3916 Restoration

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).

April - June 2009

Extensive corrosion of both end vestibules:

In order to proceed with removing corroded metal the steps had to be removed.

Vestibule Pillars:

A decision has been taken, following consultation with the Nene Valley's full time carriage staff, that the steel work on the vestibule ends is beyond repair and total replacement is better.

Each pillar has been accurately measured and drawings made.

The drawings have been used to produce the steel that form the vestibules. Each being identical to the original.

A lot of work has gone into the main pillars, originally Wagon-Lits would have used a press for these parts as the majority of the pillar is a quarter round profile, but becomes square towards the top.

In order to create an exact copy of the original, two sections had to be formed separately and then welded together.

The new pillars being cut to shape by a volunteer with a plasma cutter.

After the pieces had been cut to fit together perfectly they had to be welded together.

The two halves to the new vestibule pillar after being welded together.

July - October 2008

The restoration of the roof is now complete, the coach having taken pride of place in the newly commissioned heavy overhaul workshop. All tank fillers and inspection panels have been removed for restoration. While in the workshop rotten metalwork has been cut away from the end vestibules, taking care to measure and draw all metalwork profiles in order so that new profiles can be pressed.

The external doors have been removed for renovation.

The main water tanks and hot water boiler have been lifted out and the boiler pipe work dismantled.

End Vestibule Stripped down to the frame:

Corrosion on the main frame.

Fortunately plenty of sound metal still remains as shown above.

Vestibule with doors removed for renovation.

Hot water systems prior to restoration.

Wagon-Lits coaches had to be self contained as the many Wagon-Lits express sleeping car trains exchanged coaches to different locations along the way. This could involve a coach waiting some time before being collected by the next express.

The coach, of course, contained an attendant (conductor) who kept the coach warm by keeping the boiler stoked with coal from the hoppers on the vestibule ends. The hot water was heated in the same way, in a small boiler on top of the main boiler. In the summer, this small boiler was stoked independently, but in the winter, heat from the main boiler also heated the small one.

Corroded roof sheet removed:

Below are some more pictures from the time the coach spent inside the new heavy overhaul shed:

3916 being shunted into the new shed

The small electricity box next to the battery boxes and the step into the coach with manufacturing details.

Two shots of the far end Vestibule where work has not yet commenced.

The end product of a winters work; the roof almost completely restored. First photo still in the shed and the second after removal the following spring.

February - July 2008

The coach continued to stand in the open and attention concentrated on fund raising and removal/restoration of body work fittings. The fittings mentioned above were carefully removed and then grit blasted, prior to rust treating, primer, undercoat and gloss.

Parts prior to restoration:


Parts after restoration:

November 2007 - January 2008

Work progressed to the interior of the coach. The plan is to complete the corridor and then make a start on the compartments. There are also two windows that will need replacing. So far work has centered around removing paneling around the windows, refurbishing all the metalwork in the window mechanisms then screwing it back in.We have also removed the fake ceiling put in when the coach was modernised to reveal the original Art Deco one which has made the coach seem a lot more spacious.

August - November 2007


As can be seen above and below, when one of our members first attempted to get to grasps with this coach it was in a pretty bad state. While not structurally the most dilapidated part of the coach, the visual state of the roof left a lot to be desired. It was not water-tight and more importantly was relatively cheap to sort out.

This was first sanded and wire brushed back to bare metal, before a treatment of rust prevention was put on. On top of this we added primer and the white paint now present on the coach roof.

Unfortunately, the weather beat us to finishing the job, so the remaining third was left to the Spring when conditions are a bit more pleasant to be sitting on top of the coach!

Below are some more photos of the work that has taken place on the roof:

The newly 'paint free' roof.

One of the cleaned roof vents.

The roof how it looked originally and the part of the roof under paint.