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Vintage Coaches. Pre and Post 1948 Carriages

Discussion in 'Heritage Rolling Stock' started by iowcr3429, Jan 17, 2020.

  1. iowcr3429

    iowcr3429 New Member

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    Hi All,

    Given that there has been a lot of talk about vintage carriages and BR Mk 1 coaches on other pages on this site I thought that a page on the rolling stock page would bring it all together.

    If you look back over the years to many steam railways starting out the Mk1 coach was simple to buy and put straight into traffic. It was in good condition and after a quick coat of paint allowed the railway to carry passengers from day one. On the coach coming up for any major expenditure, simple scrap it and go and buy another MK1. Most families on travelling in a coach on a heritage railway will travel in one and if it is in good condition the lady of the house will say that was nice and maybe come back for a second visit.

    The trouble between a mk1 and a vintage coach is that to restore a vintage coach needs a building to put it in and a number of years to restore it so taking a place in that building. That building needs tools like woodworking machines etc not a welder an some metal. If the coach is owned by a railway then the costs to restore it are put up by the railway not a person who is spending part of his money needed to put towards a family home and its costs. To buy something is easy, To restore and maintain is the hard bit.

    Many Vintage coaches are sitting in sidings awaiting the day of a start of restoration due to lack of money and many people who bought them are getting to the age where it may not happen. What to do then? sell it to the railway, sell it to someone else, scrap it or walk away.

    Some of the bigger railways have many good condition Pre and Post grouping vintage coaches and the means to restore others. They will be restored but are waiting their time because of a need of workshop space either because they are maintaining coaches already restored or the space left is being used on a new restoration.

    Many Mk1 coaches are now getting to the stage that expensive overhauls are now needed which will cost more than the cost of a vintage coach restoration so now it is time to get the railway to understand that people find things like compartment coaches different enough to bring in the punters, this way money can be put towards a vintage coach.

    Love or hate it there are some railways that run vintage coaches very well and and have a railway policy of restoring them. Others are starting are starting to get the idea. Look at the Southern coaches coming together on the Swanage railway, the Bluebell will start to get ahead now that the rot is being stopped by coaches being put undercover and the Isle of Wight just get on with it because they own all their stock. The Mid Hants should have had a policy of getting and putting together a set of LSWR Ironclad coaches but i fear that chance has past. As for the KESR and the amount of coaches that have gone for scrap over the years is a real shame, even now with a carriage shed that is not full due to no idea of what to do i fear.

    So over to you Guys to find a way to get your railway on side, so funding and using vintage coaches.

    Colin
     
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  2. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    I always seek out old carriages on preserved lines .... the older the better. But I doubt if Joe Public is quite so bothered. Restoring an old wooden bodied carriage is a massive undertaking, and probably doesn't make commercial sense. It's a labour of love.

    Too often, I think, Joe Public is fobbed off with carriages that haven't really been restored. Mk1, Mk2 and DMU stock that has been pressed into service with a superficial repaint, often very shabby internally with damaged and vandalised fittings and coverings. Sometimes it's the best the railways can do, with limited finance and manpower, but it must leave a poor impression.
     
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  3. dlaiow

    dlaiow New Member

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    Do you follow "IWSR C&W happenings" on Facebook where you can watch as Oldbury No.21 progresses from wreck to WOW. About 18 months in at mo and probably another 2 year s or so before we get to the WOW stage.
     
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  4. iowcr3429

    iowcr3429 New Member

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    Yes I've seen the Havenstreet facebook c+w page and it is very good. As to some railways having worn out coaches in service, the time of getting good condition mk1 and mk2 coaches out of service has past and most are starting to need major works. The fastest way to not get repeat family visit is to give a bad impression. Something different turns head. How many times do people wish to travel in a wooden coach at a premium if it looks different. I travelled in the Bluebell observation coach because it was different to the other coaches in service that day.
     
  5. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    The IWSR is one of my favorite lines, mainly because of its superb pre-grouping rolling stock and absence of Mk1s.
     
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  6. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Actually I am not quite so sure that "non enthusiasts" are less inclined to notice. The last time I went to the Bluebell, the Observation Car was crammed to the doors whilst the rest of the train (the normal Bluebell Mk. 1 "default setting") was sparsely occupied. I appreciate there could be a number of reasons for this.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2020
  7. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    The Bluebell Observation Car is a wonderful vehicle very different to almost all carriages so its no wonder it gets well patronised.

    The history of the vehicle and its classmates sounds fascinating
     
  8. Southernman99

    Southernman99 New Member Friend

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    One of the bigger issues with running vintage coaches is a combination of the availability of dry storage and, not trying to sound to pretentious is the much busier railways need rolling stock that can take a beating by average joe public. A Mk 1 will take a beating and come back for more. A wooden frame vehicle is more likely to suffer with repeated heavy use, which will increase the maintenance and the frequency of overhaul.

    Mark 1s aren't without their foibles though. The top corners, crash pillars and gutter joins are weak points.

