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Quad-Art Set no.74

Our immaculate Gresley teak 1924 Quad-Articulated Suburban Set, restored with thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Moving commuters in and out of London has long been a problem for the railway companies. On the Great Northern suburban route out of London this was exacerbated by short platforms and steep gradients on the Metropolitan Widened Lines to Moorgate. To overcome these problems required the use of some unusual railway technology. Although the GNR was building bogie coaches for its mainline services by the late 1880s, it was still turning out large numbers of 4- and 6-wheel coaches which were cramped and uncomfortable and the GNR was well behind its rivals. It was also receiving criticism for the poor ride quality of its suburban carriages and needed an innovative solution. The answer was articulation. Nigel Gresley, the newly appointed GNR Carriage and Wagon Superintendent (and later LNER Cheif Mechanical Engineer) decided to experiment with carriage articulation where a 4-wheel bogie supported a common twin-coupler between two coach underframes. At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, Gresley had two key elements of his hallmark carriages – successful articulation and ground breaking coach bogies, following research that eventually led to the ‘Gresley’ bogie. By the end of WW1, the renewal of the GN suburban stock was becoming essential. In 1921, Gresley opted to convert the sets of Twins into eight coach trains of Quads. The first all new Quads appeared shortly after Grouping in 1923. These first sets had gas lighting, wooden slatted seats in third class, and GNR style top lights in the quarter lights either side of the compartment doors and in the doors. The 1923 building programme (produced in 1924) included a further eight trains (16 sets) which included our set, no. 74, featuring some subtle passenger improvements including the introduction of electric lighting and the omission of the top lights in the quarter lights. More were built every year until 1929, by which time further design changes had occurred that meant that almost every build had detail differences. In total 98 sets were built, of which one was a spare set of bodies. With a seating capacity of over 600 in an overall length of some 350 feet, the pairs of sets were ideally suited to the limited space available at Moorgate. The minimised weight, in spite of the relatively heavy bogies, and the reduced rolling resistance assisted in rapid acceleration, especially when hauled by the GNR’s powerful N1, and latter N2, locomotives. The interiors were basic - plain unbuttoned moquette on very thin bench seat backs and bases. The side and door panelling was oak matchboard. The bulkhead partitions had mahogany panelling below cornice level with three picture frames and wired luggage racks. Pictures above the seats usually included the famous LNER watercolour prints, a route map, and some adverts. The early sets were turned out with varnished teak sides and ends with an early layout of the lettering and numbering. The ends obviously proved difficult to keep clean and by 1928 they were painted black as they passed through works, at which time the standard LNER lettering layout was followed. Throughout their lives, the sets were unusual in that they were never lined out, just lettered. Under LNER ownership they carried the class number on every door, and the vehicle number and ‘LNER’ on the bodysides, with the set number in large white letters on the brake end. To improve customer information, illuminated roller destination blinds were fitted in the brakes at either end of the trains in 1928. The Quad Arts continued in service until the mid-1950s by which time they were in maroon livery. The first withdrawals followed the introduction of the five coach BR Mk1 suburban sets in 1954. More were withdrawn with the arrival of the Craven Class 105 DMUs in 1959. In an attempt to match the interior design of the Mk1s, the remaining sets were refurbished internally in 1959, with laminated plastic panelling and brighter paintwork. Most Quad sets remained on the inner London King's Cross Suburban services for the whole of their lives. However, there are accounts of them being used on excursions to East Coast holiday resorts on summer weekends. The last Quad Sets were finally withdrawn from GN services on 1st April 1966 having been retained to cover as spares for BR Mk1 sets. These sets 67, 79 and 90 were transferred to Sheffield and worked local summer specials until their final withdrawal in September 1966. Our set, no. 74, withdrawn early in 1966, was sent to A. King and Sons at Wymondham in Norfolk for scrapping. It was initially stored on the former Wymondham East Junction – Forncett line at Ashwelthorpe, which by this time had been reduced to a single line siding running from Ashwelthorpe to a ground frame at Wymondham. After being transferred to an embryonic Sheringham, along with several other items of rolling stock, the Quad set formed the backbone of early North Norfolk Railway passenger services. It was used until 1979, but the poor condition of the many doors forced its withdrawal. Due to the conjoined nature of set no.74, any restoration effort had to restore all four vehicles simultaneously and there simply wasn’t the capital to undertake such a major restoration at the time. The vehicles were put in store and in 1987 steps were taken to ensure the long term preservation of the set. This required the removal of the 1950s Formica wall coverings and hardboard ceilings along with the seats and backrests. Rotten timbers and partitions were removed and exposed woodwork was soaked in preservative.


The roof was felted before the set was wrapped in tarpaulins to keep out the worst of the weather. In 2001 a comprehensive survey was undertaken which estimated the cost of restoration to be £500,000. After a generous benefactor offered £50,000 if it could be matched, fundraising began to restore set no.74. Following an appeal and articles in the railway press, the Heritage Lottery Fund put forward a match funded grant of £341,000 with representatives from the NRM acting as project monitors. This was in addition to the £308,000 granted by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the construction of Bridge Road Carriage Sheds, which were built to store the Quad-Art set, once restored, in dry conditions. Restoration began in 2003 at Carnforth, and was completed by 2008. Following a period of test runs in April 2008, the Quad-Art set was publically launched into traffic over the July 2008 “Quad-Art” week on the NNR – an event which has now become a permanent fixture every year. Quad-Art set no.74 can be seen running during this week and also at some special events and Galas and during the M&GN Society Members’ Days.


Original article by Steve Allen.


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