Smokebox Guide


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 Cast Iron Smokebox Numberplates were introduced by British Railways on Nationalisation in order to standardise the numbering between regions. All regions had a 5 digit number except for the old GWR where it was decided it would be a pity to scrap all the cabside plates on the locos and so it was more sensible to keep the 4 digit numbers that the locos were already allocated.

These numbers were carried on the smokebox door  with the plate painted black and the numbers white.


1xxx :  

Western Region 

3xxxx :  


Southern Region 


4xxxx :  

London Midland Scottish Region 

5xxxx :  


London Midland Scottish Region plus certain ex Lancashire & Yorkshire, Midland & Somerset & Dorset Locos. 

6xxxx :  


London North Eastern Region 


7xxxx :  

B.R. Standard 

8xxxx :  

B.R. Standard 

9xxxx :  

B.R. Standard 

Many of these plates survived and are regularly available at Auctions. When purchasing a plate one in ex loco condition with provenance is always preferable. Smokebox numberplates, being of cast iron,  were quite often broken when taken off and then welded by BR to save casting a new one so it is not unusual to find one that has been repaired.

A desirable smokebox from West Country Pacific Ilfracombe that, although welded when broken in service, was sold in our February 2006 auction for a record price of 4250.

For a list of the Top 5 Prices in Auction for Smokeboxes click here.

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