Northern Fine Scale Gauge 1 rectangular tank wagons are typical
of those seen on the railways from the 1800's through to the 1970's
(although latterly in internal processing plant use).
A frequent but certainly unglamorous sight, they were usually covered in a coat of the 10 – 12 ton load of tar or heavy oil that they carried.
Consequently, they were rarely photographed or recorded thus giving a false impression of their numbers and their importance.
Throughout the country, most towns had municipal gasworks, and one of the by-products of the process was tar. Rectangular tank wagons were used to transport the large quantities of tar produced for processing by chemical works and tarmacadam manufacturers.
Products ranged from napthalene and creosote to coal tar soap and medicated shampoos. Coal tar products are also used in perfumes.
It was common to see tank wagons marshalled in multiples in a goods train. Preserved examples are not as numerous as private owner wooden wagons but there are two to be seen at Didcot (GW Society), and at Mangapps Farm.
The rectangular tank models we build are carefully scaled from the wagons which were erected in the shops of Chas. Roberts & Company, Builders, of Wakefield.
Wm. Butler & Company of Bristol were tar distillers at Crew's
Hole. John Bethell's patent No 7731 of 1838, described the use of
creosote for the preservation of wood.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, in constructing railway lines, needed a good preservative for his wooden sleepers. With the financial support of Roberts and Daines, Iron Masters of St Philips, and both the technical expertise of Bethell and a lease of his patent, Brunel set up a Tar Works at Crew's Hole in 1843.
One of his employees, William Butler, who had been working on the construction of the Bristol & Exeter railway line took charge of the works. The coal tar was obtained from the local gasworks.
By 1863 the plant was owned by William Butler, and did business as Wm. Butler & Co. (Bristol) Limited.
A fleet of tank wagons assured Butler's a constant supply of raw material. Their rolling stock would have been seen in goods trains on the GWR.
During the 1960s the replacement of local gas works by both gas produced from petroleum and North Sea gas, led to the closing of coal-based gasworks and resulted in a large reduction in the availability of crude tar. The Crew's Hole Works finally closed down in 1981.
R. S. Clare and Company are industrial grease manufacturers. Founded
in Liverpool in 1748 by Richard S. Clare at the start of the Industrial
Revolution, they are now the longest established company manufacturing
lubricants in the United Kingdom.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, coal tar was a raw material required in quantity by the company which perforce operated a fleet of rectangular tank wagons.
This thriving enterprise distilled tar, invented thermoplastic road markings, pioneered the application of cationic slurryseal, and manufactured lubricating greases for major oil companies.
R. S. Clare carved out niche markets for speciality products in the Rail, Oil & Gas, Steel, Marine and Automotive industries.
The T. H. Harvey Chemical Works in Plymouth, Devon, would typically
have needed a generous supply of coal tar for a wide range of products
from creosote to benzene.
Such companies declined with the reduced use of coal and coke in industry (coke was needed for steel manufacture and the need was lessened with increased steel recycling).
A further factor was replacement of coal gas with natural gas. A primary product, creosote, having been found to be a hazardous material is no longer widely used as a wood preservative.
Essentially, both markets for the product, and the source of supply of coal tar largely dried up, and companies such as Harvey's either ceased operations or were absorbed into larger conglomerates.
Harvey's fleet of tank wagons was typical of those operated by similar firms.
Rimer Bros. of Newcastle, who operated the Skinner Burn Oil Works,
produced lubricants by the distillation of coal tar.
Situated in the heart of a major coal producing region, their sources of supply would largely have been confined to the north-eastern region. Thus the lines of the LNER were the most likely network travelled by their wagons.
The railways would also have been the route for the bulk transport of their products, although rectangular tank wagons would likely not have been used for this purpose.
Shell – BP rectangular tank wagons would have been seen everywhere on
the railways. The company processed coal tar to make a wide range of
products including creosote and lubricants.
Shell – BP operated throughout Britain, and it is probable that the other choices of rectangular tank wagon livery in the OneBits decal range would have been more regionally confined.
This very smart Smith & Forrest of Manchester tank wagon has
unusual livery being painted in red oxide.
As noted above in the introduction, a wagon restored in Smith & Forrest colours is preserved by the Great Western Society at Didcot, Oxfordshire.
Built in 1898 by Charles Roberts & Co, the wagon has wooden solebars, and open-spoke wheels.
Century Oils developed from a partnership founded in Stoke-on-Trent
in 1874 the brothers: William and John Walker.
William Walker was
experienced in the blending and manufacturing of lubricants, and knew
the needs of local industry for lubricants.
The genesis of the Walker business came from the discovery of commercially exploitable deposits of crude oil in the seams of a local colliery.
The Walker Brothers distilled crude oil at a refinery built at Cobridge (Staffordshire). In addition, the Century Oil Works was located the heart of the potteries where an abundant supply of of coke and coal was required to fire the kilns, and much coal tar was available for processing.
Walker's produced a range of products including axle grease, engine oil, paraffin, lamp oil and candles. Their tar wagons would have been seen mostly in local goods trains on the lines of the LMS.
In 1928, the partnership was incorporated as William Walker and Sons (Hanley) Limited, and until the end of WW II, the company traded mainly within the Midlands and the North of England, supplying to local industry, and in particular, local mining companies.
Century remains today the largest remaining independent company in the lubricant sector of the British oil industry, and is one of the largest independent lubricant producers in Europe