The cast-iron plates fixed to goods wagons can give a wealth of information and detail about the origins and use of a particular vehicle.
Wagons were either built in the workshops of the pre-Grouping railway companies or by outside carriage and wagon builders. In either case, a plate would indicate the railway company and the wagon number. A separate builder’s plate would be found only if built by an independent manufacturer.
Many wagons, especially in the days of privately owned fleets of coal trucks, were built not by the railway companies but by private wagon builders. In some cases the builder’s plate would have a distinctive shape so that it could be recognized easily even if rendered illegible by grime.
R.Y. Pickering of Wishaw used a lozenge shape and the Standard Wagon Co. of Reddish and Heywood used a bell-shaped plate. The Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Co. used an elongated capita; G – which gave the plate a fish shape – and the Central Wagon Co. of Wigan had a downward pointing crescent. These were unusual; most makers used oval plates, some with fancy lettering and scrollwork on and around the plate. The company’s initial letter often formed a feature of the design.
The larger main line railways generally had their own wagon works which met most of their requirements, and not all of them affixed separate builder’s plates. Among those which did were the GER at Stratford Works, and the NBR at Cowlairs.
The Big Four railways settled on a standard design based on the final Midland pattern, which was shaped like a letter D with the flat side at the top. The LNER plate carried the most detail with the wagon number, capacity in tons, builder and date built. British Railways continued with this style, using the LNER plate as the final design.Ince Waggon & Ironworks plate with the double G spelling.