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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 72 - March 1993
BR(WR) Hawksworth Brake Third No. W2242
A Dream Fulfilled? The Hawksworth (Brake 3rd) Coach of Dennis Howells
Part 1: History and Acquisition of the Vehicle
Introduction. Dreams of ambitions are mostly idle whimsy but of times can be turned into reality by men of resource and ambition. This is an account of how Dennis Howells is in sight of fulfilling his bipartite dream of owning a restored locomotive and coach (see Quainton News No. 68, p21). His locomotive (9466), an immaculate pannier tank, was fully restored many years ago. Dennis's ambition to own a coach was fired when, on a train trip to Wales, he noted that several examples of GWR-designed Hawksworth coaches still existed in departmental use, and realized that this was the type of vehicle he must have. It was now time to ask the C&W chairman at Quainton to monitor the BR scrap rolling stock lists for examples of Hawksworth coaches. By a strange quirk of fate the coach Dennis finally acquired was located at Acton, a mere 15 minutes drive from home. But the task facing him was enormous, for the vehicle had been greatly modified and was in an appalling state of disrepair . . .
History of the vehicle. The coach was part of an order placed by GWR before nationalization, but because of post-war shortages of materials was not finally built until 1950, by Metro Cammell of Birmingham, Lot No 1744 to Diagram D133. It is to a GWR design, but it is not known to which carriage shed it was allocated (if anybody knows Dennis would be pleased to hear from them). As a passenger coach in Western Region days the Hawksworth Brake 3rd (BSK in BR terminology) bore the number W2242, but when it was later converted to a departmental vehicle (in 1967/8 by Wolverton works) it was renumbered DW 150391. In the latter guise it was a mess / tool van permanently coupled to a Plasser-Theurer (of Austria) ballast cleaning machine, and had had the following removed: guard's compartment (with its internal brake and electrical control apparatus); the wall dividing the luggage compartment/corridor; seating; luggage racks; lights and steam-heating apparatus from the four passenger compartments; the toilet and its compartment; the corridor ends (which were then blanked off with sheet steel - see photos). For some unknown reason the distinctive GWR 'shell' roof vents had been replaced by BR cast aluminium Mark I vents. The underframes also had been extensively modified: an external handbrake was fitted, the battery box and dynamo had been removed together with the brake pull rod (connecting the guard's hand brake to the bogie brake systems) and the steam pipe. Fortunately, the vacuum pipe was left in (to enable the coach to be vacuum braked), and the brake cylinders were changed to a BR Mkl pattern - with the happy consequence that spares will be available for some time to come. At Wolverton, the now empty coach was fitted with a kitchen at one end, a locker room, a washroom and mess room facilities with long bench tables plus chairs. The third class no-smoker compartment (incidentally, the only compartment with doors that open directly to the outside of the coach: said to be a tradition from the days of the stagecoach!) was turned into a coal-fired boiler room, complete with chimney and coal bunkers, for central heating. The remaining three compartments were converted to take two single beds each, and were fitted with hot-water radiators. The toilet end and vestibule became a drying area for wet weather clothing. To feed the cooking / washing / central heating facilities , two large water tanks were fitted over the kitchen (the long feed pipes for these ran the full length of the roof).
Casual research has revealed that the coach once worked in the Doncaster area of the Eastern Region, and that it was prone to the usual GWR problem of leaks behind the gutters. At the time the vehicle was in use it was customary to send coaches needing repair back to the region where they were originally designed. When the turn came for DW 150391 however, it only got as far as Acton (via the north London lines from its Eastern Region home) where it was examined to assess the feasibility of subsequent repair at Cardiff Cathays (who by then were repairing most departmental vehicles of the Western Region, but nowadays share the work of all regions). The decision was that the vehicle was unserviceable, so it was offered on tender for sale. Here Dennis stepped in, and after securing the necessary authority for storage from the Quainton Executive in December 1982, purchased the coach at the end of that year. The depressingly derelict state of the coach is clearly evident in the photographs reproduced here.
Getting the coach here. Various options were considered:
1) First and foremost, transport by rail, with a possible slew at Quainton Road. This option was expensive, and had the added disadvantage that as BR deemed coaches purchased by private individuals as "wide to gauge" for travelling on freight trains, extra work would have been incurred in removing steps, running boards etc. (Dennis wonders how, given this attitude by BR, coaches were ever moved in steam days).
2) Next option: find a road trailer onto which the coach could be winched. No luck, for no such trailer (suitable for a 66' long coach) existed in 1983.
3) Why not transport the coach on road bogies, with the coach bogies following on a lorry? This idea had to be rejected because the restoration team of three (Dennis, his father and Graham Tyler) couldn't match the tight time schedule imposed on them by BR for stripping down the brake gear and bogies for removal; sadly, in 1983 there was but little support from the membership for private owners with such a large task.
4) The option finally chosen - the most expensive, unfortunately - but the only one within the scope of the intrepid three - was to load the complete vehicle onto a lorry using two hired cranes, and to use these for the lift off on arrival at Quainton Road.
The journey to Quainton Road was uneventful but took place on the bitterly cold day of 30 January 1983. The coach travelled by a long and circuitous route to avoid numerous footbridges on the outskirts of London. Coincidence struck again, for the route took the convoy near Dennis's home! The coach left Acton Yard at 08.00h. (this very early start was necessary because the Metropolitan Traffic Commissioners do not allow long loads on the Western Avenue after 09.00h) but it was not until dusk that it arrived at Quainton Road: a journey of some eight long hours. Then, just as Dennis thought he could relax, he suffered a nightmare experience. As the adjoining photo shows, the trailer of the lorry sank into soft ground adjacent to the Brill platform [Note 1], almost causing the coach to topple. Only the sheer professionalism of the crane operators, in speedily setting up their jibs to take the weight of the coach, averted disaster. No doubt, so Dennis remarks, the spectacle was the highlight of the day for many who found the incident amusing. However, all was well eventually, and even before Easter had arrived, Dennis and his father had applied a cosmetic livery of GWR chocolate-and-cream to make the exhibit more presentable.
The story of how restoration is currently progressing will appear in part 2 of this article, in the next Quainton News.
(As told to DPS by Dennis Howells)
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 01 December 2017