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Caledonian Railway

(Note: Numbers in brackets refer to specific references)

Established following the amalgamation of several lines in 1856 the company adopted the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms for its crest. In its final form, after a financially disastrous period during which it was supported by the LNWR, it became one of the most successful of the Scottish companies. The company operated many of its services in conjunction with other companies and purchased others outright. In its final form the CR operated just over a thousand route miles. The Caledonian operated mainly in the west and centre of Scotland running services from the northern end of the LNWR West Coast line at Carlisle to a junction at Carstairs where the line divided to serve both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Initially, due to its financial difficulties, the termini were not terribly grand but in later years the company was renowned for its styling. The stations and both Edinburgh Princess Street and the two-level Glasgow Central were built to a very high standard. Other towns served included Perth, Inverness, Aberdeen. Gourock, Ardrossan, Irvine, Kilwinning & Kilbirnie. The Caledonian were behind the famous golf course at Gleneagles, for which they built an impressive station.

The main competitor was the North British, which was involved in the rival East Coast line from London to Scotland and the two companies operated competing networks along the banks of the Forth and Clyde.

The Caledonian freight workings were centred on the Lanarkshire coal field, with its associated iron and steel works which supplied the thriving shipbuilding industry on the banks of the Clyde. The Caledonian was the main service provider for the Lanarkshire coal field, carrying coal both for industry and to the docks. The railway took a great interest in the Scottish harbours. It ran to all the extensive docks at Glasgow, Greenock & Ardossan on the west coast and the east coast ports of Leith, Dundee & Aberdeen. It purchased the Forth & Clyde Canal in the 1880's and thus acquired the docks at Grangemouth which were greatly expanded in the early years of the twentieth century.

In common with several railway companies the Caledonian was impressed by the high capacity bogie stock used in America and between 1901 and 1903 they built several hundred 30 ton bogie coal wagons. These proved a failure as coal mines couldn't weigh them easily, they couldn't be end-tipped at the docks and coal merchants preferred small consignments of different grades of coal (1). Some were photographed loaded with general merchandise but this may have been a publicity stunt as most British railway companies found large general merchandise vehicles to be inconvenient. These wagons were then transferred to hauling locomotive coal with the older wagons they displaced being out into service in the revenue earning fleet. They also built a single fifty ton bogie wagon but I was not able to confirm its use and eventual fate.

Goods stock body work was reddish brown with metal strapping and corner plates painted black. On wooden framed wagons the solebars were painted body colour, on metal underframes they were painted black. All lettering was in white the initials used were C R. On open wagons the load was marked on the lower right in the form LOAD 10 TONS and the tare weight of the wagon in the lower left in tons, hundredweight's and quarters. Numbers were painted on the wagon ends, unless fitted with a door, and above the centre door on the sides of mineral wagons. The cast registration plate on the chassis was only introduced on CR stock in about 1900. The wagon tarpaulins were marked with a blue cross running across from the centre of each side and had the work Caledonian along each edge.

Passenger stock was painted in a two-tone livery of a base colour of dark maroon (usually called 'plum') with white upper panels (on passenger coaches and brake vans only), the colours were similar to those used by the LNWR, and the letters CR were in yellow shaded bright red..

Locomotives were a deep maroon,

Locomotives hauling the West Coast Joint stock were deep 'Prussian Blue' livery.

Fig ___ CR

The eight ton bolster wagon is slightly unusual, classed as timber or ore wagon it has one-plank drop sides and fixed ends. The bolster was mounted on a raised swivel, with raised running plates to either side and the wagon was designed to carry either long heavy loads (timber, metal plates rods and girders) or iron ore. The dual purpose bolster seems to have been a Scottish idea, the G&SWR had some two plank wagons with a similar arrangement.

The four plank drop-side wagon and the later side door version were originally supplied with the long lever 'scotch' brake, both were later fitted with more conventional brakes.

The sliding door van and long wheelbase tube wagon both date from just before the First World War, the vans were built in some numbers and some lasted into the early BR period.


(1) The Caledonian Railway Association publishes an excellent magazine, issue No.69 (June 2000) contained a detailed discussion of the operational difficulties experienced with the thirty ton bogie coal wagons.

The books on the CR are currently out of print but the Association recommended the following titles:

Caledonian 4-4-0's (Loco Profile No.34) by Dunbar & Glen - Profile Publishing

Caledonian Cavalcade by Glen, Glen & Dunbar - Ian Allen

Caledonian Dunalastairs by O. S. Nock - David & Charles

Forty Years of the Caledonian Locomotive by H.J.C. Cornwell - David & Charles

Caledonian Railway by O. S. Nock - Ian Allen


The Membership Secretary,

Caledonian Railway Association

45 Sycamore Drive,



Available Models.

Jim Watt offers 2mm Association members resin kits of two rather interesting Caledonian Railway eight ton open wagons, including the distinctive outside-framed end-door mineral wagon which may be built with dumb or sprung buffers. He also offers sides and outer ends for the CR thirteen ton brake van. These kits are not really suitable for N gauge as they require specialised etched brass chassis parts only available to 2mm Scale Association members.


Thanks are due to Jim Macintosh and Fred Landry of the Caledonian Railway Association for their considerable assistance in the preparation of this article.

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