WHRL Coach No. 8

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group
WHRL Coach No. 8
Gladstone at Porthmadog
Type Saloon & Balcony ends

12 x 1st

22 x 3rd
Home Railway WHHR
Original Railway NWNGR
Status Undergoing Overhaul
Built by Metropolitan Carriage and
Wagon Co. Ltd. of Birmingham
Built 1891
1989 Return to WHR
Width 5 ft 6 in
Body Length 26 ft
Frames Steel
Wheels Bogie

WHRL Coach No. 8 is a preserved NWNGR carriage. Originally numbered 8, it became Carriage 29 in the combined FR/WHR numbering system. After preservation on the WHHR it reverted to its original number.


From its inception, the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways (NWNGR) operated various fixed 4 & 6 wheeled carriages. After 1891, new bogie coaches were purchased, fitted with continuous Westinghouse brakes (compressed-air brakes). This was a most useful selection of stock, a decade ahead of all other narrow gauge railways. The Festiniog had (and still has) simpler but less efficient vacuum brakes.

No. 8 was constucted by the Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd. of Brimingham. It was classified as a 'Tourist Carriage', one of the first attempts to encourage tourist travel on any narrow gauge railway in Britain. It recognised the attractions of open balconies yet having somewhere to retire, when the weather turned unfavourable. The central all-glazed saloon was curtained, upholstered and carpeted. Automatic central couplers with safety chains were fitted, as well as lighting and these extras placed the vehicle in a class of its own. It was liveried in cream upper works and white roof, with the customary Midland red waist. The lettering and lining was in gold-shaded vermilion. The roof was repainted grey sometime later. Each door had a class number (‘1’) on it, together with 'N.W.N.G.Ry' and the vehicle number. For good measure, No. 8 had the Company's Arms on a plaque mounted on the side.

Mr. Gladstone, the then Prime Minister, travelled in No. 8 on the way to a holiday at Nant Gwynant. Thereafter, the coach was nicknamed the 'Gladstone Car'.

By 1922, No. 8 had received a vermilion red livery. Under WHR/FR management, No. 8 was renumbered No. 29 in 1922. Sometime between 1923 and 1934 it may have received a new livery of FR Kentish Green, along with the rest of the carriage stock. However, at closure, the stocklist gave the colour as red.

The body of the Gladstone Car was located many years ago by members of the Festiniog Railway in a garden near Harlech. It was deemed to be beyond restoration and various fittings were removed for re-use (quite possibly on vehicles still running on the FR today).

Some years later in 1989, the new WHR Ltd recovered the coach from a local field (see photo on arrival at Gelert's Farm Works here). One balcony was completely missing, but most of the rest was intact. An original builder's plate had survived the FR's stripping, but all other fittings are replacements. The original bogies were lost and restoration has involved fabrication of replacements to a completely new design to modern high precision standards.

Restoration is now complete, and the Gladstone Coach is in regular service. The Gladstone car was always a first class carriage, even though not designed as one originally. The centre compartment had 14 upholstered seats and had lighting and roof vents, cut off in WHR days for through-running on the FR. It is hoped, if money becomes available, that it be restored to its former Victorian splendour.

In 2010-2011, the carriage underwent a major overhaul


See also[edit]