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The 'Occidental Express'
a.k.a. 'Darkrise to Candleford Sleeper'
and 'Bulrush Dining Car'

Once the Rocket-powered B-type bus has been built then, if all goes to plan, this will pull the Lazybeach Special, making Nellie free for other duties. And, as Nellie is the locomotive most closely inspired by Rowland Emett's illustrations, then why not a rake of carriages which also emulate his creations? Such as sleeping carriages and a dining car: the 'Darkrise to Candleford Sleeper' and 'Bulrush Dining Car'.

'Why not?' is purely rhetorical – clearly this is a 'must do' scenario. But, as with most other 'must do's' on the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway, only when other projects have come to fruition first.

Rowland Emett included dining cars in several illustrations. But mostly these were mundane compared to his ideas for sleeping carriages.



Just ignore that the last one's towed by a car and not a loco…

However one approach to dining cars – and kitchens – deserves to be emulated by the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway:

Emett's dining arrangements on the Sandycombe Railway.
No Michelin stars. But five 'Pirelli Pentagrams' and four 'Dunlop Donuts'.
Just for effort.

As already announced in the Brindlecliffe ECHO!, designs for the interior of the Bulrush Dining Car have been commissioned, inspired by the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh and Herbert Ibberson (more about Ibberson).

Ibberson's kingfisher     Ibberson's bulrush        Ibberson's kingfisher and sun

Two of these designs are available from the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway gift shop as fridge magnets.

Back in December 2018, when these designs were commissioned, the management of Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway had forgotten that Charles Rennie Macintosh had 'connections' with model railways. In the middle of the First World War, one of his clients was Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke (1877–1953), for whom he designed 78 Derngate, Northampton – the only house Mackintosh designed in England and now a museum.

Part of the interior of 78 Derngate, Northampton, as restored 2002–3.

Bassett-Lowke was the son of a boiler-maker and a governess, who left school at thirteen. He spent eighteen-months in an architect's office, before joining his father in the family business. He took up the hobby of making model stationary steam engines. Realising the impossibility for the ordinary enthusiast of purchasing small parts, which he had made in his father's workshops, he soon began a small mail-order business. His father's bookkeeper, H.F.R. Franklin, joined him in the project.

The rest, as oft said, is history. Bassett-Lowke produced trains from 1/4 scale (15-inch gauge) live steam models to Gauge 2 (2 inches), Gauge 1 (45 mm) and O Gauge (32 mm). Also a large number of waterline models of ships were produced, many used as recognition models by the British and other navies. Until recently Bassett-Lowke models were independent of rival brands such as Hornby and Exley. However the Bassett-Lowke brand name was aquired by Hornby in 2008.

Bassett-Lowke's 'crepescular' catalogue cover from 1904–5.

The interior of Bulrush dining car just might have a whiff of this archetypal Charles Rennie Macintosh interior – one of the original Willow Tearooms at 217 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, which were completed in October 1903.

The Willow Tearooms as recreated for the twenty-first century.
'Macintosh at The Willow', as the venue is now known, fully opened in July 2018.

The management have also been keeping their eyes out for inspiration for the sleeper carriages.

Part of a temporary exhibition about T.E. Lawrence at the Newark Civil War Centre in 2017. The Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway management team visited, although the connection between Lawrence of Arabia and the Engish Civil Wars never became clear…


Some bits and pieces for the field kitchen and the sleeper cars have been bought from suppliers of doll's house accessories, such as The Dolls House Emporium.

The necessary chassis have also been assembled, using Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's 'standard issue' axles, axle boxes and wheels from Binnie Engineering.

Just don't expect these carriages to be manifesting much before late 2019 at the earliest.

June 2019 update

As oft with the management's plans for Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway rolling stock, projected timescales are distinctly fluid. Mostly this is at the more treacly end of the viscosity spectrum [Ed.: an unduly periphrastic and prolix paraphrase of 'slowly'] but sometimes the pascal-second value unexpectedly approaches unity ['Eh?']. While the Jackdaw Works team enjoy the challenge of making motors and gears turn some wheels (as is currently underway for the B-type railbus) there are times when the relaxation of simpler 'non-mechanical' modelmaking is desired. So sketches were made of the interior of the Mackintosh-inspired dining car.

But then the penny dropped. While much fun will be had spoofing the interior design of Mackintosh's Willow Tearoooms, most of the time the interior will be almost invisible. More importantly, the exterior needs to look Mackintosh-esque. Now there is, and always has been, a world shortage of Art Nouveau railway carriages, dining cars or otherwise. So more than a little imagination was needed. But initial sketches looked promising, with the intention of emulating a traditional wood-framed railway carriage with planked infill, albeit with the planks running vertically instead of horizontally (as with traditional railway carriages).

First sketch of the exterior side elevation. Planking will run vertically between the mid-grey frames. Designs for stained glass yet to be finalised. Three or four tall narrow windows will probably be used instead of the two rectangular ones.

But how to emulate the wood? Well the best answer would be to make it from wood. But thin ply and beech stripwood (as available from B&Q and the like) would be a little oversize and clumsy-looking. So why not balsa wood? It's probably the best part of sixty years since the management has last done any significant modelmaking using balsa (back then it was model aircraft, mostly gliders). If suitably ribbed and reinforced then balsa can be surprisingly strong. And it can be stained to look like 'proper' wood. A supply of suitable sections was ordered.

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Text and previously unpublished images copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2019