Van 11

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group
Van 11
Type Observation Brake First
Seating 12 x 1st
Home Railway FR
Status In service, Heritage Fleet
Built by Brown, Marshalls
Built 1880
1928/9 Rebuilt with passenger accommodation
1957/8 Rebuilt as Observation car
Length 27 ft

Van 11 is a first class observation brake carriage rebuilt from an original brake van of 1880. It was originally numbered Van 4.


This carriage was constructed as a bogie brake (luggage) van by Brown, Marshalls . It was originally numbered Van 4 and had no passenger accommodation.

It was rebuilt in Boston Lodge in 1928/9 with a new body, incorporating a guard's compartment and passenger accommodation in 1st and 3rd class. Van 5 was treated similarly.

Post Preservation[edit]

It was one of the two carriages first restored for use when the railway reopened. In the 1955 renumbering it became Carriage 11 in the new combined series and there are early references (FRM NL/05) to this vehicle as both Coach 11 and Van 11. A colour picture on page 83 of Immortal Rails shows it in 1955 in green/ivory with a brick red end.

The carriage was turned around during Easter 1956 using a wagon turntable under one end, whilst the other was slid over rails and sleepers[1]. In 1957/58 it was rebuilt again, this time involving conversion to an observation car, utilising seating from former first class Mersey Railway electric stock withdrawn in 1956-7. The livery remained and a colour image on page 155 shows the new obs end as brick red c.1959 In 1962 it was remounted on a steel underframe and the FR magazine described it as "Returned to traffic at Easter on its new underframe, and with fresh external lower panels, the upholstery in the enlarged first class compartment finished later in the week.  Hydraulic dampers together with the bolster springs outside the main bogie frames, produces a very steady riding vehicle.  The rear end is now painted the same colour as the sides (green with ivory obs end window frames), except for the buffer beam which is signal red.". In 1965 No. 11 was altered to have inward opening doors fitted for guard’s use when running with No. 12. It was painted all over cherry red in 1969. In 1989 the FR magazine stated "The old observation car is now complete in red and off-white livery, some of the framework at the observation end having been rebuilt. New interiors were fitted to both passenger compartments with upholstered lower panels and new carpet. The bottom end has been re-panelled and some work also done on guards duckets."

For a period in the 1990s (probably in 1994 & 1995) it was turned and ran with its observation windows at the top end. In 1996 rot was found and the coach returned to service with the end door permanently closed, until repaired in 1999.

It has since (from 1999) been restored to the green and ivory livery with red ends, carried in the 1950s and early 1960s, and in 2005 returned to its original identity of Van 4.

During 2009 an overhaul was undertaken with some of the wooden body panels being replaced. Two seats were removed in the observation section, allowing the existing seating to be moved around which allowed the provision of small shelves between them to stand drinks on. On its return to service in November it had received a repaint and large '1' transfers on the sides as opposed to the 'First' transfers carried by the modern first class carriages.

In 2014 Van 4 was externally renumbered back to 11, as is appropriate for its 1960s livery. It was officially renumbered as Van 11 in 2024.

Heritage status[edit]

Since 2007 it was officially transferred to the Heritage fleet. As such, it was planned to no longer be used in normal regular service and to be available for occasional use, and on heritage trains. However it has seen extensive use on Woodland Wanderer trains post the Covid-19 pandemic as the railway's business model evolved. As a result of this it was taken into Boston Lodge over the winter of 2022/23 for the bogies to be overhauled including updating the secondary suspension to a more modern design than the 1960s version previously carried.[2]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Festiniog in the Fifties, V. Mitchell and A. Gray, Middleton Press 1996
  2. ^ Moving Pictures, Seventy Six - 8/3/23