Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Departmental Dilemma

The vexed question of the FR's modern heritage has reared its head again in recent days and forced me to rethink my long-term carriage replacement plan.

The vehicle in question is Observation / Driving Car 111.

I try to avoid having too many project on the go at the same time - I like to get a model finished before starting on something new - but that doesn't stop me carrying around an extensive wish list in my head.

One of those 'must get around to' projects is a replacement for our model of 111.

As you can see ours depicts the carriage in its original condition when it doubled up as the First Class Observation Car (with toilet facilities) at the bottom end of C Set and also as the driving trailer of the 6 car push pull set which, at least in the early '90's, saw a lot of use on the first and last trains of the day in summer and for winter running.

Here is it doing just that rounding Boston Lodge curve on the return of a high summer 'Early Bird' service with Conway Castle propelling at the uphill end.

Yes, kids, that manky, malfunctioning diesel you see dumped at the end of the headshunt at Dinas was once front line motive power and here's the proof!

To get back to the situation today, with the entry into traffic of the new, and rather posh, Obs 150 next year 111 will be surplus to requirements and the plan is to reallocate it to departmental stock as additional mess accommodation on works trains.

(We are to presume that the armchairs and the carpets will be removed but that marquetry will still make it quite the plushest P-Way vehicle on any railway ever I would suggest?)

The FR has form in this, of course, because the pioneering Barn Obs 100 saw out its days as a mess car on the WHR rebuilding before it was broken up for firewood.

I've always believed that was a mistake.

Its construction was a very significant moment in the modern FR story coming just a little over 10 years after the reopening.

Yes, the body was utterly life expired, but it could easily have been replaced.

Vintage engines and carriages are like Grandad's proverbial broom - by way of evidence I point to the current 'restoration' of Welsh Pony or indeed the HLF rebuilds of carriages 15 and 16 where the woodwork was almost entirely replaced.

EDIT *Breaking News* And I have just received this photographic evidence that  the underframe of 100 is still in existence at Dinas so maybe it could still rise from the ashes one day?

So coming back to 111, whilst I cannot disagree with the commercial logic of removing it from front line service - despite the valiant efforts to tart it up inside it can never compare to the new 100, 102 or 150 for customer appeal - and accepting the need for better facilities for the workforce on engineering trains, I hope it does not undergo too much alteration to equip it for its new role so that in a few decades time, if attitudes to modern heritage were to change, it may be possible to restore it to its original condition.

While understanding that a railway cannot keep all former items of rolling stock as museum pieces I do wonder whether enough attention is being paid to the FR's modern heritage?

The 'Tin Cars' are a significant part of the story of the period when the railway was trying to cope with the challenges of booming traffic and the task of getting back to Blaenau.

Yes, they were utilitarian and passengers' expectations of comfort have moved on, but it was a big thing at the time to build these vehicles at Boston Lodge and 111, although coming a decade later, was the ultimate expression of the tin car design philosophy.

It also marked the end of the FR's drive for modernity in its front line operation before a change in direction towards more traditional looking stock, something that you might detect in the new wooden bodied Barns and Super Barns or the semaphore signals and associated buildings at Porthmadog. (A moot point, perhaps.)

It has been stated that the prototype, 110, will be preserved but I would have liked to have seen an example of each retained - the production version 117/118, the toilet car 119/120 and the sliding window 121 - and then in years to come it would be possible to present an authentic 1970's / 80's trains. (In cherry red with The Square at the head, naturally.)

It does also beg the question about why the railway continues to use 'lock up' carriages, including the magnificent Victorian ones, as high summer spares rather than keep the corridor Tin Cars which would arguably be more customer friendly?  (Although the current disposal strategy does free up bogies and brake gear for redeployment.)

This is all rather getting away from the original point of the post which is that I'm in a dilemma about what to do about a new 111.

I was intending to make a 2nd model in its current livery with the smarter interior but now I'm wondering whether it would be better to 'future proof' our stock by doing it as the departmental 111?

There is a tantalising second option. though.

It has recently been repainted and it has been said that it will continue to wear these colours in its new life.

Assuming there were to be no exterior alterations perhaps it would even be possible to have a model with removable alternative interiors?

Now there's a thought...

1 comment:

  1. The underframe for 100 is still here. I was told to teach another member of staff how to gas cut steel on the underframe.
    As the tip of the flame touched the steel, the DSS came out and said that the Works Manger has changed his mind.
    It was in too good of a condition to cut up in my opinion, luckily we didn't. There's been some talks that it might serve a new life as the lineside clearance wagon, but at the moment it is used as a flat wagon, holding Ngg16 140s water tank and a experimental Ngg16 bunker.