Visitors to the museum at York enjoying the Flying Scotsman season may be unaware of the vehicles displaced to allow it to take place. The fact is that the national collection of rail vehicles is too large to have just one home and every time a new display takes place, a great deal of organisation, not to say shunting of vehicles, takes place.
Locomotion Shildon is our other home base, but after that there are trusted locations around the country where national collection items are housed, cared for, and in some cases immeasurably improved. One of these is Rowsley on ‘Peak Rail’ where the London Midland and Scottish Carriage Association have just finished restoring LMS Vestibule Third No 7828. Just after Easter they gave this once humble vehicle its place in the sun at the front of a ‘re-launch’ special over Peak Rail’s rebuilt line to Matlock.
Travellers on board enjoyed the atmosphere of an ‘ex-works’ carriage, as though the clock had been turned back to 1925, when 7828 first emerged from the Derby’s Litchurch Lane works as one of 550 carriages of this type. The restoration had come about through the hard work of the LMSCA, who took over a project which had stalled in the 1980’s in 2003.
Careful work included renewal of a large part of the roof, repair of windows, re-upholstery of the seats with a moquette specially woven for it from the original pattern, and installing replica lights to the original design (with its spiky hint of the age of art deco). “A 3rd class carriage but a first class restoration” as my colleague Anthony Coulls put it at the re-launch (although today’s travellers rather marvelled at the interior which they felt was ‘First’ class not ‘Third’).
No 7828 joins a growing list of restored carriages – often the highlight of a visit to a restored railway and to the National Railway Museum. Here in York visitors to ‘Service with Style’ can sample two further examples (part of the nation’s heritage, though not part of the National Railway Museum’s collection) – LNER Brake 3rd No.3669 of 1930 and LNER ‘Thompson’ Buffet car No.1706 of 1947 both examples of long and careful restoration by dedicated volunteers associated with the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the Llangollen railway respectively.
There seems to be a growing trend within railway preservation for carriage restoration, a good thing surely, for it enfolds the traveller in a past railway environment in the same way as good historic houses do, allowing one to muse on what travel was really like way back then. It also means we have valuable partners to help care for the national collection, including some who have the dedication and skill to deliver restorations as good as that of 7828.
View the LMS Carriage Association’s own video of this wonderful restoration: