St Dennis Junction
Michael L Roach
I was pleased to read the news item by Chris Bellett today (26th March 2022) about Special Saloon 9044. In 2019 I wrote the attached book review for the Welsh Railways Research Circle which was published in the WRRC Newsletter. Its about a delightful little book which I enjoyed reading at "Kresen Kernow" the Cornwall Record Office at Redruth.
Have a good day, Mike.
The intriguing story of the country's oldest GWR luxury carriage
Paperback: 125 pages £7.50
Publisher: Wessex Books, Salisbury
ISBN: 978 1 903035 44 3
This is the story of just one GWR carriage which somehow has survived against all the odds to be the the oldest luxury carriage built by the Great Western Railway and the oldest bogie coach in Great Britain. It was the Midland Railway who first had the bright idea of putting a 4-wheel bogie under each end of a railway coach. The GWR soon followed and brought together all the latest and best in carriage design to build a Special Saloon in 1881, numbered 248. The idea behind the saloon was that it would be hired out to royalty and celebrities and be attached to service trains in the main. The coach continued in this role with a new number 9044 until 1936 when it became an Inspection Coach, with new number 80973, for the Civil Engineer's Office allocated to the Wolverhampton District, but based at Shrewsbury, and kept under cover when not in use. Indeed this may be part of the reason for its longevity that it was kept under cover when not actually in use. In 1961 the coach was condemned at Swindon and available for disposal. It was purchased for £225 and taken to the Dowty Preservation Centre at Ashchurch, however it would be many years before restoration was completed. In 2007 the coach arrived at the Bodmin & Wenford Railway and it was here that the majority of the restoration was done culminating in a ceremony on 11 October 2013. Restoration had taken 51 years.
Special Saloon 248/9044 made many trips to South Wales in the period between 1878 and 1919 and very often to the most unlikeliest spot on the railway network, a bleak and lonely industrial location high up in the Brecon Beacons. But first we must go back to 1843 and Madrid where a child was born to a couple of Italian opera singers on tour. That child was named Adelina Patti and she would grow up to become one of the most famous opera singers of all time, commanding huge fees for singing at live concerts all over the world. For a person who could have lived in luxury anywhere in the world she chose to make her home in the Tawe Valley of West Glamorgan. In 1878 she fell in love with and bought Craig-y-Nos Castle in the Brecon Beacons National Park. She paid £3,500 for the house and parkland. Seeing that she could command fees of £1,000 per performance the price would not have dented her fortune much. The area was served by a railway station called Penwyllt on the Neath & Brecon Railway some 22 miles from Swansea and 14½ miles from Neath. The station was about a mile from the Castle in a bleak area of quarrying activity. The station was improved with special facilities for Miss Patti and later renamed Craig-y-Nos (Penwyllt). Her journeys abroad all began or ended at Craig-y-Nos Station in Special Saloon 9044 and her guests were also treated to a journey in 9044 on their visits to Craig-y-Nos. Miss Patti gave her last concert in 1914 (at the Royal Albert Hall) and died peacefully at Craig-y-Nos Castle in 1919 at the age of 76.
John Burden has written a delightful little book about Special Saloon 9044 which should appeal to enthusiasts the Great Western Railway, Neath and Brecon Railway or Welsh Railways in general. There is extensive coverage of the coach at every phase of its long life up to the date that restoration was completed including much about Adelina Patti and Craig-y-Nos. The book was published in 2013 and is no longer available new, but is worth seeking out in the secondhand market. The original price was £7.50 for 125 pages profusely illustrated in colour. The publishers appear to have gone out of business since the book was published.
Scan: 3258 (book cover)
MLR / 23 October 2019
I notice from the website that each time a picture of Par appears, yet another signal has lost its ball-and-spike finial. What a sad sign of decline it is that such repeated thieving can go on in such a public place!