S2464 Return to the UK
If S2464’s history is anything to go by, it’s surprisingly easy to ‘lose’ a luggage van – even one with an illustrious past. After being selected to carry Winston Churchill’s coffin to his final resting place in 1965, baggage van CorPMV S2464 was bought by City of Industry, California and transported to the USA, where it spent over 30 years – first languishing in storage then gracing a golf course outside Los Angeles.
As time went by, the former luggage van was all but forgotten about, eventually becoming a storage room for garden tools and paint.
After being ‘rediscovered’ by UK rail enthusiasts Terry Bye and Ivan Godfrey, S2464’s fortunes changed again. Thanks to the generosity of the City of Industry, who returned it to the British nation as a gift, and paid for much of its transport cost, S2464 was returned to the British nation. It finally made its return transatlantic voyage in 2007, arriving at Southampton Docks on 24 September.
The van’s new custodians were The Swanage Railway Trust, who took on the challenging tasks of creating a plan for restoration and raising funds to make it happen.
S2464’s next stop was the East Somerset Railway at Cranmore for inspection, arriving in October 2007.
By Spring 2008, work was yet to start, and The Swanage Railway Trust was involved in submitting a funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £50,000, as well as raising funds elsewhere. The plan was to restore S2464 and use it to house a museum focused on the role of railways in the Second World War.
Unfortunately, and disappointingly, the HLF funding was unsuccessful, so restoration began dependant on funding raised by the supporters of The Swanage Railway Trust.
By October 2009, initial restoration at the Cranmore Traincare Services workshop was complete. At this stage, the aim was to retain as much of the original vehicle as possible, with work carried out mainly on the exterior bodywork, and minimal cosmetic work to the underframe. Some further interior work was planned before the van was taken for display at Corfe Castle.
Restoration at NRM Shildon
The next stage in the restoration of S2464s was to happen in 2014. It was carried out by a dedicated team of NRM staff, trainees and volunteers, under the expert supervision of Richard Pearson, the NRM Locomotion Workshop and Rail Operations Manager.
The team of twelve consisted of Richard Pearson, Trevor Addison, Malcom Bonnett, Jeff Cail, Martin Giles, Chris Potter, John Shiel, James S Smith, Jeffrey Standing, Arthur Vaughan, Ian Matthews and Steve Hopper.
Before the van could be moved to NRM Shildon for comprehensive restoration, the tyre profile of the wheel sets and the axles were ultrasonically tested. Both were found to be acceptable.
CorPMV S2464’s steel frame (which originally dates back to 1905, although the van itself was built in 1930) was found to be in good condition.
However, the horizontal wooden boarding was rotting and had to be replaced. In fact, although the team originally hoped to keep some of the original timber, it turned out to be too badly decayed.
The window frames and windows, all the exterior door panels and half the inner boards were replaced, before the van was painted in its original umber and cream – a restoration costing around £30,000.
During the restoration, work on the interior of the van revealed paint markings on the floor showing the location of the catafalque (plinth) which had carried Churchill’s coffin back in 1965. Sadly, the catafalque itself, which had been in situ when S2464 was first shipped to the US, had been removed at some point during its years there – and its fate was unknown.
By the end of this project, the team had restored S2464 to a condition as good as when it first entered service in 1931.
Churchill’s Final Journey: Exhibition, National Railway Museum, January-May 2015
From January to May 2015, S2464 became part of a reconstruction of St Winston Churchill’s funeral train – the centrepiece of a commemorative display marking 50 years since his funeral.
A guest of The One:One Collection
After spending some time at the NRM, on loan from Swanage Railway Trust, it was time for S2464 to find a new home. In August 2019, the van moved to its new home as a guest of The One:One Collection in Margate, Kent, where it will stay for the foreseeable future. We’re thrilled to have this exhibit here – and look forward to welcoming visitors to see it at future open days.