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  • Andy Vincent

Maunsell Third Open - S1346S

1346 in internal user guise on delivery to Tenterden in 1982. Copyright Tom Burnham

Currently undergoing restoration by the volunteer Heritage Coach team at Swanage, this coach last carried passengers almost 60 years ago and has a particularly interesting history. Once restoration is completed, it will return to regular use on the Swanage Railway.

Built for the Southern Railway in 1933, this coach is one of an additional order for open coaches based on a design (diagram 2005) introduced in 1930 by Richard Maunsell, the Southern Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) from 1923 to 1938. An example from the original order - S1381S - is already in use on the Swanage Railway. 1346 was built in 1933 at Eastleigh works under lot (order) number 706 using an underframe built at Lancing works

This is one of three similar coaches on the Swanage Railway and seats 56 passengers in seven bays subdivided into 3 saloons, one of which was originally designated for non-smokers and separated by a sliding door. The three coaches on the Swanage Railway (1323, 1381 and this one, 1346) are essentially identical except that 1323 and 1346 have two small ventilation bonnets to the toilets at each end unlike the single larger one on the earlier 1381. Additional details of these coaches are provided in the article on 1381.

Originally this coach ran 'loose' (not part of a fixed rake) and the first few years in traffic seem to have been uneventful. However, 1346 was stabled in the carriage sheds at Clapham Junction on the night of September 7th, 1940 when a stray German bomb hit the sheds. The coach (on the left in the picture below) was blown of its bogies and sustained minor damage to its braking system as well as broken glass.

Copyright: Railway and Canal Historical Society

The damage was quickly repaired and the coach was returned to traffic. It continued to run loose supplementing other sets as required until its inclusion in 10 coach set 269 in 1954. This lasted for five years before becoming loose again in 1959 in which role it remained until withdrawal in 1961.

Withdrawal came about because British Rail introduced a policy to retire all coaches over thirty years old irrespective of condition. Like many other coaches withdrawn around this time, 1346 was in good condition and found a new use in the 'departmental' fleet being converted to a mobile office and renumbered DS 70201 (D stands for departmental and S for Southern).

1346 continued in this departmental role for a further fourteen years before gaining another lease of life as classroom. At this stage the designation changed to 'internal user' vehicle and again renumbered (to 083181) on December 21st, 1974. Internal user coaches had a similar role to departmental vehicles but were not maintained in running condition and were often moved off the track.

083181 at Clapham Junction. Copyright: Martin Allen

In the photograph above, it can be seen that the bogies of 083181 are resting on sleepers and a set of steps has been provided for access. The wording on the side of the coach indicates its use as a classroom for BR's Chief Mechanical & Electrical Engineers Department and located at Clapham Junction. However, it is believed to have been moved to both Lancing and Eastleigh (appropriately enough!) before finally ending up at Stewarts Lane depot, near Battersea.

The coach finally became surplus to requirements in 1982 and was sold to a preservation group based on the Kent and East Sussex Railway at Tenterden. Following the success of the K&ESR Gala in 1985, 1346 was cosmetically restored into the livery of a WW2 Ambulance Coach for the K&ESR 'War on the Line' gala in 1986.

Changes at the K&ESR subsequently saw the coach relocated to Robertsbridge in 1999 where the Rother Valley Railway were working to restore the main line connection to the K&ESR. With no immediate prospect of restoration, the coach was sold in 2002 with a view to restoration and use at Swanage. This started in 2011 when the coach was moved to Rampart Engineering for an initial assessment. Structural overhaul was subsequently completed in 2019 when the coach returned to Swanage for the restoration of the interior.

Contributors: Mike Stollery, Peter Sykes, Peter Short, Mike King, Vintage Carriages Trust

Photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright, Swanage Railway Official Photographer, unless otherwise noted.


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