In addition, the Railway has a large number of vans and goods wagons, some of which have been overhauled, while others are awaiting restoration. Some, such as the ballast and sleeper wagons, continue to perform their intended functions on engineering trains. There are also a number of sleeping coaches, providing overnight accommodation for volunteer staff, and others which are used as shops or exhibition spaces, or as mess rooms.
The following is a summary of the coaching stock which is in service, together with brief details of the rest of the collection. A full list of our coaches is also available, as is a more detailed Review of the Carriage Fleet.
We have a set of four Metropolitan Railway
coaches, known as the Ashbury Stock, or the Chesham Set. These
coaches carried the majority of the Bluebell's passengers in the
early sixties, but from 1967 they were stored out of use,
except for the occasional outing for filming work. Between 1992 and 2006 the volunteer-led
restoration of these coaches has seen a
transformation from stripped out shells (due to dry and wet rot) into
magnificently restored period pieces. A sum of £40,000 has been
raised, covering the costs of materials.
The first two, the guard's brake coach, 387, and the seven-compartment third class coach 394 were completed in January 1999. The overhaul of the two other coaches, "composites" with both first and third class compartments, was then started, with 368 returning to service in May 2002, and 412 completed in December 2006.
The photo (from Jon Bowers) shows the four Metropolitan coaches, together with LBSCR 661 and LCDR 114
Our oldest coaches are all from the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. A very early (Craven era) 4-compartment second, built in 1856, is safely stored away as a kit of parts for eventual reconstruction, and a relatively complete 1858-built lantern-roofed full brake has recently been acquired. Another five are Stroudley coaches built between 1875 and 1890. One is a 4-compartment first class coach, No.661. The restoration work on this coach was funded by the Bluebell Railway Trust, and conducted by a small team of volunteers. The body of this coach was grounded as a bungalow, but is now mounted on a suitably modified underframe, and returned to service in July 2004. The two Stroudley Brakes arrived in May 1998, and have three compartments and distinctive shaped guard's duckets, where the body of the coach is widened to allow the guard to look along the length of the train. Restoration of 949 started in 2004, with an underframe prepared in advance to receive the rebuilt body. The other two Stroudley carriages are both five-compartment thirds which arrived in 2000 and 2008, and the restoration of 328 started with the preparation of an underframe for it in 2009. The aim is to create a complete 19th-century LBSCR set, to run with our Stroudley Terriers, "Stepney" and "Fenchurch".
There are also four London Chatham & Dover
Railway coaches, two six-wheelers and two
four-wheelers. All four were brake vehicles, having, as well as passenger
compartments, space for luggage and the guard. Brake Third,
No.114, once a grounded body used as a bungalow, has been fitted to a shortened SR van underframe prepared for it. It returned to traffic in November 2006. Because we don't need four brake vehicles, 3360 has been modified (with funding from the Big Lottery through the People's Millions program) as a wheel-chair-accesible semi-saloon, completed in 2011, when the overhaul of 3188 started. This coach, having been built as a 5-compartment third and converted to a brake vehicle about 1910, is being rebuilt back to its original condition. In 2010 we recovered a South Eastern Railway first-class saloon body, No.172, which will provide the first-class for an eventual SECR-liveried set with the LCDR carriages, to run with our SECR locos.
Semi-Royal Saloon No.806 was built in 1903 at the same time, and with the same body style, as the LNWR's two Royal Saloons built for King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. These Family Saloons (LNWR Diagram 1), with a day saloon and two small night saloons were frequently attached to the Royal Train for the use of royal staff, family or guests. The interior of the saloons is fitted out in the same "white naval" style as the two royal carriages which are preserved in the National Railway Museum. The corridors and vestibules are in polished timber, and the external doors are varnished mahogany, contrasting with the painted finish of the rest of the exterior.
In LMS days it had remained, along with the other Royal Train vehicles, in LNWR
livery but with LMS lettering, until repainted into standard LMS
livery during the Second World War to make it less conspicuous.
Privately owned, and restored at Tyseley in 1989 with the help of an
MSC scheme, this exquisite vehicle was purchased by a Bluebell member
in October 2000, and moved to the line to act as part of the
Bluebell's dining train, entering service in mid-November 2000
following mechanical maintenance and refurbishment of the interior.
LBSCR First 7598, after restoration at Horsted Keynes.
The other is 7598, a first class coach which, like 661, was used as a bungalow for the best part of sixty years. It was selected for preservation because the structure of the coach was sound, but all the panelling and interior has had to be reconstructed. Many components were acquired from similar coach bodies which were not complete or restorable. A suitable underframe and bogies were modified and repaired to take the body.
