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New Announcement - Chaldrons; The Wagons That Fuelled The Industrial Revolution!

Let's go on a journey together! Somewhere to date very few manufacturers have gone to before. We're heading off to the very beginning of the railways, to a time when industry and the modern world as we know it was just beginning. Welcome to the Chaldron wagons in OO/4mm scale, the first stop timescale wise in our "Powering Britain" series of coal wagons (or should that be 'waggons'?) 

The recognisable Chaldron design appeared around 1820, but that itself was the continuation of an outline that dated from the mid-17th century onwards. These two axle wood framed ‘black waggons’ were built to slightly varying degrees of design, but a common outline, for the transportation of coal, brick, timber, stone and ‘muck’ across the North East of England.

A ‘Chaldron’ is a unit of measurement equating to 53cwt in weight, and with weighbridges not being used in the Great Northern coalfield in the mid-18th century ways and means of standardising coal wagon loads were being sought by collieries and merchants. The most efficient way was to use units of volume as a measurement, and hence the term ‘Chaldron’ became the common reference for coal wagons in the North-East, becoming the standard carrying capacity used in wagon loads until around 1850, when three tons became the standard size. By then, the name had stuck, and it has remained a common reference for the ubiquitous wagon type.

From around 1860, the four ton Chaldron, with its new outline body pioneered by the West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway Co. and the Londonderry Colliery Railway, established itself as the prominent design type of these distinctive waggons. By 1865 the remaining 3t Chaldrons were generally upgraded to 4t by the use of ‘greedy boards’, which extended the height (and capacity) of the wagon. By this time, the North Eastern Railway had inherited around 15,000 Chaldron wagons from the constituent companies and by 1867 this had risen to a zenith of around 34,000 vehicles in operation, as other companies such as the West Hartlepool and Stockton & Darlington were absorbed into the NER. Despite their wide spread use the Chaldrons were, for a mainline concern, a poor design; requiring a high degree of maintenance and having a restricted carrying capacity in relation to their tare weight, and the NER worked rapidly towards replacing them on the main line with larger capacity vehicles.

Chaldrons, or local derivatives of, had spread as far afield as Cornwall, Leeds and Scotland by the mid-19th century. The type was common in Cumberland, with use on the Brampton Railway up to 1908 and right up to Grouping in 1923, with the Maryport & Carlisle Railway, but it is with the counties of Northumberland and Durham that the Chaldron is typically associated with. The NER had rapidly offloaded its fleet of Chaldron wagons from 1870 onwards, with a very large number being sold on to local collieries where they joined the diverse number of locally manufactured examples, but by 1886 Chaldron wagons still accounted for 10% of the NER’s wagon stock and by 1900 there were still some 2,200 examples in operation. By 1908 just 147 were left and by 1913 the type had disappeared from stock.

In the coalfields though, the future for the Chaldron wagon fleet was a far different story. Most of the coal mined in Northumberland and Durham was exported, and so vast waggonways were established that linked the collieries to the coal staithes built along the river banks and at the sea ports. The waggonways negotiated tight curves and the staithes were developed around the use of bottom discharging wagons, so there was little incentive for colliery owners to change away from using Chaldrons, especially if it involved expense, and so the use of the wagons continued unabated into the 20th century.

Between 1900 and 1914, when the NER imposed a ban on dumb buffered vehicles (which included the Chaldrons, even though technically they were unbuffered), privately owned Chaldrons were still being used over the mainline, albeit only as part of block train working agreements. Among those colliery fleets with such an agreement were the large concerns of Lambton (between Penshaw and Sunderland), the Wearmouth Coal Company (between Hylton and Wearmouth), the Londonderry Railway (between Seaham Harbour and South Dock, Sunderland) and the South Hetton Coal Company in the same area. Post-1914, the Chaldron fleets were confined to the internal user railway systems and so their use altered to the conveyance of coal between pit head and washery, as well as for the transport of fireclay between the pits and the colliery brickworks.

Between the wars, Chaldrons would still have been a common sight at the various exchange junctions, especially at places such as the Pelaw Main system, Seaton Burn, Lambton, along the Blyth and Tyne line to Percy Main and between Seaton Delaval and Seghill on the old NER lines, but post-war the numbers declined dramatically. Nationalisation of the coal industry led to a surplus of wagons as the smaller collieries and coalfields closed, but at places like Throckley and Backworth north of the River Tyne the Chaldron fleets lasted into the 1950s, however it was at Seaham Harbour and the South Hetton that the type held firm, being used right into the late 1960s. Even when through running at Seaham ceased, the abandoned Chaldrons were re-purposed, being used for the recovery of coal from beneath the staithes, right up until they were demolished in 1978, the Chaldrons being the only wagons that could traverse the tight curves.

