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Southern Railway Lavatory 3rd No.320

Lavatory 3rd No.320

No.320 with locomotive 323 Bluebell during its early days in service at the railway.

This carriage started life in 1900 as a 48-foot eight-compartment third built by the LSWR. By 1934 the ex-LSWR 48-foot stock was nearing the end of its working life and was in need of some major attention. In addition, much of it was built on wooden underframes, and some was still gas lit.

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 ran as a loose carriage, being allocated to the Southern operating district of BR(S) during 1957–59 (Eastleigh, Southampton, Bournemouth etc.)

No.320 in blue livery

A rare colour photo of No.320, taken at Sheffield Park in 1960, in the livery which was applied soon after its arrival.

Arriving on the Bluebell in May 1960 as one of our first two carriages, 320 saw use until withdrawn (for what were thought to be light repairs) after a decade in service.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 may have done just enough to ensure its survival.

As of May 2017 it is intended that this will be one of the heritage vehicles to be housed in the new 'Operation Undercover 4' storage shed at Horsted Keynes. Its eventual restoration is a distant, and still uncertain, prospect. Hornby have now released models of this interesting 58' SR-rebuilt stock, including a representation of 320 itself.

Recommended reading:

An Illustrated History of Southern Coaches by Mike King
published by Oxford Publishing Company, 2003. ISBN 0 86093 570 1.

Maunsell's SR Steam Passenger Stock 1923–1939 by David Gould
published by Oakwood Press, 1978/1981/1990. ISBN 0 85361 555 1 or ISBN 978 0 85361 555 2.

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: 1900
Rebuilt: 1935
Original No: LSWR 3288
Other Nos: LSWR (post-1912) 288, SR 320, BR S320S
SR diagram: 31
Seating: 88 3rd class
Length: 58'
Weight: 30 tons
Withdrawn: 1959
Preserved: 1960
To Bluebell: 17 May 1960
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Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional! Text ©Martin Skrzetuszewski and Richard Salmon, acknowledging research by Mike King
and information from Roger Williams
Original page created April 1995 by Richard Salmon
Page last updated by Jon Elphick, 15 June 2017 and Richard Salmon, 8 September 2017
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