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Gwili Vintage Carriage Group at the Gwili Railway
GWR Coach No.216
The Great Western Railway built this coach in 1888 at their Carriage and Wagon Works at Swindon in Wiltshire. Built to Diagram S.7,Lot 415 it is 28foot long and weighed 11 Tons and 4 Cwt. It originally sat on a six-wheeled underframe and had five compartments for Third Class passengers. Initially it was illuminated by oil lamps but later these were converted to gas. It is known that this coach once worked the Launceston Branch Train No 2 in Devon.
After forty-five years it became surplus to the Railway's requirements and it was withdrawn from service on the 23rd September 1933. It is presumed that soon afterwards the body was removed from the underframe at Swindon and along with others was available for sale.Meta Jones purchased the body for eleven pounds and it was transported on a flat wagon by rail to Llandyssil station, passing through Bronwydd Arms on its journey.
After unloading it was moved on a road wagon hauled by horses to the village of Pentrecwrt a distance of about three miles away. Here it was unloaded into a field and was adapted to a dwelling. A corrugated iron roof and a canopy on the front were added and at the rear a lean-to became a kitchen. The compartment dividing walls were removed except for one which formed the dividing wall between the bedroom (8 foot x 11 foot) and the living room (8 foot x 17 foot).
Meta purchased the coach for her mother, Lisa "Cyferi". In common with many Welsh people her second name was not her surname but one given by acquaintances. Lisa was fond of playing her gramophone and her favourite song was a duet, "Lle treigla'r Cyferi", or in English, "from where the Cyferi flows" referring to the Southern Indian river. The song was written by the Reverend John Blackwell a leading Welsh poet, who was the vicar of Manordeilo Church near Llechryd, Cardigan.All the above information has come to light since the rescue of the coach was reported in the local newspaper, the Cardigan and Tifyside Advertiser.
Unknown to the Group it was through this article that Meta Jones then in her eighties and living in Carmarthen found out about its rescue. On Easter Monday 1991 she visited the Gwili Railway and it was quite inspiring for volunteers to see her walk around the coach reminiscing, it really brought the whole thing to life. It was very emotional when she actually walked into the bedroom where she had given birth to her daughter.
Although Meta and her family had often been back to see the coach when it was in the field, she was saddened by its deteriorating state. Her mother had looked after the dwelling well and people of the village remember how proud she was of her home and its well-kept flower garden.It was with some happy memories that she wished us well with out task of restoring it to a passenger coach.
Whilst the coach had been in the field trees had grown around it and six very mature trees had to be felled before the coach could be removed. Our team assembled at Pentrecwrt village on Sunday 13th January 1991 with temperatures were well below zero. The road-crane and flat bed lorry were positioned but as the crane would block the narrow road for the lift, the emergency services were informed. No sooner had the crane jib been hoisted that the cables froze to the winding drum and had untangled into something that resembled a ball of spaghetti. The outriggers were then retracted to reopen the road and the next hour was spent drawing out the frozen cable and resetting it on the drum. Lifting the coach onto the lorry only took five minutes!
On arrival at Bronwydd Arms work started on preventing any further deterioration. Part of the corrugated iron roof was missing and therefore some of the roof and end was suffering from rot. Some of the steel cladding had rusted through, seven out of the ten brass door handles had been removed, two of the doors had had their tops sawn off, all thirty window panes were smashed, door locks had rusted, two compartment floors were rotten and a floor support beam had snapped.
Work continued with the removal of any remaining glass, window bolections were removed for restoration and the frames treated with wood preserver before painting with primer and undercoat. Externally all the flaking paint was removed and the remainder burnt off before being painted with primer and undercoat.
On some of the door posts we could see stamped into the wood the letters "W DEAN", he was the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent of the Great Western Railway at the time of the building of the coach. The remaining brass door handles, escutchions and window strap holders were removed for restoration and safekeeping.
Old paint on the ceiling and walls was stripped off by burning or sanding. Mahogany panels were removed from the doors for cleaning and varnishing and the floor was cleaned of a thick layer of bitumen and given several coats of black gloss. In the smaller compartment rotten floorboards were replaced after a broken crossbeam had been repaired.
The corrugated iron roof was removed along with the original canvas and white lead painted roof covering. The delicate rain strips were removed, cleaned and stored for replacing at a later date.It was roughly in this state in 1994 that work was suspended on the coach body. There were several reasons but primarily volunteers were needed more urgently elsewhere on the Gwili Railway.
Also little work could now be done until the body rested on its underframe.
Click here to find out more about the Gwili Vintage Carriage Group.