Although much vegetation control in the BR era was handled 'in house' various contractors were also used. Two of these, Chipmans and Fisons, had there own weedkilling trains formed of former railway carriages which were hauled/propelled by BR locomotives. This conundrum mainly concerns the Fisons trains which in the 1970s were based at Foxton, Cambridgeshire before moving to Chesterton Junction, Cambridge in 1980/1981. Information is though included about the other trains. As more information comes to light the amount of information included will be expanded. For those interested in the detail of carriage histories the conundrum remains as to the original numerical identity of the LMSR carriages used in the Fisons trains.
Fisons Weedkilling Train
In 1954 Fisons had taken over over Pest Control Ltd, a firm based at Hauxton, near Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire. The company had been formed in 1939. The main site was on the east side of the A10, between the Church Road turn and the river. Offices and laboratories were at the front of the site and pesticide manufacturing took place there. Following takeover the company traded as Fisons Pest Control Ltd, from 1969 Fisons Cambridge Division and from 1970 Fisons Agrochemical Division.
Although actually in Hauxton the postal address was Harston, Cambridge CB2 5HU, this was changed when Harston telephone numbers were changed to Cambridge ones (ie six digit Harston numbers being prefixed by 870). The company address then became Hauxton, Cambridge CB2 5HU at the same time as phone numbers changed. The company research facility was at Chesterford Park which is near Great Chesterford with a Saffron Walden postal address.
The Fisons site in Hauxton closed in 2004 and the remaining part of what was by then Bayer Crop Science moved to the Cambridge Science Park, ironically not far from Chesterton Junction. The land at Hauxton was contaminated and redevelopment only commenced recently.
The first train ran in 1957 and consisted of various equipment mounted on a wagon. The concept was then developed over the following years. It has not been established when the first Fisons weedkilling trains were run that included former carriages. However, the book 'The History of Pest Control' published by Fisons in 1976 mentions a second train being added in 1963 referred to as the Mark IIIa. A Mark III train, presumably to similar specification having been introduced in 1960. This picture 1965 photograph may well be of the Mark IIIa train. The following two pictures annotated 'Fisons Mk IIIa Weedkilling Train' on their mounts appear to be of the same train.
This picture shows what is either the Mark III or Mark IIIa Train. The visible vehicles matching the 1965 photograph.. The location and date are not known but the slide mount is dated May 1966 although t is thought to be a copy of an earlier print. Michael Wild collection
This picture also shows thwhat is either part of the Mark III or Mark IIIa Train. The white carriage matching the one in the 1965 photograph.. The location and date are not known but the slide mount is dated May 1966 although t is thought to be a copy of an earlier print as evidenced by the blossoming chestnut trees. The green carriage shows signs of spray stain so was presumably also part of the train. Michael Wild collection
However, by 1969 two trains, referred to as Mark IV were in use formed of a Spray Van and Staff & Dormitory Coach converted from LMSR carriages, presumably including coaches from the Mark III trains. In addition BR supplied a number of former LNER/BR 4-whl Fish Vans to augment the trains at various times. These trains were capable of operating at up to 50 mph. It is presumed that as Foxton was not far from the companies base the trains were always based there when not in use using the former goods shed and sidings adjacent to the up line, on the Shepreth side of the level crossings (the Cambridge and Barrington roads had separate level crossings at Foxton in those days).
In 1969 the fleet consisted of:-
The only pictures so far traced of the trains prior to 1975 can be found at
and 1973 photograph Numbers actually carried by the carriages then is a mystery but it may be that the carriages were un-numbered and are believed to have been painted white. This might partially explain the lack of enthusiast reports.
Private Owner Coach Numbers were introduced in January 1974 but were not immediately applied to Weedkilling Train Carriages. Also in 1974 BR allocated departmental numbers to five LNER/BR 4-whl Fish Vans used with Weedkilling Trains trains.
DB975388 that had seen use in the BR Eastern Region Weedkilling Train had found its way to Chesterton Junction when photographed on 7th March 1981 Peter Hall
It would appear that only DB975389, DB975390 and DB975391 subsequently saw use with Fisons in train formations. They being formed in the surviving Mark IV Train with FA99903 and FA99905 until replaced by FA99906 (see below). DB975387 and DB975388 being used in the BR Eastern Region Weedkilling train (see below) although the latter did find its way to Chesterton Junction in the early 1980s.
In 1975 a new train was formed to replace one of the existing trains. This was painted in a Yellow and Green livery and formed as shown. It was capable of operation at 60 mph and referred to as Mark VI.
