WHR (Caernarfon) Rolling Stock: Goods Stock

The new WHR is not expected to carry goods traffic as such, so non-passenger vehicles are dedicated to civil engineering, track maintenance, and other internal needs of the railway. A fleet of vacuum-braked bogie wagons has been imported from South Africa for such purposes. These are a mix of flat wagons, and both low- and high-sided vehicles.

B Wagons

The high-sided vehicles ("B wagons") came filled with track fittings from the lifted Umzinto-Donnybrook line, and in a "natural rust" livery. In 2002 a programme was started to give them both mechanical attention and fresh coats of paint. Some were ready for use on mixed trains at the September 2002 Superpower Weekend, and work continued subsequently, to provide a smart rake of wagons which will be used on Driver Experience trains. The work has been done by volunteers from North Wales and the WHRS West Midlands Group, and two of the painted wagons are seen below in May and June 2002, plus volunteer work in progress on another.


Marcus Ingram's pictures below show work in progress in late December 2002. The fifth wagon is seen fully painted in Dinas Goods Shed, needing only stencils to complete it. The sixth wagon is seen having a bogie removed over the new inspection pit in the Carriage Shed. There are eight of these wagons in total - seven at WHR(C), and one at Glan-y-Pwll depot on the FR.

The work on the wagons has included attention to their braking systems; all WHR(C) trains are required to run with continuous brakes, and fortunately the ex-SAR equipment is fully compatible with FR-style vacuum braking.

The wagons share the same design of diamond-frame bogie as those used under the new WHR passenger coaches, though the latter have their springing altered to suit their new purpose. The bogie shown below has been run out from under the tracklaying gantry.

Given how shabby these wagons looked when they first arrived, the finished result is a revelation, and a tribute to the volunteers who have done the work. In the Easter 2003 pictures below, some of the wagons have had their stencilled lettering and numbering done, returning them to "as new" condition. The SAR numbers have been retained.

For the 2004 season, two B wagons were converted to carry bicycles and walkers' gear. One runs with each rake of passenger coaches. The bicycle rack fittings, alterations (e.g. to door arrangements) and signage are demountable, to facilitate transfer to other wagons as necessary, and to allow the wagons to appear in their SAR livery when wanted. Wagons B 934 and B 1899 are seen below on February 22nd, with fitting of bike racks in hand.

By March 28th their newly fabricated drop-down doors had been installed.

Laurence Armstrong's picture below shows one of the wagons with a complement of bikes en route for Rhyd Ddu.

Volunteers from the WHRS West Midlands Group repainted the bicycle wagons on February 26-7th 2008. They completed scraping of loose paint already done by staff, then painted over bare patches (including the complete interior of no. 1899) before applying a silicon top coat to outer surfaces and ramps, and repainting the vacuum pipes in black and the grab handles and steps in yellow.

The eighth and final B wagon had been stored at Glan-y-Pwll on the FR, where it was intended to use it as a concrete wagon. However as part of the arrangements for converting the bicycle wagons it has been released for WHR(C) use, and on December 30th 2003 it was worked down from Glan-y-Pwll to Minffordd between diesels Moelwyn and The Lady Diana, ready for movement by road to Dinas. Marcus Ingram's pictures below show the wagon at Glan-y-Pwll, and in the dusk at Dduallt.

This wagon and the other remaining "unimproved" one were moved back to the FR in early 2006, to be used as loco coal wagons in the FR's programme to convert some locos back to coal firing.

In June 2009 Wagon B1834 was fitted out with half a dozen plastic water tanks, intended to provide an additional water supply to assist the fire brigade as required when attending lineside fires; this provision followed a pattern that had been used successfully on the FR for some time.

At the end of 2012 six more B wagons were made available to the railway through a benefactor. In November these started their journey to Wales from the Sandstone Estate in South Africa where they had been overhauled. The following pictures courtesy of  Wilfred Mole via Marcus Ingram show the six wagons at the Sandstone Estate prior to dispatch. 

B wagon at the Sandstone Estate prior to dispatch (W.Mole)B wagon at the Sandstone Estate prior to dispatch (W.Mole)B wagon at the Sandstone Estate prior to dispatch (W.Mole)B wagon at the Sandstone Estate prior to dispatch (W.Mole)B wagon at the Sandstone Estate prior to dispatch (W.Mole)B wagon at the Sandstone Estate prior to dispatch (W.Mole)

The next set of pictures show them being loaded at Sandstone then unloaded at the docks prior to shipment. 

