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Thomson TTO 13803

This vehicle was built in York in 1947 to Diagram 330 and is an example of the Thompson design of coaches for the LNER. It was acquired 11.9.77 from Bellahouston Carriage sidings, Glasgow. The body is steel panelled and has been expertly scumbled by Dave Simpson to resemble the teak bodied coaches of the earlier LNER era. The layout is very similar to that of a Mk1 TSO - 64 seats in a 2+2 formation with two toilets at one end. The coach is fitted with the Wolverton dynamo system and the lighting is in the old LNER tradition of a line of bare bulbs down the centre of the ceiling.



The photo above shows a detail of the "teak" scumble on the exterior of the coach. This work was done around the turn of the century after the roof had been re-covered with fibreglass and the interior upholstery renewed. During this refurbishment the lighting system was taken back to 24v operation (it had been mains wired).

The coach was one of 15, three, numbers 13803-13805, were allocated to the Southern Scottish Area of the LNER. Their specific allocation is not known but it is suspected that they were employed as seating vehicles accompanying restaurant cars on East Coast Main Line sets which were stabled and serviced at Craigentinny Carriage Sidings, Edinburgh.

The Classification "TTO" stood for "Tourist Third Open" but the "T" itself referred to the seating which was originally of the Gresley "bucket" type although this cannot be confirmed and it may well be that the coach was built with bench seats of the type it now is equipped with.

13803's life on the main line must have been fairly short however and the introduction of British Railways Mark I Standard coaches must have relegated it to internal duties within the Scottish Region of British Railways.

Bellahouston sidings

After withdrawal from service, possibly because of its internal condition externally the coach was considered sound enough for its body to find further use as a bothy (or messroom) at Bellahouston Carriage sidings in Glasgow. The body was supported on bricks, the bogies being disposed of. (Former Southern Region Third Open No SC1482S was also saved from the scrapheap and was a stablemate of the "Thompson" but kept its bogies. Ultimately this vehicle was saved for preservation by the Bluebell Railway in Sussex).

It was not long before the condition of the coach deteriorated to the extent that fresh accommodation had to found. Luckily the SRPS was aware of its demise and a sale was agreed. Thought was duly given to evacuation of the body and a novel solution was found in purchasing a coach with a body of (at that time) limited appeal but offering a compatible pair of bogies. The donor vehicle was a Staff Van DE321054, formerly Third Corridor 18248, built 1937.

DE321054 at Crianlarich

Photo H Stevenson.

A crane was hired and the body lifted off the bogies at Falkirk. The bogies were then taken by road to Bellahouston where another crane lifted the coach body on to the bogies. The coach then moved by rail to the SRPS's Falkirk base. Incidentally the donor body survived as a meeting point for volunteers and, after more than one showing of films within it, became known as the "Roxy".

Restoration however could not proceed in earnest until blue asbestos insulation had been removed by a recognised contractor and the coach was moved to the then Hamilton Motive Power Depot where it was "cocooned" on a siding between the main line and the former steam shed.

Concern then grew at the condition of the steel bodyside panels and replacements were cut by a firm in Carfin, Lanarkshire, welded together and screwed into place at Falkirk. The bogies were also overhauled by BR Engineering Ltd at St Rollox Works in the late 1970's.

Between 1978 and 1980 the coach then received a quick scumbled teak finish on one side only, the other side being left in undercoat. Internally the panels were restored, being re-covered with leatherette that matched the original rexine. The original seating had of course been stripped out when the coach went to Bellahouston and, as its detail is still unknown, bottoms and backs from a British Railways Mark l Standard coach were fitted.

When the SRPS had to leave Falkirk after 1981 to 1988 most of the carriages in its collection were moved to Perth but 13803 was taken by road to Bo'ness. From 1988, after the unfinished side of the coach had been painted in ersatz teak effect it was used regularly in the service train which operated over what was progressively opened until the present terminus of the line at Birkhill was reached.

Lack of protection from the elements had its effect and it was not until 1998 that serious restoration recommenced including replacement of roofing canvas with glass fibre matting, and painted.

Externally the coach was completely repainted, the scumbled finish (but repainted) being retained. Similarly the leatherette was preserved internally but the seating was re-trimmed with a pattern of moquette that was purchased through VSOE in London, the appearance being far superior to the BR pattern and much more in keeping with what is thought was used originally.

Luggage racks of a chrome finish were fitted but a sufficient number was not available with which to finish the whole coach. These were removed at Manchester from the Class 501 electric multiple units of 1950 vintage but built to an LNER design. Again it is not known what type of rack was fitted but it has to be assumed that they must be similar to if not exactly the same.

As to the undergear of the coach a "Wolverton" dynamo and regulator were fitted. Records of what was originally equipped do not exist but it is safe to assume that this is not what the coach was built with. To retro-fit would be a major problem as spares of the original lighting equipment are impossible to source (as proved by the LNER Coach Association's efforts with their coaches). In 2016/7 the lighting was converted to LED power and a PA amplifier was installed in the south side battery compartment for "occasional" use, e.g. weddings.

In April 2005 the coach was specially requested by the LNER Coach Association to complement the rake of LNER teak bodied coaches which are based at Pickering on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The occasion was to commemorate the centenary of the appointment of Nigel Gresley as Carriage Engineer of the GNR at Doncaster Works in 1905.