Included in the formation of the new 1975 train was Spray Coach FA99900, this had been converted from BR Gloucester RC&W DTC 56315. It is pictured at Chesterton Junction on 7th March 1981 in a rather work stained condition. Peter Hall
Included in the formation of the new 1975 train was Stores Coach FA99901 that had been converted from a GWR Gangwayed Passenger Brake 150. It is pictured on display at Liverpool Street Station on 9th May 1975. Trevor Davis
Included in the formation of the new 1975 train was Stores Coach FA99902 that had been converted from a GWR Gangwayed Passenger Brake 164. It is pictured on display at Liverpool Street Station on 9th May 1975. Trevor Davis
Displaced by the formation of the new train in 1975 was this Spray Coach that had been converted from an LMS Open Third. It is seen at Foxton on 9th August 1978 peior to being scrapped. Trevor Davis
The new train formed in 1975 visited London Liverpool Street on 9th May that year prior to entering service. Their is was inspected by BR and trade union representatives. Trevor Davis
The Spray Coach from the disbanded train (Lot 805) was replaced by new Spray Coach FA99900 and was subsequently scrapped in 1978.
Interestingly the new Spray Coach was converted from a former DMU Driving Trailer which had been withdrawn from BR service at Norwich in 1974. It was the inclusion of this in the new train that probably drew more attention to the train from enthusiasts although it was several years later before it started to appear in enthusiast number books. FA99900 arrived at Cambridge on 22 March 1975 in the consist of 5P07 Lincoln-Cambridge ecs, a train the frequently conveyed ex works dmu cars from Doncaster Works returning to Norwich, Cambridge or Stratford. 5P07 was a continuation of 2D70 0555 Doncaster to Lincoln. However, it was understood at the time that E56315 was converted not at Doncaster but at Glasgow Works. After spending the weekend at Cambridge FA99900 first arrived at Foxton on 25 March 1975.
A trial run for the the train took place on 9th May 1975 which took it to Liverpool Street station for inspection by BR management and unions.
Subsequently the train entered normal service on the Eastern, London Midland and Scottish Regions but does appear to have been rarely photographed.
The other original Mark IV train was also painted in Yellow and Green in c1975 and numbered, the Spray Coach as FA99903 & Staff & Dormitory Coach as FA99905.
Staff & Dormitory Coach FA99905, that had been converted from a LMS Corridor Brake Third, is pictured at Foxton on 9th August 1978 coupled to Spray Coach FA99903. Trevor Davis
Spray Coach FA99903, that had been converted from a LMS Open Third, is pictured at Foxton on 9th August 1978 coupled to Staff & Dormitory Coach FA99905. Trevor Davis
These were formed with BR/LNER Fish Vans DB975389, DB975390 & DB975391 (see above). The only known picture can be seen at 1978 photograph
In 1978 another GWR Gangwayed Passenger Brake Van was acquired for use as a stores van. This arrived at Foxton on 1st August 1978. It was numbered FA99906 and inserted into the train. In its latter BR days this had its gangways removed but they were re-instated by Fisons. It was though not painted into Yellow & Green livery retaining its BR overall Blue. This replaced the former BR/LNER Fish Vans supplied by BR used in the Mark IV train at the time. The train was then formed.
The surviving MarkIV train formed of Spray Coach FA99903, Stores Van FA99906 and Staff & Dormitory Coach FA99905 at Chesterton Junction on 7th March 1981 Peter Hall
By March 1981 the base for the trains had moved from Foxton to Chesterton Junction, Cambridge. The sidings at Foxton were removed as part of the track rationalisation that preceded Cambridge area resignalling. A few years later the company changed its name to FBC Limited and all seven carriages were repainted into a Red/White livery. The two trains continued to be formed as previously.
Four Carriage Mark VI Train
Spray Coach FA99900 formed as part of the four carriage train at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 7th November 1986 Trevor Davis
Stores Coach FA99901 formed as part of the four carriage train at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 7th November 1986 Trevor Davis
Staff & Dormitory Coach FA99904 formed as part of the four carriage train at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 7th November 1986 Trevor Davis
Three Carriage Mark IV Train
Staff & Dormitory Coach FA99905 formed as part of the three carriage train at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 7th November 1986 Trevor Davis
Spray Coach FA99903 formed as part of the three carriage train at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 7th November 1986 Trevor Davis
Following another company sale/merger they became the property of Schering Agrochemicals Ltd and were painted into that companies livery of green with a white stripe during the winter of 1987/88. Unfortunately, FA99902 suffered fire damage in early 1988 and although painted may not have operated in that livery. It was scrapped towards the end of 1988 on site at Chesterton Junction by Vic Berry of Leicester. Thus, the four carriage train was reduced to three.
Four Carriage Mark VI Train
Spray Coach FA99900 formed as part of the four carriage train awaiting disposal at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 13th October 1989 Trevor Davis
Staff & Dormitory Coach FA99904 formed as part of the four carriage train awaiting disposal at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 13th October 1989 Trevor Davis
Three Carriage Mark IV Train
Staff & Dormitory Coach FA99905 formed as part of the three carriage train at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 13th October 1989 Trevor Davis
Stores Coach FA99906 formed as part of the three carriage train at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 13th October 1989 Trevor Davis
Spray Coach FA99903 formed as part of the three carriage train at Chesterton Junction, Cambridge on 13th October 1989 Trevor Davis
Both trains were taken out of use after the 1989 season, having been replaced by the new four carriage Schering Train converted from Mark 1 carriages. The six carriages being scrapped in March the following year by Vic Berry of Leicester. All were scrapped on site at Chesterton Junction except FA99900 which was taken to the companies Leicester scrap yard.
