Scottish Railway Preservation Society Collections pages

SRPS Pre-Grouping Coaches List

These coaches, built for the private railway companies before 1923, are listed in construction date order.

Some were built in Scotland and some by contractors in England, and they show the evolution of the railway coach from a basic box-on-wheels into something closer to a transport of delight. Railway companies were slow to improve, and extremely reluctant to innovate beyond the fact that steam locomotion and the public railway were innovations in themselves.

Competition gradually brought about improvements. The first railway passengers in Scotland, if they were wealthy, travelled in stagecoach-type bodies fitted with railway wheels. For those who were not wealthy, the companies provided open wagons.

Development was by step change single improvements such as roofs, sides, glazed windows, and upholstery, but systems evolved only slowly. For example, lighting was initially by paraffin pot lamps and later by gas supplied from under-floor tanks. After the horrific troop train accident at Quintinshill on the Caledonian Railway in 1915 the use of gas for carriage lighting fell into disfavour and electricity became the norm.

From the basic short underframe supported on two axles, suspension systems evolved to 6-wheel underframes and then to bogies. Each of these improvements allowed longer bodies, and with these, for long distance journeys at least, came corridors, corridor connections between coaches, and lavatories, and even on-board catering coaches.

Bodies remained of wood until after WW2, when shortages of wood or of steel created difficulties. From 1951, the British Railways Mark 1 coach represents the general use of all steel bodies, which remain the modern standard. Our Inter-City Diesel Multiple Unit marks the beginning of integral body/underframe construction, made necessary in this case by the need to avoid the use of underframe support trusses so as to make way for equipment mounted below the floor.

Carriage heating by steam piped from the locomotive was not usually available until the early 20th century. Even our luxury Royal Saloon of 1897 could not rely on locomotive steam, and had its own boiler and piped warming system instead. Before that, British (and Scottish) carriages never had the solid fuel stove which was so popular in continental Europe and in North America, and passengers had to make do with footwarmers, which might start the journey too hot and would certainly end a long trip by being too cold.

Even brake systems were slow to reach a stage where they could be relied upon, and it required Government compulsion to bring in continuous automatic brakes on every railway, in the 1890s. There were two entirely different systems, the Westinghouse automatic air brake (which was adopted by the Great North of Scotland, the Caledonian and the North British railways) and the automatic vacuum brake (used by the Glasgow & South Western and the Highland). Because the vacuum brake was adopted later as standard throughout Britain, most of our coaches are so fitted, either as originally built or as a modification to their original construction.

NumberDescriptionDate Built
1184 North British Railway 4-wheeled four compartment coach (body only) c.1870
5 Highland Railway 4-wheeled Passenger Brake Van c.1870
DE773090 North British Railway coach 6-wheel underframe only c.1885
  North British Railway Third Class, 6 compartment coach body  
  Glasgow & South Western Railway Third Class, 5 compartment coach body b.1893
1 Great North of Scotland Railway Royal Saloon 1897
57A Duke of Sutherland's Saloon 1899
122 Glasgow & South Western Railway Passenger 6-wheel Passenger Brake Van 1901
245 West Coast Joint Stock (WCJS) Third Class Corridor Coach  
89 Highland Railway Coupé Composite 6-wheel coach 1909
731 Glasgow & South Western Railway Third Class Corridor Compartment coach 1914
426 Caledonian Railway 9 Compartment Non-corridor coach 1914
461 North British Railway Invalid Saloon 1919
1375 Caledonian Railway Third Class Corridor Compartment coach 1921
Sc3565E North British Railway Third Class Corridor compartment coach 1921
467 North British Railway Brake Third Class coach 1921
464 Caledonian Railway Brake Corridor Composite coach No.464 1923

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