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BK Container BK____B

BK Container History

The 'BK' container was a variation on the general purpose 'B' type, around 16 feet long with doors at one end only. The principle feature of the 'BK' was the provision of internal laths to tie the load to, the containers being intended for furniture traffic.

Furniture containers can be traced right back to the 'lift vans' of the early days (see the history page, but the first real example was probably K1, built by the LMS in 1932 for its new 'Furniture Delivery Service' - the purpose of this being neatly summarised in the slogan 'Household Removals and New Furniture Traffic'. All of the pre-nationalisation companies developed similar traffic, and British Railways added 1,435 'BK' containers of its own between 1949 and 1958. These were built to three very similar designs ('diagrams'); all were clad in plywood.

The Rescue of BK____B

Along with BD48839B, this container was donated by the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway where it had served as a storage shed for many years, but was now surplus to requirements and under threat of scrapping.

The opportunity to acquire these two containers followed a small piece in the May 2005 edition of 'Heritage Railway' magazine. John Fuller of the SKLR saw the article and contacted the GCR, and I inspected the containers at Kemsley Down on 24/05/05.

Plywood containers have generally not survived as well as those clad in tongue-and-groove boarding, and relatively few BK containers were built by British Railways, so this container is a real prize find and it will form an important part of the GCR's collection.

When it was inspected, the container appeared to be in reasonably sound structural condition - with the exception of one side which had been crudely patched with a sheet of plywood after somebody drove into it!

Unfortunately the damage was more extensive than first thought, as it had allowed the weather to attack the container through the damaged side. Removing the plywood patch prior to transport was possibly a mistake, as this seems to have been holding the side up. The consequence of all of this was that the roof timber, rotten in the accident-damaged area, started to collapse during the journey, much to the alarm of the lorry driver.

The container which eventually arrived on the GCR was in a rather sorry state indeed, although in reality it probably looks worse than it is.

The following photographs tell some of the story:

BK____B at Kemsley Down, SKLR. Note the plywood sheet which covers the place where someone once drove into it.

Photo © J. Fuller

"Hmm, maybe we should take this sheet of plywood off before we try to lift it?"

"Yes, that sounds like a good idea!"

Picture shows Tony James (SKLR) and John Gatehouse (lorry driver).

Photo © S. Smith 10/06/05

"Oops! Well, at least it wasn't a new one..."

The BK is gingerly lifted into the air; judging by the roofline it was none too happy about its short flying lesson.

Photo © S. Smith 10/06/05

Seriously chaps, thanks for your help. The BK container is seen here on the lorry trailer, awaiting the long haul up to Leicestershire.

Photo © S, Smith 10/06/05.

The BK container bids farewell to Kemsley Down for the last time.

Photo © S. Smith 10/06/05.

"I say chaps, have you seen my sandwiches? I left them in a container somewhere near here..."

Photo © S. Smith 10/06/05.

The BK arriving at the GCR. This shows the other side, which doesn't look so bad, although the longitudinal timber at floor level will undoubtedly need replacing.

Photo © P. Hetherington 11/06/05.

To unload, first we transferred the container onto the lorry. Then we manoeuvred the lorry into position, and actually lifted the BK over the top of the adjacent shipping container in order to get it where we wanted it.

Photo © P. Hetherington 11/06/05.

'Windcutter' volunteers John Brooks and Tony Hemmings are seen here guiding the BK into position; thanks lads!

Photo © P. Hetherington 11/06/05.

Identification and Restoration

So far, we have been unable to positively identify this container. Trying to gently rub the white paint off simply causes flakes of rotten plywood to fall off, taking the original paint with it. I do have a theory, which I'm not quite ready to reveal at the moment, but you can help by looking at the Number Theory page.

Alternatively, do you have any photographs of it on the SKLR years ago, before the white paint was applied? Maybe in the background of another picture? If so, please get in touch via the contacts page. Alternatively, if any forensic scientists fancy a challenge...?

From photographs of other BK containers this is believed to be a diagram 3/127 example, which means that some basic details can be established:

Restoration of this container is high on the priority list in order to prevent further deterioration. Some serious woodwork is called for, starting with the near-total replacement of the accident-damaged side - to be followed by some structural work on the other side, major surgery on the doors, re-cladding the whole thing, repairing the roof and replacing some missing floor timbers. Apart from that little lot, it's quite good!

This picture of diagram 3/127 contaier BK9005B shows the livery to which our BK will eventually be restored. Traces of this livery are still visible on one side.
Photo taken from 'British Railway Goods Wagons In Colour' by Robert Hendry.

Elsewhere on our BK some flakes of paint from its earlier maroon livery - with yellow lettering - are still clinging bravely to one side. Unfortunately it is not possible to restore it to this livery as we don't have any photographs on which to base the lettering.

Phil Hetherington
Last Modified: 12.12.07