    Each type of coach has their pros and cons.

    The times I make it to the Bluebell. I seek out the Maunsells or 1920s coaches rather than the 4 wheelers after 1 dreadful trip in a vehicle with flats on a 30ft chassis on 60ft joints and wooden seats. There is a lot to be said about a bogie coach. I hugely admire the work involved in restoring a vintage/ antique carriage and myself have been involved in a few as a furniture maker.
     
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  9. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Indeed it is the Bluebell's Maunsell droplight third which is one of the vehicles which show up Mk. 1s for the dull dogs they are.

    Tourist railways have been going for several decades now and they really need to realise they are in competition with theme parks, historic houses, gardens and the like in terms of quality.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2020
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  10. 61648

    61648 New Member

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    Indeed, and as regards quality of restoration with all due respect to the IoWSR, Bluebell and many others, from a personal point of view I can only say that M59137's most excellent and informative blog on the NNR page has really improved my own understanding of the issues involved and what can be achieved.
     
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  11. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I am very much a vintage carriage enthusiast, certainly when I go to galas what carriages are on offer are probably just as interesting as the locos. However, given I volunteer in a C+W department for a railway which only runs Mk1s, a little defence if I may.

    To have a train of vintage carriages first you need some to restore. This sounds obvious but for any of the "second generation" heritage railways which started in the 1980s onwards, there simply wasn't the availability that lines like the SVR, SDR, Bluebell, IoW etc. had. Sure, there were still carriages about, but far fewer in far worse condition than many of the vintage carriages that have been running on the aforementioned lines. These second generation lines also had a different situation in that the lines they aimed to restore had a lot less infrastructure than the SVR, KWVR etc. which in some cases, were actually handed keys to buildings! Let alone track work. So generally, any vintage carriages that did arrive on lines like the GWSR were privately owned, because the railway had other priorities, and Mk1s were easy. They were also just as old as Bulleid, Hawksworth, Thompson and Porthole stock when they were being preserved in the 1970s.

    So the Mk1s on lines starting in the '80s and '90s were just as old as the "vintage" stock being preserved in the '70s was, whilst what was left of the un-preserved "vintage" stock by the '80s was in much worse condition to start with. Anything older than that by the '80s was a chicken shed. Those few private coaches that ended up on these lines were never stored under cover, and workshop space for carriages in general was usually limited to one or two for quite some time. When the choice was between a coach that was basically complete albeit needing repair or an empty shell requiring tens of thousands of pounds' worth of skilled woodwork, it was a no-brainer. I'd also question the assertion that Mk1s were scrapped by their owners when they needed more work than a "new" one bought in. Certainly on the GWSR, we're still running some of the Mk1s that have been on the railway a very long time.

    By the time these second generation railways get to the point of being able to consider some more ambitious restorations, the problem is even worse. Over time those few privately owned vintage coaches have either been pinched by other railways who had the capability earlier on and whose owners were perfectly happy to move them on and relieve space at the original host railway, deteriorated to the point where scrapping is the only option, or require probably a decade of skilled work to restore them.

    Just think about that for a second. for railways not used to restoring anything but Mk1s, chances are the team will have more metal-workers and welders etc. than woodworkers. By the time a second gen. railway has go round to doing this, chances are there won't be a seperate support group for these carriages, it'll have to be the railway's main C+W works. a carriage in a workshop for 10 years is an enormous commitment. That's probably 7 heavy repairs to Mk1s you're not doing. So you're neglecting an entire rake of carriages and get one in return. I also don't believe that a heavy repair on a Mk1 can ever be more expensive than restoring what will, by now, be a basket-case vintage coach, as suggested by the OP.

    How is that improving the experience for the public, neglecting an entire train for one or two carriages? So then we come to Mk1s themselves. Yes, I think the public probably can differentiate between them and some vintage stock, but I doubt some of it will leave a much different lasting impression. An observation car, a pullman, a 4 wheeler, or something obviously wooden like the teak Gresleys or Mets, yes. Anything post-1930 though and I'm not so sure. Yes, we might be able to tell the difference, but is that really going to be the difference between the public making a return visit or not? The difference between a clean, well restored, wooden panelled, re-upholstered Mk1 and a tacky, faded, formica one is far more likely to have an impact on the public than the difference between the former and the standard stock from Mr Bulleid, Mr Stanier or Mr Hawksworth. I could probably be more crude, and say the difference between compartments and open stock is far more likely to be noted than a leather strap on the droplight (Mk1 droplights hold enough fascinating for most f the public these days!)

    I just think it's worth bearing all this in mind when we opine about railways with and without vintage carriages, as there's so much more behind it than just preferences of the people working there.
     
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  12. iowcr3429

    iowcr3429 New Member

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    Thanks Flying Scotsman, A well thought out response to my original post. Great to hear the other side of the story from someone defending mk1 coaches. I follow your railways blogs so know the hard work that goes into keeping and upgrading your railways carriages. Well done to all.
     
