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London & North Western Railway
No. 1503 - Observation Car (Built 1913)

LNWR Observation Car - Andy Prime - 2 April 2007

The LNWR Observation car, in LNWR livery, 2 April 2007.
Andy Prime

Built as one of three Observation Coaches for the scenic route between Llandudno and Blaenau Ffestiniog, it ran on this line until displaced by diesel multiple units in 1958. It was subsequently retained for a few years for driver training (a use to which it has also been put on the Bluebell!). It was acquired by the Bluebell in early 1963 with thanks due to Derek Brough.

Obo in 60s This coach has almost certainly run the highest mileage of any on the Bluebell. Apart from its overhaul between 1979 and 1982, it has been in almost continuous use, commanding a supplementary fare. Although a humble third-class vehicle, its intricate livery, reversible seating and panoramic windows make it a popular vehicle, and one of the most unusual coaches in preservation.

Right: During the 1960s the observation car is seen in service at Horsted Keynes, in spite of being part-way through a repaint! (Photo: Keith Harwood)

Its overhaul was (and remains today) probably the biggest coach overhaul project in UK preservation carried out entirely by volunteers. The body of the coach was lifted from the underframe, which itself required major repairs. An entire new floor, including the main structural bottom side members (with countless mortise joints), was constructed. New doors and windows were also fitted, and the vehicle repanelled in the original style.

LNWR Observation Car as originally restored

The LNWR Observation car, in LNWR livery, as restored in 1982.
Richard Salmon

Two years after its return to traffic it was "highly commended" in the first ARPS (as it then was) Coach of the Year competition, being beaten only by our own newly out-shopped Maunsell open third, No 1309.

Obo in Maroon - Richard Salmon - July 2000 Obo in Maroon - Richard Salmon - July 2000

The Observation car, in LMS livery, July 2000 - Richard Salmon

During the autumn of 1998 it received a new roof covering, and replacement of some of the plywood bodyside panelling. Due to shortage of time and also the fact that it will require further heavy maintenance work in the next few years, it was painted in LMS period 3 livery as No. 15843, and is seen as such in the photos above. This was also appropriate in that it was usually to be found attached to the set of carriages which we maintained for a time in BR maroon livery.

In 2004 the remainder of the defective bodyside panelling has been attended to in the course of a heavy intermediate overhaul, which also involved the replacement of all the glass in the windows with safety glass, the re-trimming of the seats in a blue corded moquette, and an internal re-varnish. On 31st July 2004 it re-entered sevice once more carrying its original LNWR livery.

For more information about the LNWR, see the LNWR Society web site.

Observation Car interior - Richard Salmon - 17 October 2009
Type: Observation Coach
Built: 1913 at Wolverton
Original No: 1503
Other Nos: LMS: 5316, 15843, BR: M15843M
Seating: 72 3rd class, reversible seats
Length: 57'
Weight: 28 tons
Withdrawn: 1958
Preserved: 1963
To Bluebell: 24/2/1963

Right is a photo of the interior of the coach, showing the reversible "tram-type" of seating enabling passengers to choose the best view during their journey. Further interior photos are available here.

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