Can you find a home for this vintage railway carriage?

An enthusiasts’ group is hoping to bring home a Manx Northern Railway coach dating back to 1879 – and has launched an appeal to find somewhere it can be stored under cover.

The six-wheel carriage, described as a ‘unique survivor’, left the island in 2012 and is currently stored outdoors at the Southwold Railway Trust’s Steamworks base in Suffolk.

Isle of Man Steam Railway Supporters’ Association has been in discussions with the coach’s owner, Robert Hendry of the Three Foot Gauge Railway Society, over a plan to repatriate it to the island.

But with there being no available space on the Steam Railway itself, and initial discussions with a variety of organisations so far proving fruitless, the group is appealing to anybody who could accommodate the historic vehicle and ensure its retention in the island.

Some remedial work has been carried out on the carriage but it is not in a condition where it can be operated in service.

The coach is one of a fleet of 14 obtained from the Swansea Carriage & Wagon Co, to the unusual six-wheel ‘Cleminson’ patent. Only three other carriages remain, one of which has been completely restored by an Association member and is now back on the railway, with a further body used as storage and another as part of a private collection off-island.

Chairman Bill Cubbon said: ‘This represents a final throw of the dice to attempt to have this carriage returned home.

‘We have been working closely with Robert Hendry to achieve this aim but thus far have been unsuccessful in finding a suitable home for the carriage, so we are now opening our appeal up to the general public in the hope that we can find a home for it.’

The carriage is just over 30ft long and around 7ft wide without the overhang of couplings which can be removed as required.

It would need to be transported on a road trailer, so any potential accommodation would need to accessible by road with such a trailer and articulated unit.

Nick Evans, chairman of the Southwold Railway Trust, said their volunteers had undertaken some cosmetic work but they didn’t have the resources to carry out a major restoration.

He said: ‘We have become increasingly concerned about its deterioration, and in October 2021 we wrote to Robert Hendry suggesting there was an urgent need to provide some sort of weather protection and undertake a proper condition survey.

‘We have put forward various suggestions in an effort to moves things forward but these do not seem to have found favour. We await the Society’s decision as to what they wish to do.

‘We have been happy to accommodate the coach for the Society - it is an interesting artefact for our visitors to see but we do not wish to preside over its continued deterioration. Urgent action is needed, and a return to the Isle of Man would seem to be the best option if this can be managed. I’m encouraged to see that this is being canvassed.’