Now over a year since their launch as the 'most important piece of rolling stock outside the national collection', they have only been out at the M&GN 50 gala in February and March. This week is the quad art week where the set is out from 4th July until the following Sunday.
The Quad art set is named so because the coaches are a set of 4, they are articulated so share bogies. This was to save weight and increase quick acceleration on the Great Northern Railway's (GNR) suburban lines which were steeply graded and the stations had short platforms.
They were designed by Sir Nigel Gresley for the GNR (Gresley started off on coaches before going onto locomotives). He had just been appointed the GNR's Carriage and Wagon superintendent. Built by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1924 at the year of grouping (GNR absorbed into the LNER) at the Doncaster works complex. They had electric lighting, upholstered seating and mounted on single bolster bogies. The set would have been coupled with another set to form an 8 coach train, maximum seating capacity was the aim, indeed there is only 12 inches separating the carriages as every inch counted.
Overall 98 sets (of 4 coaches) were built although not all at Doncaster, with the brake third coach having one less compartment in readiness for electrification turning them into electric multiple units! but none were converted.
Most of the sets spent all their lives near Kings Cross but some were noted going north on holiday excursions.
First withdrawals were in the mid 1950s with MK1 replacements (all were in maroon livery by now), the last sets in London being withdrawn on the 1st April 1966 but sets 67,79 and 90 went to haul Sheffield trains before being abandoned in September that year.
This set is number 74, it is the only set in preservation. In 1966 the coaches were sent to Wymondham for scrap at Kings of Norwich. This was done on the Forncett branch TG1101 : The Forncett Branch
. I once met a man who worked there and he said after removing the valuable bits the coaches were torched, 8 a night he said.
Thankfully the Midland and Great Northern society needed some coaches, they had just paid off the money to purchase the J15 and B12. The society bought the set (a ready-made train) for £1000 (£30000 today). After a close payment to the two week deadline the quads were saved. Moving to Sheringham in 1967 along with the LNWR 5318 12 wheel Directors saloon which was also saved.
They were used on members trains and normal service behind the small tank engines the line had back then. They even featured in Dad's Army as the royal train. By 1978 the quads were withdrawn for restoration. Their condition deteriorated and eventually all seated and fittings were removed and the wood drenched in preservative.
After much campaigning by Clive Morris the set's future still looked bleak, restoration would be expensive and time consuming. There was even talk of just restoring two coaches. But Clive was having none of that.
In 2001 the answer came from a £50,000 donation by an individual and the National Lottery with a grant of £341,000. The railway had to raise £150,000 match funding.
Restoration was contracted out to Carnforth where the set moved in March 2003.
The work was delayed due to the West Coast Railway company expanding rapidly and resources being diverted away from the quads. This however suited the railway as accommodation was needed for them. The railway hence raised and appeal to build new carriage sheds, the Lottery stepped in again providing the money along with the European Union. Thus creating bridge road carriage sheds which were completed in 2007 TG0940 : Bridge road carriage shed
The quads were launched back into service to the relief of Clive who had overseen the restoration of a 25 year period, and now they were back in service at a new chapter in their 42 years in preservation.
Information from Steam Railway magazine 350, Joint lines 139 and 138 (magazine of the M&GN society).