This coach, originally built as a Kitchen Third by Claytons, was rebuilt in 1937 as a Parlour Brake. It is a historic vehicle, as one of the first two 'K'-type Pullmans, with a steel underframe and separate timber body, in place of the earlier all-timber design. For the period 1942-6 when Pullman services were withdrawn, it entered ordinary service as a first class coach as LNER No.490. After the war it ran on such trains as the Devon Belle (1948-50) and in 1960, the South Wales Pullman, ending its days on BR as part of the Western Region's spare set for the Blue Pullman.
On withdrawal it moved, first to the Dart Valley Railway, and then to the Birmingham Railway Museum in 1970. It subsequently found its way to Carnforth, where it was stripped in preparation for restoration to traffic for the Orient Express. It was laid aside however, and offered for sale. It was thought that such a high-capacity car, including the useful guard's accommodation, would be a worthwhile addition to the Bluebell's growing fleet of Pullmans, and it was purchased in 1984 by the Horsted Keynes Pullman Car Group with this in mind, but continuing in storage at Carnforth for another couple of years.
It remained in the condition in which it arrived from Carnforth, essentially a kit of parts until 2016, requiring work of similar magnitude to that expended on the restoration of Fingall, including the inevitable replacement of the entire end-structure. One particular challenge was that the window-spacing was very tight. From 1937 onwards the seating had been spaced out in such a way that the tables no longer aligned with the sidelights.
It entered the carriage works in Autumn 2016, with funding available for the majority of its overhaul, including a grant from the Department for Transport to provide for wheelchair access via the luggage van doors, and contract staff employed to undertake the majority of the work. The idea of reconstructing the body with conventional sidelight spacing was rejected as infeasible, in favour of making thinner seats to enable tables to align once again with the sidelights, restoring the original design in that respect.
The underframe has been repaired, whilst the body was lifted from it, and entirely new headstocks fitted (as seen in the photo on the right from April 2018). Several hundred replacement hot rivets have been fitted as part of this work. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find external contractors able to undertake work such as replacing the backing on the marquetry panels, and machining the main timbers required to replace the ends, but we are fortunate to have the services of very skilled craftsmen and are now therefore able to undertake this work in-house.
Car 54 in the 1950s
Type: Pullman Kitchen Third, Later Parlour Brake Third
Built: (Clayton, Lincoln) 1923
Original No: "Car No.54" (Pullman Schedule No.157)
Other No: LNER 490 (1942-6)
Seating: 33 3rd class
Length: 63' 10"
Weight: 40 Tons
To Bluebell: 1986