Status: Ongoing restoration to running order
Location: Wansford: Part of Nord Express line up by Main Entrance
Sleeping car no. 3916 was built in 1949 in Belgium. It was part of the YTb class. These were built to replace those cars lost during the war and were identical to their pre-war counterparts except for the lack of marquetry. The car contains XX compartements and can sleep XX people. In service each car would have had its own attendant. Due to the piecemeal nature of Wagons-Lits’ expresses where cars could regularly lay over for a day with passengers on board the car has a self contained heating system with a coke boiler.
The car was built for the Nord Express, and hence has a comparment at either end which sleeps three rather than the usual two. Each compartment has a ‘sleeping mode’ with bunks and a ‘day mode’ where the beds fold away to become seats. They also have a sink, and a shoot underneath incase the occupants are caught short in the night! First class passengers would have a compartment per person, whereas second class would have to share. As well as in the Nord Express, the car also ran in the the Arlberg-Orient Express (Paris - Bucharest, Romania). Sister cars nos. 3912 and 3915 are still in use with the modern day luxurious Venice-Simplon Orient Express (VSOE).
Our car was brought to the UK for a BBC television film Caught on a Train in 1979. 3916 was used for many years as volunteer accommodation as well as featuring in a number of films. Receiving little attention and no funding, the coach was allowed to degrade to the point where it was declared unfit for use. It languished for a number of years until 2007 when a group of NVR volunteers took pity on her. The result was the formation of The International Railway Preservation Society (IRPS).
Work has been progressing well on the East Vestibule of 3916. A lot of the metalwork was completely rotten in this area. It was often a case of chopping the old metalwork out, only to find the piece beyond that, that you were planning on welding new material on to, was equally as rotten!
The area around both buffers has been completely rebuilt by Joel and Matt.
With the absence of covered accommodation for the moment, we are also constructing a roof between the two coaches so work can continue whatever the weather.
Work on the sleeping car in 2012 has really been a case of two steps forward, one step back.
So to start with, the bad news:
The repairs on the bottom of the north side of the coach where we replaced the bottom couple of inches of the side have not been aseffective as we had hoped for. Even though we cleaned up with structurral metalwork behind the afffected platework, rust keeps coming through from the underside. At first it was thought maybe the quality of the weld might have caused the rust to start coming through from the outside so in a number of places the weld was ground out and rewelded. Unfortunately, the rust still persists in coming through. This is coming from the inside on the structural metalwork that it is impossible to reach with the side sheeding on. As this is happening only a year after the original repairs, it will clearly not stand the test of time, even once stored undercover most of the time in The International Night Mail Museum.
There is no quick, easy or cheap solution to this problem unfortunately. The whole side sheet will have to come off, the structural metalwork cleaned up and a the side sheeting replaced below the windows.Whilst frustrating and heartbreaking after so many hours have been spent on the original repairs, unfortunately there are no other options open to us. The NVR's paid carraige staff have had to do the same repairs on the railway's rake of SNCB K1A coaches over the last yew years.
This is a job that needs to be done under cover however so we will not go ahead with this until we have secure storage out of the elements at Ferry Meadows.
It is not all bad news however. We have had a new volunteer Matt, who is a coded welder, and Joel making significant progress on the east end vestibule. This is the sort of work that requires highly specialised work and coded welding as the forces of the whole train can be transfered through the coupling and buffers here. These areas are also essential for structurual stability of the coach in a crash. Having Matt on board is therefore saving us many thousands of pounds. The skills he is passing on are also invaluable.
A framework has been built to support the roof as we chop more and more metalwork out of the vestibule.
Following this, Matt and Joel set about systematically chopping out rotten metalwork, and fabricating new, sometimes complicated shapes, to replace these with. As with everything else on the vehicle it has sometimes been a case of two steps forward, and one step back. Sometimes a new piece of metalwork has been made, ready to weld in, only to find the original metalwork that had previously been unaccessible, it is being welded onto is too rotten and has to be replaced to. Everywhere you look, much of the metalwork is a lot more rotten than first expected unfortunately.
The North-East buffer area is now complete, and work is progressing around the rotten areas of the south-east corner. Work will then go onto building up the main structure of the vestibule using the pieces that were fabricated in 2009.
Bellow are a series of pictures of the work through the summer months.
We decided to construct a new canopy for the side of the coach to keep the worst of the weather at bay this winter.
The new canopy is bigger and sturdier than the previous version and has already proven its use over the last couple of weeks.
The decision was made after a particularly strong rain storm in October, where a lot of water collected in the exposed window hopper bays and on the corridor floor.
Work will recommence, alongside the Railbus, next year when the warmer weather returns. This once again shows the necessity of undercover accommodation for our rolling stock.
Once again, work on the exterior of the coach has been slow these last months. This was due to a lot of time and effort being concentrated towards making the front of the Nord Express display presentable and even more time on the Café extension that IRPS Enterprise was contracted to build for the NVR.
Despite the large workload however progress has not altogether ceased. A few months ago the coach was given a very thorough cleaning inside, turning up all kinds of debris & dead things! But the main point of concentration has by far and large been the window frames and hoppers.
Each hopper takes an alarming amount of time to restore, or in the majority of cases, build from scratch. So any time work commenced on 3916 it was usually these that dominated our days.
Pictures from the window hopper construction procedure can be seen below with descriptions in the pop up boxes:
Another job that was completed recently was the removal of every radiator from the coach ready for restoration:
Photo taken in June of the coach at night.
Work on 3916 has been slow over the winter due to the weather. The majority of work has gone on restoring parts for the interior of the coach.
Parts from the attendant's cabin have also been restored and are ready to be fitted.
We managed to get some exterior work completed during an extraordinarily warm March week. A strip towards the base of the coach was needle gunned, rust treated and primed ready for top coat later in the year.
When the warmer weather returns permanently we will continue with bodywork restoration.
Pump Trolley experiences and hire are run by volunteers from The Night Mail Group at The Nene Valley Railway. All funds raised are used to support the restoration of our historic railway vehicles and the developement of The Night Mail Museum at Ferry Meadows Station.