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HRA award for restoration of the four Metropolitan Railway Carriages


412 on test run - Richard Salmon - 14 Dec 2006 The restoration on the Bluebell Railway over the last sixteen years of the four Victorian Metropolitan "Ashbury" coaches has been one of the most significant carriage restoration projects in the history of the preservation movement.

On 2nd June 2007 this was recognised by the award of the "overall winner" of the Heritage Railway Association's 2006/7 Carriage & Wagon competition. The presentation of the award and the Railway Magazine Lamp was made at the HRA Spring Meeting in Leeds by Dame Margaret Weston DBE, the HRA President.

The award was collected by six members of the restoration team, including Roy Matthews who was one of the founder members of the project, for whom the 15 years have formed his "retirement" project. Also present was Barry Coward, who coordinated the fund raising for the first ten years of the project, raising much of the £40,000 which has been spent on the project, although it is estimated that volunteers have contributed around 2/3 of a million pounds-worth of volunteer labour to the project! Unable to be present was Martin Lock MBE, who led the project for most of its duration, but whose work now takes him to New Zealand where he is currently project-managing major rail projects in Auckland.


At leeds station - 2 June 2007 - Barry Coward That the project has achieved the restoration of the four carriages without large sums of external funding is largely down to Martin and Barry's leadership, and their establishment of BASH (Bluebell Ashbury Supporters and Helpers) as a volunteer unit within the Bluebell Railway to see the restoration though.

The photographs from Barry Coward show some of the BASH team members at Leeds Station, after collecting the award at the HRA meeting.

The four Metropolitan coaches form the core of the Bluebell's Victorian Train, which now numbers seven vehicles, with LCDR and LBSCR four-wheelers and the Great Northern Railway Directors' Saloon, and which will be running on June 15th and 17th for the Railway's Victorian Evening trains.


At leeds station - 2 June 2007 - Barry Coward Project Summary:

  • Set of four Victorian Metropolitan Railway carriages
  • Oldest matching set of mainline carriages running in the UK
  • Only close-coupled set of vintage carriages in UK
  • Were the oldest coaches in active mainline service in UK when obtained by Bluebell Railway in 1961
  • One of the coaches almost destroyed by dry rot - much of the interior of this carriage has had to be reconstructed from scratch
  • Saved for future restoration thanks to the Bluebell Railway having built a carriage shed in 1972
  • Restoration started in late 1991
  • Restoration undertaken by volunteers, together with all fund-raising
  • First carriage restoration project ever to have its own dedicated web pages
  • First carriages on a heritage railway to have wheelsets re-tyred
  • Roofs, partitions, teak panelling and even some floors have been replaced, but most of the main structure remains original
  • Major mechanical work including rebushing or remaking of all brake components, and several new castings and springs
  • Retrimming of seats in reproduction of the classic LT "Tribolite" pattern
  • About £40,000 raised and spent on materials
  • First two completed in 1999, third in 2002 and fourth at the end of 2006

Award ceremony - 2 June 2007 - John Crane The coaches are:
  • Full third No.394, built by Ashbury, Manchester, in 1900
  • Brake third No.387, built by Ashbury, Manchester, in 1898
  • First/third composite No.368, built by Ashbury, Manchester, in 1898
  • First/third composite No.412, built by Cravens, Sheffield, in 1900
Only the Full third and brake third have conventional couplings at one end each, all other couplings being bar couplings with short buffers, and hence the two outer end coaches were the first to be restored.

This photo, from HRA Press Officer, John Crane, shows Chris Smyth and Dame Margaret Weston presenting the award, the Railway Magazine Lamp, and the certificate, to representatives of the BASH team.


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