BR NER/ER Weedkilling Train
Little was known about the BR Eastern Region Weedkilling train based at York when this conundrum was first conceived but slowly more is emerging. The latest updates come from Michael Wild who was involved with design work on the train in the 1960's and has been able to add greatly to our knowledge of it.
The North Eastern Region Weedkilling Train was photographed passing through South Gosforth in April 1962. The formation then used steam locomotive tenders as water carriers, a Spray Coach converted from a Gresley design Brake Third (identity not known) and Staff and Dormitory coach DE320946. Michael Johnson
We are very grateful to Paul Johnson of the LNERCA who has contributed this photograph taken by his father in April 1962 showing the first weedkilling train the NE Region built. This covered the former North Eastern Region at the time. The Fisons train being used on the then Eastern Region. Similar to the Fisons Train pictured in 1965 (see above) the formation includes former steam locomotive tenders as water carriers.
The carriages are of great interest. The one to the right is Staff & Dormitory Coach DE320946 converted from Corridor Third 12961. This is recorded as being taken into Departmental Stock in 1962 so would presumably be making one its first outings. Whether or not it replaced another carriage, thought unlikely, or it was a new addition to the formation is not known. It is presumed to have remained in use with the train until being replaced by DB975379 in C1975. The identity of the yellow Spray Coach is not known but it was converted from a Gresley [Non-corridor] Brake Third. This was its last full year in use as a Spray Coach being taken out of use the following year, it then being striped and discarded soon after. The pictures below being taken on its final outing. It was replaced with DE320995 that is recorded as being taken into Departmental Stock in 1963. This had been converted from Open Brake Third 16551.
The four locomotive tenders were taken from withdrawn V2 locomotives and were last used for weedkilling in 1964. It is believed they were numbered DE331865 - DE331868. During that year the Sleeper creosoting depot at West Hartlepool was closed and six-creosote carrying 22-ton tank wagons became available. Having roller bearing axle boxes and vacuum brakes they were
ideal for weedkilling, significantly increasing the range of the train, an
important factor in that water columns were being taken out of service with the
declining numbers of steam locomotives. They were converted in the winter
of 1964-65 and first used in 1965.
The original Spray Coach of the North Eastern Region Weedkilling Train is being loaded by Charlie Leng assisted by Train Captain Alan Wilkinson. The picture was taken at Seamer on 7th June 1963. Michael Wild
The North Eastern Region Weedkilling Train is pictured at Seamer on 7th June 1963. Soon after this picture was taken the yellow Spray Coach was replaced with newly converted DE320995. It is presumed the un-numbered tender is DE331866. Michael Wild
Paul has discovered a report of the trains visit to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway on 6th May 1974 when the consist was still six tank wagons, Staff & Dormitory Coach DE320946 and Spray Coach DE320995.
The train again visited the North Yorkshire Moors Railway on 6th May 1975 by which time the consist had significantly changed. It being formed of three stores vans, converted from LNER/BR Fish Vans or Vanfits, six tank wagons, Staff & Dormitory Coach DB975379 converted from BR Corridor Second 24982 and Spray Coach DE320995. DB975379 is recorded as being taken into Departmental Stock in 1974 so this may well have been its first season in use replacing DE320946 that subsequently saw use with a number of different On-Track machines throughout the Eastern Region.
By 1983 the train was formed of Staff and Dormitory Coach DB975379, Stores Vans DB977015 & DB977016, Spray Coach DE320995 and five tank wagons as seen here
The two Stores Vans had replaced former BR Fish Vans DB975387 & DB975388 in c1981 (see above) In c1984 DE320995 was replaced with a new Spray Coach DB977229. The train being allocated CEPS number 88001. The train was taken out of use in 1988.
Chipmans Weedkilling Train
Chipmans trains were based at Horsham. Further details will be added in due course but for now a few photographs are included of what was probably the first train to include carriages.
The gentlemen in the centre of this group is John Chamberlain who was then Chief Engineer of Chipman Chemical Company. The picture was taken at Cricklewood on 1st July 1965 and clearly shows the tyope of tank wagon then in use. Michael Wild
Another view of the Chipman Chemical Company train at Cricklewood on 1st July 1965. The Spay Coach is CWT7 converted from SR Maunsell design BTK 3724 and behind it is Staff & Dormitory Coach CWT8 converted from SR Maunsell design CK 5644. Michael Wild
A decade lafter the above photographs the Chipman Chemical Company train passes through Westbury on 26th April 1975. The Staff & Dormitory Coach CWT8 converted from SR Maunsell design CK 5644 and tank wagons are tailed by what is presumably a SR BY for use by the guard.. Trevor Davis
The Chipman Chemical Company train at Westbury on 26th April 1975. The Spray Coach CWT7 converted from SR Maunsell design BTK 3724 is prominent in this view. Trevor Davis
Photographs and other information will be welcomed by Peter Hall
last updated: 05/12/16