CURRENT STATUS – available for service, normally on display in Oxenhope Exhibition Shed at Worth Valley Railway although operational reasons may prevent this.
Built probably in 1880 at the L&Y Newton Heath works, after nearly 30 years of service the underframe was removed and body relocated to Valley Gardens, Hapton near Burnley, where initially from around 1910 it provided accomodation for newly-employed miners.
There were over 10 similar carriage bodies in the area, most of which were later built into bungalows as normal family homes. By the 1980s many had been removed (typically burned) and replaced by bungalows of conventional construction. 279 was the last to survive on the site and was kindly donated in 1996 via the family of the late Bob Christie, who had lived there for many years. Seen here immediately after arrival at Oxenhope in 1996.
As the Trust was working on restoration of 1507 and 47, 279 was conserved and covered to protect it from the weather in external storage at Oxenhope. As was the case with Third 1507, the search for an underframe started and it was resolved by the acquisition of an ex-LMS BGZ carriage M33007 built in 1939. This was purchased from Steamport Southport and was in need of major restoration.
The underframe required reduction in length by 6 inches to match the body – 279 was a very early example built by the L&Y and is shorter than most of their 6-wheelers. In due course the work was carried out professionally by a local engineering business in Keighley.
Conservation continued for nearly 15 years, but in July 2010, 279 took part in filming for the BBC TV drama ‘South Riding’, a new three-part adaptation of the novel by Winifred Holtby, first shown in 2011 on BBC One. See the BBC website for a feature on South Riding which briefly features 279 click here. This was probably a unique exercise to use a carriage body again in a domestic situation, albeit for dramatic purposes, also providing useful funding towards the restoration.
Following completion of the Club Carriage 47 in 2012, the restoration of 279 progressed quicker than expected. Although in generally good condition, the body needed some major work such as reinstatement of removed partitions and the jacking up on the roof to fit them, other work included repair and reconstruction of framing, exterior panels and doors as well as fitting of interior panels. Also required was complete internal and external painting, french polishing and varnishing together with professional upholstery of the 24 seats in a cloth matching some remnants of the L&Y material found during the restoration- many thanks to all those who sponsored the cost of the profession upholstery, again by a local business.
Six new doors were manufactured for fitting along with two of the original doors suitably repaired. Luggage racks, door furniture, carpets and decals were manufactured as part of earlier work on 1474, 1507 and 47. The Trust also received a substantial bequest towards the restoration of 279 which has been useful for acquisition of a myriad of items including light fittings, external ventilators and refinements to the upholstery, as well as the fitting of steam heating and through electric lighting using replica gas lamps manufactured to a design used in L&Y First Class carriages.
279 returned to service on 21st June 2017 as seen above after expenditure of over £50,000, mainly from private donations and sponsorship. There was a special ceremony involving the cutting of a ribbon by a lady who had actually been born in 279 at Hapton and lived there for some years. The image features the cutting being watched by the late Eric Rawcliffe, who died unexpectedly in December 2017 and had been the driving force behind the 279 restoration.