As we all know, the last year has been dominated by Covid-19. The West Shed, like hundreds of other museums, was forced to close to visitors in March 2020, and unfortunately we haven’t yet been able to reopen. However, during this time some of our volunteers have continued to work on ‘behind the scenes’ projects such as the ongoing research into the history of our special 1920-built carriage – Saloon 45000.
When the Trust acquired Special Saloon 45000 in 2003, its hundredth anniversary seemed a good way off. Well, those 17 years have drifted by, and now we’re approaching the Summer of 2021. Saloon 45000 spent 2020, its centenary year, quietly stood in the West Shed with the magic date of 7th September slipping by without a fuss…
September 7th was the date in 1920 when A.R. Trevithick of Wolverton Station’s Carriage Department sent a handwritten letter to Sir Gilbert Claughton – Chairman of the London & North Western Railway – to advise him that “the new saloon is finished, and I thought you would like it sent somewhere for inspection….”. The image on the right shows the original letter held in the National Railway Museum archives.
Saloon 45000 (numbered 5000 when built for the LNWR) has always been understood as being built for the LNWR Chairman. This was echoed by the fact that when the LNWR was “grouped” into the London, Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923, 45000 (as the LMS number became) was documented as the “President’s Saloon”.
Much of the last 17 years has been spent researching Saloon 45000 and its history. The National Railway Museum at York holds extensive drawing records in their archive, but searches for the LNWR ‘Chairman’s Saloon’ drew a blank. It gradually became apparent that the Saloon drawings existed, but were all titled “Saloon for Chief Mechanical Engineer”. There was already a Saloon for the Chief Mechanical Engineer, but it was a small, relatively modest 6 wheel carriage with open vestibule ends. The preserved LNWR locomotive “Cornwall” was the dedicated locomotive used to haul this Saloon from 1905 to 1922. Research into LNWR Board Minutes (held at the National Archives in Kew) gave few clues, apart from a note dated June 1919 approving the Chairman’s recommendation for the “Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Coupe to be replaced”. The Chief Mechanical Engineer at the time was Bowen-Cooke, but he died in 1920, so wouldn’t have used the newly built Saloon 45000.
This drawing is taken from a London & North Western Railway carriage diagram book. It describes it as an ‘Inspection Saloon’ with no specific mention of who it was to be used by. The design layout fits how we see Saloon 45000 today, except for a few changes made in the 1930’s. For example, this original design has bunk beds in the bedrooms!
This later drawing dates from 1935. It shows that some design changes have been made since 1920, including the extension of the bathroom to accommodate a bath and shower.
The LNWR chapter of Saloon 45000’s history had a sad ending – Sir Gilbert Claughton may never have travelled in his Saloon, as he was ill for much of 1920 and died in the summer of 1921. So, we end up with a lot of questions surrounding the two years or so at the start of the Saloon’s life – was it built for the Chief Mechanical Engineer or the Chairman? Was it too grand for a Chief Mechanical Engineer? Did the small CME’s Saloon (plus locomotive “Cornwall”) exist alongside a new Saloon (45000)? More detailed research into LNWR internal correspondence may provide the answers.
Special Saloon 45000 went on to have a long service life of nearly 70 years, conveying Royalty and senior political figures over much of Britain’s railway network. When the West Shed reopens, we hope you will come and visit to see this fantastic carriage for yourself and find out more. In the meantime, you can find out about some of the other characters who travelled in 45000 on the ‘Saloon 45000 Stories & Characters’ page:
REFERENCES: Photographs of original documents held in the National Railway Museum archive. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/
To explore the NRM collections further visit their website: Research and archive | National Railway Museum