Restored carriages head for home

A TEAM EFFORT: From left, Ron Hill, John Russell, Charles Summers, Peter Miles, Norman Willsher and David Gandell, who are all trustees to the carriages.
A TEAM EFFORT: From left, Ron Hill, John Russell, Charles Summers, Peter Miles, Norman Willsher and David Gandell, who are all trustees to the carriages.

After years of painstaking work, two unique railway carriages – estimated to be worth £700,000 – are ready for life back on the track.

Working at Yeldham Transport Museum in Great Yeldham, members of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway East Anglian Support Group have been building and restoring two narrow gauge railway carriages, each weighing around eight tonnes.

On Monday, the group – led by master craftsman Tony Ely and supported by Heritage Carriages project manager Charles Summers – waved goodbye to the carriages as they were loaded on to lorries for the journey down to the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway in Devon.

John Russell, who runs the workshop where the carriages were built on Hunnable Industrial Estate, said they were a remarkable feat of engineering.

“It was a bit of a wrench to see them go as all the volunteers put their heart and soul into the carriages,” he said.

“They are virtually new builds but have been made using some old components and they are quite a sight.”

The carriages were made from wood on steel underframes and built using original plans from the 1890s. One carriage is unique in modern times as it has a central observation area with 22 third-class seats at each end, while the other carriage includes a fully-fitted guard compartment.

Mr Russell said the carriages had attracted a great deal of attention on their trip south and were worth around £350,000 each.

“Once they were successfully on their way, people could not stop looking at them,” he said.

“The skill that has gone into making these carriages is incredible. We don’t want to lose this expertise so we have already started work on more carriages.”

He added it was only through the efforts of volunteers and a lot of fundraising that the carriages had been built.

The museum will be holding an open day on May 19.