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Recently arrived on the Railway are two 14'6" LNWR horsebox bodies, built around 1874. They were used in general traffic for the conveyance of horses, each vehicle having room for three horses and a groom to attend to them, until their withdrawal around the turn of the century. They were then removed from their underframes and used to accommodate horses being used in the construction of the railway into Daventry which was completed in **** (tbc). The site on which they were based later became an isolation hospital, and horseboxes 479 and 2097 were once more used to hold horses and their tack, with the ambulance being located between the two bodies.
More recently the site has been used as a garden centre, Dennetts of Daventry, and the horseboxes were used for storage, this time with a roof built over the top of them which ensured their survival. When the LNWR society learned that the site was to be redeveloped for housing, we were informed as to the existence of the horseboxes, and after phonecalls and a visit in January 2005 we decided to take on the challenge of restoring both vehicles to as near to their original condition as possible to run with Stephen Middleton's Stately Trains operation at Embsay. The horseboxes were very generously donated to us by Mr. Dennett who has also been able to fill us in as to their history, more of which will appear here later.
Both vehicles retain their original (we assume) LNWR maroon livery with yellow or gold lettering and lining, although this has deteriorated somewhat over the years. The boarding which needs to support the weight of the horses is loose tongued - the boards both having deep grooves cut into them and a piece of steel inserted as the tongue to provide the extra stength required. The roofs retain their original canvas, although this will need replacing shortly as it is worn and has nail-holes from where the corrugated iron sheets were attached. (And also No.479 is missing a section of roof altogether!)
Friday 24th February 2006 - An even earlier start was made from Embsay (5.30am) with Wendy and myself (co-owners) heading down to supervise the lifting of the bodies onto the wagon. We pulled into the gateway just after the lorry arrived and then spent much of the time running around to find additional bracings as it became clear that without the floors there was the real danger that the vehicles would be crushed as they were lifted. Bracings were cut to length and fitted as both vehicles were lifted - No.2097 was first as it was the one that gave us most cause for concern. Both horsebox bodies were successfully loaded onto the back of the wagon by our friendly driver (thankyou!) and were strapped down and made secure. A couple of loose pieces were removed to prevent them falling off, but will be able to be re-attached as we restore them.
Friday 25th February 2006 - The wagon delivered the horseboxes to the Railway for their restoration to begin. They were successfully unloaded with no deterioration suffered. The only interruption to the unloading was the arrival of Netwon Heath Traction Group's 08... Our intention is now to replace the bottom rails of the body with new timber as they have attracted the damp from the ground upon which they have been sat for over 100 years, as well as the roof of No.479 which has a section missing from when the roof over the top of the horseboxes was rebuilt. They will then be bale to be moved from their present location to have the other little bits of bodywork renewed before replacement chassis can be sourced / made to suit as required.
February - May 2006 - despite very little physical progress I have been preparing drawings for all the sections of wood required, detailing the joints etc. after repeated measurement of the bodies. The first task is to replace the bottom rails of the bodies, which whilst being very solid in places, also have places where little remains! To ensure the correct profile to the wood a sample was taken - well, two as the first one was somewhat mangled...
Whilst exploring for measuring purposes, a section of one end of No.479 was exposed giving more of a clue to the colour - the rest will not be disturbed as yet. Inside No.2047 it had been clear that Dennetts had at some point in the past added another layer of wood cladding which was well past its best. We thought it best to remove a section of this to work out what was behind. To find a painted wood grain finish was not what we were expecting, bu it would seem that this is the original finish, certinaly in the groom's compartments, as No.479 also has traces under the whitewash.
May 2006 to the present - drawings have been prepared and submitted for quotes for the wood to replace the bottom rails of the bodies of the vehicles - I will post an arrangement drawing here shortly. Attention is focussing on the chassis now...
Following a lot of hard work to re-design a wooden chassis to suit the horseboxes, the opportunity to acquire a suitable steel underframe that could be modified to suit both bodies arose. The 6-wheeled chassis from the formed Thompson BZ owned by the LNERCA was purchased and will arrive for adaption / modification for its new role. The body is too far gone for it to have been a viable project in its own right (and that IS saying something...). Although progressing the horseboxes further is not a priority at the moment, having a chassis to suit is a huge boost.
More news will appear here as we make progress!