Saturday, 5 March 2016

COMPLETION SPECIAL: Mark 1 Suburban Third W46139

It has been an exciting week for the department, as the second of the four coaches being restored as part of the “Suburban 4” project was released into service following a two year restoration from scrap condition. This has involved suburban “Third” W46139, which carried its first passengers on the NNR when it departed Sheringham at 09:25 yesterday as part of the Spring Steam Gala.

W46139 at Weybourne on its very first passenger train on the NNR

W46139 was built in 1954 by British Railways’ Wolverton works and had a working career of just 18 years, relatively short by railway standards. The coach has nine full-width third class compartments and has no corridor within the coach and no access to any adjacent coaches, being given the original classification “Third” or “T”. Of the nine compartments, seven were smoking with the remaining two designated non-smoking. The layout was typically suburban, with the full width seats each seating six people and a full-width passageway that was said to allow another six to stand in each compartment. The coach could carry 108 seated passengers, total capacity increasing to 162 if desperate commuters stood in the compartments. W46139 was introduced in December 1954 as part of a batch of 300 T’s which was the most numerous of the suburban designs, in BR’s standard unlined Crimson livery. It was one of 125 T’s allocated to the Western Region and operated commuter services out of London, most likely Paddington station, westwards into the suburbs. The coach could also have operated on secondary services further afield if required. The light crimson livery proved difficult to keep clean and also faded badly in sunlight, so this was replaced after a few years service by the standard (for the time) maroon livery. The BR suburban stock was the last non-corridor coaching stock to be built in the UK, as modern practice was favouring multiple units and electrification for suburban services, which explains the short working careers of this type of stock. The Western Region had therefore finished with W46139 by 1966, the coach getting a six year reprieve by being transferred to the Eastern Region to work Great Northern suburban services out of London Kings Cross behind Class 31 diesel locomotives, by this time painted in BR’s new corporate blue livery. In 1972, electrification of these routes and the introduction of new multiple unit stock led to E46139 being withdrawn from service.

A total of 18 T’s were preserved during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the other 282 being scrapped by BR. However preservation was not to prove a guaranteed sanctuary, as the isolated compartments and numerous doors and windows resulted in the coaches being unsuitable for normal tourist railway operations, and the limited resources of enthusiasts in the 1980’s and 1990’s resulted in the situation where water damage and steel corrosion was far outstripping the capacity to conserve and repair the coaches. Consequently, most of the preserved T’s declined in condition to the extent that disposal was the only remaining option and by the 2010’s only five T’s were still in existence. Just two of these were in an operational condition, the rest being in storage in poor condition. Our example, W46139, was saved in 1972 and was stored at Manningtree for 12 months before finding a home at the East Anglian Railway Museum. We are unsure of what work was carried out to the coach whilst there, o if it carried passengers. W46139 was relocated to the Great Central Railway in 1981 where it was restored to lined maroon livery and operated passenger services there. Due to the corrosion issues already mentioned, the carriage required more serious work after a time and was put into storage and later sold to the Churnet Valley Railway in 1997 who had aspirations to create a three coach suburban set. Unfortunately, this never materialised and W46139 remained in storage during its time there.

In storage at the CVR

The vehicle’s long term future was secured in the early 2010’s when the NNR’s Suburban 4 project, lead by the late Clive Morris, was launched and W46139 was sold to the NNR for a nominal sum. This was instigated because the NNR’s original ”T” W46147 had never operated in passenger service in preservation and was in extremely poor condition. W46139 was in poor condition itself, but represented a far better restoration prospect than W46147. The NNR are grateful to the group at the Churnet Valley who practically donated W46139 to us, and we hope that W46139’s rebuild and launch in original condition assures the group that their actions have helped to save the coach. W46139 moved to the NNR in May 2011 and was stored awaiting workshop capacity to start its restoration.

In November 2013, W46139 was brought to Weybourne for the restoration to begin. Extreme levels of body corrosion and severe water damage to the interior meant that a full rebuild was required. The carriage was stripped down to a bare shell and shotblasted, following which a period of re-framing and re-skinning was undertaken.

W46139 looked a lot better after shotblasting, however this picture is deceiving as severe corrosion was to be found underneath 

Much of the body between the roof and the chassis had to be replaced with new. All 18 doors were stripped down and rebuilt, with several having to be replaced entirely with spare examples. Most of the windows had been smashed by vandals whilst in storage, so once the bodywork was completed the windows were replaced, the doors re-hung and the roof cleaned and repainted which made the vehicle watertight.

