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Opening up the coaches

Ian Simpson



Initially, early railways weren't very interested in third and fourth class passengers. Firstly they saw the big money coming from goods traffic rather than passengers anyway, a misconception that quickly vanished as the first main lines opened. Secondly, the passengers that they did want to attract were the well-heeled people who had previously travelled by stage coach, not the poorer folk who hitched a ride on the carter's wagon (or simply walked everywhere). But it didn't take railway managers long to realise there were lots of poor people out there ... and when they did recognise this fact they soon started providing open coaches - not always with seats - to earn a few extra quid.




I decided to see if I could cut a Bachmann Prussia coach up into an open coach, and I was surprised to find how quick and easy the work can be. First I disassembled the coach and removed the seating unit and the glazing.




My plan was simply to cut the sides of the coach along the top of the quarter lights (the curves at the bottom of the windows) with a razor saw. But when I removed the seating unit, the plastic side seemed a bit too thin, and so a bit too flexible, to saw across accurately without some reinforcement behind it. So I used some of the freebie lottery cards to pack out the interior and support the coach side during the sawing. (Pieces of wood, card etc would do just as well.) 




After sawing the sides, I turned to the ends and sawed through them as well ...




... by which time it was taking shape ...




... especially when I cut the partitions of the seating unit down to match.




The basic job took under 20 minutes, although a bit of tidying up was needed afterwards to improve the appearance.




The seated passengers are by Preiser, although some of the figures on the platform are by Andrew Stadden.




The early railway companies' decision to provide open coaches for the poor was based on financial considerations. My own spur to experiment with the Prussia coach was a chance to exhibit some of my models at Wealden Railway Group's Annual Exhibition when an exhibitor pulled out at the last moment.


But the real star of the display was Nigel Hill's brilliant conversion of the Airfix/Dapol "Rocket" kit into an 1830s Stephenson Single (right hand side of the photo), so that will be my next post!


Edited by Ian Simpson

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Nice jo Ian. It must have been challenging to sit in those coaches when it rained. But at least the speed was low!


I do like your display. The backscene works very well I think.

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Thanks, Mikkel! I gather some railway companies drilled holes in the floor to let the rain out. Northern Rail passengers may moan about their Pacers, but at least they have a roof ...

BTW the backscene is a reproduction of a panoramic drawing of Brighton seafront in the 1820s. Most of the original drawing shows posh Georgian town houses, but this section seemed rundown enough for station surroundings.

Thanks, Chris. I'm now planning to make a four-class, four-coach train from the Prussia coaches:

(1) First class - simply as made by Bachmann, with no alterations;

(2) Composite - side windows on the second class compartments filled in with Milliput;

(3) Early second class - remove glazing and cut away the window frames by the doors, leaving the roof and ends on, and

(4) Third class - the coach described above.

Then (5) cram some standing figures inside one of your wagon kits to make a Fourth class Stanhope. (Companies like the GWR and LSWR initially used goods wagons to transport their poorer customers, rather than building special coaches!)

Edited by Ian Simpson
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