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LNER teak coaches and livery

A collection of colour slides that I have restored to show what teak coaches actually looked like in LNER days. The sequence is:

- gangwayed (from pre-Grouping days, some of which served deep into BR days.)

- secondary

- details and fittings

Each is in chronological order.

A4 No 4467 Wild Swan in the 1930s has an up express at an unknown location. Colour reproduction is notoriously unreliable but this picture does give a good idea of what most LNER varnished teak carriages looked like, and the effect of revarnishing, which has been applied to the body of the BG behind the tender. These effects can actually be seen today on preserved lines where restored carriages undergo the same transitions.

The variation between the panels on the BG is also visible, and between individual coaches further back. Please also bear in mind that shades of red look very different indeed depending on whether the sun is shining or not!

Note that there isn't a single white roof to be seen, nor even a grey one, although they are different shades of smokey, near-black. Photo: CCQ, author's collection

This view from 1937 illustrates that in, the late 1930s, two-thirds to three-quarters of the LNER fleet was still of pre-Grouping origin, in this case ex-GNR. "Royal" Claud D16 No 8787 is pausing at Welwyn Garden City and it's quite a well known picture of a train that was much photographed (because the pair of "Royal" D16s in green livery, Nos 8783/8787, was rostered for it). Almost always captioned as a "Cambridge Buffet Express"*, this was in fact a secondary express without catering - the 2.4pm Cambridge-King's Cross whose formation in the 1930s ranged from ex-GNR Howldens and ex-GNR Gresleys, to the latter with the odd LNER Gresley. In the example seen above the leading carriage happens to be Gresley's very first design for the GNR in 1905 - a 50' 10 1/2" BTO (3rd Open Brake) with a Howlden ducket. The next two coaches are pure Gresley ex-GNR with a 61'6" BCK leading, no longer being used as a through carriage. This train was irregular in composition with frequent changes depending on what was available.

As regards the teak panelling, in all three carriages, the teak has darkened considerably, notwithstanding the effect of revarnishing - which never quite recovered progressive darkening over time. These effects can be seen in the A4-hauled train and some even older carriages we'll see in a moment. Hence it is not surprising that the BTO, which was now 32 years old, appears slightly darker than the other carriages. It also appears to show less variation between the panels, possibly because of the overall darkening.

All the roofs, once bright white, are a dark slate grey. Photo: CCQ, author's collection

* "Cambridge Buffet Expresses" were hauled almost entirely by a C1 large Atlantic with a tidy formation of more recently built ex-GNR Gresleys and had this been such a train, the three carriages at this end would have been: BTK, CK, RB... (3rd brake, 1st/3rd composite, buffet car...), all carrying destination boards with a distinctive triple-set on the buffet car.

Both services, 2.4pm and the Buffet expresses, are written up in the first book, pages 129-137.

8787 Brookmans Park

Another view of D16 No 8787 on the 2.4pm Cambridge-King's Cross captured at speed passing Brookman's Park in 1937. Much is blurred but there is enough to speak volumes about the colour of the eight mostly ex-GNR teak coaches (which had after all been been built up to 1922). Leading appears to be a 58'6" or 61'6" BTK (3rd brake), followed by a visibly brighter, recently shopped and revarnished 52'6" TO (3rd open). Another recently re-varnished coach can be seen further back.

Once again, all the roofs are a dark smokey grey without a single white one. Photo: Steam and Sail, author's collection.

all-steel BG

This enlargement from a 1937 picture also appears under the Gresley all-steel BG account and I have placed a copy here for a couple of reasons. To begin with, this is clearly what the LNER itself thought teak should look like vis a vis not so much a carriage fresh from the shops - whether just built or recently re-varnished - but a fairly typical appearance of teak carriages in service on the railway. And, ahem, sorry to keep banging the same drum, the typical appearance was a mid- or dark brown with significant differences between the panels.

A minor point is a bit trickier to deal with. The official photograph (shown the aforementioned Article) displays full lining, including between the vertical panels, but they are missing here. Although it's hard to tell given the variations in graining between the panels. The best that I can suggest is that lining of secondary and NPCS had ceased in the late 1920s and maybe a halfway house compromise was later made for these BGs in the ECJS fleet, an example of which was almost invariably rostered for the "Flying Scotsman".

A final point to bear in mind is how the varying teak panels were arranged (and painted). Something akin to a chequer-board pattern was employed and at the ends, as seen here, the middle panel was usually the darkest. The same can be seen in several pictures below.

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Here is a fine example of what revarnishing could do, but not always.

In 1938 when the new "Flying Scotsman" train sets were launched, the press was taken out by ex-GNR No 1 and a set of reconditioned 6w ECJS and GNR carriages, returning in the new train. This picture taken at Hitchin shows rather well is how dark teak panelling could get, as well as the usual chequer-board pattern. CCQ, author's collection.

