ACE Trains British Railways (BR) Mk I Blood and Custard Coaches
The famous crimson and cream coach livery first appeared around 1949 and quickly assumed the nickname of ‘blood and custard’. For the first time a uniformed approach was created for the newly established national British Railways (BR) network. Prototypes of the BR Mk I stock appeared in 1950 and the first production coaches in blood and custard coach livery with Gill Sans numbering and lettering arrived in 1951 to coincide with the Festival of Britain. The distinctive carriage style for hauled mainline passenger stock saw the best features of coach construction from the former group railway companies being amalgamated. Mk I coaches were built in two distinct phases; early coaches from 1951 to 1960 and the ‘Commonwealth’ (based on bogey design) from 1961 onwards.
Most Mk I coaches were built to two lengths; 64.5’ for corridor coaches but a smaller number of non-corridor stock of 58’ body length allowing the coaches to traverse tight track curvature. Passenger stock construction of the Mk Is ended in 1963 with the introduction of air-conditioned Mk 2 coaches the following year whilst non-passenger stock continued in production until 1974. A wide variety of vehicles were constructed including open firsts, corridor firsts, corridor composites, restaurant cars, restaurant/buffet cars, sleeping cars, open seconds, corridor seconds, corridor brakes, corridor composite brakes, brake open seconds and corridor brake seconds.
Production up until the late 1950s had timber veneered interior finishes but this was later replaced by lamination. Blood and custard livery was not to last on BR Mk I coaches and in 1956 the first of the regional variations appeared: maroon the standard for BR London Midland, Eastern and Scottish regions; chocolate and cream for BR Western region expresses and BR Southern region reverted to green. The last Mk I coaches to be built at Eastleigh in blood and custard livery arrived in July 1956. Mk Is continue to provide the backbone for the UK’s heritage railway industry.
The new ACE 40cm coaches can be run with a variety of early BR locomotives and indeed late crest as many blood and custard coaches were not repainted until the early 1960s. The ACE Mk I sets provide a wide cross-section of running stock such as new large mainline locomotives like the Duchess, the Britannias and the 9F class but also A3, A4 and Castle Class locomotives. They certainly capture the early years of railway nationalisation.