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In the glorious years of the 1890’s, private railway companies everywhere where turning out a vast range of wooden bodied coaches. One such company was the Taff Vale Railway. The company was said to be the most prosperous in Wales In 1891 their Carriage and Wagon department at Cathays built two coaches to a new diagram. They where four wheeled brake third coaches numbered 219 and 220, for some reason not known to us only these two where ever built.
Their purpose was to work the trains taking the miners to the pits of the rapidly expanding south Wales coal fields
Then like all the other ‘little’ railways, the GWR swallowed up the glory and individuality of the TVR in 1923. TVR 220 was renumber GWR 3846 on the 30th of May 1925. The coach only lasted ten months in service with the GWR before being withdrawn to make way for plush, draught-free, heated (and even worse) metal bodied rolling stock
The body was then sold as a garden shed to a family in Stuckland, Herefordshire. Unfortunately the under frame had a close encounter with a cutting torch.
From its retirement home the Taff, as it has become affectionately know, saw a world war , depression and many notable events. Then over 51 years later, the Gwili preservation society purchased body on the 13th November 1977. The body was then moved to the headquarters of the Gwili at Bronwydd Arms, Carmarthen.
At the time the Gwili was one of many concerns struggling to survive and build a credible railway/ The general rule of no money, lack of volunteers and a far more urgent cry for financial from permanent way than C &W applied. For this reason the coach was not worked on much. It was used as a shop , storage area, model railway and finally as a mess room, Adding insult to injury you may think!
The coach was then sold to the Brynteg School Preservation Group. The group formed by two head of department and a group of school pupils. They had already restored a GWR Loriot ‘B’ and a Mink covered van as well as many other railway items. So an old wooden bodied coach was a real challenge for the group. It was at this point that this article writer joined the school.
Our first obstacle was to find a suitable under frame . Our search led us to the then well stocked scrap yard at Barry. We purchased an ex-LNER brake van. Then simply knocked the top off and armed with overalls, goggles and wire brushes we set about cleaning up the metal work. The work carried out during dinner hours and after school.
When the frames where in a condition ready to receive the body we decided to do a final check on the size before arranging the move. A head of physic and CDT (wood work to the more of you readers) couldn’t’t have made a mistake of 18.5 inches could they? Well….nobody perfect!
The frame then had to be cut in half and an extra metal welded in place. It is worth mentioning that the experts tell us the modified frame is stronger than the original.
The body was eventually delivered to the school site in September 1986. The group set about replacing partitions, making seats, stripping off the original graining and varnishing, making new drop lights and replacing paneling and bedding etc.
As well as the group members working on the coach, the CDT department was able to tie the project in with the school syllabus. The COE pupils taking painting and decoration where able to test there skill on the coach. The restoration of the Body is a story in its own right.
(The GVCG would like to thank Rob James for giving his permission to publish this article).
This Taff Vale Railway designed coach was built in 1874 by the Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon Works in Birmingham.It had five compartments for Third class passengers and was mounted on a four wheeled underframe.
Although it had five separate compartments they were not divided off by separate walls and therefore was open from one end to the other.
It was painted maroon with white panels above the waist and straw coloured lining.Lettering on the doors indicating Third class and the coat of arms of the
Taff Vale Railway appeared twice on each side
Some of the Taff Vale Railway’s Third Class compartments were upholstered and others were not. No 145 is one of those fitted with wooden seats for the increased number of miners and dockers requiring transport to and from their workplace along the Taff Vale Railway lines.
Similar seats can be found in Taff Vale Railway coach No 220.
After some years the coach was taken out of normal service by the introduction of more modern,comfortable and bogie fitted coaches.
The coach was then renumbered 0145 and along with the other coaches in the fleet would have been fitted with vacuum brakes about 1878,gas lighting to replace oil lights in 1893 and should have been fitted with steam heating equipment in 1912 but we can not find any evidence of this alteration.
The Taff Vale Railway amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on the
22nd March 1923 and 0145 was renumbered 4006 on the 19th May.
