Rail Express Systems (RES)
Rail Express Systems (RES)
Here we look at the Rail Express Systems (RES) and the Non-Passenger Carrying Coaching Stock (NPCCS) and Total Operations Processing System (TOPS).

Photo: NAA 94340 Plymouth 06/08/03 © Nigel Burkin 2003  
| EXIT | Rail Express Systems | EWS | TOPS | NPCCS |
| RES and Royal Mail Coaches |TOPS Designations | Links |


Here is a brief history of some of the changes in British Rail in the lead up to privatisation and beyond...


In 1991 it was decided to abandon the conveyance of freight in less than trainloads, except for containers carried between a few intermodal terminals. Thus TrainLoad Freight (TLF) was made up of three sectors:

  1. TLF Northeast
  2. TLF Southeast
  3. TLF West
British Rail Freight/Freightliner continued to carry containers of freight and eventually became Freightliner Ltd.

In 1994, TLF TrainLoad Freight was split into three separate divisions prior to privatisation:

  1. Loadhaul - formerly TLF Northeast
  2. Mainline Freight - formerly TLF Southeast
  3. Transrail Freight - formerly TLF West

In 1991, the parcel carrying operations of British Rail became Rail Express Systems (RES). It is thought that the predominantly red livery was chosen because its major customer was the Post Office.

Rail Express Systems

Rail Express Systems (RES) was formed in 1991, using the blue/grey and red livery as in the photo above. RES was responsible for running the Royal Mail's TPOs, some retained steam engines as well as the Royal Train.

In December 1995, as part of the privatisation sell-off, RES was bought by an international consortium which was lead by Wisconsin Central Transportation. In February 1996,  Transrail, Loadhaul and Mainline were also purchased and the thus the amalgamated divisions (and RES) began trading as the English, Welsh & Scottish Railway (EWS).

From about 1997 the new EWS maroon and yellow livery began to be introduced for its locomotives, while coaches remained in the RES colours.

In January 2001 the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) and Wisconsin Central Transportation Corp (WCTC) merged, but EWS remains as a UK subsidiary.

Class 47 Diesels

Anorak Fact: The newly painted red Rail Express Systems' Class 47 locos had acquired a reputation for being unreliable. To counter this, new generic loco names were devised, such as Resilient, Resourceful, Response, Resolute etc. All including the letters RES.

  • Reserved 47770
  • Reservist 47541
  • Resilient 47026, 47597,47741
  • Resolute 47642
  • Resolve 47769
  • Resonant 47768
  • Resounding 47630
  • Resourceful 47035, 47594, 47739
  • Respected 47578
  • Respite 47021, 47531, 47974, 47775
  • Resplendent 47625
  • Responsive 47039, 47565
  • Restitution 47585
  • Restive 47475
  • Restless 47562
  • Restored 47777, 47636
  • Resurgent 47588

Modifications: Grant Ritchie explains more about the modifications to the RES locos... [www.thejunction.org.uk/cl47.html]

"The RES Class 47/7 locomotives (47721 onwards) were converted from the standard 47/4 and 47/8 locomotives when in Rail Express Systems (RES) ownership c.1994. The conversion works included a number of reliability modifications, fitting RCH jumper cables (enabling the locomotives to communicate with the PCV driving trailers while reversing into the PRDC mail centre at Willesden) and also the fitting of long range fuel tanks."

Other named locos, such as 47476 Night Mail, confirmed the work of these Class 47 diesels.

EWS (English Welsh & Scottish Railway)

The successor to RES was the English Welsh & Scottish Railway, which trades as simply EWS... 

EWS 67014
From about 1997 the new EWS maroon and yellow livery began to be introduced for its locomotives, while coaches remained in the RES colours.

Photo: EWS 67014 Marshfield 21/08/00 © Steve Jones 2000 
Class 67 Diesels (67001 - 67030)

EWS found that the aging fleet of Class 47 diesels were not suitable for their improved operations of RES mail carrying duties, so new locos were ordered from GM (General Motors) who in turn contracted Alstrom to design and supply what was to be the new Class 67.

