It’s spring and everything has gone a bit choo-choo. While the sun graces us with its brief presence any excuse to spend some time outside and away from the studio is jumped at. Nothing beats a hard days toil outdoors getting down and dusty while perfecting the farmers tan. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working with the Snakeskin Jacket fellas; Henry, Dean and James at their workshop off Brick Lane on the restoration of a Victorian train carriage.
The train project has been talked about for the better half of a year. It was on, it was off, dates kept getting moved and torturous silences ensued before delivery was finally set. When it finally arrived, it was like Christmas morning to a bunch of boys and has been one of the main topics of conversation since this beautiful teak and solid oak steel bolted wonder came into our lives.
The carriage was built in 1890 and what we’ve figured out so far it was a 3rd class carriage that originally ran on the Great Eastern Railways before being commissioned to London North East Railways. At some point during the 1940’s it was decommissioned and used as a holiday home somewhere in Kent before being half-stripped and left in a field for the last 30 odd years. Now before we go any further anorak wearing train spotting enthusiasts may want to look away. We’re not restoring it to its original purpose. It’s being converted into a part bar, part dining room and part Victorian curiosity piece. It’s more akin to rescuing a greyhound. We’re not going to race it but we’re going to take good care of it. Otherwise it would’ve been left, unloved to fend for itself in a field somewhere.
The first phase has consisted of stripping out the holiday home bits which included some fairly disrespectful wood lining, some mysterious brick work and the tacky wallpapers that sort of use entailed. We started to see the train in its original state, revealing any remaining original fittings and exposing the beautiful hard woods used throughout. The next step has been stripping the 120 years and God knows how many layers of paint off the exterior in preparation for a sand and varnish.
The whole thing went a bit Time Team as when we took the doors off and started removing panels. We found treasure troves of lost items that had fallen down the window slot. Having only done a few of the doors so far, each one has had a cache of lost items that had fallen between the cracks. Items so far have included some kids toys, spectacles wrapped in newspapers, ticket stubs, a 1944 penny farthing, never-sent postcards and a pair of bloomers.
On all the doors is the 3rd class mark. This was originally covered in gold leaf with a black drop shadow and probably some red detailing.
Below is a nice makers stamp made from mild steel that was found near the under carriage of the train.
Here are some of the items we’ve found on board the train having fallen between the cracks and forgotten at some point.
We found these spectacles rolled up in some newspaper that somehow got lodged down one of the window frames.
A postcard from a young girl to a friend that was never sent. I’ve got a pile of postcards that I never sent myself. If we could make out the address it would’ve been fun to send it off anyways… at least that’s what I’m hoping will happen to my stack someday because I’m certainly not going to do it.
We’ll post more as the train develops and more info and images can be found on the Horseless Carriage Blog.