Starring Role for Kitchen Composite 7960
Page updated on: 23/04/16 at 15:46
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When Sir Nigel Gresley’s statue was unveiled during a recent ceremony at King’s Cross station in London, one of the stars of the show on Platform 8 was the SVR Charitable Trust’s Kitchen Composite carriage, No 7960. As the last surviving vehicle of its kind, its presence was a worthy tribute to its designer Gresley, one of the leading engineers of the steam age.
Trust Chairman, Hugh McQuade explains why: "I’d say it’s the finest of the nine teak-bodied, Gresley-designed carriages the Trust owns. People at King’s Cross were amazed at the quality of the restoration, and at just how much time and effort has gone into making this the showpiece vehicle it is today."
Built in 1936 at Doncaster, 7960 was purchased by an SVR volunteer and arrived at the SVR in 1980 in a very sorry condition. During the final years of its service, the interior had been gutted to convert it to a mess coach for track workers, and its dilapidated state meant restoring it would be a long, hard task. The carriage’s subsequent owner, Phil James, was the driving force behind this labour of love, and led a small team of dedicated volunteers, working under tarpaulin, to carry out the early work. After Phil’s death, his family donated 7960 to the SVR Rolling Stock Trust, (which subsequently became the SVR Charitable Trust), and the restoration work was completed at the Carriage & Wagon Works in Kidderminster. A good deal of detective work was required to work out how the interior had originally been fitted out, and the preservationists had to use impressions in the wood as clues.
Trust Chairman Hugh McQuade explained the sheer size of the restoration task: "Restoring 7960 to its current pristine condition has been a substantial investment of time and money. Around £75,000 has paid for staff hours, external contractors and sourcing replacement parts and materials. But a further £75,000 equivalent value has come from the many hours worked by unpaid volunteers. The Charitable Trust recognises how vital volunteer service is; quite simply, without volunteer labour, a carriage like 7960 would never have been transformed into the splendid vehicle it is today." As a token of gratitude, the Charitable Trust would like to invite working members to make a personal inspection of 7960.
Please contact the Trust office on 01562 757940 for more details. The Trust would also like to acknowledge the very substantial personal donation made to 7960 by John Leftwich, one of our Trustees. Looking to the future, Hugh said: "The Trust owns many more dilapidated carriages which it would like to restore, and bring back into service on the Railway. 7960 is a shining example of what can be achieved with the right blend volunteer and paid skills, plus a hefty cash injection. More money is needed and all donations of whatever size are welcomed. Please visit svrtrust.org.uk or phone 01562 757940.
Returning to 7960’s involvement at the Gresley statue ceremony, The LNER Carriage Group’s fundraiser, Richard Hill said: "It’s fantastic that this important historic vehicle has acted as such a superb ambassador for the Railway at King’s Cross, and rather than gathering dust as a museum piece, is now earning its keep as a working vehicle on the SVR."