I guess you could say that our first month was one to remember.
Filled with the adrenaline and excitement of what we had laid out before us, we began to explore the carriage in detail. Amongst the built in shelves and soil, we were able to find many artifacts that made the carriage come to life. As mentioned in our introduction, our first discovery was that of a plaque above one of the interior doors, which read ‘wait until the train stops.’ our first indication that our supposed shed was actually in disguise.
Secondly, was the discovery of the build plaque and gaps in the ceiling for oil lamps to hang down from. For us, we found them fascinating as they further helped us to understand the age of the railway carriage and how well kept the carriage was in our garden. Apart from the obvious gap between the roof and the glass of the windows, the carriage was in impeccable condition and kept giving us hints and clues as to what the life of an 1875 carriage actually consisted of.
Further into our discovery, we unearthed probably my favorite artifact to date. hidden at the back of the carriage, next to a window, are the remains of a match striker that passengers would have used to light their cigars or cigarettes when on the coach. I find it amazing that such an artifact is able to withstand some 100 years of sitting in a back garden, yet be able to stay in such perfect condition.
Upon gathering our discoveries, we decided that we should contact Bluebell Railway to see if they could give us a more information about how to restore the carriage. our wishes were granted far further than expected. We were allowed behind the scenes to see an identical carriage to ours being restored just as we’d want it to be. Kindly, the workers gave us a lot of information about our own carriage. We found out that it was a Stroudley London to Brighton South Coast Railways, 4 Wheel Brake 3rd class carriage Number 662, which seats 30- people and is 26 foot in length and fully formed weighed 9 tonnes, and had to have A LOT of work to do.
It wasn’t until a week later, when family friends came over to look into our new history project, that we unfolded something that not even Bluebell Railway had seen, covered in hundreds of years of dust and grit, was found in black letters the letter ‘E’ on the wall under a support bar. Frantically, we scrubbed at the wall and revealed another secret of the carriage. The line reads ‘Each seat to hold 5 persons,’ handwritten in paint on two walls of the structure. We washed and made the writing as clear as possible, before using our own paint and artistic skill, or lack of it, to re-do the calligraphy on the walls. It looked good. Very good.
One crew member leaned on the guards half of the carriage, on a back wall. As he got up, I couldn’t help notice more black font behind where he had lent. We scrubbed some more to uncover an ‘on/off’ switch looking thing, but with no attachments. to the left of the switch, we also noticed a handle that further supported Bluebell Railway’s initial thought that we had a London to Brighton train. Inscribed in the handle was ‘LB & SCRW’ almost perfectly intact.
Sadly, we were not able to be so lucky to get a 1st class carriage, but feel that our 3rd class carriage is far more beautiful, with more character and more secrets.