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Simon Stretton and what might have been the Fat Controller's coach - Date unknown Photographer unknown.
10 September 2015
Rail Chief's Carriage Back on the Line


Bishops Lydeard Somerset - Westcountry railways once had a kind of Fat Controller of the kind seen in Thomas the Tank Engine and he was able to meander around the region's network in his own luxurious carriage filled with sofas, a personalized kitchen, an ensuite bathroom, and lashings of tea and cakes.
 
Perhaps we made that last bit up, but certainly the very same carriage was loaded to the gunnels with good things to eat and drink, including tea and cakes, this week as the West Somerset Railway (WSR) launched a new service.
 
The very special carriage, which has been lovingly refurbished by four of the railway's apprentices, is now a tourist draw for the heritage line.
 
The sumptuous example of rolling stock belonged to the line manager for the Westcountry network who was based at Taunton and who used to travel around the region inspecting the permanent way and engineering work.
 
Now the newly revamped "Hawksworth" carriage can be hired for special events like anniversaries or birthdays so that guests can enjoy the special views along the country's longest privately owned line from the large panoramic windows.
 
While, of course, enjoying lashings of tea, cakes, and other goodies.
 
Simon Stretton, the WSR director responsible for the Hawksworth, said, "You are guaranteed a memorable journey, travelling in style along the longest heritage railway in England, in the comfort of your own private carriage. It is a great day out, with your own steward on hand to serve a locally sourced lunch and a homemade cream tea while you take in the stunning Somerset scenery. The carriage took its name from Frederick William Hawksworth who was the last chief mechanical engineer of the Great Western Railway. In 1948 the Inspection Saloon was constructed to Hawksworth's design with a chocolate and cream livery and was allocated to Taunton. It was acquired by the West Somerset Railway Association in 2012 where it is maintained by a team of craftsmen at West Somerset Restorations."
 
Life must have been very good indeed for the railway inspectors based at Taunton.
 
60 or more years ago, after some long overdue replacement, engineers' inspection saloons were constructed to Hawksworth's designs.
 
Seven were built and one was based at Taunton.
 
Intended to run as a solitary vehicle, or at the end of a train without any risk of interference, no gangway was provided, and instead, the saloons were provided with three panoramic end windows.
 
Mr. Stretton told the WMN, "They had a warning gong to warn of their approach when being propelled. They were short vehicles at 52 feet long but this still allowed for a saloon at either end, with a galley, lavatory, and guard's compartment in-between."
 
The beautifully restored carriage is now available for limited, exclusive hire for up to 20 guests. For details visit www.hawksworthSaloon.co.uk.
 
W. Hesp.

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