TV show restores four ‘no hope’ coaches back to mint condition


CHANNEL 4’S new Great Rail Restorations series has been hailed as a major publicity boost for a large unseen aspect of the heritage sector.

Presented by Peter Snow, best known as an analyst of election results, and motorcycle expert Henry Cole, the five-part series has followed the restoration from scratch of four historic carriages, before they were all brought to the Llangollen Railway and assembled into one train behind a steam locomotive.

Peter, who presented the 2016 BBC series Trainspotting Live, took an in-depth look at each of the carriages and followed it step-by-step through its restoration, while Henry explored what it was like to be a passenger in each era of rail travel.

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Then and now: just six months separate these pictures of Isle of Wight Railway four-wheel composite coach No. 10. IoWSR

The series, which has done for coach restoration what Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journeys did for train travel, was commissioned by Lizi Wootton for Channel 4 and executive produced by creative director Jacqueline Hewer for Brown Bob Productions.

Months of meticulous research identified four carriages which were verging on the ‘Mission Impossible’ category. At first, the producers came up with the idea of featuring carriages that had already been restored.

Steve Davies with presenter Peter Snow. IRHC

However, they then decided to go the whole hog, and rebuild historic vehicles from scratch, stumping up the large amounts of cash to do so – but taking no more than six months on each project, which in normal circumstances would last several years.

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A team of expert advisors, the International Railway Heritage Consultancy Limited, led by former National Railway Museum head Steve Davies, who was responsible for organising the Mallard 75 celebrations, was brought in, along with his team comprising Helen Ashby, who spent a decade at the NRM as head of knowledge and collections, Richard Gibbon, the NRM’s former head of engineering, and Colin Divall, professor of railway studies and head of the Institute of Railway Studies & Transport History, run jointly by York University and the NRM.

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