Car 54, which had been built in 1923, is seen in the carriage works in 2003 for an assessment of its condition. (Richard Salmon)
This coach, originally built as a Kitchen Third by Claytons, was rebuilt in 1937 as a Parlour Brake. For the period 1942-6 when Pullman services were withdrawn, it entered ordinary service as a first class coach as LNER No.490. After the war it ran on such trains as the Devon Belle (1948-50) and in 1960, the South Wales Pullman, ending its days on BR as part of the Western Region's spare set for the Blue Pullman.
On withdrawal it moved, first to the Dart Valley Railway, and then to the Birmingham Railway Museum in 1970. It subsequently found its way to Carnforth, where it was stripped in preparation for restoration to traffic for the Orient Express. It was laid aside however, and offered for sale. It was thought that such a high-capacity car, including the useful guard's accommodation, would be a worthwhile addition to the Bluebell's growing fleet of Pullmans, and it was purchased in 1984 by a member of the Horsted Keynes Pullman Car Group with this in mind, but continuing in storage at Carnforth for another couple of years.
It is still in the condition in which it arrived from Carnforth, essentially a kit of parts. It probably requires work of similar magnitude to that expended on the restoration of Fingall, including the inevitable replacement of the entire end-structure.
Whoever puts it together will also have the experience somewhat akin to making a jigsaw, where only 90% of the pieces are present, and where, to confuse matters, there are other pieces in the box which do not belong to this puzzle. For example, Car 54 came with a fine collection of Pullman Lavatory doors. It is not known which door belongs with the coach out of the many that were removed from the refurbished VSOE cars (which, one assumes, must have received replacement doors).
Car 54 in the 1950s
Type: Pullman Kitchen Third, Later Parlour Brake Third
Built: (Clayton, Lincoln) 1923
Original No: "Car No.54" (Pullman Schedule No.157)
Other No: LNER 490 (1942-6)
Seating: 33 3rd class
Length: 63' 10"
Weight: 40 Tons
To Bluebell: 1986
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