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Setting up the dominoes

Welcome back to another year of updates from the Mid-Hants Railway carriage workshop!

I hope you all had a good festive season, and are looking forward to the new year. In the few days that we’ve been back, we’ve already made some rather good progress on Bulleid open-third 1456, but we’ve also got all of December to tell you about.

Before Christmas we began to fit the doors back on to the carriage. As I have stated in other blogs, fitting of doors is something of a brain teaser, but on the Bulleid coach we have the advantage of going in to new material. Too often it is a case of fitting doors back in to frames that have been in use for years, might be slightly damaged or twisted, had different hinges or even doors… basically it’s tricky stuff that may not want to fit. With the Bulleid coach, all of the timber door pillars are brand new, so no old holes to deal with. We went for a slightly different technique this time too, with an adjustable jig supporting the base of the doors to help get it in place before drilling the holes for the hinges, and it worked like a dream! By the Friday before Christmas all six doors were back in place on the coach, from memory four of them are those which came off the coach, with a couple of replacements from our stock of Bulleid doors in place of ones which were too damaged or rotten to be repaired.

In one of those strange bits of planning ahead, the main reason we’ve done the doors now is so that we can finish the roof! We’ve now put five coats of paint on the canvas roof, and are aiming for at least ten by the end of the restoration. We’ve applied the coats so far with none of the roof furniture (vents, water tank, rain strips etc.) in place, so that there is a water proof layer for those items to sit on. The next five coats with go on with these items in place. The trouble lies with the main gutter strip, which sits over the join between the canvas roof and the main side panels of the coach. To put this strip on, we need to have the narrow panel strips (which act as a drip trap) above each door installed, and to install these panels perfectly, we really need to doors in place so we can line them up. We often find seemingly unrelated items require us to work like this, akin to lining up the dominoes before knocking them all down in turn. The doors will be removed to bring the panels up to gloss behind the hinges, and also for some routering on the interior side of the door pillars, but will go back on fairly quickly.

Since coming back from the Christmas break, we’ve managed to tick several other items off the list of jobs. Gordon has been up on the roof installing the roof air vents and the water tank. Around the tank, he has also been putting in place the timber surrounds, over which another piece of canvas will be bedded down. A few inches closer to the ground, Graham and Norman have been carrying on fitting out the interior of the carriage, such as putting in place some of the ceiling vents which correspond to the roof vents which Gordon has installed. Sir Christopher of Yates has tested his vacuum pipe, which runs down the South side of the carriage, and upon finding it to be working perfectly, I went ahead and installed the South side skirt panels! This has dramatically changed the look of this side of the carriage, which is the one that most people see when they come in to the workshop, and I’ve been itching to do for yonks.

Over on the MK1 the mammoth task of varnishing the interior is proceeding, while preparing the exterior for painting is also being worked on. The fittings on each end have been put in place, and the bogies have had their wheels removed in readiness for tyre turning.

While speaking of the varnishing in the MK1, I should mention some photos brought in by Paul, a volunteer with us who has been doing a sterling job with the varnish brush. I’ve included one of his photos with the blog, a shot of Sir Nigel Gresley (the loco, not the man…) entering the London end of Ropley station, past the site of the carriage workshop – except there is no carriage workshop! I’m sure plenty of people remember the site this way, not me though! Really interesting to see, thanks Paul.

Happy new year everybody, thanks for reading.


Photo gallery

  • The first door goes on, adjustment jig showing beneath the door

  • The door seen from inside the coach

  • Gordon begins making the window beading

  • All the parts rough cut

  • The water tank in place with woodwork being fitted

  • Roof vents in place…

  • …corresponding ceiling vents underneath

  • Vacuum cylinders being refurbished

  • South side skirt panels fitted

  • MK1 London end fittings in place

  • Vintage shot of Ropley! Thanks Paul

  • Bulleid 1456

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