90-year-old British train container found in Belgium

A 90-year-old train container of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) has been unearthed in Antwerp, Belgium. The carriage was discovered in an excavation along the route of the Oosterweel Link, a project to complete the R1 Antwerp Ring Road by connecting the highway with tunnels under the Scheldt River and Albert Canal. It had been buried in the Noordkasteel, a 19th century fortress overlooking the Scheldt that was converted into a recreational park in 1934.

The wagon was placed on a concrete slab embedded into the embankment filled with sandy soil. Nobody knows why it ended up being buried in Antwerp or when.

In the early 19th century, simple square boxes were used in England for rail transport. Railroad companies quickly switched to standardized containers that were easier to load and unload.

The first model of LNER (London North Eastern Railway), one of the four English railway companies, was painted reddish brown around 1930. A few years later this color changed to the characteristic blue. The red container was only in use for a few years, which makes this find very rare.

The number BK769 identifies it as a furniture container with a capacity of four imperial tons (8960 lbs) built in 1935 or 1936. Like a moving pod today, the container was designed to be loaded onto trucks or flat train wagons to move furniture from house to house. This was the only known surviving example of the red oxide LNER moving container.

I say “was,” because unfortunately the container did not survive excavation. The wooden walls were too unstable to remain standing when the soil was dug away. Recovery proved impossible and the walls collapsed. The box all but disintegrated.

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