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The 50-ton 'Warwell' wagons became necessary during the Second World War when US-built Sherman tanks were planned to be shipped to Britain and stored pending Operation Overlord, the invasion of Europe (commonly known as D-Day). These tanks were too high to be carried on flat wagons in Britain because they would foul bridges and tunnels. Insufficient suitable well wagons were available, so the Ministry of Supply commissioned the 'Warwell' wagons.
The bogies, screw jacks and OCEM buffers were the same as applied to the 'Warflat' wagons. Three manufacturers constructed these wagons; Gloucester Carriage & Wagon Co, Head Wrightson and Southern Railway. They were classified as private owner wagons and were registered as fit for traffic by the LMS, except the SR-built wagons which were registered by the SR themselves.
Photographic evidence shows that some wagons were numbered in a series prefixed MS (presumed standing for Ministry of Supply) and others WW (presumed standing for Warwell).
Manufacturer's photograph of 50-ton 'Warwell' wagon. The wagon was built by Gloucester Carriage & Wagon and carried markings saying it was on loan to the LMS.
The 50 ton 'Warwell' wagon was specifically designed to carry Sherman tanks. These were collected from the docks when they arrived from the USA and taken to storage locations. During the build up to Operation Overlord the tanks were moved to the docks in preparation for shipment to Normandy.
This particular wagon carries a Gloucester C&W maker's plate and is labelled to show it was on loan to the LNER.
Diagram of a 50-ton 'Warwell' wagon.
The LMS purchased a number of 'Warwell' wagons after the war and converted them to bolster wagons, applying new maker's plates in the process (which has since caused a degree of confusion among railway historians).
Here wagon DM721218 has had the bolsters added by the LMS removed and sits outside of Gateshead locomotive depot on 12th August 1991. In the background is a string of snow ploughs converted by British Railways from the chassis of tenders from ex-LNER class V2 steam locomotives.
An unidentified 50-ton 'Warwell' wagon at Crewe Heritage Centre on 12th March 2011. The load appears to be the boiler and firebox from a Southern Railway Bullied Pacific locomotive. Photo Nick Broome.
A 50-ton 'Warwell' wagon carrying BR's internal user fleet number 083262 at Eastleigh Works 27th September 1992. The wagon carried a Gloucester C&W maker's plate.