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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 44 - Spring / Summer 1981

The Quainton Wreckers - Paul Johnston

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P Johnston - SC12936E at Mossend- 20th February enroute to J D MacWilliam's Scrap yard

Following the recent acquisition of Gresley Corridor Third, SC 12934E, and the prospect of our BTK 41384 entering traffic in the not-too-distant future, the thoughts of the C&W Department have turned towards the prospect of obtaining spares for these coaches.

Problems of finding spares for our vintage six-wheeled stock has shown how important this can be. Therefore, when the Scottish Region's Emergency Control Train came up for tender, we not only purchased SC12934E but approached the scrap dealers who had bought the other coaches and asked them if we could buy from them spares for our two Gresleys.

Two coaches were sold to C F Booth and Sons of Rotherham, but both were unfortunately scrapped before we could get to them. However, two other coaches, one similar to our purchase, were purchased by [sic - from] BR from [sic - by] Messrs J D MacWilliam and Sons of Glasgow and a useful contact was made with the firm who were quite willing to help us - so long as we didn't wait too long in taking what we wanted.

A comprehensive 'shopping list' was prepared, including internal sliding doors, connecting gangway doors, window ventilators, wiring channels, locks, blind boxes, commode handles, etc. These items were to be removed from the vehicles, with MacWilliam's and BR approval, at the Muirhouse Depot, Glasgow, but the heavy items, such as corridor connections, vacuum cylinders, buckeye couplers, bogie springs, bearings, centre castings and doors, for example, would be taken off the carriages at MacWilliam's scrapyard.

On a chill February Thursday night I set off from Watford Junction on the 22.40 to Glasgow and at 08.00 the next morning found the rather forlorn Gresley coaches in the Glasgow yard and began wrecking. Six hours later I had a nice pile of goodies, including a lavatory door for 12934, and there was more to come during the afternoon. With most of the internal fittings of any use removed safely, I directed my attention to the sliding window ventilators. We needed two for our 12934 and the Severn Valley wanted some for the Emergency Control coaches they had acquired.

At 08.00 hours on a warmer Saturday I again set foot inside Muirhouse Depot to recover the ventilators. "You're lucky these coaches are still here", said Andy, the Works Manager. "A Class 20 came for them last night, but there was some obstruction on the line". He added "He's coming back about lunch time". Almost frantically I got to work with a mallet and chisel on the teak framework, but with no real results. Just then the Severn Valley contingent arrived and we agreed that the only way to get the ventilators out was by smashing the window glass. Andy gave the OK and to the sound of smashing glass we triumphed! That was when a Class 20 arrived to take the coaches to Mossend, outside Motherwell, where they would stay until being moved to MacWilliam's yard the following week.

We didn't intend to give up easily, after travelling so far for the spares, so we asked the driver if we could travel with him to Mossend and continue the good work there. He agreed and soon we were journeying over lines where passenger trains rarely reach! But at Mossend there was another snag. We were berthed on a track alongside the main running line, so we asked if the coaches could be moved to a quieter siding. The gaffer was most co-operative and a real enthusiast himself. A word with Motherwell Power Box saw to it. He also arranged for us to have the staff bus pick us up so that we could batch the 17.17 from Motherwell to Carlisle, where we could connect with our trains to Birmingham and Watford. We vowed never to complain about BR service again after such willing and cheerful assistance!

By 16.00 we had a neat pile of sliding ventilators and an even larger pile of smashed glass. The ventilators were quite heavy and there were grave doubts whether the staff bus would carry such a load. A number of drivers looked worried. Then one said "Wait a minute" - and he dashed inside to make a phone call. "On here" he said, pointing at a Class 37 waiting to depart to Motherwell sheds! Two drivers and myself picked up the ventilators and loaded them into the cab of the 37. We then made good speed to catch the 17.17 at Motherwell and another quick phone call saw to it that we were in the station first! All the spares were transferred from the locomotive to the train and off we went to the south with our precious haul. With the delivery of the coaches to MacWilliam's yard imminent, hurried arrangements were made for yet another trip to Glasgow the following weekend, this time for the heavier stuff. A small gang of members were recruited and we decided to travel to Scotland by rail.

So, accompanied by Tony Lyster and Simon Field, we journeyed north on the 22.40 (again) on the Friday night. We were well armed! Our tools were a pickaxe, a pair of Stilsons, a club hammer, numerous screwdrivers and a set of sockets - all vital tools for demolishing a 1934 Gresley coach. After a sleepless night in a Mk I (which made our M 15319 seem in remarkably good condition) and a meal in Glasgow, we went by train and taxi to the scrapyard at Shettleston. Demolition commenced. At 11.30 some Scottish Railway Preservation Society lads arrived and three hours later the coach looked as though it had been in a bad accident!

On our return home we made arrangements to pick up the vast amount of spares we had recovered - plus the springs the scrap merchant would have cut from the bogies during the week. We hired a lorry for the next weekend and, at midnight on Friday, Tony Lyster, Geoff Fulcher and myself set off for the scrapyard. It was a long wet trip, but we got there at 08.00 and soon loaded the lorry to its maximum capacity. The first drop point was the SRPS yard at Falkirk, where their brake cylinders were off loaded and we had a kip in their LMS Sleeper!

The southbound drive was duly completed and, after a good night's sleep, we went to Quainton, unloaded and then returned the lorry to the Hire Depot. Thus ended an operation which had taken much planning and hard work by the wrecking squad involved.

We now have a fairly comprehensive collection of spares for our Gresley coaches to keep them in good fettle for years to come - and special thanks go to the three fellow members who helped so valiantly in the recovery exercise.

Postscript: There is no truth in the rumour that C&W members involved in this exercise are graduating to cement mixers! (Loco Dept please note!)

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1981 and so does not reflect events in the 33+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

The Quainton Wreckers - Paul Johnston - Quainton News No. 44 - Spring / Summer 1981

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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