Tanks for the Memory

You’ve read before in these pages how both sides used narrow gauge railways for logistical support during the First World War. Many of the vehicles used were specifically designed to serve a need. One less obvious one is the need for fresh water – given the infamous mud of Flanders Fields, one would have though that water was not in short supply. Mind, I’m not sure I’d be too keen on drinking the contents of a shellhole, given what might be lurking under the surface.
The Moseley Railway Trust has completed the restoration of a water tank wagon used in the First World War. In the War Department Light Railways classification, this type was known as the Class H Water tank. It’s believed that about 200 of the water tanks were built, by a number of builders, of which perhaps the best known is Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon (see the works photo below). The bogies now fitted to the wagon seem to have parts from a number of builders; one of them seems to have been supplied by the still-in-existence Brush Traction (see here) of Loughborough for the Salonica campaign.
After the war, six of these tank wagons, along with much other war-surplus material, were sold to the Nocton Estate Railways in Lincolnshire which were developed specifically because of the availability of cheap war-surplus material, and used to transport the potatoes grown there from the fields to the dispatch yard. At Nocton, our tank wagon continued to work in the purpose for which it had been designed, the conveyance of drinking water which would otherwise have been unavailable; it was used for many years to convey drinking water to estate workers’ dwellings that were not connected to water mains. Once this use had ceased, the tank was removed from the chassis and for many more years served as a static emergency water supply. The five other Class H tank-wagons purchased by the Nocton Estates at the same time, had all been scrapped by the 1960s, leaving this tank as a unique survivor. The Moseley Railway Trust, recognising its historic value, negotiated its acquisition from the Nocton Estates. The Trust also acquired suitable bogies to enable it to fully restore a complete WDLR Class H bogie tank-wagon.
The Moseley Railway Trust is very grateful to the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council for the PRISM grant-funding to enable this restoration to have taken place. We also acknowledge the help and support of Paul Jarman from Beamish who oversaw the project for PRISM.
As a World War One vehicle, the Class H will take a starring role at our Remembrance Sunday event on Sunday 9/11/08.
As ever, get in touch here.