Of the 408 Taff Vale Railway coaches taken into GWR stock,all were renumbered but most of the older stock was not repainted knowing that their days were numbered under GWR control.4006 was repainted,lined and lettered in GWR livery with the garter crest emblem of the GWR replacing the proud Taff Vale Railway emblem of 1836.It only lasted another three years being withdrawn from service on the 20th March 1926 having served this community for fifty two years.
It is assumed that the body was shortly afterwards sold by the GWR to a farmer in Devon.Most of the body was soon clad in corrugated iron and the coach converted into a hen house.The five doors on one side were sawn in half to give the hens access and all the seats were removed.
It remained in this condition and use for eighty years and was recovered in late 2006 and returned to Wales.It is now stored pending a decision on how best to proceed with its restoration.It no longer has gas lights,roof ventilators,door handles or seats and an initial examination suggests that the remaining ten doors, most of the floor, all the glazing and the external paneling on one side will need replacing.
It is now the oldest standard gauge coach surviving from a Welsh railway company and our aims are to restore it to the condition it was built in and return it to passenger use – including the wooden seats.
The Great Western Railway built this coach in 1888 at their Carriage and Wagon Works at Swindon in Wiltshire. Built to Diagram S.7,Lot 415 it is 28foot long and weighed 11 Tons and 4 Cwt. It originally sat on a six-wheeled underframe and had five compartments for Third Class passengers. Initially it was illuminated by oil lamps but later these were converted to gas. It is known that this coach once worked the Launceston Branch Train No 2 in Devon.
After forty-five years it became surplus to the Railway’s requirements and it was withdrawn from service on the 23rd September 1933. It is presumed that soon afterwards the body was removed from the underframe at Swindon and along with others was available for sale.Meta Jones purchased the body for eleven pounds and it was transported on a flat wagon by rail to Llandyssil station, passing through Bronwydd Arms on its journey.
After unloading it was moved on a road wagon hauled by horses to the village of Pentrecwrt a distance of about three miles away. Here it was unloaded into a field and was adapted to a dwelling. A corrugated iron roof and a canopy on the front were added and at the rear a lean-to became a kitchen. The compartment dividing walls were removed except for one which formed the dividing wall between the bedroom (8 foot x 11 foot) and the living room (8 foot x 17 foot).
Meta purchased the coach for her mother, Lisa “Cyferi”. In common with many Welsh people her second name was not her surname but one given by acquaintances. Lisa was fond of playing her gramophone and her favourite song was a duet, “Lle treigla’r Cyferi”, or in English, “from where the Cyferi flows” referring to the Southern Indian river. The song was written by the Reverend John Blackwell a leading Welsh poet, who was the vicar of Manordeilo Church near Llechryd, Cardigan.All the above information has come to light since the rescue of the coach was reported in the local newspaper, the Cardigan and Tifyside Advertiser.
Unknown to the Group it was through this article that Meta Jones then in her eighties and living in Carmarthen found out about its rescue. On Easter Monday 1991 she visited the Gwili Railway and it was quite inspiring for volunteers to see her walk around the coach reminiscing, it really brought the whole thing to life. It was very emotional when she actually walked into the bedroom where she had given birth to her daughter.
Although Meta and her family had often been back to see the coach when it was in the field, she was saddened by its deteriorating state. Her mother had looked after the dwelling well and people of the village remember how proud she was of her home and its well-kept flower garden.It was with some happy memories that she wished us well with out task of restoring it to a passenger coach.
Whilst the coach had been in the field trees had grown around it and six very mature trees had to be felled before the coach could be removed. Our team assembled at Pentrecwrt village on Sunday 13th January 1991 with temperatures were well below zero. The road-crane and flat bed lorry were positioned but as the crane would block the narrow road for the lift, the emergency services were informed. No sooner had the crane jib been hoisted that the cables froze to the winding drum and had untangled into something that resembled a ball of spaghetti. The outriggers were then retracted to reopen the road and the next hour was spent drawing out the frozen cable and resetting it on the drum. Lifting the coach onto the lorry only took five minutes!
On arrival at Bronwydd Arms work started on preventing any further deterioration. Part of the corrugated iron roof was missing and therefore some of the roof and end was suffering from rot. Some of the steel cladding had rusted through, seven out of the ten brass door handles had been removed, two of the doors had had their tops sawn off, all thirty window panes were smashed, door locks had rusted, two compartment floors were rotten and a floor support beam had snapped.