This was the
first bogie-coach body, fitted to a modified underframe on a
preserved railway to return to passenger service. The coach was
"rehabilitated" by volunteers over a period of seven years, entering
service in May 1999 carrying the Southern Railway livery of the
1920s. There is a separate web page for
In addition to the body of an 1885 saloon, we have three coaches built by the LSWR in the early years of the
20th century. One of them was in the Bluebell's first train,
purchased in 1960. Another, 1520, was used for many years in
our Fire Train. This third-class brake coach has been splendidly restored by a team of
volunteers for passenger use, as is seen here in Alex Morley's photo showing it on the day of its formal re-launch into service, which coincided with its centenary, in March 2010.
971 and 1098 can each carry 100 third class passengers
in ten separate compartments. 1098 received an overhaul in 1994,
involving repairs to the doors and body structure, and re-cladding of
the exterior. In 1997, 971 received a new
roof canvas, and then joined 1098 in the 1930s' lined olive green
livery, as well as having through lighting control fitted to ease use
of these coaches on runs through our tunnel. More details are
available on these coaches on a separate
web page. 971 is currently out of service pending an overhaul. This is the first major work that has had to be done
on it after 44 years running on the Bluebell!.
The brake end of SECR Brake coach No 1170, showing the "Birdcage" which provides the guard with a view along the train.
The restoration of an SECR "Birdcage brake", SR No.3363, started at the end of 1999. This will become the guard's brake coach for the SR-liveried vintage set, with completion in July 2011.
Three further coaches are in storage in our sidings. These will
eventually form a "Birdcage Trio Set", so called because the brake
coaches at each end of the set have a raised birdcage lookout for the
guard. Two of these ran in Bluebell trains in the 1960s and 70s, but
are now out of service awaiting major repairs, whilst the third was
stripped out whilst in departmental service on British Railways.
When the Southern Railway was formed in 1923 by the grouping of the latter three companies above, Richard Maunsell, the new Chief Mechanical Engineer, produced a distinctive and somewhat improved set of coach designs. We have a collection of thirteen of these coaches, including a restaurant and kitchen car pair and a travelling post office. At present three have been fully overhauled and run in the Southern's 1930s lined olive green livery, although one of these is currently not in regular service, having suffered water penetration, and is awaiting remedial attention.
6575 is a brake composite built in 1929. It was one of two coaches in the Bluebell's very first train in 1960. It received a major overhaul between 1979 and 1981, and is notable for the high windows on the corridor side of the vehicle. It is now out of service awaiting further attention.
1309, a third class saloon coach of 1935, was restored to original condition, having been stripped of its interior before arrival on the Bluebell. Its restoration in 1984 earned the department the first ever national "Coach of the Year" Award.
6686, another brake composite like 6575, but built to the later 1935 pattern without external window frames, has recently undergone a comprehensive overhaul, which has involved the replacement of much of the structural woodwork. It was "Highly Commended" in the Heritage Railway Association's 1998-9 Carriage Awards.
1336, a "drop-light" open third, returned to service at the end of 2008, after a decade-long overhaul, which involved the complete dismantling of the coach body to a bare underframe, and building the coach back up from there with many new structural timbers in place of originals which were badly split.
Other Maunsell coaches returning to traffic over the next few years should be the Hastings-line brake third 3687, which is only 8' wide, due to very restricted tunnel clearances on that line, and the Kitchen restaurant car 7864 for which fund raising is now under way.
Coaches built to the post-war designs of Oliver Bulleid form the backbone of the Bluebell's operating fleet, having been overhauled and returned to traffic in the mid seventies and early eighties. At one time we had six of these coaches in service, but this is now reduced to four, with two, which had not received heavy "Bluebell" overhauls, having suffered damage from water penetration causing their withdrawal from service awaiting repairs.
We currently have two brake coaches in service, 2526 and 4279, and two third class saloons, 1464, and 1482. Open Third 1481 and brake third 2515 were both in Bluebell service for over 25 years, but are now stored under tarpaulins awaiting further overhauls. During 2005 and early 2006 No.1464 (which was originally restored to service in 1986) received an intermediate overhaul of external panelling and window frames. Composite 5768 also ran on the Bluebell for many years and its overhaul started in late 2009.
Two others are in storage pending restoration or major overhaul.
The brake coaches are unusual in having an open saloon section and
two compartments. The Southern Railway provided this mixture as a
result of a passenger survey which they had conducted. The deeply
sprung and padded seats in these coaches are probably the most
comfortable ever provided for ordinary passengers.
