British Railways inherited a variety of brake vans from each of the Big Four: GWR, LNER, Southern Railway and LMS due to the nationalisation of the railways in 1949.
A brake van is a wagon at the rear of a goods train where a guard would sit with a handbrake. The job was to provide extra braking force for a train and as an emergency hand brake.
All brake vans served the same purpose: to add extra brake-force to a train. Brake vans are operated by Brakemen who are in charge of making sure that the lights are in the correct place because at night a signalman would need to see the tail-lights to know that the train had not split, so that he can clear the line.
This example was built in 1887 by BRCW originally for the Eastern & Midland Railway (EMR).