Severn Valley Carriage Works turns out first ‘external’ contract coach

Severn Valley Carriage Works turns out first ‘external’ contract coach

The Severn Valley Railway’s carriage restoration department at Bewdley, reorganised last year as a stand-alone profit centre under the name SVR Carriage Contracts, has just completed its first ‘external’ contract.

Former British Railways (Western Region) ‘auto’ coach No. W238 (built 1953), a type of passenger carriage specially fitted for ‘push and pull’ use on steam-worked branch lines, has been outshopped in early 1960s BR lined crimson livery for Wantage, Oxfordshire owner and super-enthusiast Mike Little.

The coach was today being prepared for its Tuesday May 31st departure by heavy road transporter, from the SVR’s southern terminus at Kidderminster, to its home at the Dean Forest Railway, Lydney, Gloucestershire, where a matching steam locomotive owned by Mr.Little – Collett 0-4-2T No.1450 -  is also kept.

SVR Carriage Contracts Manager Colin Astbury and his small full-time team of three restorers first had to fully research the original colour scheme to ensure the carriage was finished in the historically accurate shade of red – but at the owner’s request, they have taken history a stage further, by applying a name to the coach – ‘Chaffinch’ – which was allocated by British Railways in the 1950s, but never actually carried.

Explains Colin Astbury: “The old Western Region of British Railways drew up a list of the names of bird species, with the intention that each of these very individual carriages would carry one of the names on the coach body.

“As it turned out, only two were ever named – ‘Thrush’ and ‘Wren’. But now there’s a third –‘Chaffinch’ – which the owner has chosen from the list of 11 bird names which BR had picked.

“We’re very proud of our efforts with ‘Chaffinch’, and the high-class finish that has been achieved” he said. “Hopefully, there will be more external contracts in the pipeline.”

The SVR already enjoys an envied reputation in heritage railway circles for the quality of its carriage restoration craftsmanship, particularly in the areas of carpentry, joinery and sheet metal work, but the outshopping of W238 Chaffinch is something of a ‘showroom demonstration’ by the Bewdley team of the high
standard of its work for third parties.

Internal contracts – the restoration of resident SVR carriages owned by both the railway and individual groups – have also kept the department busy since the decision was made last August to set it on a more commercial footing, and open up a new revenue stream for the railway.

Date Posted: 31st May 2011

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