Work continued with the removal of any remaining glass, window bolections were removed for restoration and the frames treated with wood preserver before painting with primer and undercoat. Externally all the flaking paint was removed and the remainder burnt off before being painted with primer and undercoat.
On some of the door posts we could see stamped into the wood the letters “W DEAN”, he was the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent of the Great Western Railway at the time of the building of the coach. The remaining brass door handles, escutchions and window strap holders were removed for restoration and safekeeping
Old paint on the ceiling and walls was stripped off by burning or sanding. Mahogany panels were removed from the doors for cleaning and varnishing and the floor was cleaned of a thick layer of bitumen and given several coats of black gloss. In the smaller compartment rotten floorboards were replaced after a broken crossbeam had been repaired.
The corrugated iron roof was removed along with the original canvas and white lead painted roof covering. The delicate rain strips were removed, cleaned and stored for replacing at a later date.It was roughly in this state in 1994 that work was suspended on the coach body. There were several reasons but primarily volunteers were needed more urgently elsewhere on the Gwili Railway.
Also little work could now be done until the body rested on its underframe.
These two carriages were built alongside each other in the Birmingham workshops of Brown Marshall & Co in 1883. At this time the first of eight-wheeled carriages were being built in this country and would have been a significant improvement for TVR trains. Compared to the short four-wheeled carriages these would have been a much more comfortable ride.
The carriages are 36 foot 6 inches long and have three First Class compartments and three Second Class compartments. Interestingly the First Class doors are three inches wider than the Second Class!
On 1922 the TVR was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway and the vehicles were repainted, re-lettered, the GWR garter crest added. Both carriages were renumbered, No 31 becoming 6409 and No 52 becoming 6414. They only remained in service for another four years as both were withdrawn on the 2nd October 1926.
The bodies were removed and sold to become a dwelling between Crabbs Cross and Astwood Bank near Redditch, Warwickshire. Like many others in this area they would have been brought to site from Studley and Astwood Bank Station probably by horse and cart.
Numbers 31 and 52 were placed side by side on old railway sleepers and an overall roof places over the carriages. The insides were altered to fit in living area, bedrooms and bathroom.
At some point Poles or Russians lived in them but by 2009 the carriages were empty. The land they had stood on was to be developed and the carriages were donated to the GVCG. After nine months stored at Bewdley, Worcestershire where cosmetic restoration was carried out to the exterior they were moved to the Gwili Railway. Ironically via the A465, Heads of the Valleys road, so they passed Merthyr which eighty five years earlier they could well have been running into.
The initial use for these carriages will as static tearooms at Bronwydd Arms Station
This Taff Vale Railway designed coach was built in 1874 by the Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon Works on Birmingham. It had five compartments for Third Class passengers and was mounted on a four wheeled under frame. It was built in the same workshop at the same time as TVR No 145,another carriage in the GVCG collection.
Although it had five separate compartments they were not divided off by partitions and therefore was open from one end to the other.
It was painted maroon with white panels above the waist and straw coloured lining. Lettering on the doors indicating Third Class and a coat of arms of the Taff Vale Railway Company appeared twice on each side.
Some of the Taff Vale Railway’s Third Class compartments were upholstered but and others were not. No 153 is one of those fitted with wooden seats for the increasing amount of miners and dockers. requiring transport to and from their workplace along the Taff Vale Railway lines.
Similar wooden seats can be found in TVR coach No 220/GWR 3846.
After some years the coach was taken out of normal service being replaced by more modern, comfortable and bogie fitted stock.
The coach was then renumbered 0153 and along with other carriages would have been fitted with vacuum brakes about 1878,gas lighting to replace oil in 1893 and should have been fitted with steam heating equipment in 1912.
The Taff Vale Railway Company was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on the 23rd March 1923 and 0153 was renumbered again to 4012 on the 16th June 1923.
