A Dining Car of Distinction
BY STEPHEN MIDDLETON
It was winter 1998. I had just acquired a very decrepit GER six wheel saloon and the full expensive enormity of restoring Nidd Valley Railway locomotive ‘Illingworth’ was sinking in. Then came a ‘phone call from Jackie Cope of the Vintage Carriage Trust, ‘There is a Victorian dining car in East Yorkshire that needs a home. If no one wants it the landowner is going to burn it some time next week. No one does want it, …. unless you do!’
With a heavy and reluctant heart I went to see it. It was withdrawn from LNER service in 1927 and the body bought by a farmer to accommodate pigs. An enthusiast had acquired it but was fighting a losing battle with the elements and the landowner wanted to clear the site. It was green with mould, hit by forklifts, chewed by rats, and the roof was pouring in water. Yet most of the original detail was there. It was definitely worth saving but I had nowhere to put it and no money.
104 years ago passengers on the East Coast Route from Kings Cross to Scotland were being weaned from the lunch stop en route. (On the 1st August 1900 the Flying Scotsman ceased its’ lunch stop at York.) Although the Great Northern Railway used a Pullman dining car in 1879 and built 60’ dining cars with kitchen and pantry for internal services in 1885 the East Coast Joint Stock companies (NBR, GNR and NER) did not use dining cars until 1893. Four first class and four third class vehicles were built to form part of four new trains but the comfort and space in the third class attracted first class passengers. These third class coaches were upgraded by rubbing out the word ‘Third’ and used on Newcastle services and eventually went in to NER stock. Four new third class coaches were ordered in 1893 to seat three passengers abreast, one plus two as in today’s first class instead of one plus one.
Numbered 188, 189, 222 and 223 they were designed by David Bain with a full length clerestory and side corridor connections. Despite the wish to make them more fitting to third class, the interior, according to railway historian David Jenkinson, ‘was an extraordinary cornucopia, East Coast Joint Stock’s solution to the third class challenge of its’ rivals. Whatever one may think of the stylish mish mash no one could seriously accuse the railways of not trying. This design was surely one of the most comprehensive vehicles ever offered to third class passengers at the time.’
Contemporary books and post cards of the period illustrated the interior and books right up to recent times feature the interior either with or without people, when wanting to portray the luxury of early dining cars.
Patrick Stirling himself, not a fan of bogie vehicles, wanted GNR first class vehicles to emulate these thirds in style! ‘I want to make them in general contour like the new East Coast third dining saloons, which have earned such high enconiums.’
(I have only ever heard the word ‘enconiums’ used once before, and that was by George W Bush. It means lavish praise.) Patrick Stirling was overruled and the new coaches were built with GNR roof contours and bow ends.
The four thirds were merely saloons in which people were served food. There were no kitchen facilities, lavatories or pantries, just seats and tables for 42 passengers. A six wheel kitchen car ran between one of these thirds and an 1893 first. The far saloon was designated a smoking area. This was a time of development and drama on the ECJS route and it is likely that these carriages formed part of the trains that ran the earlier ‘races to the North’ to Aberdeen, competing with trains from the West coast route throughout much of 1895.
From 1896 orders were given for all side gangway coaches to be changed to centre gangway and from the early 1900s Gould type gangways were replaced by the shorter Pullman versions. The three set, kitchen car, first and third were eventually split and in 1908 the third class seating was reduced to 33 to give space for a pantry and cloakroom. This made the thirds more self-sufficient.
Initially the thirds ran as part of trains comprising mainly six wheelers and pulled by Stirling singles or 2-4-0s and similar NER, NBR and GNSR types. Soon these locomotives were replaced by 4-4-0s and Atlantics and latterly NER, GNR and LNER Pacifics. Surrounding carriages appeared more modern too, with no clerestories and much larger windows, a consequence of glass technology. Upon withdrawal in 1927 the pioneering thirds must have looked very antiquated.
I knew that a carriage of such pedigree could not be destroyed so I said that I would buy it, together with an underframe from a Gresley suburban that was a similar length. My kind understanding partner, Sandie, paid for the coach for my birthday present but where to put it? The underframe was already partly scrapped, many parts being missing including a bolster and that had to be moved right away. The nearby Derwent Valley Railway offered a site for ‘emergency storage’ and I’ll always be grateful to them for that. However the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway were holding a committee meeting within a couple of days and in an extraordinary act of faith allowed me to bring to coach to Embsay.
The underframe came first, was lengthened by the addition of two 6” headstocks, gritblasted and painted. A bolster was acquired and the frame set on to Gresley bogies. Two cranes lifted the body on to a flat bed lorry and then from the lorry and on to the underframe. It was on wheels again after seventy one years. Almost every piece of brass hardware and many wood trims were marked ‘ECJS 189’ so there is no doubt about the identity of this coach.
The first job was to repair a few areas of rot in the roof, remove gutters and trims and bed new canvass on to the roof. Unfortunately it was still not watertight as rain just poured through the clerestory. There was no alternative but to reglaze and seal all beads in place before painting. There was a form of glass vent, making three pieces of glass in each opening. The clerestory took longer than repanelling the sides.
The body frame was excellent, generous proportioned teak that if anything improved with age. Many panels cleaned up well but nine new long panels were required. These were supplied by the LNERCA who generously supplied door locks and handles too. Over 100 teak frames had to be cleaned, repaired, glazed and varnished, a good winter job. These were fitted, aided by numbers to locate the correct frame.
To date the coach has five coats of varnish but it requires another seven coats before entering traffic. Most of the interior beads and fittings have been cleaned and replaced and the coach now resembles the colour picture post card that was so popular around the turn of the last century. Cleaning and repanelling the bulkheads, cleaning and refitting the pantry, lighting, lacquering and gold lining the interior is all that it required now. Then carpet can be laid and tables and chairs fitted. The remaining serious challenge is the underframe. I may have the opportunity to acquire a buck-eye coupling underframe to replace the screw coupled one that it currently sits on. The replacement also comes with all brakes systems in place. If I buy it that ECJS 189 could enter traffic next year and be compatible with Mk. 1 and Gresley stock. Otherwise it may be held back until 2004.
Progress has been slow as ECJS189 has not been a priority. More useful carriages, GNSR 34, L&Y No. 1 and GER 37 have all been restored since 1998. However the popularity of my coaches on the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway justifies its’ rapid completion as initially it can simply work as a saloon. Eventually the intention is to team it up with Charles Adam’s restaurant car that he converted from a Gresley designed tourist third and offer fine food.
As it enters service, more work will take place. The hat and wine racks will be reproduced and gold embellishment added. It will once again be the pride of the railway, giving the public a wonderful standard of accommodation. In the meantime, if there is anyone out there who is handy with a varnish brush and good at lining, please call me on 01423 561965