With the urgent need for more carriages with private Covid secure compartments, and taking top priority, the whole C&W team of volunteers is working to complete the conversion of our two Open Suburban carriages to compartments. However, as well as making Covid secure, the brief was also that there were to be no permanent changes inside so whatever is added, had to be removable and the process reversed, without damage to the original carriage.
Initially consideration was given to transparent screens or head-height panels but neither fulfilled what was sold for the Santa Special “Elf Express” trains. Customers are expecting “private compartments” suitable for a family group from the same household or bubble. The good news was that with a little design ingenuity, the original luggage racks are well placed to provide a secure framework on which to fix the compartment partitions. A five-panel assembly was designed that, with additional bracing, has proved a system that works, the first being completed a week ago. To speed up the job, and through a very helpful contact we have, Arnold Lavers have helped by producing pre-cut panels on their CNC machine in Leeds. However, no two BR Mk1s are exactly the same and same applies to the SLOs. Each seat is slightly different, aisle widths vary, and the carriages are slightly narrower in the centre than the ends! As a result, many of the panels require slight trimming before they can be fitted.
To complete each partition and meet fire regulations, the surfaces have to be finished with intumescent fire-resistant paint. At a glance this looks like ordinary paint but if exposed to fire, it produces a foam that stops any spread of flame. Additionally, expanding, gap filling, intumescent fire seals have been generously donated by Lorient Ltd, specialist fire seal manufacturers for the top, curved edge of the roof panels.
At the time of writing most of the compartment partitions are part installed in the first SLO while the second has been on the jacks to have asbestos removed by an external licensed contractor and new steam heater pipework fitted. Nearing completion, it will shortly join the first one to have its compartment partitions added. We all in C&W look forward to seeing them both joining the “Elf Express” and filled with happy families, making the job so worthwhile. Just hope the Covid infection rate doesn’t cause the lockdown to be extended into December but if it is, the work won’t be in vain, private compartments are likely to be at a premium for many months to come.
Finally, the brief said no damage to the original; well we have to confess, one broken light bulb and some very tatty luggage rack netting that fell to pieces while being removed, otherwise, so far, so good!