Back in March I blogged about BSK M34527 at Midsomer Norton and its transfer over to Cranmore Maintenance Services for the fitting of gangways. I would like to update you on the progress made on the coach since then.
Previously, I explained that the British Rail removed the gangways over 35 years ago when it was converted for use as a staff tool van for Tinsley depot’s breakdown train. It also had the drop head Buckeye couplers and draw gear replaced by a wagon type design. To re-fit gangways we needed to source the Buckeye equipment and the gangways parts.
The gangway is supported by a plate attached to plungers which locate through two castings bolted to the under frame headstock. The only parts we had at Midsomer Norton were one gangway. A member of the track gang had visited at Thingley Junction near Chippenham. Whilst inspecting permanent way materials for the extension of Somerset and Dorset at Midsomer Norton, he discovered the remains of a Mark 1 underframe. It still had the gangway plungers buffing and draw gear.
Some of you may remember that a few years ago four Mark 1’s SK carriages in Network SE livery were stored in the sidings at Thingley Junction. Sadly all of them were seriously vandalized and finally set on fire. What a complete waste. They were finally scrapped in Autumn 2009.
For some reason this half of an underframe from one of them remains. You can see the fire damage quite clearly in the photograph. After negotiations, a team was organized to recover the parts at the end of February. We were up against a deadline because the BSK was going to Cranmore workshops in March. Thanks to the high quality of British Railway engineering and despite the fire, the parts were relatively easy to remove and were also in good condition. Once loaded up, they were taken to Midsomer Norton. So we now had enough parts to complete one end.
The coach was moved to Cranmore. The challenge was now to source the items for the opposite end. A chance email and a follow-up phone call by a fellow volunteer from another railway about a completely different matter ended with a throw away line from me: “I don’t suppose you got any Mark 1 gangways at your railway have you?” An affirmative response had me nearly jumping for joy.
Apparently the gangway had been removed to provide disabled access to a Mark 1 coach that was to be used as a static function and dining facility at Shillingstone. I was given contact details and after some negotiation another team was put together to remove the parts.
The actual gangway was stored behind some permanent way materials in the yard. This had to be lifted out by machinery. Meanwhile we carefully removed the Buckeye coupler and buffing gear. Once completed, we turned our attention to the gangway support. The faceplate and plungers were removed followed by the plunger castings that are bolted to the headstock. We agreed that we would provide a wagon drawhook we had taken off our BSK for fitting to their coach to enable it to be coupled from that end if necessary.
After packing away the parts they were transported directly to the workshops at Cranmore Maintenance Services. We were met by the workshop manager, Trevor Kierl, who kindly came in specially on a Saturday to open up the workshop so the parts could be stored securely in there. On the following Monday the parts were already being cleaned, inspected and painted.
Significant progress was also being made on coach itself. Both of the ends had the outer plating removed to allow the inspection and repairs effected on the body frame. Following a replacement of some rotted sections of framing, the new paneling was welded into place. New wooden yokes had been produced which are bolted to the vehicle end. On to this is screwed the gangway and gangway faceplate once the plungers have been positioned in the castings bolted to the headstock. In parallel with the gangway work the Buckeye buffing and draw gear and drop head coupler were fitted.
To see the gangways and Buckeyes fitted really is a joy to behold. Now our vehicle looked like a proper passenger carrying BSK. We are very grateful to the excellent standard of workmaship and skill of the guys at Cranmore Maintenance Services.
Back to Midsomer Norton
Within a couple of weeks, the coach was completed and ready for transporting back to Midsomer Norton. It was shunted into the yard at Cranmore and it was loaded on a Monday morning.
It was a delight to see it marshaled against the railways SK and the BSO in the station at Midsomer Norton. The BSO had been hired in on loan from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. As one fellow volunteer remarked, the three vehicles together look like a typical train of the S and D. in its latter years. Meanwhile work continues on the inside of the BSK with the compartments being re-panelled. The seats have now been reupholstered by Allan Pavitt Contracts Ltd near Honiton and will be fitted the panelling is finished in each compartment.