B wagon being loaded at the Sandstone Estate, November 2012 (W.Mole)B wagon being loaded at the Sandstone Estate, November 2012 (W.Mole)B wagons being unloaded at the docks in South Africa (W.Mole)B wagons being unloaded at the docks in South Africa (W.Mole)B wagons after unloading at the docks in South Africa (W.Mole)

The following pictures show the wagons at Dinas after arrival, upper row, and later after having their couplings changed from the South African type to the 'Chopper' type, lower row, as used on the Ffestiniog ad Welsh Highland Railways. The wagons are expected to be part of the serviceable fleet but will also see service on demonstration freight trains. Also seen in these views is the recently refurbished South African Brake Van. See further down the page for more details.

The B wagons after arrival at Dinas (L.Armstrong)The B wagons after arrival at Dinas (L.Armstrong)The B wagons after arrival at Dinas (L.Armstrong)
The B wagons after having their couplings changed. (L.Armstrong)The B wagons after having their couplings changed. (L.Armstrong)The B wagons after having their couplings changed. (L.Armstrong)

After 9 years in service B1899 has come in for a re-paint with Marcus Ingham doing the honours again. Marcus's pictures below illustrate the before and after of his efforts.

B1899 showing it's condition after 9 year's service (M Ingham)A work weary B1899 (M Ingham)B1899's much improved condition after its (M Ingham)

Next for the repainting treatment were B1806 and B934. These were tackled on the 8th June 2014 with Marcus first sanding down the existing finish before re-painting. The pictures below show the progress at lunchtime whilst Marcus's pictures below that show how B1806 had progressed by the end of the day. 

B934 showing it's condition prior to being attended to (L. Armstrong)B1806 being attended to (L. Armstrong)B1806 having been sanded down and now being painted (L. Armstrong)B1806 having been sanded down and now being painted (L. Armstrong)

Progress later in the day on B1806 (M Ingham)Stencling later in the day on B1806 (M Ingham)

DZ and Flat Wagons

The first South African wagons to arrive in Wales were DZ wagons, shipped initially to the FR. Peter Bagshawe's picture shows Alfred County Railway DZ wagons nos. 1403, 1412, 1423 and 1424 loaded for export to the WHR at Port Shepstone Station on August 23rd 1995.

Attention turned to the DZ wagons after the Bs; the DZs are half the height of the B wagons and thus easier to work on. If you are interested in working on these wagons at Dinas - many hands make light work! - contact Marcus Ingram, email marcus.ingram@ntlworld.com.

Work started in earnest on the body of the first DZ wagon on December 28th 2003, and the wagon is seen below on new Year's Day 2004, with the body largely painted, but still awaiting lettering, and painting of the bogies. These DZ wagons have previously appeared in grey, simply because grey paint was to hand before they were shipped from South Africa; the red oxide now being applied is the correct SAR livery.


The first flat wagon to be repainted is seen below outside Dinas Goods Shed on February 7th 2004.

The pictures below show work on two DZ wagons behind the carriage shed in early 2007. Although the wagons are being restored essentially to SAR condition, opportunities are taken to make small improvements to suit WHR operational conditions; an example on these wagons is that a hatch in the floor is being added (as was done with the van, see below) to facilitate access to the vacuum cylinder for access.


Taken on the same occasion, the picture below illustrates one of the uses the SAR wagons are put to - Castell Caernarfon is seen with the "bush bashing train", on undergrowth trimming duties between Caernarfon and Dinas on this occasion.

The pictures below show DZ wagon no. 1424 in June 2007, with correct stencilled lettering applied. At that point two jobs remained to be done before the wagon could be released for permanent way use, namely running out one bogie to replace a broken pin, and welding angle in place to secure the brake cylinder access hatch.

Six additional South African bogies were delivered to Dinas in April 2008, having been purchased by Mike Hart and donated to the railway to assist with the volunteer project to refurbish the three DZ wagons still to be tackled. They are of the cast steel pattern also seen under some of the other wagons and the South African ballast hoppers.

One of these bogies had been fitted to one of the rail bolster wagons when seen at Dinas on August 23rd 2008.

One of the DZ wagons (DZF2005) was selected to be the vehicle to carry mini digger around the railway. The plan with this is to provide ramps at each end to allow off-loading onto the trackbed from either end.

In May 2013 Marcus Ingram was working on the flat and the frame and bed were sanded and coated with a a rust killing solution before two coats of red oxide were applied. The bogies were sanded and scrapped were possible before receiving one coat of red oxide then finished in a coat of Black gloss. Springs were painted in yellow to highlight them as is now normal. 

