Chris Cooper

FR Carriage 11
The ‘Flying Bench’

The knifeboard opens were built by Brown Marshalls of Birmingham in 1864 and, along with their enclosed counterparts were the earliest FR passenger stock. To satisfy the act allowing passengers to be carried on such a small gauge, it was stipulated that the carriages had to be as close to the ground as possible, to prevent them from tipping over. That is why the seating was designed as benching lengthways along the carriage looking out to the side. This influenced the proportions of all the original subsequent 4 wheel and bogie passenger stock built for the railway to satisfy the need for a low centre of gravity, with bogie vehicles designed with the bogies set up inside the frames.

Originally fully open, the carriages were fitted with a canopy and aprons in 1871. There was a first class (with cushioned seats) and a third class (with plain wooden seats) version.

The crank like part of the metal frame on the left middle of this photo was indeed used as such, and was turned to raise the framework and tension the canopy.
By the late 1890’s both had been rebuilt as enclosed ‘observation carriages’ with large side windows. This was found to be insufferably hot in the summer and ‘portholes’ were added to the ends for ventilation. In the early 1920’s the glazing was dispensed with and replaced with a fine wire mesh.

Now known as the Porthole Zoo Cars (for the end holes and appearance of ‘caged’ passengers) they lasted in this form until closure of the railway.

There is now a replica of a Birmingham in this form on the FR; Carriage 12

One rotted away and was not saved, but one survived into preservation, it’s rotten bodywork removed and the opportunity taken to restore it to its original form in the 1968.

In this form it couldn’t be used on regular passenger services and it wasn’t until 2007/8 that it had a further rebuild to include the canopy and aprons and original paint scheme of purple brown with gold linings.

My model started life as a Jurassic Models kit and has run for many years without the canopy.

I decided it was finally time to make the canopy and aprons but took a while to come up with the method until I visited the FR last October for the Bygones Weekend and managed to photograph the carriage whilst on a tour of Boston Lodge.

I built a brass and wood framework

And made the canopy from thin cardboard.

The plan was to cover the cardboard with a thin black cotton but when I tried it, it didn’t look as good as the black painted cardboard, so I just matt varnished the cardboard!

The aprons were made from some black leatherette type fabric, tacked on with 00 trackpins, with some buckles fashioned from brass sheet.

And here it is finished! (although I have subsequently painted the massively oversized brass buckles black to try and make them disappear a bit!!)

February 2021





























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