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Vintage railway carriage is rescued from jaws of a JCB

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 30, 2013

By Roger Malone

  • The 120-year-old carriage is taken away to the West Somerset Railway in Minehead for restoration Pictures: Richard Austin

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A vintage railway carriage, within minutes of becoming scrap, has been saved in a drive-by rescue.

Philip Platt, who lives in Dawlish, was motoring through nearby Eastdon when he saw a JCB smashing down a porch extension attached to the 1897 carriage.

"I pulled over and asked if they could give it a reprieve while I tried to see if I could find it a home," says Philip, the owner of several preserved buses.

The carriage, which was new to the Barry Railway in the late 19th century, had been used as a holiday cottage at Eastdon since the early 30s.

However the land it was on had been sold to a developer and contractors moved in to clear the site.

They agreed to Philip's request to halt the demolition. After some frantic phone calls and finding no takers, he got a positive response from the West Somerset Railway Association.

Nick Nicholls, director of special projects with the WSRA, came down straight away – and immediately agreed to give the carriage a new home.

"It's a brilliant carriage. It would have been sacrilege to have let it get scrapped," says Nick.

"It is because of Philip's call that I came right down. We made an agreement with the contractors that we would have it. They were more than happy. It meant we cleared the site for them!"

Nick said the £500 transport fee to get the carriage to its new location was "worth paying for something of such historic value."

Restoring the carriage will be a major job despite the fact the body work is in remarkably good condition.

"We will have to find a six-wheel chassis – which is another reason why this item is so historic. If we can't find one we will have to make one, so getting back to running order will not happen over night."

However the aim is to get the 33ft-long carriage restored to pristine 1897 condition, and ultimately see it make an occasional outing on the West Somerset heritage line.

It ran on the Barry Railway in South Wales as a five-compartment carriage for first and third class passengers – in those days there was no second class. In 1923 it was acquired by the Great Western Railway in whose ownership it remained until withdrawn.

As a holiday home the carriage still retained most of its compartments. These were converted to two bedrooms, lounge/kitchen and shower room. A large porch was constructed around the carriage, which gave much added protection against the weather over the years.

Minus its chassis it arrived at Eastdon on the back of a trailer made by Tiverton firm Stenner and Gunn – and remained in situ on the trailer ever since.

In preparation for removal to the West Somerset Railway the trailer was jacked up. Amazingly its wheels still turned after more than seven decades – making it easier to winch it, complete with coach, on to a modern low loader.

Philip Platt is delighted with the outcome. "I have never done anything like this before.

"Hopefully it will run as a carriage again – and form part of a vintage train one day. It's got a second chance."

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