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Mr Valentine would be proud…

It's been another interesting month in the carriage workshop at Ropley station, not least because of a slightly unplanned visit by what would no doubt be the favourite vehicle on the railway of Mr. Valentine from the classic Ealing Comedy, the Titfield Thunderbolt; our Real Ale Train bar car. While perhaps not being a beer man himself ("Wines and spirits first!"), I'm sure he would approve of our latest endeavour.

Starting as usual with the Bulleid coaches, early in January we took delivery of some very special items, namely the main window glass for both Bulleid carriages. This has been manufactured for us by Romag, who are a specialist in the field, making glass for new trains by Bombardier and Hitachi. It's great to have this in stock now, and we wasted no time in offering up a piece of glass to a frame in open third 1456 to test fit. It was one of those situations where we KNEW it would fit, but there's always that niggley little voice at the back of the mind... thankfully it was spot on!

Before fitting all of this main window glass, it is much easier to install the toplight units, so that's what we're doing. These have been refurbished in house by some of our loyal band of volunteers, and are going back in now. We've just finished putting in the eight toplights into the London end saloon of the carriage, and next week will crack on with fitting the main glass to this end, before we move on to the country end saloon toplights, then main windows. We're doing it this way so we can hasten turning the carriage (or at least the main saloons) into something of a sealed unit, because we expect delivery of the seating fairly soon. We are still raising money for these, so if you want to come and travel in style in one of our Bulleid carriages on the Watercress Line sooner rather than later, then how about helping us along with a donation? Big or small, it all helps! Click here to donate

Other jobs completed recently include the installation of the final exterior panels to the carriage, the small sections above each door. These have been sealed in and painted, and now await the fitting of the rain strips and gutters on top. Once these are on, we can get back to painting the roof (which usually calls for a day of Gordon and I on top of the carriage with Pink Floyd blaring as loud as possible!). We've also begun putting in place the communication cord gear on the country end of the carriage, and begun manufacturing the new interior window beading. Unlike our last project, Bulleid brake third 4211, these timber beadings are not what hold in the window glass themselves, but are simply decorative. Gordon has been making noise and sawdust, and now many sections are up with Roger in the painting area for some coats of varnish.

So, now we come to the section of the blog which might interest the beer drinkers among you. All our carriages undergo a thorough examination every year, and on inspection during the first weeks of January, some worrying areas became apparent in the floor of the BR MK1 BSK which is the Bar car for our popular Real Ale Train (or RAT). With around six weeks to go until the next RAT, it was decided to bite the bullet and replace the floor in both the former luggage area (and now the bar) at the London end of the carriage, and the toilet at the country end.

CK 16083 has been removed from the carriage workshop into temporary dry storage in the wheel-drop shed, and the bar car has come in. The original construction of the brake end floor is of corrugated steel with a bitumen-based material poured on top. This has been (messily) removed, and will be replaced by two layers of inch thick plywood. We ordered nice big 10x5 sheets of inch ply for this, and Sydenhams our timber merchant did us proud by getting the ply to us quickly (thanks chaps!).

While the bar end makes up the greater proportion of the floor area, the toilet area at the country end of the carriage is perhaps a trickier situation. With the water tank and the toilet walls, it was more difficult to see what was going on in this section. The tank has been removed, along with the toilet walls and the floor, all of which will either be refurbished or replaced.

While the bar car is putting us under a little pressure, it's good to reconnect with the working railway, as it's something that can feel strangely distant from us in the carriage workshop, while working only on vehicles that are under long term restoration. Sometimes the idea of actually seeing them move can feel a bit abstract, so doing some work on one of the running fleet is good. By the time you're supping that first pint of the evening, propping up the bar on the RAT, you probably won't even be able to tell what we've done (except perhaps for the faint whiff of new paint!), but it will have been some fairly major surgery on an important vehicle for the railway.

More on both carriages next month, thanks for reading!


Photo gallery

  • A very special delivery of glass

  • First test fit of a toplight

  • The London end saloon toplights are in!

  • A look inside

  • Panels above the window

  • The south side

  • New top window timbers

  • New bottom window timbers

  • RAT train customers, look away now!

  • Out with the old...

  • Yet more removal

  • The new floor boards are painted

  • What is normally hidden beneath the bar!

  • Sydenhams doing us proud even in the snow

  • The approach to Ropley station (compare this with the old photo accompanying the last blog!)

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