The West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust

GWR First Class sleeping car no 9038 returned to traffic

Saturday 13 May 2006 was an historic day for the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust as its Great Western Railway First Class sleeping car, no 9038, was returned to traffic after a twenty-year restoration project. The sleeping car was constructed in 1897 and was used on the Paddington to Fishguard service, linking with the Irish ferry.


It was withdrawn from service and sold for accommodation in 1933 - it being built into a bungalow that was called "Journey's End" at Stogursey, near Bridgwater. The vehicle has 8 single berths, and seating for 6 people in a centre compartment. The sleeping berths have connecting doors so that couples could be accommodated.


The coach was officially returned to traffic by Lady Acland-Hood-Gass, President of the Trust and Lord-Lieutenant of Somerset, who cut the ceremonial ribbon at Bishops Lydeard station before the coach left for Minehead behind WSR 2-6-0 no 9351 on the 10.25am train. Lady Gass’s great-grandfather, Sir Peregrine Acland-Hood was the main backer of the West Somerset Railway when it was built in 1862.


Trust Chairman, Chris Dowrick said “We are immensely proud of this magnificent vehicle which is a tribute not only to those skilled craftsmen of the late 1890s, but also of their 20th century counterparts, many of whom are no longer with us, who have worked so hard and with such dedication on this project”.


The coach looked magnificent in the morning sun and conveyed specially invited guests including contributors to the restoration and representatives of the WSR Plc and WSRA to Minehead and back.


The coach has been restored at Williton by a small band of volunteers led by Trust secretary and long-time volunteer on the West Somerset Railway, Chris van den Arend. Although when recovered the coach was structurally sound, the interior has required much work.


In particular, some of the sleeping berth dividing partitions had been removed, and were replaced by similar woodwork from sister coach, 9039 which was scrapped at Didcot. The exterior has been restored to 1920s livery and signwritten by Bob Timmins. The West Somerset Steam Railway Trust has been very grateful for support from the Science Museum Prism Fund which has contributed towards the project.


Major expenditure has been required for a replacement underframe, replacement window blinds – the material had to be specially woven – and for new gas lamps which were manufactured by the company of Sugg – who had also supplied the originals to the GW in 1897! Although now mostly complete, the Trust is still waiting for several replacement tip-up washbasins to be supplied to complete the job.


It is the intention that the coach should be placed on display in the Gauge Museum at Bishop’s Lydeard, but until then will be returned to its home in the Tarmac shed at Williton where most of the restoration work has taken place.


From a press release issued at the time of the above event.


The WSSRT committee - Pete Treharne, Chris Dowrick, Ian Coleby and Chris van den Arend - stand proudly beside No 9038 on 13 May 2006.

© Angela Coleby


Chris van den Arend is interviewed for ITV News at Bishops Lydeard on 13 May
© Angela Coleby