The FRT's growing reputation secured another former North London Railway carriage body towards our vintage train, this time, one for First Class passengers.
What started with the restoration of the NLR Second Class carriage, a vehicle that had ended its life on Furness Railway metals, led to the related NLR Birdcage Brakevan coming into our possession. The third vehicle to come into Trust ownership was this, the NLR First Class variant.
This body has lain awaiting restoration at the Dean Forest Railway in Gloucestershire, and its owners have kindly agreed to donate it to the Trust for restoration. Of course, since this donation, the FRT has taken delivery of a fourth NLR carriage, a second example of the second-class variant.
The First class vehicle will sit perfectly alongside the already restored Second class carriage and its unrestored sister: it is the same length, but has four instead of five compartments - giving more leg room for the Victorian passengers prepared to pay the premium fare. Complementing this ensemble will be the the slightly shorter but otherwise matching brakevan. Plus, like our Royal Coach, this one has the potential to be used by modern day First Class fare-paying passengers.
But this coach has had a fascinating story of its own which the Trust is keen to tell. One of the four compartments has been modified, with the window alongside the door replaced with a second outward-opening door. This can just be seen in the photograph above: look carefully at fourth window along from the near end: this should be a normal panel with window above but is in fact another door. This modification was done during the First World War to allow the vehicle to be used in Ambulance Trains, bringing the wounded back from the Front. It is our intention to retain this feature: it adds to the interest of the vehicle, and also provides the perfect opportunity for it to be used by passengers in wheelchairs.
The vehicle has been brought north to Preston, where it will initially be placed in storage, pending full restoration. A chassis has been identified for this vehicle.
The donor vehicle is a former British Railways horsebox, that later saw service as a steam heating van on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in Yorkshire. After coming into FRT ownership it was placed in storage with space sponsored by the GlaxoSmithKline drugs manufacturing site in Ulverston. In October 2010 it was moved to Preston, where the scrap body was removed leaving a chassis ready to take the NLR First Class body. Initially the body was simply rested on the chassis pending a return to full working order.
This is not the only surviving North London Railway First Class carriage of this design in existence: another, in full working order, can be found at the Isle of Wight Railway. That vehicle, which has been restored to an exceedingly high standard, became something of an inspiration for the Trust for what could be achieved, after members visited the Isle of Wight during the early stages of the restoration of our Second Class carriage. Some patterns were also taken at that time.
Because this is not the only survivor, independent surveyors do not place such high significance on this NLR First Class carriage body, saying it is of "some importance". However, it is the only one modified for war service that is still extant, and as such is considered by the FRT to be a perfect addition to our vintage train.
İFurness Railway Trust