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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 43 - Spring 1981

The Year of the Coach Body - Tony Lyster

1980 seems to have been notable, in Carriage and Wagon circles at least, as the Year of the Coach Body. It began in early January with the offer of a body at Shabbington, a small village near Thame. We were told it was ours to do with as we liked. On inspection, we found it was in the centre of a small building site. Unfortunately, due to its condition, it was beyond restoration - short of virtually turning it into a replica. We never found a number on it, but believe it was built by the GWR or used by them on the Metropolitan widened lines - it was a 5-compartment, once gaslit, arc roof coach, which taught many of us about coach construction as we ripped it apart. Many useful fittings were rescued from this body, which was probably a four wheeler of the 1880's, including 17 hinges, locks, mahogany panelling two very nice (and very heavy) pieces of solid oak and 5 doors, which will become a static display on door construction on a before and after theme (volunteers please). After the builder had fired the remains, we raked the ashes for about 30 cast iron 'elbows' or right angles used to strengthen the vehicle, most are clearly marked GWR.

Perhaps this would be a good point to narrate how a body is selected for the Quainton Railway Centre. Obviously, there is no point in hiring a crane to lift a body if it then disintegrates! Even if it holds together, but is 'rotten as pears', we would simply be wasting time and money if it arrived in a truly deplorable rotten state, as it will obviously be several years before we can afford time and money to restore it. The vehicle should also be a noteworthy example that fills a gap in our collection or is of a type not represented in Nationwide preservation. Before it arrives, assuming it crosses these hurdles, it must be approved by the Carriage and Wagon Sub-Committee and Executive Committee in the time honoured way. Once at Quainton, a use must be found for it - such as a shop or a store. The old London and North Western Railway Observation saloon (the chicken house) came in some years ago in this method and has been in use as a shop for much of its stay. Ideally, we try to purchase a suitable chassis for the body to be paired with in the future. If the body is not sound, then permission is sought to cannibalize it for spares, as at Shabbington - within our needs, time and resources, nothing potentially useful is wasted, as at Shabbington. Finally, it is always borne in mind that space is limited at Quainton and, therefore, we may one day have to say 'no'.

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A Lyster - Members of a 6024 Working Party removing the first section from one of the bodies

In May we were offered two bodies at Dunsmore, near Wendover, which had been built into a house around which an arboretum (that's a wood of specimen trees, to you) had since been grown. From information gathered on site - this detective work is always the most interesting part - we learnt they were delivered behind a Foden steam lorry in the 30's and were Wolverton built, London and North Western Railway arc roof, 4 wheel, 28 foot, 5-compartment thirds (diagram number 300) [Note 1] in excellent condition, but missing all compartments walls (except one) and virtually all the roof. So far as we are aware, there are no such vehicles preserved - due to the inaccessibility, the only way to move them was in bits (if you don't believe me, ask anyone who helped). Accordingly, over 160 man hours (in evenings and weekends) were expended, demolishing the surrounding house, moving the doors (we are two short) and sectionalising the bodies, one of which will be used by 6024, who assisted the work. Both are at present in the Up Yard if you can recognise jigsaws! It is hoped they will be rebuilt by Easter '81. All along, the dismantling was done with the intention of rebuilding as a running pair of vehicles one day - we shall only need a new floor, roof and cantrail, which may sound a lot but is within our present skill range. This type of vehicle was once very common - the LNWR building 104 to this diagram (or design) and 364 of this length. Due to the excellent condition of the bodies, I have good reason to believe that we shall, in time, find all original LNW paint details (coats of arms, etc.) - we already have one of the running numbers, as it was North Western practice to repeat those on each compartment ventilator.

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A Lyster - The House at Dunsmore

At the end of November, Eric (Dusty) Miller (he has a lot to answer for!) reminded me of another body on a friend's farm near Aylesbury. On inspection, this was a LNWR passenger brake van, totally beyond rescue, which is still in use as a hen house. However, we have permission to remove what we will - such as hinges - as long as we replace them. This may sound odd, but brass (yes, they are brass) coach hinges can be changed for old steel ones. Unfortunately, the wood is so bad that where screws can be turned the wood just powders away, so without a great deal of extra work it is difficult to acquire many swaps. Undeterred by the freezing wind, I nearly finished making measurements to draw a scale plan of this body, as it has several interesting features - such as a dog box with access from the platform only (has one been preserved?), 7 inch eaves, completely vertical sides, guards duckets and skylights.

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A Lyster - LNWR Brake Van on the Farm (Note the dog box, minus its door, in the nearest corner)

Five days before Christmas Robin Waywell (Dusty has a competitor!) passed information to me of a coach near Bedford, which I visited on Christmas Eve. After a puzzling time, it eventually dawned on me that it was a LNWR (same railway again) Inspection saloon. I hope to learn more about this body's history, which is sketchy in reference books. It was probably one of three vehicles converted from a sleeping car in the 1890's at Wolverton.

All the doors are towards one end, with a verandah, part of the toilet and many fittings still extant, including two pairs of seats which turn into beds - complete with original brightly coloured moquette and buttoned leather door. These four points - verandah, toilet tank fillers, seats and door - are not, so far, represented at Quainton. It is fortunate that, as the body was lived in until early December 1980, it is in exquisite condition and I am very pleased to say that the owner has donated it to us, for which we are very grateful. I will have further news of this six wheeler, once electrically lit, for the next issue.

Finally, I would like to thank all those who have helped with both the Shabbington and Dunsmore bodies in every way, particularly Dusty and Robin for their leads, Mr Colin Parker of Avenue Builders, Mr Mott of Aylesbury Vale District Council, Perry's Lorry Hire and Mr Norman Fields (Simon's daddy) for driving the Dunsmore lorry.

1 - Refer to the Dunsmore Coach stockbook entry for updated identification of these bodies.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1981 and so does not reflect events in the 33+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

The Year of the Coach Body - Tony Lyster - Quainton News No. 43 - Spring 1981

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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