Q Wagon Lettering and Correct Train Arrangement

A summary of a chat group discussion mainly contributed by John Brouwer and Kevin Crosado.

It is clear from photographs that Q wagons were not painted according to the official diagram, and that furthermore the Westport and Greymouth fleets were significantly different. These differences appear to be related to the working of the inclines at Roa, Rewanui and Denniston as well as the wharves at Westport and Greymouth.

Q wagons were not turned and the orientation of the hopper within the wagon was also maintained. Qs had to run with the handbrake trailing on the inclines. This allowed staff to drop the handbrake while they were running behind the wagon – it was rather awkward and dangerous to try reaching back to drop the brakes on a wagon running behind you, especially on rough track. The Roa and Rewanui inclines faced in the opposite direction to Denniston, which was the main reason the two fleets were kept separate. The door operating gear had to be on the correct side for the wharfies, too — hand brake side at Greymouth, non-handbrake side at Westport.

The notes below are a general overview derived from study of many photographs. Exceptions certainly occurred, and changes over time are also certain to have happened. Clear photos of wagons to support any contrary views will be gratefully received. My own focus is the 1930s period, and these notes inevitably reflect that.

Westport lettering.

Hopper sides: Distributed load on the left hand side, Tare weight in 4” characters in the centre and the wagon number, also 4”, preceded by ‘Q’ on the right.

Hopper ends: Wagon number without class letter in 4” characters on the left, with the tare in 2” characters immediately below. On Westport hoppers the word ‘tare’ appears to be absent.

Underframe: Tare weight preceded by ‘TARE’ in 2” characters together with ‘Q’ plus the wagon number on a red oxide patch on the solebars. The wagon number approximately central. Shopping codes and dates as well as overhaul dates were also on the solebar, but photos show various positions.

Greymouth Lettering.

Hopper sides: Wagon number (including ‘Q’) on the left, Tare in the centre and distributed load on the right. The load may have been dropped in later years.

Hopper end (uphill): 4” Wagon number without ‘Q’ on the left, with tare weight below in 2” characters.

Hopper end (downhill): 4” Wagon number without ‘Q’ on the right, with tare weight below in 2” characters.

Underframe: Tare weight preceded by ‘TARE’ in 2” characters together with ‘Q’ plus the wagon number on the solebars. The wagon number approximately central. Shopping codes and dates as well as overhaul dates were also on the solebar, but photos show various positions.

There appear to be a number of relatively common variations in photographs to the above guide. Tare weights not generally preceded by ‘TARE’ sometimes have this in 2” characters. Tare weights usually in 2” are sometimes in 4”. End numbers sometimes do have the ‘Q’. I assume that there is actually some systematic reason for this, but have insufficient data at present to comment.

Kevin Crosado’s additional comments:

Trains of Qs ran through from Greymouth to Westport, or vice versa, when ships couldn’t get over the bar at one or other of the ports. This created problems because the coal packed down solid in the wagons with the vibration en route and wouldn’t flow through the doors. The hoppers had to be tipped on end so the coal could be loosened with bars. Traditionally this was done with a hook over the end, but this didn’t do the hoppers a whole lot of good, hence the fitting of tipping rings at each corner after WWII.

Westport wagons sent to Addington for overhaul were generally grabbed at Reefton on the way back and used to convey shipping coal to Greymouth (but weren’t normally used at the Greymouth mines ‘cos of the handbrake issue) before resuming their journey from Stillwater. It means you can justify a few Westport wagons at Greymouth if you’re modelling post-1943.

Incidentally, Addington did follow the painting diagram in the 1930s. However, Greymouth staff complained that the red oxide hopper paint only lasted 2 or 3 months, then they had to waste time tarring them. Addington was brought into line from 1942.