the development of the Diagram Q3 locomotive coal wagon, based on the P7 type. The Q3 was introduced in 1902 and featured a flat floor and a single set of doors on each side for the unloading of the coal, although the NER required them to be convertible for use with ordinary coal trade traffic and so hinged sloping floor panels were fitted, along with two latitudinal bracing struts to maintain the wooden body’s integrity. Like the P8 hoppers, the Q3 hoppers were originally built with friction rollers and a 23T capacity, but by Grouping the friction gear had been removed and the capacity reduced to 20T.

Related: Read the specification of Accurascale's new models here

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