With a career on the rails spanning over 150 years, the Chaldrons seemed the perfect place to begin the timeline for our “Powering Britain” series of coal wagons through the ages. There has been a surge in interest in the birth of the railways, along with intrigue in pre-grouping and the Victorian era with recent locomotive releases, not to mention the interest in industrial heritage and its railways.  With this in mind, the Chaldrons are a logical release to satisfy these growing areas of interest within the hobby.  Extensive researching of the prototypes was conducted including surveying of the magnificently preserved examples at the Beamish Living Museum, with further research aided by the North Eastern Railway Association as well as a host of historians and experts.

With so many variants of the ‘Chaldron’ being produced by builders across the North-East, as well as ongoing repairs in service by the collieries and the compromises inherent in 00 Gauge modelling, depicting the definitive Chaldron is a complex task, but ultimately rewarding. We have produced five main variants of the type, based on the S&DR style dating from 1835-45 built at Shildon, the North Eastern Railway (and subsequent Internal User pattern) P1 types of the second half of the 19th century and the improved 4T ‘Black Waggons’ that were so prevalent in and around the Seaham area, of which we have identified three main body profile types. Within these five variants, there are different arrangements of ‘bang plates’, handbrakes and wheel styles, which we have included within the tooling suite.

Engineering such an interesting and diverse range of waggons is always a challenge that is relished by our team of project managers and engineers. With the series of detail differences between Chaldrons, the “Accurascale Way” of covering various detail differences was employed to offer a comprehensive tooling suite. The couplings also offered an interesting challenge, as we deemed traditional tension lock couplings to be too large for the delicate nature of our Chaldrons, and so we have created an almost prototypical arrangement, with the chains being replicated faithfully and using magnets to join the waggons together, with additional NEM attachments being used for connection to existing locomotives and rolling stock. The specification of the model includes:

  • Die-cast metal chassis with plastic body.
  • Weight 9g.
  • Run over minimum radius curves of 371mm (1st radius set-track).
  • Five different body designs, with additional removable ‘greedy boards’ (horizontal board extensions to the body) fitted to the Shildon Works Chaldron to give a sixth body option.
  • Three styles of brake and brake handles. Two block types and the more complicated Londonderry clasp type brake.
  • Three styles of wheel design; split spoke, star spoke and wave spoke, to a blackened 00 Gauge RP25-110 profile.
  • Three arrangements of ‘bang-boards’, reflecting types seen in service on the waggons.
  • Scale width wire handrails, metal pin jaw couplings and metal etch handbrake levers on Londonderry variants.
  • Eroded metal/plastic detail parts, including grab handles, door securing pins and chassis chain points.
  • Metal fine link chains fitted to body where appropriate.
  • Waggons connected via all new fine link chains, with Neodymium NdFeB magnetic heads, connected at the waggon via prototypical cotter pin coupling.
  • Two extra NEM fitted coupling chains supplied with the waggons for fitting to locomotive/additional rolling stock.

Each pack produced has been themed by colliery, and each waggon depicted is based on photographic evidence and reference to colliery records to confirm lettering styles. Some packs contain just one style of waggon, while others contain mixed styles where research has shown that they operated in conjunction with each other:

  • Pack A: North Eastern Railway - Three P1 style Chaldrons, circa 1890.
  • Pack B: Hetton Colliery Railway - Three ex-NER P1 style Chaldrons in pre-1911 lettering. Built by George Stephenson, Hetton Colliery Railway celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2022, being the world’s first complete railway system that only utilised steam locomotives.
  • Pack C: Seaton Burn Coal Co. - Two ex-NER P1 style Chaldrons and an S&DR style Chaldron, circa 1902.
  • Pack D: Pontop & Jarrow Railway - Two ex-NER P1 style Chaldrons and an S&DR style Chaldron in pre-1932 lettering, circa 1910.
  • Pack E: Wearmouth Coal Co. - Three ex-NER P1 style Chaldrons, dating from the period 1900 to late 1920s/early 1930s.
  • Pack F: Lambton Collieries (Earl of Durham’s Collieries) - Three ex-NER P1 style Chaldrons in pre-1896 livery.
  • Pack G: Stella Coal Co. - A perfect example of how Chaldrons were kept in service, being repaired as necessary, until they were fit only for firewood. Three S&DR style Chaldrons, circa 1950.
  • Pack H: Londonderry Collieries - Three 4T ‘Black Waggons’, in two body styles, circa 1960s.
  • Pack I: Seaham Dock Co. - Three 4T ‘Black Waggons’, in three body styles, circa 1950s.
  • Pack J: Vane-Londonderry Collieries - Three 4T ‘Black Waggons’, in two body styles, circa 1960s.

Check out our exclusive announcement video with our friends at Hornby Magazine, where we give more insight into the model development and talk with our friends at the Beamish Living Museum and the North Eastern Railway Association on the history of these black waggons. 

 

Tooling of these distinctive waggons is now complete with pre-production samples signed off and decorated samples due shortly. Each pack will consist of three wagons and will be priced at £44.99 per pack, with 10% discount applied on two or more packs when you order direct from our website. They are also available from our network of local stockists and are due in stock in Q2 2022. You can order yours direct by clicking here!

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