Watercress Line

Carriage Shop January Blog

Well Happy New Year, and welcome to another roller-coaster twelve months of blog reports from the front line of carriage restoration.

As my regular readers (hello Mum!) will know, we are working on three carriages at the moment, two Southern Railway designed wooden bodied carriages which date from the late 1940’s, and a MK1 carriage from 1959. The wooden bodied carriages are part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Canadian Pacific project, which is restoring the Watercress Lines’ flagship Merchant Navy class locomotive Canadian Pacific along with the two carriages. The loco and carriages were designed by the same man, the magnificently named Oliver Vaughn Snell Bulleid. The two carriages were run from their introduction into traffic in 1948 until the mid to late 1960s, when they were retired from frontline service. They survived in varying states of decay until a plan for their restoration was put in place with the beginning of the Canadian Pacific project.

Both of the rebuilds are comprehensive. The carriages have both had bogie overhauls, and the underframes have been stripped back to bare metal, repaired where needed and painted back up to gloss. On 1456, which is the leader of the pack, most of the timber framework has been repaired, and we are currently in the middle of replacing the roof, which will eventually be covered in a canvas. We have had the steel sheeting for the outside of both carriages manufactures, and these include the window frames as an integral part. The toplights of the windows are made of aluminium, and the original ones are reusable. They’ve been refurbished by Graham (of the pens, gala coming up in February if you’re after any!) and Norman, and are now safely stored away in the carriage until they are needed.

Another major component (or indeed components!) that we are having manufactured, are the seats. Neither Bulleid carriage came to use with any seats, save for the frames in the two compartments of the second carriage to be restored, brake third 4367. This meant that we had to have new ones made if anybody is going to sit down when they’re finished. After our experience restoring a similar vehicle which we finished in 2015, we felt that a new seat unit could be manufactured that would look outwardly identical, but include a metal framework inside, making it a lot stronger than the old wooden ones. We made contact with Allen Pavitt, who has done a lot of work on seating for other preserved railways and he has come up with a design for the seats that ticks all the boxes. We had the first trial fit of a prototype seat frame just before Christmas, and it got a thumbs up all round. Allen even jumped up and down on it to show how strong it was – possibly showing off but it definitely proved the point!

Over on the MK1, things are progressing well. The London end was extremely rotten, and Rob has rebuilt the structure, but is also constructing new corner panels. These are tricky beasts, as they curve around the corner of the carriage, but also have to follow the radius of the carriage side (see photos). Starting with a flat sheet of metal, a slow process of slitting the sheets, bending, tack welding and grinding has produced both corners for the London end. I expect he’s part relieved, part not looking forward to doing the same on the county end of the carriage!

Moving to the interior of the carriage, Gordon has finished the window frames. They’ve been varnished and are being fitted for each individual window. As always seems to be the case, what should be identical has just the slight individuality to it, meaning it requires a little fettle up to fit in a specific position. Many of the panels have been varnished as well, and the steam heating is being worked on. Due to its lengthy time out of traffic, many of the radiators have become, how can I put it …bunged up! They will each be taken apart and overhauled so it’s nice and warm for you when the carriage is rolled out of the workshop, good as new.

That’s about it for now, thanks for reading



Please help support the progress of the Canadian Pacific project to bring back our flagship steam locomotive and two Bulleid carriages back to life by clicking here

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