Photo: Kim Winter
|Status||In service, PW Fleet|
|Built by||FR Society - Midland Region|
|Length||15 ft 6 in|
|Body Width||5 ft 8 in|
Van 51 is a brake van in use for permanent way duties on the Ffestiniog Railway.
Van 51 was built in 1964 as Van 1 by the Midland Area group of the Ffestiniog Railway Society as a replacement for the previous Van 1. It was the first item of coaching stock built under the new administration. It uses running gear components from old quarryman's carriages and couplings from the Ashover Light Railway (these have subsequently been replaced by standard FR chopper couplings). The seats came from Birmingham buses. Vacuum braked, it has a handbrake for running in works trains. The story of its building is told in an FR Magazine article.
As built it had full-length coachwork and no end platform, and was painted green. In 1977 it had a major overhaul and the bodywork was shortened leaving an open platform at one end, fitted with a handrail recovered from Glan y Mor yard . It was fitted with vinyl covered seating and was used as the top end vehicle in passenger trains when unbraked bugboxes were used. In this state it is seen in cherry red livery on the rear cover of the 1983 travellers guide.
In the mid 1980s it was transferred to the Permanent Way Department and received yellow livery with a grey stripe. In 2000 this was inverted to the correct Howesian corporate style, though with the wrong shades of yellow and grey! It was renumbered from 1 to 51 in the late 1990s, after a replica of the old Van 1 was built. Now regularly used by the S & T department.
For the FR's Blaenau 30 celebrations Van 51 was painted in cherry red livery once again, albeit this time with yellow warning panels.
It was seen on 17 June 2012 in the carriage works with all of the outside skin removed. This was to allow the very wet frame work to dry out. After a major body overhaul it was returned to traffic in July 2013. The beading of the external panelling now aligns with the windows (unlike the previous arrangement, and more like the original) and there is an extra window in the non-platform end - the windows are now double-glazed and some are of the half-drop type for ventilation, in place of the previous louvres. There is also a separate compartment for the gas cylinders, and the van is now green once again, with small yellow warning panels.
Van 51 badly in need of some TLC whilst in Minffordd Yard during the Forties weekend, April 2006.