During bodywork reconstruction

The chassis and bogies were stripped down and mechanically overhauled before being repainted. The steam heating was repaired, with sections of new pipe where the old had corroded and the heating elements stripped down and overhauled. The interior was then reconstructed with the varnished woodwork being laboriously stripped and water staining reversed before being re-varnished. Many pieces which had rotted were replaced with either spare parts or machined from new timber. The seating was reupholstered with new material and the ceilings replaced with new plywood. The lino flooring was replaced as the original had suffered from water damage. A long period of fitting out and finishing works were completed before the final repainting into Crimson livery was completed. This final week before service has seen the finishing touches being applied, such as lettering/numbering, footboard repainting and the final adjustments to the doors.

Monkey helps out with the lettering!

W46139 was shunted out of the shed and formed into a 2-coach suburban mini-set with Brake Third E43357 (which we completed in May 2015) for use at the Spring Steam Gala.A lot of effort was put into finishing the coach to a good standard in time for the gala, and all of the staff and volunteers are pleased with the fruits of their labours.

W46139 and E43357 at Sheringham as a pair

I’m sure readers will agree W46139 looks excellent and now that we have two suburbans in traffic, we are starting to get a glimpse of what the full “Suburban 4” set is going to look like. W46139 now joins our operational fleet but will only used on an occasional basis to preserve its condition until the other two suburbans can be finished to join it and BT E43357.

This entire train is owned and restored by the NNR. "Ring Haw" leads E43357 & W46139 during the Steam Gala

Great Eastern Railway 1899 4 Wheel Brake Third 853

The splicing work on the body’s framework continues to progress, with one of the largest, the Holt/Seaward corner, now receiving its first bits of new timber, which has been glued/clamped/screwed into position, returning structural integrity to this previous rotten crevice! The other repairs to the landward side (introduced last week) are ongoing with more cutting out completed. A panel repair has also been made on the seaward side close to the Sheringham end corner. The most visual progress however has been the further painting of the ceiling and Sheringham end wall panels. This has transformed the interior, and the roof and end have now had two coats of wood penetrating primer.

Great Northern Railway (later M&GN) 1887 6 Wheel Third 129

A modest level of progress this week, with one of the four stands being painted into gloss.

British Railways 1962 Mark 1 First Open M3116

This coach has been moved into Bridge Road sheds for temporary accommodation for the duration of the Steam Gala, releasing space at Sheringham for the steamy shenanigans...

British Railways 1957 Mark 1 Tourist Second Open E4641

The re-glazing of the main sheets of glass has now been completed with the last pane being fitted this week, and all of the window sealant has been cut off neatly. The Holt corridor end panelwork has also been completed, the new sheets having been welded onto the end and painted in rust-proof primer.

On the interior, it has been “more of the same” with varnish stripping of the centre bulkheads continuing. The Holt end vestibule gets ever closer to completion, with the end sliding door now re-hung and the outside painted in primer and undercoat. The steam heat radiator has also been returned to the vestibule. One notable leap of progress has been the varnished side panelling from the carriage. All of this has now been taken out of storage and carefully sanded back to clean up the wood grain pattern within the veneer. It is worth mentioning that all these panels have already been varnish stripped, having been done so progressively over the past 12 months. So far, they have all been coated with their first coat of varnish, with more to follow.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Composite Lavatory E43041

Still awaiting the delivery of some pressed window side sections to allow re-panelling to commence.

British Railways 1955 Mark 1 Suburban Third Lavatory Open E48001

Now that W46139 has been completed, E48001 has been moved into the workshop for its final push towards re-entry into service and become the third of the suburban 4 coaches. The reports on this coach will therefore be increasing as the resources cannon is aimed squarely in its direction! We have gotten off to a good start, with the coach being lifted into the air the day after it came indoors and the Sheringham end bogie rolled out from underneath. The bogie is now being stripped down for overhaul and cleaning/repainting. Whilst this is happening, other volunteers have set to on the area of underframe above where the bogie sat completing the undesirable task of scraping down the old rust and paint so the chassis can be reprotected. This is a nasty job but one which really makes the coach look good and protect it from the elements, as W46139 has recently proven. On the bright side, E48001 is the last of the four suburban coaches to have its underframe and bogies restored!

1 comment:

  1. That coach deserves a top heritage award. Well done to everyone involved. Ian H Dorset