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169 in GWR/BR service
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The Beginnings of our Project

Auto 169 at Toddington in 1982.

169 at Toddington, Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway in 1982.

When we first viewed her the carriage had been exposed to the elements for several years. The carriage showed typical signs of distress in the 'lengthways' wooden components where blocked guttering had allowed rainwater to run down inside the sidewall construction and collect on the soleplates trapped between the outside galvanized steel and the internal tongue and groove panelling. The 'crossways' sections were in altogether much better condition and it is hoped that much of those components can be salvaged to rebuild into the new bodywork 

The images below show 169 when we first viewed her at Wallingford Station.


(© John Wood)

Three photos from Nick Jones of Auto 169 when she first arrived at Williton in March 2005

Auto 169 at Williton.

Auto 169 interior.

Auto 169 interior.


The underframe steelwork is in relatively good condition and should be reusable with some patching and reriveting. The bogies and tyres also look serviceable and hopefully only require a good service and perhaps tyre reprofiling. The axles have since been ultrasonically tested and proved to be sound.

Having completed the restoration of 5542, and with a group of us eager to try our hand at carriage restoration we were on the lookout for a vehicle suitable to work with our loco. The owner of 169 contacted us as he had reached the conclusion that the job was far beyond the capabilities of a one man restoration project, and he was keen to find a new owner. There was no hiding the fact that much of the main carriage bodywork was in a very poor condition. However, much of the internal partitions were in better condition, and looked to be reusable with some minor repairs. So, what about the ‘foundations' that it all sat on? A look underneath revealed a much better picture and although we had expected to find some serious corrosion that proved not to be the case and we were pleasantly surprised. There was not too much obviously wrong with the chassis, and the wheels and bogies also appeared to be in fairly good condition. Most of the brake gear along with the vacuum cylinders was still present although the ‘auto gear' was mostly missing.

Unfortunately, there are no drawings of the carriage and our early research indicated that individual autotrailer designs were only produced in quantities of about 15-20 of any one design. Of the 10 or so that survived into the preservation era there were probably at most 3 of any one design. Those of the same design as 169 were 163 and 167 with 178 almost identical in general layout slightly longer. The best way to proceed in the first stages was to dismantle what we did have as carefully as possible, measuring and photographing every item of structure for reference so we could remake each major component as a copy of the original. This process meant that early progress was fairly slow with much deliberation on how the 3 dimensional jigsaws firstly came to pieces and then further thought on how we would reassemble it to allow us to reuse any suitable sections of the original. A number of templates and formers have been designed and modified as the work has progressed. Many of the items we now produce fit together ‘off the bench' rather than spending several days of fine adjustment as we did on the first section. We were expecting to find some complex joinery, but the whole vehicle is constructed mainly of Mortise and Tenon or Halving joints with the difficulty being the overall scale of the project rather than its technical complexity.

Work is progressing well now, and we are approaching the mid point of the main body framework and expect to assemble the first section on the frames shortly. We decided that we wanted the frames repaired to the highest possible standard so we would not need to tackle any repairs to them with the new bodywork in situ. So, having identified parts that would need replacement a weekend was spent removing them. In August 2009 the South Devon Railway workshops offered to undertake the required frame rebuild at fairly short notice so a temporary reassembly of the removed buffer beam and buffers allowed the carriage to move to Bishops Lydeard for onward transport to Buckfastleigh. The work rebuilding the Driving End framework was soon completed and a number of additional jobs were also undertaken including overhaul of much of the Brake Gear. Our own members worked on descaling and repainting the frames whilst other work was progressing. The last section of original bodywork was moved along the frames to allow a detailed examination of the ‘Luggage End' chassis which is altogether better than the Driving End. We have also had the wheels measured for tyre profile and thickness, the results proving them to be in excellent condition with virtually no wear at all .This, along with the positive ultra sonic tests that we had soon after first arrival now means that everything below floor level is in first class condition. The frames were returned to the WSR and now await final attention to some outstanding paintwork before we reconstruct the Driving Cab section. We have also managed to gather together most of the operating hardware including regulator handle, hand brake, vacuum brake and gauge, which have all been restored ready for assembly at the appropriate time

We now need to progress the remainder of the bodywork construction in the most efficient and practical way, so we have set up a dedicated joinery workshop in a unit on the Roughmoor Enterprise Centre adjacent to the railway station at Williton. We will be most pleased to welcome visitors to view our progress, or even lend a hand. Find us in Unit 7 , on most Saturdays or Wednesdays (please check before travelling specially).

Please help us to continue our restoration of this historic Great Western Railway Autotrailer

Download a Donation or Standing Order form and return it to us today to help us continue to progress.

Drivers Cab Frames


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This site was last updated 07-04-2012