Wagon Plates

Midland Railway Wagon  Plate

Railways first came into being not to carry passengers, but to convey freight, especially mineral traffic like coal.  In the early days, when few lines were interconnected, the variety of goods wagon did not matter, but as railways expanded and through trains became common, it was essential to have wagons whose buffers, brakes, couplings and so on all matched up.

The Railway Clearing House (RCH) the body which liaised between the railways, looked into the problem early on and issued standards to all railway companies, wagon builders and private wagon owners.

LMS Wagon  Plate

The wagon carrying this plate was registered by the North British Railway Company and allowed to run on main lines.

The main line railways adopted these standards fairly quickly, but the private owners, especially collieries and coal merchants, were reluctant to comply, and damage and derilaments became common due to their wagons either lacking proper buffers and brakes or being poorly maintained.

In the 1880s, however, it became a legal requirement for all privately owned wagons to be registered by the railway company to whose sidings their owners were connected, and only those that reached the Clearing House standard were allowed to run on main lines.

Each wagon so passed had two plates, one on either side of the main frame, advising its date of manufacture, its registration number and its carrying capacity.   In 1907, the RCH designed a new star-shaped plate for tank wagons.

Many of the ordinary registration plates come with their lugs broken off, but these can easily be repaired usingfibreglass filler.  The normal colour seems to have been black with white lettering, and red with white letters for tank wagons.

However, some privately owned wagons were painted in quite garish colours, and it seems likely that their plates were similarly treated.  Nearly all plates were made of cast-iron, but examples in brass or lead alloy are occasionally seen.London & North Western Railway Wagon Registration Plate

4 responses to “Wagon Plates

  1. Hi,I don’t know if anyone can help,I have a railway D-Plate with the letter M above 13 tons and the number 137530

    • Hi Ken, this sounds like a replacement plate.When British Rail had a wagon repaired they used a replacement but instead of the original LMS, they just used the letter ‘M’ for Midland.
      Regards, John CWS

  2. Thanks a lot John very much appreciated I came across some plates when clearing out my uncles shed and was curious about them do you know if they are of any value some of them do have L M S and one has B R INTERNAL Thanks again ,Ken

  3. Good Afternoon,

    I have been given a wagon plate bearing the inscription ‘Registered by the LMS’ with ‘Standard 12 Tons’ across the middle, a date of 1929 and the number 12112.

    Can you give me any information about the wagon that this plate may have been affixed to. I would also appreciate knowing what colour it would have been originally as it is now silver which I suspect is not the original colour.

    Many thanks

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