Got milk?

Three GWR Siphons, ready to haul churns without churning the contents

Last week, I received an order of early style milk churns in the mail, which enabled me to put the finishing touches on these three 7mm kits for Great Western Railway milk transporters – known on the GWR as Siphons.

These are mixed media (plastic and photo-etch) kits from Slaters Plastikard in the UK and they were a lot of fun to build. Even though they were produced in the 1980s, they have some lovely features that were miles ahead of the rolling stock produced in North America in the same era. As I built these, I was aided in my research by Great Western Railway Siphons by Jack Slinn and Bernard Clarke – a copy of which I found online at a reasonable price.

I was particularly impressed by this kit’s clever photo-etched suspension system, which links three sub frames via steel piano wires. This allows the outboard axles to rotate while the centre axle slides from side to side, all in unison – presumably to improve tracking through a model railway’s typically too-tight-radius curves.

The system also allows the centre and one end axle to rock independently of each other, to help negotiate undulations in the track.

These models feature an innovative suspension system. The two brass crews are the points around which the outboard axles rotate. The middle axle slides side-to-side and all three are connected by spring steel wire so they maintain proper alignment to the railheads.

These vehicles – part of the GWR’s “brown fleet” of non-passenger carrying coaching stock -were designed to run in passenger trains, at speed. The three-axle arrangement helped them to deliver milk churns to market without turning the contents into butter en route. Meantime, the open sides promoted ventilation to aid in keeping the milk cool.

I look forward to seeing these run in an early morning train behind a high-stepping locomotive.

Published by Trevor

Lifelong model railway enthusiast and retired amateur shepherd who trained a border collie to work sheep. Professional writer and editor, with some podcasting and Internet TV presenting work thrown in for good measure.

6 thoughts on “Got milk?

  1. They look great, though I prefer the 3-axle “tank” style GWR milk wagons. You know, you might have to start building a layout to run them on. Hopefully, there will be a “Great British Train Show” in Toronto in 2024 and perhaps if you are in town you can spin their wheels then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Benjamin. Those tank-style wagons sure are nice. But far too modern for my era. On the plus side, I can spot these Diagram O4 Siphons at any passenger platform for loading/unloading – no special track or equipment required. That speaks when 7mm scale takes up so much space…
      You’re right – I do need a layout for them. I’m still working on ideas for that. The Highworth Branch had a lot of milk traffic, so it’s a candidate. I also have good information (and some structure kits) for Tetbury and if I freelanced that I could add milk traffic to the mix.
      I’d love to get back to a GBTS, but I’m not planning to haul any equipment with me. Travel would probably turn them back into kits again.


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