Operation Snapper

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Carriage 14 (L&B No.15) at Snapper at start of dismantling, John Halsall, April 1959
At Snapper with body removed, John Halsall April 1959

This is the story of the recovery of what is now Carriage 14 from a field in Devon in 1959 during a working party on the weekend 25/26 April 1959. It was built in 1897 by the Bristol Wagon & Carriage Co. as a brake third for the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway (No. 15) becoming Southern Railway No. 6993.

When the Lynton and Barnstaple line closed in 1935, the coach was sold to a local farmer and parked at Snapper Halt on a short length of track, where it was used during the war by evacuees from London and later as a hen house.

The coach was bought by the FR in 1959 and transported to Boston Lodge The article below first appeared The Festiniog Railway Magazine No 5 - Summer 1959 - on Pages 4-6. It has been reproduced here with the kind permission of John Dobson, editor of the Festiniog Railway Magazine. (Email to Kfw 21/05/07)

There is a photo on page 5 taken by Norman Gurley of loading the side members onto Ian Smart's Albion lorry. The FR Archivist will post this photo and some of the other original photographs taken by Norman Gurley on the day, post his work in connection with the arrangements for the Ffestiniog 175 celebrations (Emails to Kfw 21/05/07).

Source of above information: FR Chronology

OPERATION SNAPPER[edit]

Many months ago, our General Manager saw the Lynton and Barnstaple coach, No. 6993, lying in its field at Snapper, and realised that its acquisition would be very useful for the F.R. Time went on and coaching repairs became more difficult, particularly the supply of carriage wheels; these are a much heavier pattern than the similar looking wagon wheels, and obtaining new ones is likely to be a costly item. Furthermore, apart from the little van, No. 10, the only coaches left for repairs are those which had been out of doors since before the war.

After the successful acquisition and transportation of No. 26 from Waenfawr, thoughts turned again to Snapper. It was discovered however that the T.R.P.S. were interested in acquiring the coach for their museum, but when approached, they said that the transport problem was too costly for that purpose and they would be pleased to see it running on the F.R. In return, we promised to give them any bits and pieces we did not require.

The main question to be decided was transport. Ian Smart, still glowing after the easy removal of No. 26, was keen to try bringing it up in one piece, but the difficulty of getting it from its present site onto the road had to be overcome. Accordingly, Fred Boughey and the General Manager set off on a reconnaissance one foggy night in December and met Ian in Devon. A reasonable purchase was negotiated with the owner and investigations were made on site.

It was known that the body as it stood would not pass the F.R. loading gauge, and it was therefore decided that the difficult and costly operation of getting it out of the field in one piece was unnecessary. Complete dismantling on site into convenient sections, so that it could be transported on Ian's "Albion" lorry, seemed to offer a reasonably simple and cheap solution.

It was decided to leave the actual move until as late as possible in order to get the benefit of longer days and finer weather, and so on Saturday, 25th April, a working party descended on Snapper. Mr. Jarvis started the work by removing the doors and will long remember the day for the amount of rain that fell. That night, John Halsall and Martin Lee arrived for the week to continue the work. It had been hoped to preserve something of the roof, but the planks were securely fixed by nails and screws and there was no alternative but to rip it off so as to leave the roof sticks, which were then num¬bered and carefully removed for storing.

One of the items earmarked for Towyn was a lincrusta panel. It was placed under a pile of roofing felt under the coach, but, unfortunately, the field was shared by some cows who wanted a change of diet, and the next morning only a few small pieces of roofing felt and some much-chewed lincrusta were to be found. One of these fragments has been sent to Towyn nevertheless!

Each door and panel was systematically lettered and numbered to denote side and position, and the carline between each panel carefully sawn through. After prizing the panels from the very rotten bottom rail, they were removed and stored, generally complete with glass.

By Thursday midday, the final piece - the van end - was dropped down, as the General Manager returned to dismantle the underframe by burning off the rivets. This operation again proceeded according to plan, the only hold-up occurring due to some difficulty in getting the cotter out of the kingpin with no pit available. Then the various sections, including all the timber framework of the centre section, were again carefully marked.

By Friday evening, the bogies, which rolled very freely after a slight initial push, had been run off the track onto boards. The sleepers were in excellent condition; all the holding-down bolts unscrewed and only two of them needed warmth to free them. The track at the time of closure must have been first class.

On Saturday morning, after an all-night drive, the "Albion" arrived with Ian Smart and co-driver Joe Rivett. All the lighter timber portions were loaded on, with the help of some extra volunteers, and in the afternoon, the lorry set off for Portmadoc (sic) where a party was waiting to unload and store the material-all accomplished without so much as a broken window.

The following weekend, a special working party from London was at Snapper to assist with the loading of the heavier underframe, bogies, rails, etc. A tractor had been laid on to assist with the hauling of the heavy components out of the field and unto the road, and by mid-afternoon they were away on the 300 mile journey to Portmadoc. Fred Boughey had made a special horse to mount on Ian's lorry so that the 30-feet long main side members, etc. could be carried over the cab roof. The L.A.G. party finished by clearing up the site and transporting all the firewood (mostly floor and roof) up to a local house which had provided them with much welcome sustenance and refreshment.

On Sunday, 10th May, a Birmingham working party assisted with the unloading of the lorry, and by the evening the main portion of the underframe had been temporarily bolted together. A couple of side panels were cut down and temporarily mounted on the frame, and later in the week were tried through Garnedd Tunnel for clearance. Although nominally the same contour as Nos. 21 and 22, the fit in the tunnel is very close at the eaves, but it had been hoped to gain an inch or two.

The compartments will be re-assembled in the same sequence, but the portions of the van end will be slightly juggled, (though all will be used) and a new portion made to replace the guard's lookout. The position of the windows is such that the light-line throughout the train will be maintained, and the coach will make an excellent, improved and enlarged buffet car to release No. 12 as buffet/van for the second train (and obviate underframe difficulties in repairing No. 10).

Once again we must be very grateful to Ian Smart, without whose lorry the task would have been prohibitively costly.

See also[edit]