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Royal Ordnance Factory 7 ton Gunpowder Van M12 / 5239 

 
Above: ROF 7 ton gunpowder van 5239 as first restored in original livery, on 27 August 2000

These vans carried one of the more exciting commodities once common on the railways, and were carefully designed with an all-steel outer body as conceived by the GWR in the 1880s, and a wooden lining. They were usually distinguished by a large diagonal red cross on the doors. Extensive instructions were pasted on the inside of the doors, alongside which hung a pair of overboots to minimise the risk of sparks from a porterís hobnail boots making contact with the nails in the floorboards. Great care was taken in design and construction to ensure minimal steel to steel contact, much use being made of non-ferrous fittings.

Above: Royal Ordnance Factory 7 ton Gunpowder Van, as built by Charles Roberts

No M12 was built by Charles Roberts of Wakefield in 1939 and was one of several hundred such vehicles constructed amid secrecy during WWII. They were essentially to a pre-war GWR design, but strangely with an earlier form of handbrake and other minor detail differences. M12 was registered by the GWR in its private owner wagon register as 7 ton vehicle no 9. Many similar vans survived in Ordnance depots around the country long enough to be preserved and Foxfield is privileged to have no M12 on loan from the ROF at Glascoed, where it had been numbered 5239, shown on small cast plates. When it arrived at Foxfield on 20 October 1994 it carried an anonymous overall black livery. The builders plates have been lost, so precise details of construction and numbering are unavailable, but the original number M12 and other information was found on rubbing down the paintwork. Comparison with a makers photograph (above) of a sister wagon numbered M14 enabled the wagon to be restored in totally authentic grey livery as it was when new, though the later small number plates have been retained at present. A set of the warning plates on the doors needs to be obtained or borrowed from which to cast replicas. Restoration was completed just in time for the first military weekend at Foxfield, in summer 1999 and the van is now used as secure storage. The "blowing up" of the gunpowder van with a substantial explosion has become a popular part of the railway's annual "Potteries at War" weekends"!

Above: ROF 7 ton gunpowder van 5239 as delivered to Caverswall Road in 1994, before restoration

Other identical ROF Gunpowder Vans have survived into preservation, including examples at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway, and Ribble Steam Railway.

Above: The restored Gunpowder Van at Caverswall Road in 2004, showing signs of being "blown up"...!

Below: Royal Ordnance Factory 7 ton Gunpowder Van diagram


For more information on the Foxfield Steam Railway, its passenger services and special events please see the official website at http://www.foxfieldrailway.co.uk.