Friday 15 May 2020


Illustration: Vintage Model Trains
There was a time when no model railway layout was complete without at least one of these.
It is, of course, a Hornby-Dublo Saxa Salt wagon, with its distinctive peaked roof.
Saxa Salt is still the country's leading brand of salt (although these days, the brand is part of  Premier Foods and its actual place of origin is never made clear).
Saxa was launched in 1907 by the Middlewich Salt Company, later to be absorbed by Cerebos, and was the core brand of both companies.
Nowadays, as explained on the Premier Foods website (link below), people asking for 'Saxa' are just as likely to be after sea salt, or rock salt or even 'low-salt' salt as ordinary table salt.
The younger element were always fascinated by the Saxa Salt railway wagons (Murgatroyd's and other salt companies used them too) resembling as they did, little 'houses' on wheels.
In fact, railway workers habitually referred to them as 'cottage tops'.
The 'house style' roof was there for a very good, and quite obvious, reason.
Salt had to be kept dry and the sloping roof was intended, just as a house roof is, to keep off the driving rain.
The wagons' roofs were covered in roofing felt, giving them even more of a look of a yellow garden shed on wheels.
Although these vehicles were very common in this and other salt districts, they were not unique to the trade.
They were also used for carrying lime and other powdered chemicals which needed to be kept dry.


(link updated 11th February 2019)

Editor's note (15th May 2020): Unfortunately, despite regular attempts to keep up with the vagaries of Premier Foods and its websites, we've found that the above link has, once again become invalid. Premier seems to have abandoned the idea of separate websites for certain of its products, Saxa being one of them. The closest we can get is the following, which really tells us nothing at all:


P.S. The illustration above is borrowed from e-bay. A piece of Miniature Middlewich history could be yours for less than a tenner, if you're quick.

Following the publication of this diary entry, Chris Beard got in touch to tell us of a preserved example of the once numerous Saxa Salt wagons in Scotland. Here's Chris's photograph of the real thing.

 Find out more here:


UPDATE (15th May 2020)

When this Diary Entry was featured in 'The Middlewich Diary Revisited' on the 15th May 2020, Colin Edmondson got in touch to tell us of yet another variant on this iconic railway wagon:

After seeing our post on the Salt Heritage In Cheshire group he writes: '(Here's) a 7 1/4" gauge one which used to be at the Brookside Miniature Railway in Poynton .I don't know where it is now, I suspect in Portmadoc'.

Many thanks to Colin for letting us see this version which, despite its diminutive size, looks like a serious piece of kit. Note that on the chassis are painted, rather improbably,  the words 'Return to Hornby Dublo', probably a sly reference to the fact that, as we've noted, the Saxa Salt wagon has long been a favourite on model railway layouts.

First published 11th February 2012
Updated and re-published 11th February 2019
and 15th May 2020.

MDR 150520

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