Coaches such as this, from the early sixties, are the core of most steam
railways' carriage fleets. We are lucky on the Bluebell to have rather more
pre-nationalisation vintage stock running than most others. However, a carefully
restored and well-maintained Mk.I coach has an important role to play in the
recreation of the last years of the steam era. 1818 was the first corridor-connected Mk.I coach purchased by Bluebell.
This is one of the later Mark I designs, the first example appearing in 1958.
Designed to cater for light refreshments in the minimum possible space, in a
standard Second Open body-shell, the RMB has about as much display and storage space crammed into the bar area as it is possible to get. Only 16 seats were removed in the initial design (BR Diagram 97) but it was soon found that additional storage was required, and a cupboard replaced another 4-seat bay. All seating bays have fixed tables.
Lot 30520 comprised 12 vehicles for the London Midland Region (M1817-28) and 9 for the Scottish Region (SC1829-37). In keeping with the contemporary social
trends of the 1950s, the small 16 seat saloon was set aside for non-smokers. The Lot was built with vacuum braking, steam heating and Commonwealth cast bogies to BR Diagram 99 (Diagram 98 vehicles had BR1 bogies). By 1974, 1818 had been transferred to the Eastern Region and was still so allocated in late 1979. This vehicle was never fitted with electric heating and this may have been a significant factor in its transfer to the Scottish Region and early withdrawal from BR service.
Purchased to serve on-train refreshments to our passengers on the Bluebell,
1818 entered service in 1984 after a light overhaul and internal refurbishment,
restoring the interior to its original condition. The commissioning of a second
RMB in 1993 allowed it to be taken out of service to receive structural repairs
to the door pillars, and an update of the buffet facilities to meet modern
hygiene requirements. It re-entered service again at Easter 1994.
In 2005 it became obvious that 1818, now 45 years old, would need some more
serious attention to the body framing, repairs to the cantrail gutters and the
window frames rebedding. This it received starting in the latter half of 2005.
Following repairs at the South end, the carriage returned to traffic for the Santa
trains in December 2005, with a temporary paint-job. It returned to the works
in January 2006 and was outshopped later that year. A contemporary report on
the work may be found here.
In 2014 more work was undertaken, after 30 years of Bluebell Service, with the bottom of the bodyside sheeting replaced, windows rebedded and those collision pillars not repaired a decade earlier now done, this work being undertaken under contract at Cranmore. The coach was also re-wired, the interior fully overhauled and seats re-trimmed. It was going to be painted crimson lake and cream until it was pointed out that as a designated heritage vehicle in our fleet it could not carry a livery which had never been worn by an RMB on BR. This work is covered in Dave Clarke's flickr album. In 2017 the bogies were overhauled, receiving new pedestal liners.
The photo of the interior, taken in August 2017, shows the seats trimmed in an appropriate BR red candy stripe moquette. (Richard Salmon)