The Pullman Car Company built and operated their own "cars" (the American word for coaches) to provide luxury dining services on trains operated by various railway companies. There are seven Pullmans on the Bluebell, mostly dating from the 1920s.
The first to enter service on the Railway was Car No. 64, a third class saloon seating 42. It ran for about 15 years before requiring a major overhaul, which was completed in 2006. It now runs carrying the name "Christine" as it did in its days on the Bulmer's promotional "Cider Train".
"Fingall" entered traffic in 1992 after a comprehensive overhaul. Seating 22 first class diners in individual arm chairs, she is the ultimate in luxury. The overhaul also included a completely new kitchen, fitted out to modern catering standards. It was withdrawn during 2010 for major repairs to its roof and upper body sides, where water penetration had caused some timbers to rot.
Pullman Car No.76, now known as "Lilian", was overhauled for us at Stewarts Lane and entered traffic in 1997. Car No.54 is a Pullman brake coach and is in storage awaiting a full overhaul. Our oldest Pullman is the body of 1891-built "Gilbert Car" No.33 of the SER, which was rebuilt as Pullman Car "Constance" in 1919.
To provide extra kitchen facilities following the departure of
"Bertha", a Met-Cam Pullman Kitchen First, "Eagle", was
hired between 2000 and 2008 from the National Railway Museum. "Doris" is a 1932-built "Brighton Belle" electric car, formerly located at Finsbury Park. It was purchased by the Bluebell with the intention that, with its kitchen facilities, it will be a useful part of the Pullman train. In the interim, the LMS BGZ brake (below) has been equipped with limited facilities. "Doris" requires substantial body repairs, but may be swapped, via the Brighton Belle Trust, with kitchen car "Carina".
The LMS Stove R after restoration.
32975 is a six-wheeled gangwayed guard's brake coach (known as
a BGZ or Stove R), built in 1938. It is normally used as the brake
vehicle for our Pullman train. It warrants special mention as, after
its restoration, it received the 1996/7 Heritage Railways Association
Coach Award, our third of these top national awards. During 2008 it received an interior modification to enable it to provide pantry services to the Golden Arrow train, including a hot water system, steam heating, and washing-up facilities. This is intended as a temporary, and completely reversible, modification until another pullman kitchen car is able to be overhauled. It released "Eagle" to enable that carriage to be returned to the NRM.
The most modern stock on the line at around 40 years old, the BR standard Mk.I coach was stylistically influenced by the SR Bulleid stock. However, its structure is of steel, whereas the older stock is wooden bodied with external steel sheeting. Compared to most other heritage railways, the Bluebell has relatively few of these vehicles, instead being able to run older vehicles, more typical of the steam era. These vehicles were mostly, in fact, built after our line was closed by British Railways!
1818 and 1838 are RMBs (Restaurant Miniature Buffets)
providing on-train refreshment facilities, restored in the 1980s, and have now received further major maintenance attention. 16210 is a
corridor composite coach, of very similar interior layout to the
Southern Railway Bulleid design. This has been most comprehensively
and expertly renovated, and entered service in late 1991.
25728 and 25769 are second class compartment coaches,
both of which have received structural overhauls in our workshops,
and brake second 35448 has had a light body-overhaul. 48-seat Open Second (SO) 4824 and Open First 3064 arrived on the railway in 2007 after overhauls elsewhere, but have had considerable work done to prepare them to provide a suitable environment for our christmas services, in addition to use in our Wealden Rambler Lounge Car train. Kitchen car 1674 arrived on loan in 2011 to cover for Pullman "Fingall" and then use as a support vehicle for the Wealden Rambler, and BCK 21246 was acquired in 2011 as an additional brake vehicle for our main service trains.
5034 is a former 64-seat SO, subsequently converted into a dormitory
for the former Travelling College train. This vehicle has
been overhauled and converted into a multi-purpose saloon with
wheelchair access. Another coach from the Travelling College is Open Second 4957 which received major structural repairs to both ends and part of one side in 2003. We have also run open second 4941, which
is now being overhauled, and also being modified to become a second multi-purpose saloon.
The department always welcomes new volunteers. If you feel inspired to help with the maintenance or renovation of one of this country's most historic collections of railway coaches, feel free to introduce yourself to any of the volunteers working in the shed at Horsted Keynes. They will be pleased to put a screwdriver or paintbrush in your hand and set you to work! There is a great variety of work within the department, painting and varnishing, electrical, mechanical, woodwork, metalwork, polishing, upholstery... But the most rewarding part is sitting in the coach you have helped to restore as it ventures down the line for its first test run!
You might be interested in the Development of the British Railway Carriage.
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