MSWJR 3-plank dropside wagon

I’ve been building some “foreign” stock for the goods depot at Farthing. My 1900s period is before the “common user” arrangement, so most of the goods stock at Farthing would have been the GWR’s own - but there should be room for a handful of foreign vehicles, especially from the companies close by. This included the MSJWR, which crossed the GWR's Berks & Hants line at Savernake, not far from Farthing.

So first up was a MSWJR 3-plank dropside wagon.Over on I had seen a note by Paul Absalom that this could be made by modifying a Slater’s kit for the Midland Railway dia 305 (thanks Paul!). The MR design was used as the basis for 20 wagons ordered by the MSWJR from Oldbury works in 1899. The sides and ends of the Slater’s kit (above) are virtually identical to the MSWJR versions, so these were used directly.

The running gear is a less straightforward matter. There is very limited documentation available on these wagons, and the only known photo has the underframe in shadow. A drawing has been made, but there is doubt about whether the running gear is portrayed correctly. So an informed guess is the best we can do. This led to an interesting discussion involving several RM Webbers – especially wagonman – as well as Neil Lover of the “Swindon’s other Railway” site and MSWJR historian Mike Barnsley (see this thread on RMWeb for details). Many thanks, gentlemen!

To cut a long story short, we concluded that the MSWJR probably wouldn’t have gone for the fairly sophisticated and expensive Ellis axleboxes provided in the Slaters kit. So these had to go. An alternative option would have been to modify the existing axleboxes.

Instead I fitted MJT units/W-irons (non-rocking). This required some of the framing to be carved away, but was otherwise straightforward. Packing was added underneath the units.

The exact type of axleboxes used by the MSWJR isn’t known, except that they were most likely of the grease type. In photos of other MSWJR wagons I noticed a simple type not unlike the standard GWR grease box. So I fitted some of the latter (also from MJT) and modified/filed them to suit. The only other modification was to file away the MR build plate on the solebar.

I couldn’t find any ready-made MSWJR lettering, so opted instead for the “white shaded black” letters from one of the HMRS P.O. sheets. These are slightly overscale but close enough, I think. The sheet is rather costly, but I wanted it anyway for lettering some Farthing based P.O. wagons at some point.

The finished model. I suddenly realized that a dropside wagon might not often be seen inside a goods depot, as they tended to carry loose material, stone etc. But I’m thinking that a couple of large crates might justify a dropside, to facilitate unloading?

Shunter George “Bulldog” Mullins studiously ignores the new wagon. A GWR man to the core, Mullins treated vehicles from the competition with poorly disguised contempt. In particular, he refused point blank to shunt vehicles from the MSWJR. The origin of this particular grudge was always a bit of a mystery, although some said it had to do with an unfortunate incident in his youth. The details were unclear, but apparently it involved his pet donkey, a sleepy MSWJR driver and a poorly guarded level crossing. 


  1. A lovely build, Mikkel. The grease-box axle boxes instantly make the waggon more authentic and you have finished it off really nicely with the livery and lettering. Ever since seeing "Kirtley" in the Railway Modeller of the 1960's, I have always had a sneaking desire to model an Edwardian period piece and your excellent blog keeps tempting me. Poor Mr least he is working with those two magnificent horses now!

  2. It would be fantastic to see you do something Edwardian, Iain. If I can tempt you to do that I will have done at least one good thing for the world :-)

    Following a conversation over on RMweb I have done a little more research on the fate of Mr Mullins' donkey. Here are some further details:

    It does look as if Mullins had a rather tragic experience with the MSWJR when he was a boy. As hinted at above, his pet donkey got hit by an MSWJR loco at a level crossing. The story further goes that Mullins' father, upon hearing the tragic news, went directly to the MSWJR HQ and demanded compensation - the size of which corresponded more to the cost of 2 Arabian stallions than a single scraggy donkey.

    Shocked at the demanded amount, the MSWJR lawyer sought first to settle for something more reasonable, but eventually gave in when confronted with the wailing Mullins Junior, his scowling father and the thought of bad publicity.

    This of course did nothing to soothe the heartbroken young Mullins, whose troubles got worse when it was discovered that the dead donkey had mysteriously disappeared from the scene of the accident. Rumour had it that the local crossing keeper, being a practical man, had secured himself dinner for the next two weeks.

  3. Yet another quality post full of interest and fine modelling, you also spin a good yarn as well Mikkel

  4. Thankyou Geoff. Although it's only a simple wagon conversion I enjoy these little projects as much as the bigger projects. I enjoy coming up with the stories, it helps make the models more than just dead bits of plastic and metal.

  5. Another good story ... and a beautifully finished model!

  6. Thanks Chas, as I look at the model I'm not quite happy with the weathering. I need to practice getting it more subtle and with a few more shades thrown in maybe.

  7. Looks great to me Mikkel, and a nice back story too. Whenever I see a post/thread about wagon building I keep thinking I really must have a go at that!

  8. Hi Lee, thanks - and yes please, with your skills I'm sure it would be treat to see you build wagons!


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