Steel-bodied van. Steel-bodied van. Steel-bodied van.

PW011 Mersey Docks & Harbour Board.
Steel-bodied van.
Grey with unshaded blue lettering
and black roof.


The town of Liverpool, on the northern bank of the Mersey estuary, was a major port long before railways were ever thought of. In 1715 the town council's Dock Committee opened the world's first commercial wet dock, constructed by enclosing part of a natural tidal pool off the river, and as the eighteenth century wore on further facilities were added to form a substantial dock network. By the time the Victorian era with all its new-fangled technology was getting into full swing, Liverpool's dock system had become too extensive for the council, or Liverpool Corporation as it was by then, to manage efficiently alongside all their other responsibilities. A new separate organisation was clearly needed to run this vast commercial enterprise in a proper shipshape manner, and in 1858 the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board was born. Under this new management the port went from strength to strength, and alongside the docks and the warehouses sprang up a gleaming new rail network to connect them with the outside world. At its peak the MDHB railway extended to 104 miles, long enough to connect Liverpool with Birmingham and still have a few miles left over. It ran throughout the dock systems on both sides of the river, with connections to many other railways, and even included its own dockside passenger station at Liverpool Riverside. The volume of freight passing through the port grew ever larger and Liverpool grew ever richer, outgrowing its town status and becoming a city in 1880.
The railway companies did very nicely out of carrying goods to and from the docks, charging the merchants and the shipping lines for the privilege of using their railway wagons and vans, and the sharp management of the Dock Board spotted an opportunity to cut themselves in on the action. If they had their own fleet of vans then they could cream off some of the business and pocket even more of the proceeds. Genius! However the commercial corporate world was just as cut-throat then as it is now, and understandably the railway companies weren't very taken with the idea of losing money by hauling other people's wagons around instead of their own, so the proposed MDHB wagon fleet never got off the drawing board. But if both sides had been prepared to come to a deal instead of machoing it out, then vans like ours could have been loaded up by the side of the Mersey and hauled here there and everywhere across the British rail network. Steel-bodied vans of this type were first constructed in the First World War era, and virtually identical vans were still running in the 1970s, so our model would be suitable for any era from pre-grouping steam through to BR blue diesel.
Indulge a flight of fancy on your layout with our MDHB van.

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