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Screen Time

Carriage workshop blog, November 2020


The carriage workshop is in production line mode at the moment, involved in a very different sort of screen time to that which has swept the nation over the last few years!


We are working flat out to manufacture screens to make our carriages more covid compliant. Here at the Watercress line, most of our carriages are of the ‘open’ type, the clue being in the name. Unlike the compartments found in many vintage carriages, open carriages maximise their space for seating and passenger movement by not having partitions or compartments. The trouble with that, is in the current climate an open seating plan does not lend itself to social distancing!


Our plan for when services resume is to partition every seating bay with a specially made screen. This consists of a timber frame fixed in place on the back of every seat, encasing a clear Perspex screen. We are really going to town with them, as we want our passengers to still enjoy a nice experience, and the nicer we can make these screens, the more pleasant that experience will be.


Our initial target is to have enough for our Steam Illuminations service, which should now be running in December. For this we are making one hundred screens, each made of six pieces of timber… so six hundred sections of timber! Machining the sections up, preparing the surface for varnish, and then doing the actual varnishing has been a mammoth task. The whole workshop has been involved, with several of our volunteers really pulling out all the stops and coming in more than they normally would, which we have really appreciated (you know who you are, thanks so much). The assembly of the screens will commence next week, so pictures of the finished product will have to wait until next month, but I’ve tried to give a flavour of the production line and shear number of timbers in the photos accompanying this blog.


There is of course plenty of other work going on in and around the workshop. Rob has finished metalwork on the Hampshire unit, having been rebuilding the down (south) side engine bay, which was in very poor state. It is now being painted before final reassembly.


We are also playing host to our friends the two Phil’s from Alresford Train Care. Since getting hold of our new carriage jacks, the Phil’s have been appearing much more frequently at Ropley, as so many aspects of carriage and bogie maintenance are simplified if the bogies are whipped out, and with the jacks it is a very straightforward procedure. As I write, we have two carriages off their bogies. In the workshop TTO (Tourist Third Open) 3906 is on stands while its bogies are away having their tyres turned. It is having some minor interior and exterior work while the bogies are away, having not been in service for roughly eighteen months.


Down in the paint shop at the end of the wheel drop shed, our painter Jose is getting stuck in to what I think is his first carriage repaint, TSO (Tourist Second Open!) 4423 being his willing victim. 4423’s bogies have returned from tyre turning, and are having some work done on them on site before going back under once the work is finished in the paint shop.


One vehicle which hasn’t been seeing much work is BY 765. This was slated to become part of the Steam Illuminations set as a generator car. Sadly on dismantling, the job became far larger than had been anticipated, so it has been substituted by another vehicle. As it is now no longer watertight it is still in the workshop, and I think will be next in Rob’s sights for some tin bashing, once the Hampshire Unit is out, but currently looks a little forlorn without roof or floor!


Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can see you again here at the Watercress Line, and when you do visit, don’t forget to pop into the carriage workshop viewing gallery and see what we’re up to. In the meantime, stay safe.


Thanks for reading,




Main Image: MK1 TTO 3906 up on the stands while its bogies are away.

Photo gallery

  • Covid screen sections

  • Before and after varnish

  • In the varnish shop

  • Top sections. These are paired and will clamp around luggage rack brackets.

  • The Perspex screens freshly delivered from a supplier in Alton

  • Roof repairs in progress

  • Hampshire unit metalwork complete, filler and paintwork in progress before final reassembly

  • BY 765 currently on ice

  • Bogies for TSO 4423

  • 4423 in the paint shop

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