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BD Container BD48839B

BD Container History

The 'BD' container was a general purpose container, around 16 feet in length and with double doors in each side. As such, they rather resemble a conventional box van body, although they are easily distinguishable by the presence of doors at one end, as well as lifting rings at roof level and chaining-down rings on the body corners.

Some 9,948 'BD' containers were built by British Railways, making them the most numerous container type. Of these, 10 were insulated, a further 8 were to various experimental designs and the remainder were built to three different designs or 'diagrams', production starting in 1949 and continuing until 1958.

Of the three designs, diagram 3/050 was by far the most numerous with 9,080 examples eventually built. These were built with the non-door end made from pressed steel, and the sides clad in horizontal tongue-and-groove boarding.

The Rescue of BD48839B

A small piece concerning the GCR's emerging 'Conflat' collection appeared in the May 2005 edition of 'Heritage Railway' magazine, and whilst nobody seems to know who placed the piece (I certainly didn't!), we must give it credit for leading to the rescue of this container.

The article was spotted by John Fuller of the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway who had two containers under imminent threat of demolition. These had been used as storage sheds for many years, but were being replaced by more modern containers and meanwhile, the land on which they stood at Kemsley Down was earmarked for a siding extension.

As a narrow gauge line, the SKLR had no prospect of ever being able to carry these containers but were keen to see them saved for preservation. Therefore, John contacted the GCR and I duly inspected the containers on 24/05/05.

We already had three 'BD' containers on the GCR in various states of disrepair, but the SKLR's other container was a real historic gem, a 'BK' furniture container. On the basis that the transport cost was the same for the pair as it was for one, we struck a deal, and both containers were collected from Kemsley Down on Friday 10 June, arriving at the GCR the following day.

The following photographs tell some of the story:

BD48839B at Kemsley Down, SKLR. There are two sides to every story; this is the blue side...

Photo © J. Fuller

...And this is the white side. BD48839B is lifted into the air for loading onto the lorry.

Photo © S. Smith 10/06/05.

BD48839B is seen arriving on the GCR the following day. The BK container is on the trailer behind it.

Photo © P. Hetherington 11/06/05.

Gently does it... BD48839B is guided into position by yours truly, with John Gatehouse operating the hiab crane.

Photo © J. Brooks 11/06/05.

A quick look underneath before we put it down. It doesn't look too bad, does it?

Photo © J. Brooks 11/06/05.

BD48839B is gently lowered down into its new home. The hiab really is an amazing piece of kit, slewing round to squeeze the container into this little space...

Photo © J. Brooks 11/06/05.

Identification and Restoration

When it arrived, we had no idea about the identity of this container. However, on the white side, a metal patch had been nailed on to cover some rotten wood prior to painting, and upon prizing this off I found part of the number, '839B', still visible underneath. The other two digits were, of course, right where the wood had rotted away.

Close inspection of the blue side revealed some other code numbers still visible where the paint hadn't quite reached: '10248839B'. I have yet to work out what the '102' means but, from old photographs, this appeared on numerous containers. But the remainder is definitely the original number, thus we can establish a little of the container's history:

The most obvious problem with this container is the condition of the pressed steel end, which can only be described as very, very rusty. This will almost certainly have to be separated from the container to be welded up, not something we are really ready to tackle yet. For this reason, this container is some way down the priority list.

Other issues to be tackled include several areas of rotten external boarding, some very poorly side door framing on the white side, and the need to rebuild and re-cover the roof to make it watertight. There have also been some internal alterations (partitions and shelving) which will eventually be removed.

Phil Hetherington
Last Modified: 12.12.07