This coach was built very solidly, if simply, to carry London commuters. Having 10 seats in each of its ten compartments, it is known as a "Hundred Seater". When these services into Kent were electrified it migrated onto branch-line services. It was piped through for push-pull working at Lancing in April 1958, and ended its days used as a "strengthener" on the Horsham to Brighton (via Steyning) and Horsham to Guildford services. It was condemned in September 1961.
Seven similar coaches were still in daily use in 1960 attached to sets of more modern Bulleid coaches on services from Tunbridge Wells West, Forest Row, and East Grinstead in-to and out-of London Bridge.
It came to the Bluebell in 1963, and has therefore been in operation for longer now on the Bluebell than it was on the main line railways. With nothing more than routine maintenance, painting, re-trimming of the seats, and a new roof-canvas and the re-bedding of the windows in 1979, it has been in fairly continuous service since its arrival on the Bluebell, a testament to the quality of its design and construction.
In 1997 it received a second new Bluebell roof canvas, new draw-gear, and was repainted into the lined Maunsell olive green so then matched No.1098. It had carried this livery in the 1930s, having been amongst the last SECR coaches to be repainted from that railway's plain brown post-war livery.
In 2007 the coach was withdrawn for what was expected to be a quick repanelling exercise. The work required (where the bottom-side had split due to corroded bolts) having been found to be much more extensive than had been allowed for, the carriage has been stored in the carriage shed and awaits a budget allocation for the work, which would probably also have to include major repairs to the rotten roof and partitions, and re-trimming of the seats. Photographs and further details are available here.
In 2023 a tentative plan was formulated, starting with the overhaul the doors, using volunteer labour, and hopefully once employed staff are free from other taks, the structural repairs can also be undertaken, to enable the carriage to re-enter service.
Go to a full article about the two Hundred Seaters, as part of the Carriage Fleet Review.
Seating: 100 3rd
Weight: 32 tons
Original No: 1434 A
Other Nos: 971, S971S
To Bluebell: 24/2/1963
Ian Nolan's photos show, above the carriage, numbered as S971S, at Brighton in November 1961, and on the left on 30 March 1963, shortly after arrival at Sheffield Park, with the "Condemned" cypher painted out. Click on the photos to see the larger versions available on Ian's Flickr pages.