• Andy Vincent

'New' 130 year old coach body arrives at the Swanage Railway


Photograph: Andy Vincent

The body of a former London and South Western Railway coach dating from 1890 has arrived on the Swanage Railway.


Starting around 1886, the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) commenced construction of a number of 6-wheel coaches to meet the needs of growing passenger traffic. These coaches were 30' long and intended for passengers travelling in third class. They had five individual compartments without a corridor. Construction of coaches to this design continued in batches until 1890. The coaches in the final batch cost £378 17s 1d each (equivalent to around £50,000 today).


Most of these coaches were still part of the LSWR passenger stock when the LSWR became part of the Southern Railway (SR) in 1923. However, a programme of withdrawals commenced shortly afterwards as the SR worked to rationalize the designs of vehicles it acquired from the three 'pre-grouping' companies. On withdrawal, the bodies were often separated from the underframes and sold to private buyers to be used as homes or beach chalets.


The story of this coach body is slightly unusual in that the owner purchased two coach bodies in 1927 and placed them in parallel, several feet apart. One coach body was to form the front of the house with two bedrooms whilst the other included kitchen and bathroom and formed the rear of the house. The space between the two coach bodies was the main living area. An overall pitched roof and end walls were constructed to form a bungalow.


An initial survey has failed to reveal the original number of this coach. However, the known dates allow it to be narrowed to a few candidates especially as the SR number has been found on the second coach (LSWR: 396, renumbered to SR: 018 on May 2nd, 1924 and placed in set 027). This coach was withdrawn on July 31st, 1926. Indeed, all of set 027 was withdrawn which included an identical coach number 019. However, coach 02 was also withdrawn on the same day! Whilst these two represent the most likely numbers, there are other possibilities as some other coaches were withdrawn around this time.


This coach body became available when planning permission was granted to build a new house on the site. The owner then carefully removed the roof and walls that had preserved the coaches for almost 100 years. As a result, both bodies are in very good condition although with some minor modifications. Initially the body was placed on eBay but the Swanage Railway Trust reached an agreement with the owner to acquire one body. The second is currently being retained by the owner.


The coach body arrived at Norden on June 30th, 2021 and will undergo some restoration work before being used to initially provide additional working space for the heritage coach restoration team


The Swanage Railway welcomes new volunteers and anyone interested in finding out more should contact Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention officer Jonathan Evans on 01929 408466 or email iwanttovolunteer@swanagerailway.co.uk.