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photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

BR standard horsebox Nº S96409 photographed at Merton Abbey when in use in a circus train during 1963.

Horses were very important creatures for the railways of Britain. Not only did the railways own thousands of them for shunting, and haukage but they also transported them for other people. Race meetings, horse sales and etc. all generated business for the railways, with the horses needing to be moved speedily and safely. For this purpose special horseboxes were constructed which would run attached to passenger trains to ensure the quickest journey times. When BR was formed most of these vehicles taken into its stock were built by or for the pre-grouping companies, so were coming to the end of their useful lives. Some of those running on the Southern were still equipped with oil lighting until the day they were withdrawn.

Between 1957 and 1958 115 new horseboxes built to the MkI coach standards, though with the same basic internal layout that had been used for decades, were delivered to BR with 56 of them going to the Southern. By the very nature of the trade, when a horse needed to go from A to B the same day, these horseboxes would spend a lot of their time off their home region. The photographs here are of horseboxes that were used in a circus train, and consists of vehicles from the London Midland and Eastern Regions as well as the Southern.

It is interesting to note from these photographs that there didn't appear to be a fixed position for the vehicles' numbers!

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  • 2546 & 2596
    Southern Railway (ex-LBSCR and ex-LSWR) 4 wheel horse boxes at Aldershot. Nº2546 and Nº2596 being the ex-LSWR ones and the more modern-looking Nº3281 ex-LBSCR.
    Photograph: Dr. Ian C. Allan/Mike Morant collection.
  • S96364
    NºS96364 at Merton Abbey. The stalls inside were moveable so that one, two or three horses could be carried, as required.
    Photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas.
  • M96301
    NºM96301 was one of the "foreign" horseboxes at Merton Abbey. The groom's compartment was alongside the door, with a toilet provided by the fixed window.
    Photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas.
  • E96326
    NºE96326 was another "foreign" horsebox. The two top doors opened outwards whilst the lower, full-width, one lowered down to form a loading/unloading ramp.
    Photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas.
  • M96300
    Facing in the other direction was NºM96300, which has survived into preservation at the Llangollen Railway. The vehicle to the right was Special Cattle Van NºS3736S.
    Photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas.

This page was last updated 24 June 2011

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