By David Thompson


Built for the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway in 1893 by Ashbury’s of Manchester, coach No. 10 was built as a 4 door corridor coach with a seating capacity of 38.

In 1927, the coach, by then numbered 24, was converted by the WHR into a 1st/3rd buffet car with the 3rd class seating area being divided again to provide a kitchen /serving area at one end and seating towards the middle. A connecting door was provided to allow access to the serving counter by the 1st class passengers.

By 1930 however, due to poor receipts, the coach had been converted back to its original configuration.

The coach at Beddgelert.


The carcass

After much research, drawings were produced and a start made on the carcase. The coach is divided as per the prototype with working doors giving access to the buffet area from the 1st class compartment and also from the kitchen.

Initially I cut two pieces of 0.8mm 3ply birch plywood 460mm long and 50mm wide to be the outer sidewalls of the coach up to waist level and scribed the vertical matchboard effect.

Trial coach side construction.

Turning the side over Internal framework was added, made up from 3mm square hardwood to stiffen the sides and add window detail. Once all of the framing was done for both sides of the coach, I could add all of the internal balsa panelling between the framework members. This was again scribed to resemble individual boards.

Coach side internal detail.

The completed frame and panelling.

Thin strips of 0.8mm ply were then applied to the framing around the windows on the outside to bring the window frames flush with the match boarding.

Coach ends, 84mm wide, were cut from 3mm ply using a card template for a roof contour that I deemed acceptable. Vertical lines were inscribed 3mm apart on the outside faces to match the coach sides and lines 6mm apart on the inside faces to represent vertical wood panelling boards approximately 4 inches wide. The sides and ends were sanded and spray painted with primer/undercoat and a green topcoat on the external sides and edges. An antique pine varnish was applied on the internal surfaces. The parts were then glued together keeping the sides vertical and corners square before a floor of 6mm ply was cut, painted grey and glued in.

The Roof

A piece of 0.8mm plywood was cut for the roof allowing for a 5mm overhang at the sides and ends of the coach. Lines were scribed across this ply to mark the position for a roof spar at each end of the roof and between each window opening. A centre line was drawn along the roof to help when positioning the spars.

Roof ply and spars ready for gluing.

Roof spars were then marked 10mm deep onto a piece of 3mm ply cut to the width of the inside of the coach and the coach end card template was used to mark the curve. A line was drawn down the centre of the piece of ply and a 2mm hole marked and drilled in each spar to allow for lighting wires to be threaded along the roof. The spars were then cut from the ply using a scroll saw and sanded smooth but not removing the drawn centre line.

The roof curve was set by inserting the ply into the pipe gripping grooves in my workmate bench and slowly tightening the jaws until the correct curve was achieved using the card template again as a guide. The space between the jaws was also measured to ensure a constant curve along the roof.

Setting the curve of the roof.

The spars were glued to the roof with plenty of woodworking PVA using the drawn lines on the roof and spars for guidance. This was then left for 24 hours. The important details here are to ensure the centre lines on the spars coincide with the centre line along the roof and that the two end spars are positioned correctly to allow them to fit inside the coach ends.

Once dry the roof was sanded and a primer coat added before a top coat of Antique cream was added.

Spars glued to the roof.

Three pieces of 1mm ply were cut to width to be screwed under the roof to hide the spars and scribed and stained to represent roof boarding. The gaps are where I had already decided the coach partitions were to be. (Note that although one partition is in the centre of the coach the other did not divide one half of the original coach into equal parts. Also, because one partition was added to the centre of the WHR coach the centre light had to be removed, leaving just two. The gaps along the edges of the roof between the spars were also filled with strips of hardwood at this stage to enclose the roof space.

The completed roof with lighting.

N.B. Fitting the lighting with its battery, bulbs, globes and switch (just visible in the left hand panel in the photo above) into the small inner roof space is something that has evolved over time during my building of several coaches and may have to be the subject of a separate article in the future.

The Partitions

The centre partition was cut from 3mm ply and the door hole marked and cut out. A new door was cut from ply and made an easy fit in the hole. 3mm was cut from the bottom of the door and the partition and a piece of 3mm square hardwood was cut to fit across the bottom of the shortened partition to make a sill.

The centre partition.

To facilitate the door opening, a 1mm hole was drilled into the top and bottom of the door at the hinge end and corresponding holes drilled into the sill and the underside of the partition above the door. Short lengths of brass rod were inserted into these two holes in the door and in the partition and the sill. The sill was then glued to the bottom of the partition allowing the door to open and close. After varnishing, the partition with its door was glued in position.

Notice that the two seats are different widths. No one is sure why the door was offset in the partition if all of the original rows of seats had been removed. Maybe some of the original single and double seats (albeit cut down slightly to allow for a wide enough door opening) were reused in the buffet section.

The buffet partition was made as a frame out of 3mm square hardwood then in filled with wooden panels and glazing material.

The counter partition.

A counter height door was cut and hinged as before, except that with the top hinge being only half way up the door pillar it had to be bent at a right angle to fit into this pillar. This is clearly visible in the photo above.

This partition with its door was then varnished and glued in place.

To make a counter to lift up to the vertical position, a strip of 4mm hardwood was cut into 3 pieces and a pinned joint similar to the door hinges was made in two of them. The three pieces were cut to length to fit between the walls of the coach level with the half door and the two outer ones glued in place. A small fillet of wood was glued under the left hand piece for the counter to rest on when down.


Once the partitions were in place the individual glazing panels could be added using a suitable glazing adhesive. I used Glue ‘N’ Glaze by Deluxe Materials though other adhesives are available. It is invisible when dry but holds well to the small bead of wood that was glued around the inside edge of each window frame to support each ‘glass’ pane. Artificial droplights were glued in place to the appropriate windows and safety bars glued across them.

Close up of glazing showing the beading.

A wooden bench seat was made and fitted in the kitchen area. More comfortable seats, some back to back, were fitted in the centre section and upholstered bench seating around the perimeter of the 1st. class compartment. The opening partition doors allow the catering assistant to collect empty cups and plates from all areas of the coach.

1st. class upholstered seating.

To finish off the coach body, glazing was added to the buffet partition, some shelves and framed posters were fixed to the walls and various culinary items were positioned in the buffet area.

The usual metal items including bogies, wheels, vacuum brake stands and chopper couplings were added to complete the model.

Major materials and components used

Item Source
Ply and hardwoods The Signal Box, Anstey
Bogies and wheelsets Brandbright
Vacuum brake stands Brandbright
Roof lamp holders Brandbright
Door and grab handles Brandbright
Chopper couplings Slaters

Reference material

The Welsh Highland Heritage Group Journal

“River Lin” and train on the North Bucks Narrow Gauge Railway.