Built as one of a large number of similar coaches to the LCDR's standard design of what might be considered "ordinary" stock, it was subsequently converted into a brake vehicle, probably around 1910. In Southern Railway days it was eventually placed in set 835 - with 12 to 14 similar vehicles, and probably mainly used for excursions or hop-pickers trains, until withdrawn from service in 1935.
After withdrawal, like many other such carriage bodies, it was sold, without its underframe, for use as a domestic dwelling, named "The Coaches" in Yarcombe, Devon, in the company of LSWR saloon No.25, where it remained, lived in, until the death of its owner. Its new owners were keen to see the carriages preserved, and once planning permission was granted for a replacement building on the site, made available to the Bluebell. The costs of transport were kindly covered, at short notice, by the Bluebell Railway Trust, and the move was coordinated by Peter Milnes. The photo to the right, taken from the planning application for redevelopment, shows "The Coaches" as they were prior to demolition and removal to the Bluebell in 2005.
As originally built, a full third, the vehicle was of great interest to the Bluebell, since our aim is to reconstruct a train of LCDR vehicles, and non-brake coaches are in short supply. It thus had a high priority for overhaul, to join Brake 3rd 114 and Semi-saloon No.3360 to enhance the seating capacity on our train of Victorian LCDR/SER carriages. Although built as a 6 wheeler, it is currently more practical to restore it using a 4-wheel underframe, and indeed some coaches of this design were converted to 4-wheelers later in their life for use on the Isle of Wight.
The carriage, after 5 and a half years stored under a tarpaulin at Horsted Keynes sitting temporarily on the underframe of former SR Bulleid coach 4035, entered the C&W works on 15th June 2011 for overhaul, with funding for materials provided by The Bluebell Railway Trust. The underframe from Southern Railway Passenger Luggage Van No.1507 (later DB 977182) was shortened by 4-ft and rebuilt with a new headstock to accomodate the body.
Dave Clarke's two photos below show the carriage during its restoration, complete with a new door pillar, and the shadow of the original LCDR lettering on a waist panel, now preserved under layers of fresh varnish beneath the purple lake paint.
Between 1950 and 1978 the carriages were occupied by Nelson and Gladys Long, and we were pleased to have two of their nieces, Jenny and Mary, and Jenny's husband Diego, with us for the relaunch on 18 June 2016. The sisters were able to share their memories of visiting their Aunt and Uncle, and hence these two carriages, in the 1950s. Jenny Dal Bello is seen in Richard Salmon's photo below presenting Tony Clements and Dave Clarke with photos, provided by one of their cousins, showing the carriages at Yarcombe in 1977.
The replica glass-fibre reinforced resin worksplate is based on one dated 1882 which was recovered from LCDR Horsebox No.1. It is understood that these were painted blue and positioned on the headstock (the end of the underframe), which is what we have also done.
Because the Stones light fittings survived in the passenger compartments it was decided to restore the coach to the condition it ran in after the fitting of electric lighting, so, unlike the first three restorations of 4-wheelers we have undertaken, this one does not sport the oil-lamp chimneys on the roof, instead having the external electrical conduit as fitted on the roof by the SECR (although the cables are, in our restoration, concealed within the roof itself).
Dave Clarke provides an album which covers the 5-year restoration of No.3188 in detail, and Alex Morley's album shows more of the special train run yesterday. Jon Bower's photo below shows the restoration team assembled for a group photo.