Imported from Valencia, Spain, the Class 67s had to undergo strict testing and some modifications before Railtrack allowed them to operate in the UK. However, by July 2001, the first diesel 67003 had been tested up 125 mph, proving that the new design was up to the job.

Total Operational Processing System (TOPS)

TOPS was introduced by British Rail in 1972 to improve the management and control of its rolling stock.

Vehicle type list:

"Every vehicle that is authorised for operation on the Railtrack network is allocated a TOPS carknd code. This comprises of a three letter code which is normally displayed on the vehicle, plus an additional fourth letter code called the aarkind which is not displayed but further defines the vehicle type on official records."

Eg. NAA is a Propelling Control Vehicle.

Non-Passenger Carrying Coaching Stock (NPCCS)

Mail Train Coaches


In the early days, mail train coaches were painted in the liveries of the operating companies. Thus those for use on the Southern Railway (SR) were finished in green.

All coaches could be identified by the 'Royal Mail' lettering.

Following nationalisation and the formation of British Railways in 1948, the new Mark 1 mail coaches were generally (with some exceptions) painted Post Office red, lined in black and yellow.

British Railways became British Rail (BR) in 1965 and by about 1970 even the mail coaches were repainted in the new blue/grey livery. It is suggested that Great Train Robbery (1963) lead to the need for trains carrying mail to be less obvious as to their contents. Prior to 1963, bullion was also carried on mail trains.

In 1986 as part of the filming for 'Night Mail II', TPO stock was again painted red, but with the new signage 'Royal Mail Letters'.

From about 1990, white lettering on postal stock coaches declared 'Royal Mail Travelling Post Office', being the first time that the usage was fully identified.

BR Parcels stock was painted blue/grey and red as part of the Rail Express System circa 1991. This gives the mix of red coaches of a typical mail train, as in the EWS photo above.


Mark 1 NPCCS Serial numbers:

80xxx for mail vans
94xxx for parcel vans

  • BCK Brake Composite Corridor
  • BFK Brake First Corridor
  • BFO Brake First Open
  • BG Brake Gangwayed Van
  • BPOT Brake Post Office Stowage Van
  • BSK Brake Standard Corridor
  • BSO Brake Standard Open
  • BSOT Brake Standard Open Trolley
  • BV Eurostar / DMU / EMU Barrier Vehicle
  • CK Composite Corridor
  • DBSO Driving Brake Standard Open
  • DLV Driving Brake Van
  • FK First Corridor
  • FO First Open
  • FOt First Open (Pantry)
  • GUV General Utility Van
  • HSBV HST Barrier Vehicle
  • LFK Lounge First
  • MFBV Mark 4 Barrier Vehicle
  • MRCF Motorail Loading Wagon
  • NPGV Euronight Generator Van
  • OC Observation Car
  • POS Post Office Sorting Van
  • POT Post Office Stowage Van
  • RB Restaurant Buffet
  • RBR Restaurant Buffet Refurbished
  • RF Restaurant First
  • RFB Restaurant First Buffet
  • RFM Restaurant First (Modular)
  • RFO Restaurant First (No Kitchen)
  • RLO Restaurant Lounge Open
  • RMB Restaurant Miniature Buffet
  • RMBT Restaurant Miniature Buffet Trolley
  • SK Standard Corridor
  • SO Standard Open
  • SLE Sleeping Car
  • SLEP Sleeping Car with Pantry
  • TCSD Trailer Conductors Standard (Disabled access)
  • TF Trailer First
  • TGS Trailer Guard's Standard
  • TRB Trailer Restaurant Buffet
  • TRFB Trailer Restaurant First Buffet
  • TRFK Trailer Restaurant First Kitchen
  • TRFM Trailer Restaurant First Modular
  • TRSB Trailer Restaurant Standard Buffet
  • TS Trailer Standard
  • TSO Tourist Standard Open
  • TSOD Tourist Standard Open (Disabled access)
  • TSOE Tourist Standard Open (End)
  • TSOT Tourist Standard Open (Trolley)
TOPS Designations

These consist of 4 characters - only the first three are marked on the rolling stock.