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No1 ECJS det

A close-up of the leading carriage (a 6w B with ECJS lettering which may or may not be authentic), offers a better view of the natural variations between the panels which, in carriages of this age, ranged to almost black, and which could not be recovered except by the use of bleach. Evidently such effort was not required, indeed, the carriages for this train were not lined either - it's not immediately visible, is it?

Another well known view showing A1 No 4470 Great Northern at Marshmoor in 1939 with an excursion. Unusually, catering is being provided by a Tourist Buffet Car extracted from a half-set of the Tourist stock. The body of the train comprises relatively recently built teak coaches, from between 1934-39, on steel angle trussing. The salient feature is the noticeable variation in tone between the teak-panelled coaches, although shadow from the steam blowing across the train is not helping! Photo: CCQ, author's collection

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An uneven Dufaycolor slide showing an elderly ex-NER C7 No 732 at the head of an express at York in 1938. The central area is washed out and hard to correct when the loco is on the scruffy side anyway, certainly the boiler, but what can be seen of the leading carriage sings with colour. Its teak may have been on the dark side or had darkened over time but it's well varnished and much cleaner than the loco. In this case the carriage cleaners were outperforming the loco shed cleaners. Note how once again, the middle panel at the outer end was visibly darker, and how well the metal ducket was painted in simulated teak, with some vertical graining, and closer to "average" teak than the relatively dark panels nearby.

It's also possible to see that the vertical guard's handrails appear to be black while the horizontal one looks brown. Or is this a trick of the light? I have a faint memory of use of brown coming to light during restoration of Gresley coaches in recent years as successive layers of paint were stripped off and have pictures of restored carriages carrying either all-black or all-brown. I cannot resolve this at the moment and need to look closer at the 1930s pictures and of restored carriages.

On the right stands an ex-NER arc-roof carriage in faded engineer's blue livery. Photo: CCQ, author's collection.

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A post-War view, from February 1948 with B1 No 1285 in glorious post-WWII apple green livery passing Bethnal Green. The carriage behind the tender appears to be one of the 58'6" GN & NE Joint, 3rd Opens of 1907/8 which the LNER converted to buffet cars in the early 1930s, part of the initial production of some two dozen buffet cars from various sources for the the NE Area, GE, GN and GC Sections - these conversions were in fact more numerous than the Gresley design that followed but don't seem to be noticed by modellers.

Operationally, in LNER days buffet cars were placed inside set formations in normal service relatively rarely - the only known examples being two expresses, the long-lived "Beer Trains" and the short-lived Newcastle-Middlesbrough service. Most were placed on the outer end of trains so that they could be detached and transferred to another train in the opposite direction, again running at the head or rear. This maximised utilisation of the vehicles and their catering staff. In Michael Harris's book, "GNR and ECJS Carriages from 1905", Plate 64 shows one of these buffer cars in the picture in such a formation in Stratford carriage sidings. I know, it needs a separate article altogether!

As regards the teak in this post-War view - of a carriage built some forty years earlier, it still has that distinct rich hue seen in pre-War pictures. Infrequent washing during the War years has led to an accumulation of grime around the beading, on which the lining is hard to see. The last two digits of the carriage number are visible but, alas, they cannot be made out. I include this view to show that not all carriages turned a sombre dark brown, and that red-brown shades tend to really perk up under direct sunlight. Photo: CCQ, author's collection.

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New addition - It's April 1951 and many Gresley carriages were still in varnished teak livery, albeit no longer lined and carrying BR numbers, of course. J69 is at North Woolwich with an RCTS special with a gangwayed 3rd brake leading. This is not an easy image to assess because of the warm wintry light, and the exhaust shadow playing over the top half of the carriage, which I have tried to remedy. The carriage itself can be seen on another picture taken at the same time and was on steel-angle trussing, of roughly 1935-40 construction, so only around 10-15 years old and the main pointer is pretty much as before, that - in sunlight - the teak was quite a rich shade leaning towards orange with a slight hint of red. There are also, not uncommon for the BR period, areas of teak which are darker, especially near the beading, which the works did not rectify before revarnishing. Photo: CCQ, author's collection.

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LNER teak-panelled secondary stock

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New addition - A vintage slide taken in 1938 on Dufaycolor film at an as yet unidentified location shows B12 No 8549 with a 3-set made up with pre-Grouping carriages: T, C, BT (ex-NER, ex-GER, ex-GER). Quite a few ex-NER carriages when modernised by Gresley stock were cascaded to the GE and GC Sections. The sharpness is not great but the picture is useful for showing three different shades of brown, way beyond what most modellers contemplate! The roofs are more alike, but not quite the same. Note how the lower footstep is still in place under all three carriages.

In the distance, a double-decker bus is proceeding in the same direction. I think we might need a bus specialist to make further progress with the location! Photo: CCQ, author's collection.

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This wonderful picture shows C1 3274 leaving King's Cross in 1939 with a semi-fast Outer Suburban train (they ran as far north as Peterborough) which would have been based on articulated lavatory twins, in this case 55'6" which, for the GN Section, were built between 1935-37: a BT-CL is leading.

