31319 leads a train of Vanwides at Crewe. ©Jon Gavin
British Rail built a large number of Vanwide wagons in response to high demand from various customers. They featured plywood sides with flush doors that slid to alleviate the problem of confined locations. The door opening method made a door aperture of 9ft possible which aided the loading of pallets by forklift truck. It was this wide opening that gave rise to their nickname. From 1977, 550 Vanwides were converted to VEA vans - they were refurbished and fitted with airbrakes to suit customers who could not handle the longer wheelbase of modern wagon designs. They were used on Speedlink trains as well as military specials. A decline in requirement led to most of these wagons being withdrawn in the Early 1990s. Some survived a little longer for internal use at Army bases and a number have also been preserved.
(Information provided by Dapol)