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  • Andy Vincent

Heritage Coaches: March 2021 update

Test fitting a replacement door check

Covid regulations during March limited both volunteer numbers and activities with only essential maintenance activities permitted to support the planned re-opening in April. As Peter Short reports, most work was focused on our Bulleid 5761.

The Swanage Railway mostly operates open coaches and has very few coaches with compartments but, with Covid distancing requirements easier to satisfy with compartment coaches, the pressure has been on to get these ready for the resumption. Our Bulleid CK (Composite - first and second class - Compartment) 5761 is one of these coaches.

Inevitably, coaches of this age exhibit signs of wear and tear even after a full restoration. The month started with the removal of the 'door checks' - wooden strips that fit between the carriage external doors and the coach body and the manufacture of replacements.

One of the gangway doors had also shown a tendency to come off its runners so this was investigated and the steps needed for a fix identified. The relatively narrow corridors are also prone to wear and tear and worn areas were rubbed down and re-varnished.

With the door checks removed, the opportunity was taken to repaint the exposed framing after spot treating any corroded areas. The doors were also inspected and a number of corroded areas identified for remedial action.

Reassembly of the doorways - there are six on this coach - starts with individually planing the door check so that each door fits correctly. Once this has been done they can be primed and painted before being refitted.

The opportunity was also taken to give each compartment a deep clean and repair small areas of damage to the seat covers. Elsewhere on the railway, operations and the crane team combined to relocate two spare SR pattern bogies so that they can more easily be overhauled in the coming weeks. These will increase the pool of spares available for our Bullied and Maunsell coaches.

Whilst most of the attention was given to the coach interior, spells of fine weather allowed areas of the exterior to be touched in and the ends repainted.

The final work to end the month was to address the areas of corrosion on the doors. The bottom of these doors are prone to rusting especially where water gets trapped. Doors on later electric multiple units used for suburban services were built to a similar design but used fibreglass doors to reduce this problem. In our case, new metal was shaped and welded into place by the carriage and wagon staff.

With maintenance completed, 5761 was available for the test and training services ahead of reopening in April. Whilst most of the work was on the interior, the work needed for the doors and other parts of the exterior again shows the importance of getting our heritage coaches under cover - if you can contribute to the current carriage shed appeal then we would be very grateful. Details and latest updates are here.

The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at

Photograph: Peter Short.


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