The Furness Railway Trust literally picked up the second old railway vehicle for its Vintage Train - thanks to a massive crane that plucked it out of a West Midlands garden and over the roof of a PC superstore!
This vehicle is a North London Railway 24' Guard's and Luggage Van with "birdcage" lookouts above the roof. It is a sister vehicle to the Trust's 2nd Class North London Railway coach, which was returned to full working order in 2003 after a Lottery-backed restoration, and the identical but unrestored NLR Second Class Carriage Number 106 and the NLR First Class coach body that later served as an Ambulance vehicle during the First World War. All three will form part of our Vintage Train, along with the flagship carriage, Princess Alexandra's Royal Saloon!
After service on Victorian London commuter trains, this brake coach was redeployed in the Birmingham area after the First World War. For the last 8 decades it has been a summerhouse, a shed and even a spare bedroom in a garden in Shirley!
The Trust came across this vehicle thanks to a chance conversation. An inspection showed the body to be in remarkably good condition, and the owner Mrs Sue Mansell kindly agreed to donate the vehicle to form part of the Trust's Vintage Train. It will play a key role: every train must include a van like this fitted with a handbrake and providing accommodation from the Guard.
On Tuesday March 25th 2003, a giant crane sited in the PC World car park over the garden fence from Mrs Mansell's house lifted the wooden body from its resting place of 80 years onto a waiting lorry for the journey to Cumbria.
The lift was not without its challenges - as well as the inevitable concerns about how well the Victorian body would stand up to the rigours of being moved, a mature tree hampered operations. In the end the crane operators hauled the vehicle high into the air, and swung it round right over the corner of the PC World building!
A Trust member who is keen to see the assembly of a vintage train made a sizeable donation towards the four-figure cost of the lift and transportation. In addition, South Lakeland District Council gave the Trust a grant of £150 towards the cost.
The Furness Railway Trust would like to express its gratitude to both the member and the Council for this support. Without it the Trust would have had to dig deep into limited funds, and would have had to divert money away from other pressing projects.
The Trust is now carrying out a full assessment of the body. A chassis has been identified for the vehicle, and the Trust is considering grant aid options to allow the vehicle to be restored to its Victorian splendour.
The Trust would like to record its sincere thanks to both Mrs Mansell, and to the staff of PC World Shirley, who made this possible. Tim Owen, the Chairman of the Furness Railway Trust, says "it was a spectacular moment, as the body was lifted clear of the garden, and quite an emotional one too. It was perfect!" He's now looking forward to seeing the vehicle restored and welcoming Mrs Mansell and the staff of PC World Shirley on its first train back in service!
İFurness Railway Trust