While Marcus was there two people from overseas, Nigel and Alan (formally from Durban and worked for SAR) and both now from Canada, were volunteering at Dinas. Both have a background in 7" steam but on this occasion they were dealing with 'two foot' scale making and fitting the fitted bolts for one side of the rear frame stretcher for NG15 134. They also spent some time painting the newly made couplings for the six B wagons recently imported from Sandstone Estates - as mentioned above in the B wagons section - and painting the DZ's vacuum pipe upstands and the headstocks in black.

The 'before' view of DZF2005 prior to work commencing on its conversion (Photo: M.Ingham)Work progressing on DZF2005 (Photo: M.Ingham)Work progressing on DZF2005 (Photo: M.Ingham)Work progressing on DZF2005 (Photo: M.Ingham)Work progressing on DZF2005 (Photo: M.Ingham)

By 1st October 2013 the  roll-on roll-off DZF2005 was in service and resident with the PW Dept. in Minffordd yard.

DZF2005 in Minffordd yard (Photo: M.Ingham)>DZF2005 in Minffordd yard (Photo: M.Ingham)>DZF2005 in Minffordd yard (Photo: M.Ingham)

Over the weekend of 28th to 30the September 2013 work has started on DZF2003 with the refurbishment of the body. Whilst the body is now painted, as can be seen from Marcus Ingham's pictures below, it still needs more attention before it becomes serviceable.

The 'before' view of DZF2003 prior to work commencing on its conversion (Photo: M.Ingham)Marcus with work in progress on DZF2003 (Photo: M.Ingham)DZF2003 starting to look a lot tidier (Photo: M.Ingham)

The South African Van - from Port Elizabeth to Dinas

In July 2003 WHR(C) was formally twinned with the Sandstone Heritage Trust & Railway in South Africa, who marked the twinning by generously donating bogie NG.V-16 brake van no. 3172, including shipping to the UK. This has proved to be a most useful vehicle in its own right, and it also enables WHR(C) to run fully authentic South African demonstration freight trains, and indeed to run freights even when brake carriage no. 1001 is unavailable. Its interior is divided between guard's van and open van space. Mike Hart's pictures below show vans of this type at Port Elizabeth, including no. 3172 (left); Sandstone have sent us this as the best one of a number of vans they have acquired from SAR at Port Elizabeth.

The van is seen below on arrival at Sandstone (the other vehicle on the lorry is a Wickham trolley). The van was shipped from Durban docks around January 14th 2004.

The van took a detour via Belgium, and is seen below at Antwerp docks; broken glass apart, it seemed to have travelled well. It had reached the UK by February 10th, and after clearance though Customs at Tilbury, was delivered to Dinas on the 16th.

The van is seen below being unloaded at Dinas. Initial inspection revealed a vehicle in fair to good overall condition, but with a couple of leaks in the roof boards which had caused some distortion of floorboards and corrosion of nearby metal. Neither guard's door could be opened owing to warped plywood components. The interior was in generally good to very good condition, with a few fittings missing - while the stove was missing, the coal scuttle was not only present but also half full! Vacuum and hand brake gear was more or less intact, seized in part after a long time without greasing, with the chromed rod for the vacuum cylinder needing replacement. All four wheelsets looked acceptable, though one had tyres much more worn than the others. The bogies had clearly been fitted with dampeners at some stage, as fitted to the SAR bogies for WHR coaches when refurbished in the UK.


Initial work started almost immediately, including removal of broken glass from the floor, and investigation of which panels would require renewal, repair, or just preparation and painting.


Considerable progress had been made by the end of July with refurbishing the van's brake gear, with Team Wylfa getting involved with the job. Rigging had been reconnected and tightened up where required, the vacuum cylinder refitted, and a new flexible hose had been installed at the Caernarfon end, together with a FR/WHR coupler. Testing awaited a suitable vacuum gauge. Further scrubbing of the body had made the yellow warning stripes on the ends rather more prominent.

By August 22nd the roof had been painted, and FR/WHR couplers were fitted at both ends.

During the Christmas/New Year 2004-5 period the brake van was moved to the back end of no.2 road in the Carriage Shed where Marcus Ingram started disassembling it for overhaul, and preparation for use on Phase 4 construction. All lower panels and internal partitions are being removed; exposing the badly corroded steel floor plates which are to be removed and replaced (as soon as a welder can be found to help). Following on from this new lower panels and new lower guard's doors will be fitted, prior to painting in its original colour scheme of red oxide and yellow. The pictures below show the van partially stripped on January 9th 2005.

The following pictures were taken a fortnight later, and give an idea of the mix of sound and corroded metal in the framework.

More progress was made on March 6th, with the Caernarfon end bogie sanded down and given a first coat of red oxide, and more wastage cut away from the floor ready for replacement with new metal. Some internal and external fittings were removed for safe keeping while the main structure is being worked on.

