Watercress Line

The Mid-Hampshire association of railway carriage archaeologists

First things first, this month we need to extend our sincerest congratulations to two groups, for the most impressive completions of their respective projects.

First off, and in no particular order, the Bulleid Society and the Bluebell Railway for the completion of Bulleid CK 5768. This is an all compartment Bulleid coach, including both first and third class compartments, a close cousin of what we’re working on but nicely different at the same time. I popped in to Horsted Keynes a couple of weekends back, and bumped into Roger who is one of the main men who worked on the carriage. We had a really nice chat, and managed to get a quick look at the carriage as it pulled in on a service train. Safe to say it looks beautiful, very well done to everybody down there who has worked on it! They’ve been a lot of help to us on the Bulleid coaches we’ve worked on at Ropley, so it’s interesting to see what they’ve done, and gives us a wonderfully high standard to aim for.

Secondly, and closer to home, the Urie society and everybody who has worked on 506 here at the Watercress Line. It isn’t often that a new loco comes out of the works, in fact I think it’s only the third in the seven years that I’ve been working at the railway, and it looks and is working beautifully. Well done! I should also say it’s jolly decent of them to paint it in Southern colours, just so it matches our Bulleid coaches! Sadly, they ignored my suggestion of photographic grey as a livery, but there’s always 499…

Back to the carriage workshop, and things are going really nicely. As I think I mentioned last time out, it’s a bit of a case of so near yet so far, but Bulleid open third 1456 is going together really nicely. Gordon has been concentrating on fitting out the interior, with all of the panels and window timbers being pretty much in now. The varnishing, which has been something of an epic job, has brought out the amazing grain in the sapele timber which we use, with matching veneer ply panels. It looks gorgeous and we can’t wait for you all to see it!

Following on behind him, I’ve been final fitting the seats. As I write, there is now just the one main seat unit to install, followed by four of the corner seats, so nearly the full complement. I tell you, that feels really good to see.

The seats have really been my secondary job recently though, having been concentrating mostly on the toilet compartments. These were structurally complete when last I wrote a blog, but the job of painting the components has been EPIC. Just laying out all the bits for the two toilet compartments takes up more than our mezzanine painting area can take, and everything needs at least a primer, an undercoat and two top coats. Some panels also have the added fun of being a varnished veneer ply panel, with a white top section, and a few other wacky combinations on top of that. What with leaving everything for 24 hours between coats... yeah, it’s taken ages but we’re pretty much there now. Hopefully I’ll start to install it all for the final time this week.

An interesting little nugget from the restoration, is uncovering the (for want of a better word) archaeology of the carriage. In the toilet compartments we found the inscription “Lancing 1956”, written in pencil. This was in an area of the north side toilet compartment, where I’ve been filling in everything with black gloss paint for waterproofing, and a panel on top of that. I couldn’t bring myself to obliterate it, so this bit has been varnished to preserve it, and I also added “Ropley 2019” (see photos). I just wish I knew who wrote it, perhaps it was “W. Field”, who took the time to punch his name into each side of the doorway between the saloons in the central vestibule (again, see photos). Sadly we haven’t been able to save too much of the timber of the carriage, which is a real shame, but these little bits will still be on it when it rolls out later this year, and I’m so glad. While we don’t quite know their story, and they won’t be visible, at least they’ll still be there. Possibly to baffle whoever takes it apart again in however many decades time to restore it again! Hopefully they add something to it then too.

Thanks for reading,

Ali

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