GNR(I)

DIRECTORS' SALOON 50

50 Directors Saloon
Builders GNR(I), Dundalk, 1911
Withdrawn NIR, early 1970s
Companies GNR(I), UTA, NIR, RPSI
Preservation Career Main line use, 1981 - ??
Current Location Whitehead Railway Museum
Current Status On display

 

In 1911, a new saloon carriage was put into traffic on the GNR(I). Classified A3, it was 48ft long, 9ft 6ins wide, weighed 29¼ tons, and seated 22. It was allocated the number 50. This saloon was intended for the use of the directors of the company, and was designed as an inspection vehicle, being provided accordingly with observation ends, brake application controls, and steps from the gangways to rail level.

The saloon was reputedly used for board meetings of the Company, it being the practice to attach it to a suitable train and work it to either Belfast or Dublin, depending on where the meeting was to be. It was also used regularly to convey the directors to the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran, apparently a favourite haunt.

In Great Northern days the saloon was normally stored under cover in the paint-shop in Dundalk, which may explain the lack of photographs of it prior to the 1953 Royal Train.

The brake application equipment was removed. It consisted of vacuum application valves in each vestibule, and a handbrake located, would you believe, in the lavatory compartment. It would have been possible to apply the handbrake while seated on the WC but it is not thought that this was an intentional part of the design!

Originally finished in varnished wood; painted blue and cream when used as Queen's Saloon for 1953 Royal Train. The then modern “airvac” extractor ventilators were fitted to the roof, and the coach was turned out in the blue and cream railcar livery, as indeed were the rest of the Royal Train vehicles.

Following the Royal Train the saloon saw sporadic use on special occasions. At the break-up of the GNR in 1957 it passed to the UTA, receiving their sombre green livery, and the number 150. Under the UTA the saloon was mainly used for inspection duties, and the unfortunate history of that concern dictates that many of these were far from happy occasions. An inspection of the system during 1963 in connection with the notorious Benson Report utilised the saloon (a photograph of the inspection train is reproduced in Five Foot Three No.14) as did an inspection of the GN’s Derry Road immediately after closure in 1965.

The first RPSI involvement with the saloon was in 1969 when she was borrowed to carry dignitaries during the official handing over of locomotive No.186 by CIÉ. By this time 150 had been repainted in dark blue, with a broad yellow band and the lower parts of the body had been re-panelled in hardboard. Some time after this trip the blue and yellow had given way to unlined grey. 150 now saw little or no use, being stored in the open at various locations such as Great Victoria Street, Antrim, and York Road. Decay set in, with the hardboard panelling warping grotesquely as leaks in the roof caused widespread rot. In addition, she suffered broken windows while the furniture, carpets, light fittings and dynamo were all removed.

In early 1973 Northern Ireland Railways decided they had no further use for the coach and agreed to sell it to the RPSI. The Ulster Tourist Development Association very generously agreed to purchase 150 for the Society and in Spring 1973 she was moved to Whitehead to become the RPSI’s second coach.

At this point Lord O’Neill, the Society’s then President, stepped in and offered to sponsor (along with a consortium of friends) the complete renovation of the coach, to be carried out at NIR’s workshops. In November 1978 the saloon was moved from Whitehead to York Road, and covered accommodation. The old roof fabric, the external panelling, much of the internal panelling, and the ceilings, all rotten, were removed, and the coach frame dried out. Many of the vertical structural members required sections cut out and replaced, and many of the horizontal members, particularly around the windows, were completely rotten, as were the window frames, droplights, and door bottoms.

The extremely time consuming work of repairing the structural members of the coach had to be fitted in with all the usual activity in York Road works, the body builders working on 50 when not required for more urgent work. Following the structural repairs, the sides were re-sheeted in marine plywood, and the roof was re-covered in PVC proofed nylon.

In 1981the saloon was taken out for a test run and at 60 mph the only defect found was the failure of the lavatory to flush. The final touches were now applied in the form of wicker chairs and matching tables, and GNR crest on the sides. The saloon made its inaugural trip when it conveyed Michael Allison (Secretary of State to the Northern Ireland Office), Sir Myles Humphries (Chairman of Northern Ireland Railways), Lord O’Neill, and other dignitaries from York Road to Whitehead Excursion station for the Society’s open day, returning to York Road in the late afternoon. It was subsequently attached to the 25th July 1981 “Portrush Flyer” and the “Ben Bulben” railtour in Spetember that year.

The saloon saw occasional use on excursions (chartered or at premium fare).

However, with its wooden body and frames it is deemed to no longer meet current safety standards and is now an exhibit in the Museum.


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