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Crest of the Furness Railway Trust


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Back in traffic again!The first vehicle in our vintage train is now at the Ribble Steam Railway, undergoing overhaul including a repaint.

The Heritage Lottery Fund backed restoration of the Furness Railway Trust's North London Railway Second Class carriage was completed in 2003. After many years' use as a store, it is now an atmospheric Victorian passenger vehicle once more. It's shown here making its passenger debut in restoration, with a special train for members of the Cumbrian Railways Association (the CRA made a grant towards the restoration project) on June 8th 2003.

This is the first vehicle to be completed for our Vintage Train. Once restoration is completed, it will be joined by three other former NLR vehicles - an identical 2nd class carriage (a unique pairing found nowhere else) in NLR Number 106, the First Class coach (later modified to be an Ambulance vehicle during the First World War), and the Birdcage Brake. Plus, our Vintage Train flagship, Princess Alexandra's Royal Coach.

The completed North London Railway 2nd class coachThis North London Second Class coach was built to carry passengers, and fulfilled this role until the 1920s. Since then it's spent most of its time as a store. But in 1991 a grant package, led by the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowed restoration to commence. These pictures show what a fine job has been done by the Appleby Heritage Centre where the restoration was carried out.

This coach body is deemed to be one of the most significant survivors from the Victorian era. The national Railway Heritage Carriage Survey Project says it is classified as 'very historically important'.

The North London coach almost completeThe coach body started life as a second-class carriage for the North London Railway Company (another early railway company in Britain, which, like the Furness Railway Company, became part of the London Midland Scottish Railway in 1923), and later served in West Cumberland. Later still it become a store at Ulverston station, and fulfilled a similar role for thirty years at Haverthwaite (see photo bottom right). But this is pretty much the extent of our knowledge: official records relating to carriage numbers in what is now Cumbria were lost in a fire in the 1950s, so the only chance of unravelling some of the riddle of this vehicle's life story and identity was through detective work with the vehicle itself during the restoration process.

We know it was built at the North London Railway's Bow works, but we don't know precisely when, or which running number was allocated. We do know it was used for many years on London commuter trains before coming to West Cumberland in what is now Cumbria, where it was used on former Furness Railway metals in workmen's trains. Even the nature of this move is something of a mystery: originally it was believed that the vehicle was sold to the Furness Railway, but evidence uncovered during the restoration points to a different story. The door handles were stamped LNWR - it was the London and North Western Railway which absorbed the old North London Railway company in 1914, and the LNWR also had a line to Workington in West Cumberland as well as "joint" powers with the Furness company on the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway. This gives plenty of reason for the former NLR coach to be plying the lines of West Cumberland, particularly after the first world war when there was thought to be a shortage of serviceable coaching stock. We know that NLR stock was operating in the Workington area, because one rake of stock was involved in a shunting accident there; this was noted in records at the LMS carriage works at Wolverton. Again, we don't know what number was allocated to the vehicle during its service in West Cumberland.

Old miner's pay checkSome other interesting clues have come to light during the restoration - although nothing to confirm the vehicle's true identity. A newspaper was found in the bodywork - The Daily Mail of Wednesday, October 7th, 1925! There was also a London Midland Scottish Railway leaflet for an International Rugby League Match between England and Wales on one side and details of Third Class tickets, possibly for a half day holiday trip to Workington. There are details from Carlisle to Workington Main, calling at Dalston, Wigton, Brampton, Aspatria, Bullgill and Dearham Bridge. Both are significant, because it suggests the carriage was in use in West Cumberland, as it was then, in the early years of the LMS, which took over from the Furness Railway in 1923. And there is this paycheck, which appears to be for a local mine (note the reference to "Seam" on the second line - coal mining was a key industry in this part of West Cumberland).

Old LMS leafletFrom behind the backs of the doors came a few more clues. Fragments of a London newspaper of 1916 suggest the vehicle was still in North London at this stage. And then, the flyer seen on the left, again from what is now Cumbria in the era of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, it's thought from the mid-1920s. This one features Whitsuntide excursions with timings that include the Lakeside Branch on what had until very recently been the Furness Railway - the same line where the coach is now running once more!

We have confirmed that it is indeed a second class carriage. Traces of the early LMS style '2' was found on the inside and outside of a number of the doors. We have also learned that the carriage had had a new roof fitted at some point in its career. The sides had been heightened by 1.75 inches and a new profile roof with greater headroom fitted. We suspect this was around 1914 because some of the door locks are stamped LNWR, 1914. Also it has been noted that there are two styles of door. The internal vent differs on two doors. These were probably fitted at the same time as the new roof. The majority of the doors are of the pattern fitted originally to this type of vehicle which means we've got an earlier rather than later example of the breed. Sadly though, no vehicle number (or indeed numbers, as it's likely to have had a different number in NLR, FR and LMS service) have come to light.

The FRT's 'North London' coach bodyWhat we do know is that after many years of service, it was parked at Ulverston Station sometime before the Second World War, where it was used as a store for the local Signal and Telegraph Department. At some time after this, possibly to help the war effort, the wheels and underframe were removed, and the body was placed on brick piers.

In 1971, it was on the move again - having been purchased from British Rail for the sum of £5, by members of the Lakeside Railway Society and moved to Haverthwaite Station where preparations were in hand at that time to reopen the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway as a steam railway tourist attraction.

For 30 years it was used as a store for the railway's Carriage and Wagon Department. In 1990, ownership was transferred to the Furness Railway Trust along with other LRS assets like "Cumbria" and former Great Western Railway 0-6-2T 5643.

Now it's been restored at the Appleby Heritage Centre and is the first vehicle in our Vintage Train.

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The FRT's North London Railway 2nd class coach