Great Eastern Railway Number 5 was built in 1898 at the company's Stratford Works. It was built for the then Princess of Wales, Princess Alexandra, the wife of the future King Edward VII. It's recorded that it had two saloons at either end of the vehicle, as well as a smoking compartment, servants quarters and lavatory. The GER was regularly used by the Royal Family - the company served the Sandringham Estate. The coach ran in varnished teak livery.
After the Grouping of the railway companies, it was removed from Royal Train service and became the dedicated vehicle for the Stratford Civil Engineer to inspect the infrastructure and to travel around the network. The interior was modified with a pantry and Guard's compartment added. The toilet facility was retained, and one of the end saloons was lengthened during this work; the end windows were added at this point - essential to allow the Civil Engineer to inspect the railway Permanent Way. At a later date Gresley-pattern bogies were fitted.
The coach was privately purchased after its retirement in 1972 and put into storage - as seen here.
This vehicle has been independently surveyed and found to be "unique" and to be historically "very important".
The Furness Railway Trust purchased this vehicle in 2006. An initial examination found no significant deterioration had taken place. There was a crack in the roof canvas, but that presented no problems as long as the vehicle was stored under cover. As can be seen from the picture above, the vehicle was ventilated whilst in storage by leaving windows open to prevent a build up of condensation or damp. In the light of this assessment, the Committee of the Trust decided that no preventative maintenance was required at that stage.
Work on a rapid overhaul has been completed, outshopping the vehicle in its later guise as a special saloon. This allows the features as currently fitted to be conserved wherever possible, and to offer more practical seating and other facilities suitable for use by the general public in the 21st century. Even in this slightly less glamorous incarnation, this vehicle has an amazing story to tell, and will still offer people the chance to ride in the coach (and visit the very toilet compartment) once used by the wife of the heir to the throne!
The vehicle was overhauled at the Appleby Heritage Centre, which restored the original North London 2nd class coach for the Trust. They very generously made space available under cover, and regular working parties of FRT volunteers made swift progress on this project.
İFurness Railway Trust