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PETER GRAY: Concertina coaches replace Dreadnoughts

By Herald Express  |  Posted: April 05, 2012

LEAVING: The pre-war up 'Cornish Riviera Limited' leaving Penzance behind 4-6-0 No 4092 Dunraven Castle on August 25, 1936. The six coaches from Penzance will be joined by additional coaches from St Ives, Falmouth and possibly Plymouth too. The 'Centenary' coaches are identified by their inset end doors and bulging bodywork. This is a Ken Nunn photograph

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AFTER the GWR's experiment of 1905 with the Dreadnought coaches did not go down very well with the travelling public of those times, it returned to the 'external door to each compartment' style, to which the passengers were accustomed, for its next design.

These were so-called Concertina coaches. Due to their great width of 9ft 6ins, the Dreadnoughts had to have inset doors to the vestibules, in order to keep within the loading gauge, should a door come open while running.

The Concertinas which followed were still 70ft long and only 9ft wide but the doors still had to be inset.

As there were now 10 of them in Third class, looking along the train any Concertina coach lived up to its name, resembling the bellows of a concertina — a popular instrument then, before the age of the guitar!

The Concertinas were only produced between 1906 and 1907, before the GWR started the Toplight series which would see it through to 1922.

The Toplights, with glazed panels above the doors, came in a variety of lengths but still 9ft wide.

In the mid-1920s the GWR experimented with articulated stock, in pairs and triplets, before finishing the decade with new stock for the Cornish Riviera and Torbay Express.

But it still followed the 'door to every compartment' pattern and although 9ft 6ins wide, the length was restricted to 61ft 4ins.

After briefly flirting with the Pullman Car Company in 1929/30, and the unsuccessful Torbay Pullman, the GWR decided it could do better constructing its own pullman-style stock and in 1932 produced the magnificent Super-Saloons.

These were intended for the lucrative Ocean Liner specials which whisked trans-Atlantic passengers and mail up to London, while the ship resumed its leisurely passage up to Southampton.

It seems incredible today but in 1930, 684 liners landed 38,472 passengers at Plymouth, and the vast majority of these would take the train to London.

Among them all the 'stars' of stage and screen.

These were the first modern-looking coaches built by the Great Western, with vestibule end doors only and large windows.

They were followed in 1935, the GWR's centenary year, by the new Centenary stock for the Cornish Riviera Limited, which followed the same pattern as the super-saloons, if not quite so palatial.

From 1936 onwards, all new GWR main line stock had large windows to each compartment and entry-exit via the corridor and end vestibules but it had taken six years for the GWR to do what the LMSR and LNER had been doing since around 1930.

All this sudden interest in GWR coaches arose from a long-forgotten entry in my 'best' notebook — which only lasted for the first six months of 1945! — for June 2, 1945, less than a month after the end of the war in Europe.

It records that 4-6-0 No 6000 King George V arrived into Newton Abbot on the Paignton-bound first part of the 1.30pm from Paddington with a train of newly-painted 'Centenary' coaches.

And in my rough notebook I had taken down the coach numbers, all 13 of them. This was possibly the only time 13 of these rather heavy coaches went to Paignton in one train.

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