Of the 408 Taff Vale Railway carriages taken into GWR stock all were renumbered with most of the older stock not being repainted knowing that their days were numbered under GWR control. 4012 was repainted, lined and lettered in GWR livery with the garter crest emblem of the GWR replacing the proud Taff Vale Railway emblem. The carriage lasted another three years being withdrawn from service on Christmas Day 1926 after serving this community for fifty two years.
The body was shortly afterwards sold to become a holiday home at Hayling Island near Portsmouth. An asbestos tiled roof was put over it, extensions built and rooms added. All the seats were removed along with the five doors on one side.
It remained in use as 100 Southwood Road, Hayling Island until the Summer of 1989 when the owner , Mrs Mills, needed it removed to build a bungalow. Although the offer was also made to the Gwili Railway, it was only the Caerphilly Railway Society who took up the offer. After protracted negotiations and preparations the coach was moved on the 31st May 1990 to the CRS base at the
Harold Wilson Industrial Estate, Caerphilly.
Here an under frame was acquired from Allied Steel and Wire Works in Cardiff and the body was soon mounted on it. Work commenced to get the vehicle back in use. New seats and five new doors were made and the carriage was used to carry passengers on the quarter mile railway.
With the closure of the site at Caterpillar, the carriage was disposed to the Vale of Glam organ Railway located at Barry. Here it was encompassed into the newly built Heritage Skills Centre with the aim of teaching traditional skills to youngsters by using the carriage as an exercise. After the dismantling of the coach, doors off, window glass removed, end wall removed and the floor taken up the direction of the Skill Centre changed and work stopped.
It was in this condition the GVCG acquired the carriage from the Vale of Glam organ Railway in 2008 and arrived at the Gwili Railway on 16th June 2008.
The aim is to restore TVR 145 and TVR 153 to as near as possible to their original condition and have them run with TVR 220/GWR 3846. We now have the opportunity to turn out a three coach train of identical design, shape and livery to replicate a train used by miners that would have run over a 135 years ago.
Another coach body was offered to the group in 1991. This was located in the village of Crymmych Arms in Pembrokeshire.It had been used as a dwelling and was now vacant.
The comparments were divinded in to a toilet and two bedrooms. The living room and kitchen were in a corrugated lean- to. The lean-to and a canopy at the front of the coach were demolished in preporation for its removal.
During the clearing procces an old news paper was found in one of the doors ventilators dated 1935 so this would be a good indicator of when the coach became a dwelling after its withdraw from service.
A JCB was hired to cut away the front garnden hedge and bank so that a loory could access the site and for the first time in many years the villagers could see the old coach.
The coach was craned from its resting place in December 1991 and many of the villagers came to see its removal and told us that it had once been the workshop of Jonny Salis a tailor.Latterly two sisters, Mari and Hanna Hughes lived here into their eighties vacating the coach about 1980.It was named “Bwth y Coed” (Cottage of the Trees).
On arriving at the Gwili Railway it was enclosed in a corrugated iron shelter and has remained protected since.
Subsequently we found out that it is No 793 which was built in Swindon in 1881 as a five compartment,third class coach to diagram S.4 and built under Lot 245.
No repair work will be done on this vehicle until No 216 is nearing completion.
This carriage was built by Brown Marshall of Birmingham in 1883. It had three First Class compartments and three Second
Class compartments and was carried on eight wheels. Interestingly the First Class doors are wider than the standard width
of British railways’ carriages maybe it was for the well fed, rotund businessmen travelling to Cardiff!. It would have been in
use on TVR trains to Treherbert, Merthyr Tydfil and Penarth.
The TVR was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway in 1922 and No 48 was renumbered 6410 in February 1925. It
was not to last long under the new owners, being withdrawn from traffic in December 1926.
Like many coach bodies this one was sold to become a seaside holiday home at Hayling Island near Portsmouth and
remained there until recovered and preserved by the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum. It was placed in store as the
museum had an identical carriage on display. Eventually the decision was made to dispose of No 48 and it was donated to
the Gwili Vintage Carriage Group arriving on the railway in October 2015.
Over the next few months it will be refurbished to become a tearoom at Llwyfan Cerrig Station replicating the use of two
other identical carriages used for the same purpose at Bronwydd Arms.