Nord Night Ferry Mail Van

In addition to the sleeping cars on the Night Ferry service, the London to Paris portion always included two or three, four - wheel vans, for the carriage of mail and registered baggage, these vans had no gangways, and were sealed by Customs on both sides of the Channel. Three were built by the Southern Railway, unfortunately none survive, however 25 further vans were adapted from existing vehicles by the Nord Railway in France of which at least one survives which I strongly suspect is 29944. Judging by the recessed door, this van is one of the diagram (29944 - 29949) to include a guards compartment and built in 1928 virtually to the British loading gauge, as the channel tunnel was being seriously talked about at the time. The vans without guards compartments were numbered 29981 - 29999 built in 1929.

Full adaption to the British gauge took place in 1936 by removing the footboards and the steps to the baggage doors and substituting an iron bar, while adapting the guard's entrance by recessing the door as mentioned above. The British used vacuum brakes therefore the vans were adapted to duel braking, along with steam heating and later electric heating. Each van had electric rear lights for working in France, with an oil lamp bracket for use in Britain. They were painted dark green during the SNCF days and were distinguished from other vans by having a yellow anchor painted on each side.

To suite the layout of Victoria and Paris Nord the vans were always marshaled at the London end of the train, when three vans were run, one was designated for overland surface mail to and from Malta.

The vans ran throughout the life of the Night Ferry service, although all the 6 vans with guards compartments lasted past 1969 many of those without were withdrawn from the service leaving only 7.

To the best of my knowledge this is the only remaining van from the service, therefore of paramount historical importance both to the Britain and France. Very little of the equipment from the Night Ferry is left, the ships are long gone and perhaps only five sleeping cars remain of which only one has a secure future. It is important that all in our powers is done to secure the remaining items for the enjoyment and education of future generations. This service was our only international train before the days of the Channel Tunnel. 2010 marks the 30th year since the service ceased, it would be good to mark the year by securing the future of at least one item from the service.

For more information on the Night Ferry please visit The Night Ferry Page or visit our online shop to perchase the book published by IRPS in 2011.


  1. Drawing of the Nord Ferry Van complete with guards compartment.
  2. End elevation, with electric rear tail lamp (for France) and bracket for oil lamp (typically UK!).
  3. Side profile, note the steel angle in place of the more usual footboard, in order to fit the UK loading gauge.
  4. Another side profile of the van, this time from the opposite side.
  5. The remaining numbers, although unsure as to its original Nord number.
  6. The other end, again note the lamp brackets.