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The Wibdenshaw coke hopper project commenced in June 2006, after acquiring a few of the now obsolete 'Three Aitch' (3H) kits. At the time I never imagined that the rake would eventually total 22 wagons. It was soon apparent after some brief research, that the BR wagons were built to three different designs, following on from the original LMS version.

The 3H kit represents the earlier body style with raves on both sides and the ends (BR diagram 1/150) and is suitable for the number range B447000 - B447499, which were built at BR Shildon and at Teeside SB&E between 1949 and 1950. Strangely enough, the kit has moulded handrails on the ends of the wagons, which are only suitable for the mid body design (BR diagram 1/151 which did not have raves on the ends). The early body design should have 2 horizontal handrails at each end, and these are made from 0.33 brass wire.

Later in life, some of the earlier wagons which were built with steel raves, had these replaced with wooden ones. The process of loading the wagons with hot coke, made for a very corrosive environment and the original paintwork didn't last very long. Many wagons could be seen in the late 60s and early 70s with patched up bodysides. This view shows an early body style wagon with replacement wooden raves.

The area behind the bufferbeam on the kit requires plating over as per the prototype, using 20 thou' plasticard, and this gives additional strength to the wagon and covers the 'see-through' appearance. After fitting the 3 link couplings, I have infilled the area under the plate with Araldite, which bonds the coupling tails, the bufferbeam, and the hopper body together.

The mid body design of coke hopper (BR diagram 1/151), were built between 1951 and 1958 at BR Shildon and numbered B447500 - B448949. The conversion to this style of wagon is easy, by replacing the hopper ends with pieces of 40 thou' plasticard. The stanchions are made from 1/16th" Plastruct 'T' section, chamfered at the top, and at the bottom where they join the bufferbeam.

To represent the worn out look, the wagons are painted in various colours, and it takes quite some time before things start to look realistic - usually waiting a couple of days before adding another layer of different coloured paint.

The final design of coke hopper had solid sides and ends (BR diagram 1/152), built at BR Shildon in 1958 and numbered B449200 - B449299. To produce this variant I scratchbuilt the bodies from 40 thou' plasticard and mounted them on the existing hopper bases after removal of all rivet detail.

This view shows 2 of the final design coke hoppers under construction. An unusual aproach on this batch of wagons was to load and secure the coke in the hopper before construction had finished. This was done to stablise the fragile bodies, and a good test for the security of the coke load. If it can be handled frequently on the workbench, it should be permanant enough for future use.

With some part started Parkside 21t hoppers in the background, 4 HCO 'tubs' can be seen after initial weathering. The chassis need modifying to the later BR standard roller bearing axle boxes, obtained from 51L / MSE.

In addition to the 4 'tubs', another 7 mid body design hoppers creeped onto the work bench so I could get uniformity with the loads. With 11 coke wagons on the bench, certain tasks become tedious, so it was a case of splitting the project and concentrating on smaller batches.

Still with some finishing work to be done, some of the hoppers are seen here on running tests.

Almost nearing completion, a later body style wagon can be seen here with roller bearing axleboxes.

As with all wagon projects, reference material is very important, and I have found Paul Bartletts wagon website invaluable, with thousands of colour photographs of hundreds of different wagon types.

44005 heads through Wibdenshaw with a long rake of coke hoppers, the various styles being mixed together.

An article appeared in the 'Model Railway Constructor' (Aug 1983) outlining the history and details of the coke hoppers, and includes some photographs and drawings of the different types.

The TOPS code given to the majority of coke hoppers was HCO, and a few of the mid body style wagons received through vacuum pipes making them HCP. Most wagons ended their lives still branded COKE or COKEHOP. One later style hopper received vacuum braking (HCV), and was used with unfitted hoppers on the Pensnett circuit.

This wagon just requires some final weathering to the chassis, and at June 2008 was the 17th wagon in the rake.

The last 5 wagons entered the Wibdenshaw fleet in early 2009. They were purchased as 'kit built' early body style, dismantled and new bodies scratchbuilt in the same way as mentioned above. They are seen here on running tests.

Balsawood formers are fitted into the hopper body, to allow the load to be fitted, which consists of crushed coal soaked with diluted PVA glue, then painted and washed to look like coke.

This view shows one of the wagons nearing completion, the body having been painted and weathered. Just a few finishing touches and number panel to be added.



A Brush type 4 waits in the down goods loop at Shenston Road with a rake of empty coke hoppers returning from Pensnett to Llantrisant. It was more common to find the diesel brake tender behind the locomotive during this period, as forward visibility from certain clsses (Peaks & class 37s) made 'SPADS' more likely when stopping at signals.

The Pensnett branded coke wagons had deeper chutes under the hoppers, and were easily identified by the markings painted on the wagon sides.

In the 1970s these wagons were formed into TOPS pool 7071, made up from the later design of hopper body with no raves.

The one and only vacuum braked example.... it must have been a bit of a squeeze getting to the brake cylinder!