Cast Iron Smokebox
Numberplates were used on locos by some Companies from quite
early days as each loco had to be identified by a number for
maintenance etc. Many locos had the number painted on the
buffer beam or on the side of the cab without any number on
the Smokebox Door.
Numberplate carried in 1905 and fixed by studs
from the rear
Cast Iron Smokebox
Numberplates were introduced for all Locos by British
Railways on Nationalisation in order to standardise the
numbering and distinguish between regions. All regions had a
5 digit number except for the old GWR where it was decided
it would be a pity to scrap all the cabside plates on the
locos and so it was more sensible to keep the 4 digit
numbers that the locos were already allocated.
These numbers were carried on
the Smokebox door with the plate usually painted black and
the numbers white. They are the Loco items that most people remember as
they gave the number that went down in the spotters
notebook. Towards the end of steam the standard of cleaning
dropped right off and it was often not possible to read the
number painted on the cabside!
Scottish Region plus certain ex Lancashire &
Yorkshire, Midland & Somerset & Dorset Locos.
London North Eastern
Shown below are examples of
Numberplates from the BR regions and from BR Standards.
Many of these plates survived
and are regularly available at Auctions. When purchasing a
plate one in ex loco condition with provenance is always
preferable. Smokebox Numberplates, being of cast iron, were
quite often broken in service and then welded by BR to save
casting a new one. It is therefore not unusual to find one
that has been repaired.
If you are interested in
buying a Smokebox Plate then the price you will pay will
depend on condition, how big the Class was and if the Loco
was named. Ex loco plates will attract a premium while those painted front and back can drop by about 20%
from the average. £300 - £500 should buy you a plate from one
of the larger Classes from all Regions. For named locos you
would expect to pay about £600 for a GWR Hall Class plate
and £2500 - £3000 for a West Country Pacific with a great
deal of variety in between.