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BR Brake Van B954990

Our nuclear industry BR Brake Van, B954990, was built in 1959, to diagram 1/507. This was the last of eight designs of the 20 ton brake van, with the first design being built in 1929. BR adopted this style of brake van as it’s standard design after nationalisation in 1948.

The original builders plate has been removed at some point and a replacement welded up. Even though it’s a 20 ton brake van for some reason it’s recorded here as 21 tons.










We understand the brake van worked for a while at Sellafield and would have been used on nuclear flask trains. The fox symbol above, found on the sole bar, indicates the brake van was later based at Currock Tractive Maintenance Depot (TMD), Carlisle.


Restoration News

This brake van is now being restored and details of it’s restoration will be published below over as it progresses.


December 2019 & January 2020

Over winter the main focus has been on refurbishing the brake mechanism and starting to manufacture the additional parts needed for the vacuum brake.

The brakes, which were only operated by the handbrake wheel, were partially seized causing the brake blocks to rub on the wheels and wear.




The brake linkage has been removed including all four of these brake bars, two for each axle. These along with the rest of the linkage have been freed off, cleaned and refurbished. 

New parts are being fabricated for the fitting of a vacuum cylinder. This involves making a new linkage mechanism which will eventually be fitted under the brake van.








The vacuum cylinder has been removed from another wagon and inspected. Fortunately it’s been found to be in excellent condition and will be ideal for the brake van.



All the brackets from the cabin of the brake van have been cleaned up and painted in red oxide. The buffers make an ideal hanger to allow the paint to dry.






November 2019

The remaining parts of the brake van superstructure are dismantled. The sides of the chassis are cleaned and the rusty bowed step supports removed. New ones will be welded back afterwards.








The layers of rust on the chassis have pushed up the side wooden beam and once removed it can be seen it has also push up and cracked the concrete. The rust will all need removing.


The hand brake mechanism is freed off using a blow torch to heat up the spindle allowing it to turn.

From inside the brake van the structure of the walls can clearly be seen. The inside of the van has horizontal tongue and grooved boards attached to a framework. On the outside the van is weather proofed using vertical tongue and grooved boards. Some of these boards, especially the internal ones will be reused.

The brake van also contained the remains of various markings, indicating it’s history and liveries, all of which have been recorded.









October 2019

As Autumn closes in the brake van is moved into the barn to allow work to continue over the winter period in the dry. 

One of the big jobs will involve adding a vacuum brake cylinder to the underneath. Despite it never having an automatic brake it does have a few of the necessary fittings, suggesting others in the batch were made with fully operational vacuum brakes.



The windows were dismantled. They seem to be made out of Perspex that has yellowed in the sun. The beading isn’t the original suggesting this was a later replacement to the normal glass. Notice the tie bar under the window securing the door frame to the out edge of the brake van.








The roof timbers were easy to remove as all the screws and timbers were rotten. In time this will be replaced with all new timbers and a resin coated canvas cover to make it watertight again.

Once in the dry the team continue to dismantle the superstructure. Steve is busy removing the end frame. This will be refurbished on the ground with the rotten bits cut out and new pieces spliced back into place, in order to keep as much of the original wood as possible.



September 2019

Work continues to strip the brake van, removing the interior, including the bench boxes, the ducket seating and desk.

The bench box is totally rotten with the wood just flaking to pieces. Interestingly a bit of newspaper from the Evening Standard dated 15 Oct 1991 was found inside.

This ducket seat is where the guard would sit and enables the guard to safely look down the side of the train through the side windows.

The inside has been stripped and is ready for further dismantling

Steve starts to remove the ducket from the outside. 
















August 2019

The brake van was moved outside the shed so Frank Woolridge and his team could assess the work required. To the casual observer the brake van doesn’t look too bad, just needing a coat of paint, however after a closer inspection a lot of the wood, especially the structure is rotten and will need to be replaced.

Work has started on stripping back the brake van, starting with the interior and taking lots of pictures so we’ll know how to reassemble it later.

Frank is keen to recruit new volunteers to the team to help restore this vehicle.