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).

July - December 2010

With winter quickly approaching it is the time to ensure the coach is prepared for a winter of wet and cold.

All the work to the lower paneling, as discussed, has been completed to a very high standard.

It is impossible to see where the corroded plate was cut out and new plate welded in place. All seams were filled with weld and ground to a fine finish with only the smallest amount of filler used to fair the plate prior to painting.

All plate was first treated with rust inhibitor, then painted in green primer.

If the coach was housed inside a building then it could have remained in primer, however the primer is porous so we had to press ahead and paint below the waist band in undercoat simply to protect our work over winter.

By the time we applied the undercoat both the air temperature and the steel plate were cold so the paint finish is not particularly great and will need a good sanding down and re undercoating before a top coat is applied, probably around July time next year.

All the corridor windows have been removed during the course of the year. The sills on which the fixed windows sit (every 2nd window) are, in every instance, completely corroded and have been cut out. We have had new sills pressed to the original design along with their restraining strips.

Many 'happy' hours were spent welding in the sills, which is a difficult task, as too much heat can cause the steel sills to distort, too little heat and the resulting weld is poor and has to be ground out and done again.

The restraining strips were held to the sills with brass M6 dome head machine screws. With the former steel sills and restraining strips having been badly corroded, the hydraulic action caused by the rust snapped the relatively soft brass machine screws leaving the whole assembly held together by rust.

Now the problem! Where in 2010 can you buy brass dome head M6 machine screws? The nearest I can find is Pan heads which do the job perfectly well, but are not the original design.

You may think this does not matter. The problem is that slots cut in the steel fascia strips align with the screws, which can be retracted with the fascia in place. If ever the window brakes this removes the need to dismantle the paneling. However, the heads of the pan head screws are too large to pass through the fascia slots.

The windows themselves have been completely cleaned, the glass being cleaned with fine wire wool and tee cut bringing it back to almost perfect condition and a very nice shine.

Cleaned and polished window being fitted back into place

In most cases the anodised frame is in excellent order with only small areas where corrosion has eaten away the anodising and the soft aluminium under it has powdered. The windows have lasted well for the past 60 years and will give many years of service yet.

Half the windows on the vestibule side can be lowered, these drop down into a brass and aluminium hopper with a drain at the bottom of the hopper that extends through an oval slot in the chassis frame. On extraction of the first hopper we have found the aluminium has completely powdered through.

3916hopper 3916hoppercorrosion

One of the better removed Window Hoppers. Notice the holes where the aluminium has powdered

This is probably caused by the close proximity of different metals and the presence of water. Aluminium is the less noble of this combination of metals and electrolysis has eaten away the aluminium.

Once the integrity of the hopper failed then water was discharged into the chassis itself leading to corrosion of the plate and the angle framework supporting it.

Fortunately the failure of the hoppers is relatively recent and the ingress of water has not caused serious damage. Left unchecked it would eventually lead to the corrosion of the structural members and ultimately the failure of the coach.

I believe this could be a ticking bomb in other un-restored coaches.

Once the hopper has been extracted from the coach, the rivets holding the aluminium to the brass frame are drilled out releasing the aluminium plate which will be replaced with new.

Every opening window has a spring compensating system to assist in the opening and closing of the windows.

With considerable corrosion of the steel plate and the window hoppers I was expecting this relatively delicate mechanism with its many springs and moving parts to at least be seized up. Thankfully this was not the case and each one looks and functions as if it was new.


Corner section of a restored window frame.

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The Pan head screws mentioned earlier, holding the restored window in place.

Work to the vestibule ends has been minimal. The corners of the chassis are very badly corroded.

Once the buffers had been removed and the rest of the small parts from the end of the chassis had also been taken off, further damaged plate was cut away to establish the extent of the work needed to return it to the original condition and strength.

The buffers have since been restored to their original condition along with a number of other parts.

Many hours have been invested by the various team members, We have been joined by another young member, Lewis, who is proving to be a very good addition to the team.

John continues his work with the compartment windows, having dismantled the interior paneling of the corridor prior to welding work and the removal of the asbestos panels behind the heating pipes, that contractors will remove during November. The funds for this were raised in the summer raffle.