  • CKINDX - first 2 characters
    • GENKOC
    • (coach type)

First character (GENKOC)

  • N is for Non-Passenger Carrying Coaching Stock
Second character defines the type of NPCCS

  • NA Gangwayed Brake - 90 mph Steam Heat or Propelling Control Vehicle
  • NB High Security Gangwayed Brake 100 mph or Gangwayed Brake with Roller Shutter Doors 100 mph
  • NC Gangwayed Brake - Newspapers
  • ND Gangwayed Brake 90 mph
  • NE Gangwayed Brake 100/110 mph
  • NF Gangwayed Brake - Emergency Equipment Removed 100 mph
  • NG Motorail flat or Motorail Loading Ramp
  • NH Gangwayed Brake 100 mph
  • NI Gangwayed Brake with Roller Shutter Doors 110 mph
  • NJ General Utility Van 90 mph
  • NK General Utility Van with hinged beams for BRUTE Traffic 90 mph or General Utility Van with Roller Shutter Doors 100 mph
  • NL Newspaper Packing Van NM Sandite Car
  • NN Newspaper Courier Van
  • NO General Utility Van - ETH wired 100 mph
  • NQ General Utility Van - Modified Brake Blocks 110 mph
  • NP General Utility Van - Post Office/Motorail 100 mph
  • NR BAA Container Van
  • NS Post Office Sorting Van
  • NT Post Office Stowage Van
  • NU Brake Post Office Stowage Van
  • NV Side Loading Car Carrier
  • NW EWS Barrier Vehicle
  • NX Motorail Van 100 mph
  • NY Exhibition Van
  • NNZ Driving Van Trailer
Third character defines the brake type (BRAKTY) :

  • A  Air braked only
  • B  Air brakes and vacuum piped
  • F  Vacuum brake (AFI type)
  • G  Vacuum brakes (AFI type) and air piped
  • H  Dual air and vacuum (AFI type) brake
  • O  Unfitted (handbrake only)
  • P  Vacuum piped
  • Q  Air piped
  • R  Dual air and vacuum piped
  • V  Vacuum brake only
  • W  Vacuum brake and air piped
  • X  Dual air and vacuum braked
  • Y  Unfitted (self propelled civil engineers vehicles)
TOPS Carknd (Carriage kind)
80427 NTA
First two letters are TOPS code, and the third defines the brake type.

Rail express systems 80427 NTA

80xxx is Mark 1 coach
N is Non-Passenger Carrying Coaching Stock
T is Post Office Tender
A is Air brakes
Res (Rail express systems) & Royal Mail Coaches

Original Code Description TOPS Code
The 'Super BGs and GUVs' were conversions to Royal Mail specs. to enable the vans to carry 'York' containers. The modifications also included the fitting of high security roller shutter doors, steel non-slip floors and a segregated shunter's compartment.

The Super GUVs were first produced in 1993. The Super BGs were first produced in January 1995.

The PVCs were first trialled in 1993 and were a conversion of Class 307 EMU driving trailers, running at 40 mph or suitable for being hauled at 100 mph.
BG         Gangwayed, full Brakes  
Super BG Upgraded Gangwayed, full Brakes NBA
GUV General Utility Vehicles  
Super GUV Upgraded General Utility Vehicles NKA
PCV Propelling Control Vehicles NAA
POS Post Office Sorter NSX
POT Post Office Tender NTA
BPOT Brake Post Office Stowage Van  
POT (B) Post Office Tender (Brake)  


Class 67 Photo Gallery

Special thanks to Nigel Burkin and Steve Jones.
Design, images and text compiled by © Light-Straw. Page last updated Dec 2015.

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