Preparations have been underway developing the project management plan for the carriage restoration. This important strand of work will dictate how the rebuild of Met 353 will be implemented; it has involved further research into the design of the carriage, identifying resources, assessing risks, refining costs and bringing togther the team who will be working on the project. As reported previously the contract has been awarded to the Ffestiniog Railway carriage engineering works, located at Boston Lodge near Porthmadog in North Wales. The company has an excellent reputation for restoring carriages to a very high standard, incorporating professional workmanship with attention to detail. Funding from the HLF has also enabled the Ffestiniog Railway carriage engineering works to recruit an apprentice, who will play a key role in the restoration whilst working towards a two-year NVQ Level 2 in Carpentry. A suitable 4-wheeled underframe (ex BR Southern Region, PMV 1746) has been kindly donated by the Quainton Railway Society for use in the restoration of Met353.
In common with other heritage railway carriage restoration projects, the steel structure will be modified and shortened to accommodate the wooden body. Unfortunately, the original underframe built by Cravens for Met 353 has been missing for over 60 years – presumably scrapped a long time ago! Over the next few weeks the windows, panelling, doors and interior mouldings will be removed to reveal the main structure before it is repaired and restored to shape. Historically significant items, such as grab handles added to the carriage during Weston Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway (WC&PR) ownership, will be removed and saved. The engineering changes proposed to the underframe will need to be carefully designed, implemented and tested. To ensure these challenges are met, an independent engineer will be recruited with considerable experience of both heritage railway and Network Rail rolling stock operation and of vehicle acceptance. Working alongside will be an engineering representative from London Underground, who will monitor the work and make sure the carriage conforms for operation on Underground lines. Whilst it is early days within the life cycle of the project, I am confident the team working on the carriage will have it completed in time for special operation during the 150th anniversary in 2013.