Service Cars are a type of carriage used on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. They have no passenger accommodation, but provide space for the guards van, buffet car and toilet which would otherwise take up passenger space in other carriages.
The service car concept was developed as part of a carriage plan started in 2005, which was intended to increase set formation flexibility and also to improve first class in observation carriages, which saw the construction of the new vehicles.
Service cars contain a guard's compartment, a toilet and a buffet/kitchen area. Each of these facilities would previously have been accommodated in different passenger carriages. Moving these services out of other carriages allowed greater passenger space in them, especially in first class observation cars which traditionally contained the guard's compartment.
They are fitted with generators or battery banks to power the kitchen equipment. This allows a wider array of food and drinks to be offered for sale compared to the old style buffet cars. Additionally the guard's area is larger than in previous carriages, allowing more space for the storage of luggage, bicycles etc.
The first service car was Carriage 124, built between 2005 and 2007. Initially, problems were experienced with the ride due to the heavy generator being mounted off centre (to allow for a corridor on the other side of the coach). Later carriages have design improvements resulting in a much smoother ride.
In their early years, the Ffestiniog Railway service cars had to be paired with certain observation carriages to ensure that sets containing an observation carriage without a guards compartment had guards facilities. Following the construction of Carriage 152 and the conversion of Carriage 102 to a back-to-front third class observation car, no FR observation car has guards facilities and this consideration no longer applies. The third FR set is not used often enough to justify the expense of building a third FR service car, instead the service facilities are provided by 114 (the last of the old style buffet cars) and 113 which has been rebuilt as a brake van with a toilet compartment.
There are currently four service cars, two each on the FR and WHR.