However, the picture is deceptive in a couple of ways. To begin with, these coaches were quite new - most of the fleet was a lot older, up 50 years old - while on these, being only 2-4 years old, the teak is still relatively fresh and glows in the sunlight. It's enhanced on the leading coach by reflection off the platform. Secondly, examination of the original confirms what is often forgotten - that from 1927 secondary carriages were no longer being lined. Sunlight is reflecting off the horizontal beading giving the appearance of lining, but not of course on the vertical beading. The coach roofs are a smoky mid-grey colour. Photo: CCQ, author's collection

LNER twin at KX

One of the finest colour pictures of teak-panelled stock, this is a Dufaycolour taken by Sidney Perrier in February 1939. A station pilot at King's Cross has a 55'6" articulated twin (BT-CL) built to D.210 between 1935-37. This one appears to have been revarnished recently.

To begin with, the teak used at the time, despite the vagaries of reproduction at every stage, had a little more of a red tint than in the teak we generally see imported today and which tends to be a little more orange, or if simulated, even yellow. It's a subtle difference that I make to guide modellers away from the pine-coloured version that some modellers produce. Reality bites, chaps!

Secondly, lining of secondary stock ceased c1927, as this picture shows. The sunlight has caught the horizontal beading to make it appear as as if it was lined, but the real give-away is in the vertical beading which is visibly just plain teak. Modellers are in a quandary here for an unlined model can look a bit poorly, while a lined one is just wrong, especially if finished in ex-works condition when there can be a kind of fairground feel to the model, especially if the roof is white too. Try and find a train picture with a single white roof let alone a train of them and you'll see what I mean. I haven't finished a model from this period myself yet and need to do some trials on this: I suspect that lining with a pale brown may give the right visual impression of sunlight on the beading. Photo: CCQ, author's collection

Technical note:Coming back to the problems of colour reproduction and veracity, Dufaycolour is known to fade its yellows and the scan of this slide came with slightly pink clouds in the sky. I have corrected both casts hoping to get closer to the colours that the photographer saw on the day.

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Enlargement of part of a post-War view on the GE Section with F5 No 7208 carrying its new, Thompson number and part of quintuple set No 152 in pre-War unlined condition. As in the previous views, the light is reflecting on the horizontal beading and making it look as if it has been lined. The teak itself is looking a little drab and in need of a service and re-varnishing. Plain carmine would soon be the new order. Photo: CCQ, author's collection.

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Some details

Handrails on brake and brake-ended carriages

The basic position in LNER days was that:

- Brass castings were used for door "T-handles" and the grab handles alongside, and for the vertical lever handle for the guard.

- Steel was used for the guard's handrails, and along the waist of bogie vans (the extent of which was reduced in new designs during the 1930s). Cast iron was used for the horizontal lever handles on van doors. Both ferrous metals needed protection by paint, but the question is, what colour was used? Two have been observed:

Black - examination of CCQ and Steam & Sail colour pictures where brake ends and bogie vans, five altogether, shows black in every case.

Mid-brown - this colour is claimed to have been discovered when painted ironwork was being stripped back during restoration and at least one Gresley carriage has been restored this way.

Examination of LNER Official b&w pictures is difficult because two kinds of film were used at the time:

Orthochromatic, which rendered shades of red as black (and is thus not helpful!)

Panchromatic, which was more realistic although there was a tendency for the teak panelling on freshly varnished carriages to show quite pale with very pronounced graining. Panchromatic film was more modern but the LNER only used it sporadically. As a result, the number of photographs of brake-ended carriages taken with Panchromatic film is quite small. And it didn't help that most carriages pictures were taken on a cloudy day when the contrast was low. I have nine samples on Panchromatic film on which several show black ironwork quite clearly - generally when photographed on a sunny day. But the rest cannot be identified with confidence, whether black or brown.

My only firm conclusion from the photographic evidence is that black was definitely used on the ironwork. I cannot yet say to what extent brown was used, nor if it may have been a works variation? Here is a pair of pictures showing both styles on preserved vehicles:

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This is a Gresley BCK, No 24068, as seen on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in 2005. The guard's door handle is brass and the ferrous fittings have been painted black. Photo: Mike Trice.

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And this is a Gresley BTK, No 43567, on which the ferrous fittings have been painted brown. The guard's handle should have been unpainted brass. Photo: Mike Trice.

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The most striking thing about the two schemes is that the brown one has the effect of making the handrails almost invisible. The black colour has the opposite effect. Which was the more aesthetically pleasing I leave viewers to decide. When wearing my modeller's hat, I choose black because the fittings can be seen well, and because there is more evidence for it.

In a similar vein for bogie vans, all the fittings were painted black except for the brass T-handles and guard's handle. Two examples shown above are the teak-panelled BG behind the blue A4, and the close-up of the all-steel BG.

Guard's ducket

The guard's ducket was also made out of steel and painted and grained to sit comfortably with the teak panelling. LNER paint shops were expert at this and the two pictures from LNER days show vertical graining. The restored carriages show differences of interpretation, although red-based paint is fugitive and prone to change as time passes.

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