Ask Phil - Private Owner wagons on British Railways

15 October 2020
I have a load of private owner wagons, but my layout is set in the British Railways era. Can I still use them? Anthony, York

Phil: There are two answers to this question:

1) Yes you can. It's your model railway. Run anything that you like. If you are enjoying your hobby, you are doing it right, and that's all that matters.

2) Private owner wagons didn't vanish overnight when BR was born. Even painting them an overall grey took a long while. Many fell apart before getting a new livery! I'm going to assume that we are talking about the steam or early diesel era here. Wooden bodied wagons will have become extinct in the 1960s, although some specialist traffic vehicles lived longer. There is an interesting thread covering this on RMweb.

That's not to say for a really authentic scene you don't need to do a little work. Here's an ex-PO wagon I run on my BR steam period layout.

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1: While the livery might not have been painted over, BR did add their own numbers in white, normally with black patches behind them so they could be read easily. I've just brush-painted the patch and used a mapping pen to add the numbers. Waterslide transfers are available to make a neater job.

2: Even in pre-BR service, wagon liveries weathered. I've rubbed away some of the pretty printing using a fibreglass pencil to simulate wear and tear.

3: Replacement planks to repair damage didn't tend to be painted, just left in raw wood colour.

4: Dirt! several washes of dirty brown followed by dry-brushed rust and earth colours and a finishing wash of black. One thing you can be sure of, in railway service, wagons were pretty filthy. When locomotives weren't always washed properly, goods stock was largely ignored between re-fits.

A few fading PO wagons make a nice addition to any BR layout, breaking up the rakes of grey and bauxite rolling stock.

Do you have a model railway question - send it in and we'll answer it.