07/02/21 – Why do you restore wagons?

Our feature image above shows the beginnings of our tanker train with 1408 joining the rake this week after being shunted from Rothley by the Operations department. Before I get into the bulk of this feature, in fact if we are honest this is an update, Monday saw the arrival of 2 vehicles from the Llangollen Railway.
Ferry tank B749677 Diagram 1/305 built to Lot 2429 in 1952 at Ashford. Once complete this will of course join the fledgling tanker train, as it stands we are considering restoring it into Traffic Services Ltd Black livery as number 500817
The other vehicle a chassis, this being former Shell Mex and BP Ltd tank 6463 and will receive a van body but I’ll leave it at that for the moment.

Images courtesy of Andy Maxwell

Next I managed to get my brushes out. The Rothley and Mountsorrel Heritage Centre have been pressing forward with the restoration of an LMS 12T van. They have been following Government guidelines that class volunteers of charitable organisations as essential workers, so Michelle and I were allowed on site to progress the vehicle.

Images courtesy of Steve Cramp

Working in isolation, with other volunteers on site restricted entry to the workshop I gradually applied the livery. This being a slightly earlier style than what would have been applied to the vehicle but this fulfils the owners brief and adds further interest to the centres fleet.

One side complete, all but the door on the other and the sole bar plates backed.
It was nice to get out at a weekend especially for my wife who has been furloughed since September and like most has been struggling at home alone whilst I’m at work.

Not just myself working however, Ross has been looking into the Test Cars slip lamp, manufacturing new internal electronics replacing the life expired originals. The lamp displays flashing white lamps when the slip test vehicle is moving and a steady red when stopped, there is also a test button and for our purposes a demonstration mode to enhance our tours of the Test Car when we are allowed to open again.

So now on to the feature.

Sometimes we are asked “Why do you spend almost all of your spare time restoring wagons?” Why indeed? Although the following was written sometime ago for an unpublished article, its intent remains.

Visiting the GCR’s 2018 Model Rail Event from Surry, Mr Robert Holah noticed in the lie-by siding at Quorn our London Midland Scottish Railway (LMSR) Brakevan M730562

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What brought this particular vehicle to his attention was its similarity to one pictured in an image of his father.

Allbert Edward Holah was a Goods Guard, initially with the LMSR and then British Railways London Midland Region upon nationalisation of the railways in 1948.  He was based at Harrow and Wealdstone station.  In fact he was at the Station on the 8th October 1952.  It was a foggy morning and the 07:31 Tring – Euston local train was stood in Platform 4. At 08:19 this train was struck by the Southbound Perth – Euston Express, the resulting wreckage was then hit by the Northbound Euston – Liverpool Express on the adjacent line.  112 were killed and 340 injured and it remains the worse peace time rail accident in the UK and basically resulted in the nationwide introduction of the Automatic Warning System (AWS).  The incident affected Albert quite deeply.

Albert later became an instructor and as such trained a number of immigrants from the Caribbean, what has now become known as the Windrush Generation,  he opened his home to a young Caribbean Gentlemen during Christmas who’s family remained at home in Jamaica. Robert remembers this well and Mrs Holah’s annoyance of not being informed of his farthers guest and being unable to fully prepare.

Unfortunately Albert’s colleagues were not as charitable and saw the immigrants as a threat, taking their jobs.  As a punishment the union forced Albert to Coventry and ordered his colleagues not to communicate with him.  This of cause affected Albert even further and in 1959, 18 Months after being moved, he suffered a heart attack and died.  Robert at the age of 12 was left with an image and memories. 

After an email to the GCR and being forwarded on to us at “Quorn Wagon and Wagon”. Robert came and visited on the 1st September 2018. We had spent a number of weeks repairing and carrying out a full interior and exterior repaint to M730562. We also added extra items that Roberts farther would have instantly remembered.  Guards Bag, Tea Can, Paperwork, Newspaper, Railway Observer, Lamps, Shunters pole, Brake Stick along with other items.  We also lent Robert a BR uniform identical to his fathers including the Midland Region Staff association tie he is wearing in the photograph.  This allowed Robert to recreate the image of his farther.  The artifacts in the vehicle brought back a number of further memories for Robert, playing with his father’s handlamp rotating the handle between Red, Green and Clear. His father sat fettling a wooden implement one end square the other round.  With that description we handed Robert a Brake Stick and demonstrated its use as well as the use of a Shunters Pole.

We continue to extend our thanks to Robert for coming down and sharing his memories. We know he enjoyed his visit and will be coming back to see us soon. So why do we restore Goods Wagons?  A tangible link to the past, maybe not directly for us but certainly for others, as was the case for Robert. It may never be proven but we like to think that Albert may have worked M730562 at least once in his career.
Goods vehicles are an important part of railway history it’s the reason the railways were built.  To recreate the sights and sounds of a bygone railway then they are an essential part of the scene and a draw for our visitors, not just the ones we care for but all those none passenger vehicles at all Heritage Railways across the country.

That is why we restore wagons.

One thought on “07/02/21 – Why do you restore wagons?”

  1. wow Matt what a beautifully written article most impressive regards Eddie

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