What shall we do now…?
Carriage workshop blog, March 2020
Well, there we have it. Passengers have travelled in Bulleid open third 1456 for the first time since the mid to late 1960s! I don’t know exactly when 1456 went out of service, but it is safe to assume some time around the end of Southern region steam in 1967, so it is quite the momentous occasion, for some of us rather overshadowing the visit of a certain Gresley pacific! It is the first part of the Canadian Pacific project to go into service, and has been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with funding for the underframe and bogies coming from the Arts Council via their Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material (PRISM) Fund.
The carriage went for its first test run on Thursday 6th February, and was taken down the line roughly half way to Alresford. Gordon and I didn’t quite make it on to the first trip as Sir Christopher of Yates left the yard without us, but we got on the second! It was immensely satisfying to see the carriage in the sunshine, and sit in the new seats watching the Hampshire countryside roll past. With some final tweaks to bogies and running gear, the carriage was passed fit for service during the last week of February, and carried its first passengers on 29th February, 2020.
Those who did travel may have spotted the few corners that need attending to still. The carriage will have tables in every bay, and of course the luggage racks will be installed. We also need to finish off all the fixtures and fittings in the toilet compartments, but the aim was to get the carriage operational for the visit of Flying Scotsman, as we needed all the capacity we could lay our hands on. The carriage will be coming back to us in the near future to have these final bits installed, and then will settle down as a valuable (some of us would argue the jewel in the crown!) of the running fleet here at the Watercress line.
If you’re reading this then you may well be aware of the visit of an additional four Bulleid carriages from our friends down at the Bluebell Railway. These will be formed into a six carriage Bulleid set with our own two operational vehicles, which will be quite a sight to see! It is especially fitting for 1456, as while most Bulleid carriage sets were of three carriages, 1456 (and indeed our next project 4367) were from the Bournemouth line dining sets which were made up of six carriages.
Talking of 4367, as 1456 has left us semi-permanently, it’s about time we get on with this next part of the CanPac project! One advantage we have in doing a second vehicle which is identical in many ways, is that we’ve been able to purchase or refurbish many components at the same time. One slightly bonkers way in which we are starting the restoration work is by doing its exterior paint job! It’s less silly than it sounds though, as the exterior panels are identical to 1456, we got them all made at the same time, and to help protect them they need painting. It struck us, that if we paint them nicely up to a first coat of gloss green on the exterior, that not only protects and seals them, but will in theory make the job of final painting shorter once it is all constructed, as it should have a fair depth of paint already on the vehicle already. Another couple of coats of gloss and job should be a good’un! That’s the theory at least…
In other work, we’ve had a fair turnover of vehicles in for some remedial work in recent weeks. The BY luggage van which the wagon group have been working on came in for a couple of days for some brake work, while right now the Toad brake van is in for work on a loose buffer and some new footboards before our Thomas the Tank Engine event.
We also have half of the Hampshire unit in. This is in a very sorry state, and Rob is busy rebuilding the framework on part of the engine compartment, which is really good to see. In many ways, this is one of the most important vehicles for recreating the history of the railway before its life as a heritage railway, as these Hampshire units worked the line during the last few years of its life, so it is really good that it is having some much-needed TLC here in the carriage workshop.
That about sums it up for a busy month, but thanks for reading, and I really hope you enjoy travelling in 1456, especially with the visiting Bluebell Bulleids. For my part, my huge thanks to everybody who has helped get 1456 back to its former glory, it looks wonderful and has been a massive team effort. You know who you are, so thanks for being part of the team.
Till next time,