Darstaed LNER Gresley Teak Coaches
With the establishment of LNER in 1923 as one of the Big Four consolidated railway companies the new organisation inherited over 21,000 vehicles of coaching stock including carriage trucks, horseboxes and four and six wheeled coaches from its former constituent companies. Much of this stock was old and in a poor state of repair following the excesses of operation throughout the war years with only minimal maintenance for the most essential of work. Planned maintenance, refurbishment and replacement had been effectively postponed indefinitely. Older carriages were from another era – only 3,950 coaches were electrically-lit stock. Under Gresley’s CME watch plans began in 1923 for new carriage construction with a series of designs that were long lasting and would continue over a 27 year period until 1942. LNER was unique amongst the Big Four companies by continuing the use of teak wood panelling for its standard coaches – management taking the view that multiple applications of a good quality varnish on teak would wear well for many years. In 1923 LNER began to standardise coach design utilising a 60’ underframe. In 1927 the width of new carriages was standardised at 9’ 3” and later in the period they were set on double-bolster 8’ 6” bogies.
LNER also built some limited all-steel coach sets in 1927 and 1928 supplied by outside contractors, the highly individual and modern-looking Tourist stock between 1933 and 1939 for burgeoning day trip excursion train services and steel framed aluminium fronted Alpax carriages in 1933. The prevailing thought amongst LNER management was that all-metal carriages were more expensive and heavier with resultant increases in operating costs. However, the introduction of the A4s also saw LNER building new all-metal carriages to match its streamlined locomotives between 1935 and 1937. The ‘Silver Jubilee’ train was built with new coaches which created new standards of non-Pullman trains for its 198 passengers. The ‘Coronation’ several years later also had state of the art new stainless steel open plan carriages incorporating the latest air conditioning and sound proofing finished in a stylish two-tone blue colour livery scheme – see Darstaed A4 section. These dedicated and expensive prestige service coaches were only approved after extensive and careful deliberation – the LNER being the most finanicially prudent of the Big Four railway companies.
Given this background varnished teak-panelled vestibuled and non-vestibuled carriage construction become the norm and a review to look at all-metal alternatives only came about as a result of an inability to source suitable supplies due to wartime restrictions. Teak-panelled coaches in many different variations therefore were the principal types of mainline and suburban carriage used by the company. They came to characterise and define the LNER image; they were perceived by management to be safer in potential derailment and quieter than all-metal construction. In addition, the company was also of the view in the years before the clean air legislation that all-metal carraiges were more difficult to keep clean and hindered the appearance of premier train services. Articulated carriages (the placing of two bodies on three bogies) were a feature of Gresley’s time on the LNER and applied to both teak-panelled stock and all-metal carriages.
In its period of operating life LNER involved itself with creating some of the best-known named train services in the country. Gresley teak coaches were key to this development particularly when they were used in combination with Pacific A1, A3 and later A4 locomotives. Teak-panelled mainline passenger stock were to become a familiar sight on King’s Cross, Liverpool Street and internal Scottish services. Famous LNER named trains that comprised Gresley teak-panelled stock included ‘The Flying Scotsman’, the ‘Aberdonian’ and ‘Highlandman’ sleeping car trains, the ‘Scarborough Flier’, the ‘Norseman’ Norway boat train, the ‘Flushing and Hook Continental’ and ‘Scandinavian’ Harwich Parkeston Quay to Hook of Holland boat trains and the ‘Northern Belle’ luxury touring train.
The Darstaed Gresley teaks can be run with their new A4, existing ACE A3 and A4s, Basset-Lowke A1 and A3 but also with Seven Mills Models B1, B17 and Gresley V2 locomotives.