4754 at Horsted Keynes shortly after its arrival on the Bluebell Railway in May 2014 David Chappell
The Southern Region had around 188 BR Mk1 64-seat open second carriages in its fleet which, although built prior to 1957, were of identical internal appearance to 4754.
Built in 1957 for the Western Region, W4754 was delivered from BR York Works in BR maroon livery with vacuum braking and steam heating only and running on BR1 bogies. Up to this point the WR had still favoured compartment stock for the second class passengers on its main trains, but the introduction of these open seconds marked the change to this policy.
The Diagram 93 BR Mk1 open third (second after 1956) was largely modelled on the equivalent Bulleid-designed carriage to SR Diagram 2017 like 1464, having 64 seats, but with fixed tables, whereas the SR design had clips for tables to be fitted when required. However, the BR Diag. 93 carriages had a 2-bay saloon, separated by a glazed bulkhead for the use of non-smokers. It should be borne in mind that in the era when these vehicles were designed, the majority of the population smoked.
Having only steam heating and BR1 bogies, 4754 had a limited life expectancy when BR started moving towards electric-heat-only diesel locomotives and was withdrawn prior to 1983. It was sold to the Ministry of Defence for use on the Bicester Militiary Railway; being renumbered WGP 8806 and repainted in the chocolate-and-cream livery of the BMR.
4754 (WGP 8806) at MoD Bicester prior to sale in April 2014 Matt Carpenter/Ramco
In April 2003, the MoD placed the coach on long-term loan with the Avon Valley Railway, where it remained until March 2009, after which it was returned to Bicester. A conversion to air brake was carried out but the existing vacuum brake pipework and brackets were left intact. The air brake could not be applied by the passenger emergency chain, which worked on the redundant vacuum brake system only. The steam heat pipework and radiators were all left intact.
Interior of 4754 taken from the 2-bay saloon that was originally set aside for non-smokers - April 2014
For some while there has been an aspiration within the C&W Dept. to acquire a "more Southern", older Mk1 SO/TSO. When 4754 was offered for sale from MoD Bicester in April 2014, it was inspected by members of the department who found it to be in reasonable condition for its age. The intention is that once 4754 has entered traffic, the more modern-looking 4957, which is in need of refurbishment, will be offered for sale. 4754 may well have its BR1 bogies swapped for B4 or Commonwealth types, which have roller-bearings, during its restoration prior to entering traffic.
Type: Diagram 93 Second Open (SO, later TSO*)
TOPS/POIS Diagram: AC204
Built: 1957 at BR York Works** (Lot 30375)
Original No: W4754
Other Nos:WGP 8806
Seating: 64 2nd class
Length: 64' 6" over body
Weight: 33 Tons
To Bluebell: 20 May 2014
*The designation TSO was adopted across BR from early 1967 to distinguish the 64-seat capacity 2+2 seating of coaches such as this one from the 48-seat SO, with 2+1 seating like 4824. The 48-seat vehicles were originally built only for the LM Region. From 1956 (when Third Class was re-designated Second) to 1967, both types had been designated SO. However, to confuse the issue, the Eastern Region had used the TSO code prior to 1967 to identify older diagram 93 vehicles, such as this, for excursion and secondary duties.
** BR York Works went on to produce EMU stock for all regions. The 4CIG and 4VEP units were produced there. In 1996, the carriage works (then owned by ABB) were closed. The works were re-opened by US company Thrall Europa for the assembly of freight wagons in 1997, but closed again in 2002. Nothing has been produced there since that date although part of the site is used by Network Rail for the storage of departmental vehicles.
Details of the restoration/overhaul of 4754 may be found here.