The release of the heating pipes from the pipe clamps was particularly challenging due to corrosion of the bolts and the awkward location. Work will continue on the vestibule ends as the weather allows during the winter months.

The South side of the coach will be tackled during 2012. With more people working on the coach it means that fund raising has to increase to keep pace with the expenditure.


Photo showing progress to date.

January - June 2010

With the corridor side now under restoration, a method was required to keep that side of the coach dry during the wet Winter and Spring seasons.

We fashioned a canopy out of scrap metal and wood found around the railway and clamped it in place to divert the rain neatly behind us when working and keeping the coach dry.


Now the canopy was in place, the needle gunning of the coach could continue in all weathers which allowed us to finish quite fast.

The speed of completion was also down to the addition help of a new working member who started in March.

After the needle gunning was complete, the corridor side was wire wheeled down, coated in rust treatment and finally Green primer.

3916progress2010 3916canopy2

The odd section has since been painted in blue undercoat.

The steelwork on the corridor side is fortunately in good condition, except around the window recesses and the last 50mm on the side plating.

This last 50mm has now been cut away and the metal left exposed by this has been rust treated and painted ready for the new strip to be welded in place.

3916striprust2 3916striprust

The level of rust underneath the removed 50mm plate.


Some of the plate before being cut off. Because it had broken away from the side of the coach, extensive rust was forming underneath.


The new plate, ready be screwed onto the side of 3916.


Two new volunteers, screwing the new plate into place ready for welding.


The new plate in place ready to be welded.


The new plate finally being welded on.

While the new 50mm plate is welded in place, work continues on the vestibule end with more and more corroded metal being removed each week.

The latest piece to be removed was part of the pillar which is due to be replaced by the one we fabricated last year.


As you can see, the pillar on the right has been removed.

Unfortunately however, the removal of this piece reveled extensive corrosion to the areas surrounding the buffers. The only way to tackle this problem is to remove the buffers, gas axe the corroded material away and weld a new plate in place.


The buffer plate is corroded beyond repair. The actual buffers can be seen through the hole in the plate.

Interior work also continues with another new member methodically removing and repairing each window before he begins to strip the rest of the coach.

The two broken windows have been re-glazed and one compartment now has a fully operational window.


The working window in the first compartment.


Parts of the window mechanism.


The handle to wind the window up and down.

Some of the interior paneling has also been removed and re varnished. Fortunately there is little or no damage to the majority of the panels.

3916interiorpanels2 3916interiorpanels

Pictures show the newly restored panel on the left against an un-restored panel.

Moving back onto the exterior of the coach, one side of the coach has been stripped of paint and the majority painted in green primer. Some sections around the windows are even in blue undercoat.


Photo showing the early stages of removing old paint and putting the new coats on.

November 2009

As the days are getting shorter, we are losing valuable hours of working time. To help reduce this problem to some extent we have installed a row of lights cable-tied into place along the interior corridor. This should keep the work hours the same as the summer time, weather permitting of course!


October 2009

Work continues on the vestibule end fabrication, but with a new working member having joined the team, work is now commencing on the corridor side.

Many windows are completely seized and many of the window recesses are heavily corroded externally in the corners, but more extensively on the inside. The opening windows drain internally, with the water exiting the coach via small holes where the chassis joins the coach sides. Rust in this area has caused the plate to corrode and pop the rivets, leading to flaring of the side plate. This also, being structural, requires extensive attention.

Firstly, the internal wooden paneling has been removed, allowing the window mechanism and fittings to be extracted. Each wooden part is labeled, but many have a Wagon-Lits stamp from when they were built, with car number and window number included.

With the fixed window the internal sills are heavily corroded, these are in two parts, the cover unscrews, while the main support is welded and has to be cut out.

The window corners are then carefully cut out, when beyond repair. Following this we then needle gun around the window aperture, prime and undercoat to protect the plate after rust treatment.

July 2009

Prince William School, Oundle, visited for one week and provided excellent service in removing the battery boxes from the coach, continuing the fabrication of the vestibule ends and making a number of small parts.

The images above show the battery boxes prior to removal, existing conduit heavily corroded and disintegrating.

Cutting off the seized bolts.

Once the battery boxes are removed, they will be grit blasted by a contractor.