LMSR 6 wheeled passenger brake van 2886 was built in 1932 at
Wolverton in Buckinghamshire. It was one of the first carriage designs to come
out during the leadership of William (later Sir) Stanier, the Chief Mechanical
Engineer who had just been headhunted from the GWR at Swindon. Under Stanier, a
fleet of thousands of steel-skinned coaches were to be produced over the next
twenty years. The design of 2886 is an update of an earlier Midland Railway type
using “modern” materials on an old layout. The LMS telegraph code for these
vans was “CR”. The same year that little
2886 came out, Stanier also produced his first 100 mph-plus express locomotive,
and it is hard to imagine our 6 wheeler being part of the same output. 2886 is
unusual in having a fire proof floor made of corrugated iron and red cement,
and features D-shaped fittings on all doors. These are to take H.M. Customs
seals. Damage to the floors indicated the passage of very large barrels, and
our assumption is that 2886 was specifically used on traffic such as whisky or
beer either for export or import where Duty had not yet been paid. Large
warehouses such as ours at Kidderminster would have a bonded goods lock-up
where such traffic could be kept locked away until the Customs man released it.
2886 carried the 1930s fully lined gold and vermillion on crimson lake livery as built, which was replaced in 1936 by a simpler livery which featured yellow “go-faster” stripes. Some time around 1934 it was also renumbered to become 32919, an identity it carried until withdrawal by British Rail in 1970. Around 1940 our van was fitted with a stove and coal bunker, presumably after its work on alcohol traffic had ceased. It was then re-coded as a Stove-R. As 32919 it was purchased for preservation by a gentleman named Tony Goss who found it at Micheldever in Hampshire. He moved it to Buckfastleigh in Devon where it was repainted into a 1940s version of LMS livery.
It then moved to the Severn Valley Railway on 2nd May 1972 and was initially used as the railways first mobile bar car, serving lemonade, brown ale and crisps. To separate the guard from these temptations a partition wall was built halfway along the vehicle. 32919 was the leading vehicle in the first SVR public passenger trains to Bewdley in 1974. It also visited Derby works travelling over the B.R. mainline behind LMS Black 5 45110 both ways for an open day, which was the high point of its career up to then. Withdrawn for panel repairs by Mr Goss, work commenced at Highley around 1975 but soon ceased as the scale of the task became apparent. A few years later 32919 was sold to the 4150 Loco Fund who planned to use it as a stores van to support that loco under restoration, but again work petered out. In 2009 a member of the Bridgnorth Carriage and Wagon team bought it for restoration, and having two heavy LMS rebuilds nearing completion at the time this team were ideally placed to undertake this huge task. On completion of Open First 7511 in 2009 ownership was transferred to the SVR Rolling Stock Trust of both 7511 and 2886. Working parties were sent to Didcot to salvage parts from 1940-built 33002 and this enabled most of the doors and roof to benefit from better parts than had survived on our vehicle.
Extensive timber framework replacement was needed and this was done at Bridgnorth with the help of a Grant to cover one year’s work from the PRISM Fund of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. By the end of 2010 stage 1 of the project was achieved with all of the roof, sides and ends rebuilt and undercoated. Internal work including new floor, rewiring ceiling and detailed fitting out then painting was to take another four years, as authentic restoration to high standards takes time. In February 2016 after laying the new pink cement floor 2886 as we now call it, was transferred to Kidderminster for final work to complete the steam heating, carry out brake gear overhaul and finish external painting. Heating was completed by the end of 2016, but owing to pressure of work 2886 spent most 2017 stored in the carriage shed awaiting available labour for brake gear work. This resumed in early 2018 along with finish painting to the ornate 1932 livery, carried out as training for one of our apprentices. Our van has not had its 1940s stove replaced (this was stolen during its derelict years), so along with restored marker lights above the guards duckets it now carries its original number 2886 as it is physically back to its original condition. The marker lights were so that station staff could locate the guard easily on trains made up of multiple vans and had been taken off during the blitz as blackout precautions. Internally it is decorated in French Grey and Gardenia instead of the usual LMS Brick Red, because this was found to have been the first scheme when burning off the old paint. We suspect that these lighter colours were due to it working from and to distilleries and warehouses with gas lighting, and making the most of the available lighting conditions.
By February 2019 2886 had completed its restoration to working order, fully painted and with new leaf springs. 2886 is now part of the SVR Charitable Trust collection and much of the fund-raising to restore was achieved by volunteers salvaging aluminium and through donations topped up by gift aid.
The Trust will be using the vehicle in 2020 as a mobile exhibition space as part of its interpretation of the Falling Sands Viaduct restoration. The Stove R can be attached to passenger service trains or stand alone in sidings, but most importantly it will begin to tell the stories of several key characters who will shed new light on the history of the railway, the viaduct and the 'loop line.'