KEEPING THE WHEELS IN MOTION
A Brief History of Carriage and Wagon Department
THE EARLY YEARS
The origins of our Carriage and Wagon Department lie in the early years of the Bristol Suburban Railway Society. Our very first rolling stock consisted of two goods vans from the Port of Bristol Authority and an ex LMS Goods Brake Van (294176) which arrived in 1973. The Brake Van soon became the first passenger-carrying vehicle when, in 1974, the Society was able to offer rides to and from the Goods Loading Dock (where the Bears and green coaches are currently stabled).
The first carriage to come to us was a British Rail Mark 1 side corridor composite (both first and second class), M15447, purchased in 1976. This gave the Railway much needed extra passenger capacity when operated with the Brake Van as a push and pull train.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
In the following years, a number of vehicles have come and gone. The aforementioned 294176 is now at the Midsomer Norton project and our first carriage was eventually broken up for spares. However, one of the most significant landmarks in those early days was the simultaneous arrival of three coaches at Bitton - 35255, 25040 and 25299. These proved to be a great asset and now form the mainstay of the present operational fleet.
We now look after a large collection of stock (much of it not yet operational) which is stored at Bitton and at the former MOD depot at Long Marston - just north of Cheltenham. Individual coaches, wagons and trucks have a variety of owners which include enthusiasts, the AVR Trust and the AVR Trading Company. The number of vehicles, together with the distances involved between the two sites, place a very significant maintenance commitment on the Department - which is why we are always looking for members to volunteer to help us on these projects.
The Department looks after the upkeep of operational stock and, when time allows, the renovation of other items. Over the years, projects undertaken include the original work on M15447 to make it fit for passenger service, through to rebuilding Brake Second coach 35255 to incorporate the section for wheelchair users - plus refurbishing the Second Open 3745 (also known as "Ruth') and fitting it with vacuum brakes and steam heat.
SOME UNUSUAL VEHICLES
"Martha' - formerly First Class corridor 13231 - is now described as a Multi-purpose Open (MPO). It was withdrawn by British Rail and, for a while, was used by the SAS at Hereford for anti-terrorist training. Since its arrival at Bitton in 1987, the coach has been extensively rebuilt at Cranmore and by Rampart of Derby. It entered revenue-earning service in the Spring of 2004, mainly for use in the Steam 'n' Cuisine set and for corporate hire. It has already been the setting for several successful events.
"Doris" - formerly Restaurant Car 1933 - is now described as a Kitchen Car. It was originally designed by British Rail to run in trains with an Open Coach in order to provide a full meals service. It has since been extensively rebuilt to provide kitchen facilities for our popular Steam 'n' Cuisine trains. As part of the refurbishment, the Railway has recently spent over £5,000 on a new cooking range and additional stainless steel cladding.
Members' Mess Coach 99153. This was formerly Corridor Brake Second 35481 but was extensively rebuilt (not by us!) as a nuclear waste escort vehicle. However, it saw little use and is now resident at Bitton as a mess coach for the members.
We have enough stock to fulfil the Railway's likely passenger and wagon requirements for operating trains to Bath. However, not all of the vehicles are in running order and their future availability depends on labour and finance. Consequently all members are very welcome to come and help. No particular skills are required as suitable traing is given - just make contact with Ollie Holmes or Geoff Clark at Bitton.
Four members of the Carriage and Wagon Department take a break during a visit to Long Martson. Left to right: Geoff Clark, Doug Banks, James Webb and Terry Jones.
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This page last updated by Tony Wray on 23/1/2005.