GWR Bow-Ended Coach Number 5043
When CB Collett took over as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the GWR in 1922 a new bow-ended carriage design was developed which, with the re-introduction of the chocolate and cream livery, was to produce an outward appearance just as distinctive as the Churchward ‘Toplight’ design that it superseded. The new ‘bow ended era’ was to last until 1934 and was later repeated, albeit to a different profile, in the final period of GW carriage design from 1946 in Hawksworth’s main line stock.
The idea behind the bow ends was to reduce the length of the corridor connections between coaches following complaints from nervous passengers. The new stock was all steel panelled, having a full bodied appearance with cleaner lines and a higher waistline than the ‘toplight’ vehicle. A wide variety of coach types was produced, ranging from non-corridor suburban sets to catering vehicles and the famous ‘super saloons’ of 1931. However, the bow-ended era is probably best typified by the many hundreds of standard 57ft coaches produced between 1925 and 1929 which form the backbone of the GW main line sets for some 20 years.
The 2857 Society’s mess coach is one of these, being a full third, completed in June 1928 to diagram C54, lot 1383, and numbered 5043. The original internal layout seated 64 passengers and consisted of eight compartments with a side corridor and a toilet cubicle at each end. Mounted on standard 7ft wheelbase bogies the total weight was 31 tons and the overall body dimensions are 58’ 4 1/2" long x 9’ 0" wide.
Many of these coaches survived in general service until 1961 and fortunately several escaped scrapping by conversion for departmental use during the early 1960s. Thus 5043 became DW 150301 in June 1963 when, as one of a batch of six similar conversions, it was allocated to the Running and Maintenance Department and served at least part of its new existence in the Swindon breakdown train. As part of the conversion several doors and windows were blanked off and an internally operated hand brake was added. When of no further use in this role the coach was offered for sale by tender in 1981. The society’s bid of £580-00 + VAT was successful and it was moved to Bewdley by rail on Thursday 22nd October 1981 at a cost of £170-00 + VAT, plus an additional £25-00 + VAT for a new set of axlebox pads.
Since its arrival of the SVR it has been maintained as the Society’s workshop, store and mess vehicle. This maintenance has proceeded on a piecemeal basis over the years, but by 1996 its condition had gently deteriorated to the point when a ‘kill or cure’ solution was required. It was decided to re-panel the coach completely to stand the best chance of keeping out the weather and saving the basic structure for posterity. The compartment side was tackled first and this task was greatly simplified by the decision to install plain blank panels along the workshop area, where the windows are covered internally by a large tool rack. Not only did this speed the job up but it also resulted in a far more water tight construction in an area where monitoring for leaks was difficult. Another discrete modification we have made is to overlap the roof panels onto the sides, in the manner of the later Hawksworth coaches, rather than leaving a wooden ledge for standing rain water to collect as in the original design. This ‘cheat’ is hidden behind the gutters, and so is virtually invisible on the completed vehicle. Large sections of the wooden framework have been found to be rotten and have had to be replaced, including all four vertical ‘corner posts’, each a complex piece of timber, curving in two planes and joining the horizontal members by means of carefully cut joints. The window surrounds originally involved a steel pressing for the recessed shape, the tooling for which has long been scrapped. In conjunction with other SVR coach groups with similar vehicles the '2857 Society' found a suitable supplier and organised a set of small tooling for the window corner recesses, a set of four then requiring welding with adjoining straight pieces to form the finished shape.
The second, corridor, side was completed in the summer of 2005 and this too incorporated a simplified blank section, as designed in the Swindon modification of 1963, around the stove in the messing area. This section frequently gives rise to the false notion that No. 5043 was once some kind of catering vehicle.
This overhaul has been carried out on the basis that all modifications may be reversed if ever it is desired to restore this coach to passenger use, but that in the meantime the basic structure is as well preserved from the effects of the elements as is reasonably possible for a vehicle stored out in the open.
© 2857 Society 2007-2009