Getting a seat on a train is one of the primary objectives when we wisely decide to travel by rail. The design thinking that goes into a seat is something most of us take for granted. That is, unless you’re restoring a railway carriage which requires the seats to be refitted after an absence of forty years and the seats need to be reupholstered.
Mark 1 carriage seat specification
In 1955 when BSK 34527 (Brake Second Corridor) was built, the four compartments were fitted with two bench seats on either side. The seat back was fixed to the wall. The seat base (squab) was supported on metal brackets. Dowling protrudes from the underside of the seat frame and locates into holes on the brackets at either end. This allowed the squab to be lifted out of the way enabling cleaning of the under seat area around the heater positioned there. The heater was protected by a grille which goes the full length under the front of the seat. When the BSK was built, rubberised horsehair was used extensively in the seat construction. For the seat base, this was supplemented with springs to provide a very comfortable seat.
Finding the resources
The BSK was converted by British Rail (BR) into a break down train tool van around 35 years ago. The gangway ends and all the compartments were removed. To enable these to be refitted it meant it had to move temporarily to Cranmore Maintenance Services. You can read my post and see more photos of this here.
The four compartments have been refitted and walls being are being repanelled by the volunteer team from Midsomer Norton. The next job is the seats. Years ago when the coach required an overhaul, coded C1 by British Rail, it would have been moved into one of the main works such as Wolverton, Derby Litchurch Lane, York or St. Rollox in Glasgow. There the seats would have been removed completely and re upholstered. In today’s heritage railway scene unless you have the superb resources like the Gloucester and Warwickshire or the Bluebell Railway, you have to seek external help to get the seats reupholstered. Allen Pavitt Contracts Ltd near Honiton have been providing a reupholstery service for many years. He was selected to restore the BSK seats. Our friends at the Avon Valley Railway provided the eight seats and backs along with some of the end panels.
The photograph below shows a couple of the panel ends in BR green check which were also provided.
The numbers relate to the vehicles they were once fitted to: 25040 is an SK operating currently on the Avon Valley Railway. 35174 was from A BSK that sadly was destroyed by fire in 2001.
Also pictured are three of the bench seats which which we obtained which show three of the different designs of moquette used by British Rail during 1960’s and into the 1970’s.
Allen has just completed a batch of seats for another heritage railway and will now strip the old moquette from our seats. The springs on these seats are very old and would be costly to replace. Worn springs don’t keep the moquette tight and the resulting creases cause it to wear relatively quickly. An alternative is to remove the springs completely and reassemble with high quality foam. This keeps the moquette tight yet still providing that comfortable armchair experience. Allen recently read upholstered the seats for Collett designed carriage 536 now at the Didcot Railway Center. The picture below taken some time ago gives you an idea of the sort of moquette and the standard that Allen can achieve.
It has been decided that M34527 will have it seats re upholstered in BR Chain Link moquette. This was used extensively by BR In the 1950’s when the BSK was built. Two rolls of this have been purchased from Tim Robbins of Torrington Coastal Restorations Ltd.
Arm rests and compartments
The seat backs obtained currently have arm rests but for a number of reasons it has been decided not to incorporate these in the process. The Western and Southern regions of British Rail did not have arm rests on the compartment coaches when delivered new because they believed that high passenger loadings would be the norm. During the design stage of the BR Mark 1 coach the railway wanted their “standard vehicle” to be well received. They produced full sized mock ups of the interiors and exhibited them at the 1951 Festival of Britain. I understand these are now at the National Railway Museum. Also in this period, the compartment style was favoured over the open type of arrangement used in today’s carriages. One of the charms of visiting and traveling on heritage railways is the opportunity to travel in corridor stock. When the BSK is returned to Midsomer Norton in the next couple of weeks, it will be marshalled next to SK (Second Corridor) M26049 making up a typical local train on the Somerset & Dorset Railway of the 1950s and early 60s. If you are visiting the Somerset and Dorset this Summer enjoy your ride in our newly upholstered BSK and I’m sure you will be sitting comfortably!