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Wagon Development at Earlestown
The nearest thing to a catalogue of L&NWR goods wagons is the 1903 Wagon Diagram Book, which was commissioned by Mr H. D. Earl when he succeeded to the post a Wagon Superintendent in 1903. The book lists all the wagon designs extant at that time by means of a dimensioned sketch of the side and end elevation of each type. Its original purpose may have been as an instrument of management but it became a ready reference to enable every goods agent to select and order the wagons needed for each type of Traffic he was offered. Because of this wide distribution many copies have survived. Since one page was used for each type and each page was numbered it has become convenient to refer to the design by its page or "diagram" number. In its original form the book contained 83 pages. Each new type of wagon developed after that date was usually issued with the next available page number. However, in some instances new designs were assigned a suffix letter where the purpose of the new design was the same as the original. Even then there were exceptions to the rule and by 1923 the book had reached 110 numbered pages with several pages having A, B, C or even D suffixes. In the case of some of the specialised wagons the diagram book recorded the register, or running, number carried by each of the wagons, but this was not the case for the more general types so this source tells us nothing about the quantities of each type.
Fortunately, there are three major sources at the National Archive, Kew to fill in this detail for us:-
Annual Stock Valuation Lists
This information was collected annually, apparently as part of the annual accounts, from 1861 until 1899 and is preserved in three volumes at the National Archive, Kew.
It has the advantage of recognising some early wagon types, which did not survive to reach the diagram book, but unfortunately the categories identified were neither consistent among the three volumes nor with the 1903 Diagram Book. Consequently care must be taken when comparing this data with that from other sources.
Wagon Stock Age Book
This handwritten ledger was first drawn up in 1902 [RAIL 410/1449] and, dividing the wagon stock by type, it provides a set of tables that records the quantity of each type built in each of the preceding years and still in service in 1902. From the total number of wagons of each type and their ages it derives an average age for each type. From 1909 onwards, similar tables were drawn up each year and chart the decline of the older types and the growth of the new standard 18ft long designs. The Tables are preserved bound together at Kew as:
Earlestown Accounts Book 1901 to 1910
This book is preserved at Kew as RAIL410/1371. It records all the wagons built up until 31st May and 30th November of each half year in great detail. Unfortunately, the record ends in 1910 with the book less than half-full, but its value is in the detailed understanding it provides of the period in which, Mr Earl succeeded Mr Emmett and introduced the 18ft long standard wagons.
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