Despite the stock being both tired and obsolete, the SR considered that there was significant useful life left in the bodies and instituted a programme of refurbishment, which was undertaken during 1935 and 1936 at the railway's Lancing Works. Some of the now spare underframes were also used to construct bogie luggage vans, such as our GBL No. 2462.
The SR diagram 31 lavatory third class vehicles were created by cutting the original 48-foot third class body into two sections and mounting them at each end of a new 58-foot Maunsell underframe, running on SR standard bogies. A 10-foot section was inserted comprising a single compartment with two lavatories, side by side. In the resultant vehicle only the middle two compartments of the vehicle had access to a lavatory. The diagram 31 vehicles were not renumbered from their pre-conversion SR number.
SR Head Office Order No. L801 of March 1934 authorised the work, which was carried out between January and April 1935. A prominent feature of all these rebuilt vehicles was the triangular-section weatherboard that ran the length of the body, disguising the join (the 48-foot body being narrower than the 58-foot underframe).
In service No. 320 generally ran as a loose carriage. However soon after conversion it was recorded by Dennis Cullum as operating in Set 324, a 9-set for special traffic /excursion work, which was an extended 4 LAV set of the type which our own 1520 also operated in. Such use was short-lived, since the set reverted to its original 4 LAV formation in late 1936. An example of the services it ran in later is that for 1957-59 it was allocated to the Southern operating district of BR(S), the Eastleigh, Southampton and Bournemouth areas.
Initially carrying Maunsell's olive green livery, it was subsequently repainted into Bulleid's malachite green, which it retained (with regular re-varnishes) until repainted at Lancing carriage works into Southern Region green on 4 October 1956, so was one of a handful of these coaches which missed out on the Crimson Lake livery.
Arriving on the Bluebell in May 1960 as one of our first two carriages, 320 saw use until withdrawn (for what were thought to be light repairs) after a decade in service. Considerable work was undertaken on the interior, but after a year's work its return
to service was thwarted by a combination of railway politics and a livery argument. The lower body-side panelling was stripped off, revealing a rotten bottom side, due to the body not being spaced off the underframe, and the major repairs then foundered through lack of facilities in the then-new carriage shed which, having been designed solely for storage, lacked even the most basic wood-working machinery.
By 1973 the management of the day were looking at BR-built suburban carriages to solve their immediate problems. The C&W found Bulleid carriages 2515 and 1482 a more practical proposition for a rapid overhaul and return to service than 320, and over the subsequent 40 years these and other Bulleids have served the railway well (especially compared to the suburbans, which only lasted a further decade).
As for 320, it has sadly been downhill all the way. Evicted from the carriage shed during the 1980s as part of the building evolved into a workshop, the inadequate protection of a makeshift tarpaulin failed to arrest deterioration. The replacement tarpaulin fitted some years back did just enough to ensure its survival, but when its condition was assessed some years ago to determine the viability of returning it to service quickly for one of the major Bluebell anniversaries it was concluded that the task would be a major one.
On 29 March 2018 it became one of 15 heritage vehicles then housed in the new 'Operation Undercover 4' storage shed at Horsted Keynes. The eventual restoration of this, an interesting vehicle and an important part of our collection, is a distant and still uncertain prospect.
Hornby released models of this interesting 58' SR-rebuilt stock in 2017, including a representation of 320 itself in malachite green Southern livery.
The bloodandcustard.com web page for the 58' rebuilds.
An Illustrated History of Southern Coaches by Mike King
published by Oxford Publishing Company, 2003. ISBN 0 86093 570 1.
L.S.W.R Carriages Volume One 1838-1900 by G.R.Weddell
published by Wild Swan Publications, 1992. ISBN 1 874103 08 9.
Maunsell's SR Steam Passenger Stock by David Gould
Third Edition, published by Oakwood Press, 2000. ISBN 0 85361 555 1.
These books may be available from the Bluebell Railway's Shop or, for a used or older edition, try The Carriage Shop at Horsted Keynes on your next visit.
Type: Lavatory Third
Built: March 1900, Eastleigh Works, as 48' 8-compartment Third
Rebuilt: March 1935, Lancing Works
Original No: LSWR 1288
Other Nos: LSWR 288 (from 1916 under the 1912 re-numbering), SR 320, BR S320S
SR diagram: 31
Seating: 88 3rd class
Weight: 30 tons
Withdrawn: July 1959
Preserved: May 1960
To Bluebell: 17 May 1960