April 17-18th saw volunteers strip off the double doors, most of the remaining side panels, and the internal partitions. The panels needed to come off anyway as the bolts holding them in were beyond salvation, but it also allowed access to the guard's compartment floor, where removal of the wooden floorboards revealed the steel underneath to be as corroded as expected, and requiring replacement. Also, the rusted corner uprights at the Caernarfon end were cut away prior to renewal; a new fabricated arch piece was offered up and put into place above; the new uprights will hang down from this and will be welded in at the bottom end.

Work at the May Bank Holiday weekend continued to address floor and panel stripping, and de-scaling of the bogie at the Porthmadog end, while that at the Caernarfon end was painted in the same style as those of the B wagons. Regular volunteers Marcus Ingram and John Hine were joined on this work by new recruits Cassie, Scott and Rupert.

The Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May saw much further progress. All remaining fixtures were removed for safe keeping and the last four body panels were removed. With the opportunity to work outside over the weekend, defective sheets were cut from the floor with oxy-acetylene gear, revealing the frame itself to be in good condition.



A pivotal point in the overhaul was reached on June 26th - there was more being added to the brake van than was being removed. Half of the floor was complete. The frame work for the access hatch in the floor was ready to be welded in allowing easy maintenance of the vacuum cylinder without having to drop the whole heavy unit, as was done with the wagons. The remaining floor area in the guards area had been cut back and needed very little preparation.

Work in July saw the steelwork nearly finished, with replacement body frame parts fitted and welded in place, and most of the work done on new floor panels, including details such as an access hatch for the brake cylinder. A few steel parts still remained to be fabricated or fitted. Attention would then turn to woodwork, specifically renewal of the lower parts of the guard's doors. Having the new parts cut and rebated off site by a local joinery firm was being priced, with a view to fitting these parts in the Autumn.

By the end of October all steel work requiring replacement had been replaced, and welding of the floor was complete. The floor had also received its first coat of cream gloss paint. The van's wooden steps had been removed, for new ones to be made. An order had been placed with local firm A.J. Joinery of Caernarfon for replacement 32mm thick plywood body panels; these were being machined off site to the correct size, with all rebates and windows cut out ready for fixing. New lower doors were being built by a volunteer joiner.

The panels were delivered and fitted during November - any resemblance to flat-pack furniture is purely coincidental!

The first coat of red oxide was freshly applied to the exterior when seen below on December 11th; West Midlands Group members were painting the interior over the following days. The gaps were for upper panels which were having to be adjusted for fit, and which needed to be in place before the corresponding lower ones could be painted.

West Midlands Group volunteers applied the stencilled lettering in late January 2006, using stencils made as a homework project using tracings taken from the originals in 2004. The signage in Afrikaans has thus been perpetuated.

The van is seen below in June 2006. It had been cleared for use by HMRI, and was almost ready to go into service on construction work.

The van is in use on Phase 4 construction duties, but the work on it is not quite finished. Some time after 2009 it will get a new roof, and it has also not yet had its duckets refitted. These are being worked on as a homework project; the intention is that they will appear on the vehicle at some point after track has passed all the tunnels.

See a diagram of the V-16 type. Note that the type of toilet shown has not been retained for WHR use.


The Brake Van saw much use during the construction of Phase 4 and to enable it to be a centre of attraction it had been fitted with a chemical toilet. Following much use this was removed following the van being used in the demonstration freight trains at Superpower 2010. This was no doubt following complaints from guards having to use the brake van as the air was reportedly " very heavy and nauseous!"

The Loo after removal from the Brake Van. (Photo: S.Banbury)One last usage? (Photo: S.Banbury)

With much of the railway reconstruction work complete the opportunity was taken to give the Brake Van another major overhaul. This time the goods shed was home to the van whilst the work was carried out. The vehicle was duly completed and handed back into service with ceromony in March 2013 as can be seen in the photos from John Ellis Williams below. The first few pictures, also from John, show the completed van both inside and out.

An external view of the refurbished Brake Van (Photo: John Ellis Williams)An external view of the refurbished Brake Van (Photo: John Ellis Williams)An external view of the refurbished Brake Van (Photo: John Ellis Williams)An internal view of the refurbished Brake Van (Photo: John Ellis Williams)An internal view of the refurbished Brake Van (Photo: John Ellis Williams)
The handover to the Company of the refurbished Brake Van (Photo: John Ellis Williams) The handover to the Company of the refurbished Brake Van (Photo: John Ellis Williams)The handover to the Company of the refurbished Brake Van (Photo: John Ellis Williams)


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Page authored by Ben Fisher; last updated October 16th 2014 by Laurence Armstong