Because when the train reaches its destination, the loco runs round it
and hooks onto the other end ready for the return journey. If the
brake-3rd were last it now becomes first. It is better to have it in the
There are plenty of pictures showing trains made up this way.
When the train reversed at the branch terminus that would mean the brake
coach would be at the front, not that it would really matter with a
continuous braked train - the brake van really only provides accomodation
for the guard and a parking brake.
Passenger stock was all alto braked by the later 19th century, following
some nasty accidents. From
In spite of various accidents during the 1870's the railway companies had
resisted Government attempts to introduce more sophisticated brakes on
passenger trains. This was partly because of cost but also they were unable
to agree on a standard system. Following a serious accident in Ireland in
which 80 people died, many of them children, automatic continuous brakes
became mandatory on passenger stock in 1889.
Some info on UK passener stock:
My own interest is mainly goods services, but there is a bit about vacuum
and air brake systems in
Most British companies opted for the vacuum brake, and generally they
adopted the Gresham brake (patented in 1878), but several British companies
opted for the fast acting Westinghouse air-brake. An express passenger train
weighing five hundred tons and travelling at 60 miles per hour on the level
would be stopped within 360 yards by either system.
The Great Eastern, the North Eastern and the London Brighton & South Coast
Railways were still air-braked at the time of the 1923 grouping. The North
British Railway had used the Westinghouse brake but was in the process of
changing to the more popular vacuum brake by the time of the grouping. As
rolling stock travelled through the system the use of differing kinds of
brake became a problem. Some vehicles were fitted with one kind of brake and
through pipes to allow connection of differently equipped vehicles to either
side (this was called 'piped' stock). A few were equipped with both air and
vacuum brakes (called 'dual fitted'). Both these options cost money and
added complication to an already complex network so by about 1930 all
British companies had switched to the Automatic Vacuum Brake (AVB). On the
continent and in the USA the Westinghouse air brake became the norm and all
vehicles had to be 'fitted' hence wagons intended for cross-channel ferry
working between Europe and Britain were 'dual-fitted' with both air and
In America a law had been passed in 1893 which stipulated that all railway
vehicles, be they freight or passenger, had to be equipped with automatic
air brakes. On the Continent air brake 'fitted' stock was the norm by the
time of the First World War. In Britain however the fitting of automatic
brakes was considered inappropriate to low value goods vehicles intended to
travel in slow goods trains. Some unfitted wagons had the flexible
connection hoses but were simply 'piped' as described above. These piped
wagons could be marshalled into a fully braked train, allowing the automatic
brakes on the remainder of the train to operate normally. The maximum
permitted speed of the train was then determined by the number of piped
vehicles in the rake (see also Freight Operations - Freight Train Speeds).
Only wagons fitted with a continuous automatic braking system were allowed
in trains travelling at any speed. In the context of goods traffic anything
over 40 mph was classed as 'express' up to the mid 1980's.
Usual practice pre- and post-nationalisation was to put the brake in
the centre of the set. This meant that on a runaround at the branch
terminus, the brake remained in the same position - in other words,
the same number of vehicles behind the brake remained the same ie. the
minimum necessary. Vehicles with first class accommodation were always
positioned where they could be monitored by staff for unauthorised
riders. This usually meant the brake vehicle.
All of this is a generalisation, and if you're modelling a sprcific
branch you need to see a copy of the carriage set working diagrams.
These will also acquaint you with regional/company practices and
policies for carriage set formations. Unfortunately these
publications are quite hard to find - railway historical societies are
a good starting point.
I suppose another rationale for having the brake compartment in the middle
was that it gave the guard the best view of both end of the train when
giving the start signal (green flag, and whistle to warn the passengers).
On the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, the coaches are marshalled in
semi-permanent rakes of, I think, six, with the brake compartment at the
Keighley end. On the outbound (uphill) trip, the loco is at the front end
facing forward. At Oxenhope it runs around, and makes the return trip in
reverse with the brake compartment right next to it. Other preserved lines
probably have similar practices.
In BR steam days there was a 3-coach push-pull set with the loco attached
to the Oxenhope end. I imagine the guard's/brake compartment was in the
end coach which housed the remote driving controls. This was briefly
replaced by a 2-car DMU before BR closed the line in 1962. Although the
preservation society's magazine has been called Push And Pull since the
mid-1960s, they have never operated trains in push-pull mode, although on
special operating days with extra service they sometimes operate with a
loco at each end to reduce turnaround time.
Of course, push-pull operation is now the norm on loco-hauled mainline
passenger trains in the UK. Here in the Greater Toronto area, GO Transit
operates push-pull commuter trains with up to 12 bi-level coaches
accommodating around 200 passengers each, propelled by a single 4,000hp
MP40 diesel loco capable of 93mph. The driving trailers look like other
coaches, rather than mimicking the loco or power car. Twelve other
operators in Canada and the US operate similar bi-level coaches.
Must confess am amazed that other companies differed from LMS in such a
basic working practice. Also suprised that Bob Essery doesnt mention it,
although he has a lot of examples from the LMS he does make the effort to
mention when things were different for other areas.
Backtrack is a good starting point.
The reason for the van being in the middle is purely practical - loading
and unloading parcels/milk/etc that used to be carried. The van would
usually stop adjacent to the station building, thus reducing the distance
stuff had to be lugged.
Perhaps in more recent times it may, but around grouping the passenger was
the priority and porters could walk 10 miles if it saved passengers a few
yards. Parcels etc would be loaded onto trolleys and porters knew exactly
where carraige would stop so they would be ready at the right point.
Porters eh, that brings back memories. About 30 years ago I returned to the
UK and asked at the station about PLA (Passenger Luggage in Advance), the
lad had to go and find an Old Bloke to sort out what it was and find out
they didn't do it any more.
One of Ena Sharpels better comments was 'She's getting very luggage in
advance these days'
Porters . . . (stares into distance through window in need of a clean)
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