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North Staffordshire Railway

(Note: Numbers in brackets refer to specific references)

This company is commonly known as the 'Knotty' because of the 'Staffordshire knot' emblem painted on its stock. The first stretch opened in 1848-49 running via the Potteries from Colwich on the London line to Macclesfield on the line to Manchester. Later extensions and running power agreements enabled the NSR to offer services to as far away as Llandudno, which then became a regular holiday destination for the people of Stoke. The line was financed by businesses in the Potteries to avoid the larger railway companies setting the rates for shipping their freight. The company amalgamated with the Trent & Mersey Canal Company and became the largest canal owning company in Britain, unlike many other railways the NSR invested in the development of the canal which remained profitable.

The NSR saw itself as an essentially 'local' company, the area around the Potteries was also rich in ironstone and coal and the line carried considerable quantities of both to the local iron and steel works. Associated with the iron and steel industry were pipe works, nail makers and chain makers. Hand made nails were still being made into the 1930's although machine made nails produced from wire were increasingly produced from the mid nineteenth century. Similarly chain makers, operating from small sheds at the rear of their homes, continued on work into the 1940's. A steady traffic in limestone to feed the Cheshire chemical works, for which they built a fleet of three plank hopper wagons. Shoe and boot making became a major industry in the south where light and heavy engineering firms proliferated. Local agriculture was mainly dairy farming. Regular traffic in beer from Burton on Trent was catered for with open wagons carrying barrels in open wagons and cattle wagons. (they do not appear to have built specialised vehicles for this trade) The NSR proved to be one of the more profitable lines in the country and had a tradition of high quality goods stock. From 1904 the NSR operated the narrow gauge (two foot six inch gauge) Leek & Manifold Light Railway.

Locomotives were painted a deep maroon and passenger stock was painted in an all-over red, slightly darker than MR/LMS maroon, called Madder Lake Red. Madder was a plant used to produce a dark red dye after which the colour was named, 'lake' is the process used to make the paint.

General goods stock livery was a dark red-brown with metal work in black. Lettering was all in white, early wagons had N S R to the left, the Staffordshire 'knot' emblem in the centre and the number to the right, all about eight inches high. Below the number was the load in the form 8 Tons (prior to about 1900 this was prefixed To Carry).

In 1912 the lettering changed with the letters N and S about 1 foot high in the usual places and usually the 'Staffordshire Knot' emblem between them somewhere about the centre of the body. With this livery the wagon number was no longer painted on open wagons (the cast metal registration plate, introduced in about 1900) serving this function. On vans however the number was still displayed in the lower left of the body with the knot emblem in the lower right.

Shortly before the grouping of 1923 the knot emblem was dropped, it worth noting however that examples of the full pre-1912 livery were occasionally seen up to about 1930.

Fig ___ NSR

An NSR single bolster wagon was sketched in Article 6 (Nov 2001 RM). The three plank open wagon is simply the lower section of a Peco five plank body mounted on a Peco wooden chassis. The former Planit Engineering etched brass body mentioned below is a model of this type of wagon. The two plank open is the upper section of a Peco seven plank wagon body shortened and mounted on a shortened ten foot wheelbase chassis, this model shows the early 'scotch' type brake, I believe this was later replaced with a standard Morton pattern on all NSR stock. The van is a Peco ventilated van body shortened and mounted on a cut down Peco wooden chassis. The wheelbase of the van should be nine feet six inches but the wheels would need to be closer to the ends than is possible due to the coupling pocket. The two options are to fit the model to a standard Peco chassis, or shorten the body and chassis as shown.


North Staffordshire Railway Locomotives and Rolling stock by R. W. Rush, Oakwood, 1981, a slim volume with many photos and line drawings.

North Staffordshire Wagons by G. F. Chadwick, Wild Swan, 1993 ISBN 1874103151 The first book on North Staffs wagons, cover most of the standard types, carefully researched.


North Staffordshire Railway Study Group

Available Models

The Graham Farish seven plank open wagon is an NSR loco coal wagon. It requires a repaint and the channel on the solebar filling with Milliput to represent a timber chassis.

Bill Bedford Models, Leebiton, Sandwick, Shetland, ZE2 9HP

Mr. Bedford offers an etched kit of the North Staffordshire Railway/LMS: twenty ton brake van

The former Planit Engineering range of NSR etched brass kits produced by the late Mr. W. E. Mullineux ceased production when he died. The residual 2mm scale stock is now being sold by the 2mm Scale Association at shows. Limited numbers of the kits are available direct from Mr. N. Burgess, 23 Drury Lane, Lincoln, LN1 3BN, send an SAE for details of the remaining kits. These models feature some very nice detail on the etched overlays but they are are not complete kits, all require wheels and couplings to complete, and they were produced for the more experienced modeller with access to information on the prototypes.


Still available are the body kits for a ten ton, side door, three plank open wagon (£2.00), this vehicle first appeared in about 1910 and the body can be mounted on a Peco wooden chassis, and an eight ton outside framed van to D.4 (£2.60) which requires a shorter chassis.

On the passenger side Mr Burgess still has a few kits for the NSR six compartment all third and brake third coaches (£7.00 each) which require wheels and couplings to complete.

Mr.Burgess also has a few white metal castings for a Class New L NSR 0-6-2 freight loco to suit a Graham Farish 1109 chassis (£15.00).

Although no longer available as a kit you may find one of Mr Mullineux six wheeled milk vans second hand, the prototype was twenty eight feet eleven inches long, they were seen running to Manchester as parcels stock in the late 1960's.

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