A brief History

 Railway companies needed ways to identify their various engines and so they were all numbered in some way or another. This could be by numbers painted on the front or on the sides of the engines cab,  otherwise by cast iron or, more usually, brass plates which were displayed on the sides of the Loco cab. The company that made most use of the Cabside plates was the Great Western Railway who numbered their locos with Brass or Cast Iron plates on either side of the cab.

Cast Iron Cabside Front Cast Iron Cabside Rear
Brass Cabside Front Brass Cabside rear

Some plates had GWR on top and a number below and some locos that worked in Wales had two digit and three digit numbers. The majority of locos had a 4 digit number.

Cast iron Plate from an RR 0-6-2 Tank Cast iron Plate from a BPGV 0-6-0 Tank Brass Plate from a "1400" Class 0-4-2 Tank

In 1948 when the railways were nationalised British Railways couldn’t face the task of removing all these cabside plates in order to use five digit numbers, as had happened with all other regions, and so the new Western Region kept four digit numbers and their cabside plates.   
A mix of brass and Cast iron plates were used even within the same Class of Locos. Brass plates were however used on all the named engines and even on the more mundane classes brass plates sell for more than a similar classes Cast iron ones - mainly as when polished up they are more attractive to display.

The prices paid for Cabsides has dropped by about 40% from the peak of around 2003-2004. Shown below is a rough guide to the price you would have to pay in auction to obtain a plate from a named loco. Prices from unnamed Classes vary according to the type of loco and the size of the Class and prices range from around £300 for a Cast iron plate from a Pannier tank that worked in the Welsh Valleys to around £2000 for a "1400" Class 0-4-2 Tank that worked a branch line in the West Country.

County Class Plates around £2500 Castle Class Plates around £2000 Hall Class Plates around £1200
Saint Class Plates around £1500 Star Class Plates around £4000 Grange Class Plates around £1700

The list below shows which Cabsides were Brass (B.) or Cast iron (C. with grey background). A few were replaced during use when they were damaged or lost and so could be of a different metal to the list below.

B. 1000-29 C. 1101-06 B. 1140-45 B. 1151-53
B. 1361-65 C. 1366-71 B. 1400-74 B. 1500-09
B. 1600-69 B. 1901-2019 B. 2021-2160 C. 2200-99
B. 2301-2579 B. 2600-80 B. 2700-99 B. 2800-83
C. 2884-99 B. 2900-98 B. 3000-49  
B. 3100-99 B. 3200-19 B. 3252-91 B. 3300-455
B. 3400-09 C. 3600-799 B. 3700-19 C. 3800-66
B. 4000-72 B. 4073-99 C. 4100-49 B. 4150-78
B. 4160-79 B. 4200-70 C. 4271-99 B. 4300-99
B. 4400-10 B. 4500-54 C. 4555-99 C. 4600-99
C. 4700-09 B. 4900-99 B. 5000-99 C. 5100-99
C. 5200-64 B. 5300-99 C. 5300-99 C. 5400-24
C. 5500-74 C. 5600-99 B. 5700-49 C. 5750-99
B. 5800-19 B. 5900-99 B. 6000-29 C. 6100-69
B. 6300-41 C. 6342-99 C. 6400-39 C. 6600-49
B. 6650-99 B. 6700-79 B. 6800-79 B. 6900-99
B. 7000-37 C. 7200-53 C. 7300-40 C. 7400-16
B. 7417-49 B. 7700-99 B. 7800-29 B. 7900-29
C. 8100-09 C. 8300-99 B. 8400-99 B. 8700-49
C. 8750-99 B. 9000-28 B. 9051-99 C. 9300-19
B. 9400-99 C. 9600-61 B. 9662-82 C. 9700-99

Unrestored Cabsides often fetch a bit more than restored ones so if you have one to sell I would suggest that you do not attempt to clean it up. That way the purchaser has the choice of restoring it or leaving it in as removed condition.

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