Comfy seats that line up with windows, varnished wood panelling, maybe even your own compartment, travel in comfort as you watch the scenery roll by. Our fleet of BR Mk1 coaches are around 60-70 years old and take you back to a more refined style of travel.
Following nationalisation in 1948, BR designed the Mk1 coach to incorporate the best features of each of the old companies’ designs, and make new strides in safety. These coaches were the first in the UK to have steel body framing which improved their crashworthiness, previous designs still using timber framing, maybe with steel sheet cladding. They are a family of coaches all built on a standard length underframe, with a continuously curved body side (called a tumblehome). The interior arrangements varied significantly to suit different requirements; open seating at tables, compartments, buffet cars, sleepers, and coaches with a brake compartment, all for both First and Standard class seating.
Thousands were built between 1951 and 1963, and our fleet reflects the changes they underwent over that period; the early varnished wood veneer panelling and traditional incandescent light bulbs giving way to the more modern Formica laminates and fluorescent tubes in later builds. Standard design they may be, but just try and find two identical!
Although Mk1s were modern for their time, they had several known weak spots where they rusted badly, including around the window frames and along the bottom panels. They were in frontline service with BR until the late 1960s when the Mk2s started being built, which addressed some of these drawbacks. They were still in service until the ‘80s when withdrawals started to pick up pace.
As luck would have it, the nascent GWSR was just getting going when withdrawals were at their peak, with BR looking for any excuse to condemn a coach no matter how minor. As a result, coaches could be picked up in relatively good condition, and many spare parts were available. As time has passed though, and these coaches survive well past their design life, more and more work is required to keep them in tip-top condition by our hard-working Carriage and Wagon volunteers at Winchcombe. Where previously some body filler and a new coat of paint could do the job, major structural renewals are now not uncommon.
For a regular detailed account of what goes into keeping our fleet of Mk1 carriages going, take a look at the C&W blog which is updated several times a week at gwsrcarriageandwagon.blogspot.com
If you want to learn more about individual coaches, then there’s also a handy list on the blog available here gwsrcarriageandwagon.blogspot.com/p/carriage-list.html