Built in 1878 by the Birmingham Carriage and Wagon Company Ltd. in a batch of forty – numbered 1 to 40 – at a cost of £281.The length of twenty seven feet was introduced only two years before for suburban coaches, and this remained standard until the last four wheeled coach was built in 1905. Prior to 1878, suburban stock varied from twenty six feet down to twenty-one feet in length. From the start, No. 19 was built for marshalling in close-coupled trains, with short buffers protruding 1’ 1” from the headstock at one end whilst at the other end concave wooden blocks ten inches in diameter were fitted in which short or normal buffers could rest. The conventional screw couplings and draw hooks were dispensed with; instead a continuous drawbar with an eye at each end for a single link was provided. Short side or safety chains were also fitted. In the early 1880’s, gas lighting was introduced on the Great Eastern Railway, and as gas was produced at Stratford this type of lighting was at first confined to suburban coaches. Fish tail burners producing a flat flame were originally fitted, with the more familiar and economical incandescent lights with mantles being introduced in the early 1900s. The continuous Westinghouse brake was adopted as standard by 1880, and this would have been fitted at an early stage if not provided when new.
Little further change occurred to No. 19 until 1903 when a transformation took place. Five years previously James Holden had introduced an entirely new design of suburban coach nine feet wide and seating six people a side in second class coaches instead of five, and five people a side in first class instead of four. This gave over 20% more seating for the same length of train with little increase in weight and, by the end of 1901 had built three hundred and seventy eight of these new carriages. However, a total of 1571 of the conventional coaches remained in suburban service built variously during the period 1868 to 1897, the majority of which were of too recent build to consider for early withdrawal.
Holden therefore devised a method of widening these coaches by halving the bodies lengthways and the insertion of a one-foot wide section, thus providing the same seating capacity as the new stock. During 1902 and 1903, seven hundred and three coaches were rebuilt at a cost of only £30 each. Of the batch of forty built in 1878, twenty-four were converted – all during 1903. Widening gave an extended lease of life, the last surviving until 1922 whilst the unwidened coaches were withdrawn between 1901 and 1913. Withdrawal for No. 19 came in July 1913, the fifth of the widened batch to go.
The coach was obtained by the former Ipswich Branch of the Museum, whose members were responsible for much of the early restoration work on it. For demonstration use, it has now been fitted with a vacuum pipe and cylinder. In 1982, it was used to represent Thorpeness station (on the former Aldeburgh branch) in an episode of the BBC TV series ‘Nanny’, starring Wendy Craig.
1983 saw it attend the BR Stratford Open Day, followed by a visit to the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company celebrations in 1986 and then Southend Centenary celebrations on 28 August 1989. In June 1996 it attended the ‘Eastern Union Railway 150’ exhibition at Ipswich as part of the Museum’s contribution to the static display. These visits were made by road.
Due to the nature and age of the vehicle, it has to receive regular attention. In 2000-1 it received exterior renovation to the woodwork. It is also used in demonstration trains only on special occasions. Following further work in 2009 on fitting replica door handles and grab rails it is now ready for the final paint finish during 2011 to match No.553. From Link