  13. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Forgive me but I get a strong flavour of Mandy Rice-Davies' celebrated remark "he would say that wouldn't he". It was very early on when the crucial and IMHO wrong decisions were taken generally. Even in the I.O.W., serious thought was given, so I gather, to acquiring withdrawn emu stock, completely out of character but short in length and air braked. It would have taken relatively little work to put this in service and the result would have been horrible! Fortunately, someone had the idea of rescuing grounded bodies and the tenth is currently in course of rebuild.

    Railway preservation involves all sorts of compromises, some of them messy. Hopefully, the "universal Mk.1" will not prove to be one compromise too many as I fear it may.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2020
  14. Andy Williams

    Andy Williams Member

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    To put things in perspective, when the SVR bought their first LMS carriages in 1968 some of them were only 18 years old, being built by BR in 1950 to an LMS design. The youngest mark 1 carriage on the railway was built in 1963 and is now over 56 years old.

    The majority of rolling stock on the SVR has now spent many years longer in preservation service than ever it did in BR and pre-nationalisation ownership.

    Andy
     
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  15. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Mere striplings.:)
     
  16. Andy Williams

    Andy Williams Member

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    Unfortunately, even if every pre-nationalisation carriage that was left in existence by 1980, as either a departmental conversion or a grounded body had been restored to traffic, and the consequent supplies of funding and labour had been limitless, there would still not have been enough of them to satisfy the current operational requirements of all standard gauge heritage railways.

    The operation of the SVR, which has always been at the forefront of restoring and regularly operating GWR, LMS & LNER carriages, would have been completely unsustainable without its fleet of Mark 1s.

    The Mark 1 carriage is a fact of life. Get over it..!!
     
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  17. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Interesting carriage indeed. I believe the LNWR built two of them; knowing what we know now, if we had a time machine we'd go back and get the other one I'm sure. I believe at one time it held the record carriage mileage on the Bluebell, though I think now one of the wheelchair-accessible Mark 1s has gone past it. At the moment though I believe it is sidelined needing extensive maintenance on the brakes, though hopefully it will play a role in our anniversary year.

    Worth reflecting on the fact that it has now run for longer, still on its original underframe, on the Bluebell than it ever did for its previous owners.

    The droplight third is a lovely carriage, in my view one of the three most pleasant "ordinary" carriages to ride in (the others being the SECR Birdcage 3363 and the LSWR brake 3rd 1520).

    Having said that, it does show the importance of considering the relative importance of the cart of carriages and the horse of carriage storage. Given the historic weakness of the design of the droplight windows, a carriage like that would decline very rapidly if left outside. It is only the fact that undercover carriage storage was available that made the restoration viable. It did nonetheless seemingly run a large mileage last year along in the Maunsell set.

    Not all SR carriages are created equal: a carriage-fitter acquaintance of mine is of the opinion that while the Maunsells are, in the main, fairly bullet-proof, the Bulleids are a handful to restore. I believe that has a lot to do with being post war construction with lower quality materials. Do Thompson and Hawksworth carriages have the same reputation?

    Tom
     
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  18. toplight

    toplight Member

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    The Gloucestershire Warwickshire did at one time have quite a lot of vintage carriages. They had 4 Gwr toplights which came from Dawlish in 1981 (ex camping coaches), there was a gwr auto trailer, (the one now being rebuilt on the West Somerset), an lms inspection saloon, a hawksworth brake used by the pw department (all were owned by the railway itself). Then there were a number of wrecked lms coaches owned by the 8f group.

    The railway didn't want to do anything with them though and they were all got rid of. The LMS inspection saloon was fully restored at Winchcombe by a small team and was just being completed when I started there. It was used famously by Princess Ann when she opened the Cheltenham extension but after that never seemed to get used and eventually left the railway. They seemed to have no interest in using it. I wanted to work on the old stuff myself but realised I would have to change lines to do so, Another guy I knew there thought the same so we both moved lines and started our own project elsewhere.
     
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  19. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Right back at'cha Paul! ;)

    No, it was not a decision to be made, it was a reality to accept. There is a world of difference between a railway that started off like this:

    [​IMG]

    And one like this:

    [​IMG]

    And this was the only station where any buildings even survived!

    Expecting a nascent railway society with no steamable locomotives, no carriage workshops, no track, no stations to restore carriages in much worse condition 20 years later than a railway more or less intact to erect a workshop to restore a carriage in that probably wouldn't emerge for 5 or ten years, and then erect a carriage shed to put it in, is foolish.
     
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  20. Robin

    Robin Member

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    The list of carriages scrapped for parts at the SVR, both Mk 1 and pre-nationalisation, makes sad reading today. Certainly some were bought as basket cases at the time for just that purpose but even so, as they say, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there".

    https://www.svrwiki.com/Carriages_formerly_resident_on_the_SVR#Carriages_scrapped_while_at_the_SVR
     
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