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Winter Whirlwind - Carriage Workshop blog December 2020

It comes as something of a relief, with an ample amount of confusion, to find myself sitting down to write the December carriage workshop blog. I’m always a little surprised to find another year has gone by, and this particular year all the more so! The last month has been a bit mental, with most of our effort going in to make sure that our two festive services are a real success. These are of course ‘Steam Illuminations’, and our Father Christmas events. 


Steam Illuminations has seen the most intense work. Every carriage that doesn’t have compartment seating has had screens installed between each bay, to help divide up the open plan carriages in a Covid compliant manner. We had rather gone to town with the screens, having made them with a varnished hardwood surround, encircling a clear perspex screen. What we were pleasantly surprised to find was that when installed, they actually looked like they had always been there! The wood panelling in most of our carriages mean they blend in really nicely. A lot of the Covid precautions we have all had to live with over the last year are very in your face (some of them especially so, I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s glasses are constantly steamed up!), so it’s refreshing to find some which are the opposite.


The screens are obviously not the only things we’ve been doing for Steam Illuminations though. Every carriage involved with the service has been through the workshop for dressing with the lights. They have been coming in in pairs, with the lights being attached to the carriage sides and roofs using magnets and an awful lot of cable ties. Before leaving they have all been tested, the LEDs being impressively bright even in daylight. Simon and the team have done a great job getting the lights sorted, and no doubt it will be a highlight of the railway calendar for years to come.


We’ve also helped out Father Christmas, by getting the carriages ready for this static event. Using the Griddle car (definitely the grooviest MK1 ever built – if Austin Powers had a railway carriage, it’d be one of these) and our very own Bulleid brake 4211. Santa’s grotto has been given the railway treatment, using yet more Perspex (one industry which most certainly hasn’t seen a downturn this year!) to give a frosted effect in every window.


In other work around the carriage workshop, at the start of the month the Hampshire Unit finally left after a good while of residence. Rob has made a lovely job of the repairs to the engine compartment, with paintwork so shiny you can see yourself in it! Talking of paintwork, our painter Jose has just finished work on his first carriage repaint. MK1 4423 was brought up to Ropley for some bodywork repairs and a repaint, ready for use in Steam Illuminations, and emerged from the paintshop looking really great, so well done Jose.


That about wraps it up for this year. If you come down to either Steam Illuminations or Santa then I hope you have a really great time, and let me take this opportunity to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year from all of us in the carriage workshop.


And I end with good news for our regular readers; after far too long there is finally a Bulleid carriage back in the workshop... Watch this space!


Thanks for reading,




Main Image: Father Christmas' festive carriage

Photo gallery

  • Covid screen construction coming to an end

  • Screens installed in the carriages

  • Engine bay bodyside repairs to the Hampshire unit complete

  • A before and after comparison

  • Flightcase envy, all containing exciting bits of kit for Steam Illuminations

  • Lights being tested in the carriage workshop

  • Thomas/Dave/Rudolph wearing his antlers (made by Gordon) with pride