Coronation ‘Beavertail’ No. 1729
Coronation ‘Beavertail’ No. 1729 is a rare survivor from the 1937 ‘Coronation’ streamlined express, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley with the object of streamlining the rear of the train as well as the front – pairing with the iconic A4 locomotive, an example of which ‘Bittern’ is also part of The One:One Collection.
Finished in two-tone blue livery, the ‘Beavertail’ embodied all the elegance and flair of this great age of steam on British railways. Just two were ever built, Nos. 1719 and 1729, and when WWII intervened they were quickly split up, ending up, in 1956, on the West Highland line.
In the late 1950s, both cars were rebuilt by BR, with their original streamlined ends being given larger windows so as to give a better scenic view.
No. 1719 was restored to its BR condition by 2007, but 1729 disappeared from view for many years. In 1966 it was bought by the Gresley Society for £350 and taken to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, where it ran briefly with KWVR fleet number 23. In 1974 it was moved to the South Eastern Steam Centre in Ashford, then sold to Sir William McAlpine, who moved it to Steamtown Carnforth.
A restoration attempt was begun, but the removal of the BR-designed rear end revealed such quantities of asbestos insulation that it was abandoned.
No. 1729’s salvation then moved into the hands of Gordon Maslin of Railway Vehicle Preservations (RVP). He had first seen the car in 1972, and was horrified by its condition, and in 2002 he managed to get permission from RVP for its purchase and restoration to its 1938 condition – but needed to raise funds.
The asbestos removal remained a challenge, and it wasn’t until 2005 that this could be completed (by Knightsrail of Shoeburyness) and No. 1729 purchased. A chance meeting between Gordon and a trustee of the Royal Scot Locomotive and General Trust led to ownership of the car passing to the Trust, which funded the restoration.
A faithful restoration
This unique and priceless example deserved a proper restoration, and, in the hands of Roger Bulmer, director at Nemesis Rail, that is exactly what it got, from body work to mechanical elements, wiring, flooring and furnishing.
Roger insisted on authenticity throughout, which presented its own challenges during parts of the reconstruction. The original streamlined end no longer existed, and the ‘Beavertail’ drawings were all thought to have been destroyed when a bombing raid hit Doncaster Works during WWII. Even when a solitary drawing was unearthed, it turned out have puzzling differences from photographic evidence.
Fittings, furnishings and carpets were all reproduced as faithfully as possible. Williamsons of Ripon matched the exterior and interior paintwork and Nemesis Rail applied 19 coats to achieve the mirror-like finish.
Note: Some of the background information for this post was taken, with permission, from the full story of Coronation ‘Beavertail’ 1729’s restoration which featured in Steam Railway Magazine issue 515, February 5- March 4 2021. To read the full article, you can buy back issues from the Steam Railway website.
Photos by David Mather