Darstaed Great Western Railway Collett Coaches
The notion that the GWR had somewhat rested on its laurels with coach design for the previous 20 years was recognised by Charles Benjamin (C.B.) Collett who took over GWR’s CME role in May 1922. Under Collett the number of GWR carriage bogey types was rationalised which led to the adoption a batch process for the design of new coaching stock. GWR only built new types of coach as the need arose; most of their coaches were not built as complete rakes (as opposed to other Big Four companies) but accommodated a variety of different coach design styles largely inherited as a result of the 1923 grouping arrangement. GWR passenger trains tended not to run in fixed rakes but were assembled for individual train formations. As is usual with the company it was different choosing standardisation to improve or adapt coach design as opposed to a process of continual innovation.
Bow ended coaches typified the Collett era. A large number of new 57’ bow ended steel sided coaches were built between 1925 and 1929 – this stock forming the backbone of GWR’s mainline stock for the next 20 years; some bow ended coaches were known to have survived until the early 1960s. Where special new rakes were introduced by Collett it was normally to commemorate special occasions such as the Silver Jubilee of the ‘Cornish Riveria Express’ in 1929, the 70’ ‘Super Saloons or Ocean Saloons’ for Plymouth liner traffic in 1931 – GWR’s equivalent of Pullman stock – and the GWR Centenary in 1935 when two new 13 coach trains of ‘Centenary Stock’ were built – these carriages having characteristic recessed doors at each ends. Collett’s limited number of coach varieties formed the GWR design standard until 1946 when Hawksworth introduced distinctive new main line stock. All Collett coaches are produced in the highly symbolic chocolate and cream livery for mainline running with Castle Class and King Class locomotives.
One of the unique features of the GWR with its approach to train formations was the influence and control of the Superintendent of the Line. Whilst Churchward, Collett and later Hawksworth tried to establish fixed format coach sets in whole or part, the operating departments preferred an ad-hoc arrangement to carriage working where new stock was gradually all shuffled together with existing coaches. Typically of GWR expresses in the early 1930s (apart from the limited number of dedicated Ocean liner and named-train formations), Dean clerestories, for instance, could be mixed with new Collett mainline stock, Toplights and half way down a train, sticking out like a sore thumb, Concertina or Dreadnought dining cars might be seen.
Of all railway companies the GWR had long recognised the importance and value of moving time sensitive and perishable products quickly from the agricultural food regions of the West Country, the west Midlands and Wales, so the haphazard approach to coach formation was additionally characterised by frequent additions at the front or the rear of the train with vacuum-fitted fast passenger-rated six wheeled and double-bogied vans such as Siphons and other freight stock capable of travelling at express speeds. Darstaed GWR Collett mainline coaches are from the late 1920s whilst the restaurant car and full brake are based on the 1935 Centenary stock.