TWO rundown 114-year-old rail dining cars that ferried Titanic passengers to the fateful ship are set to start the long journey to restoration.
The ‘Boat Train’ carriages were found by historic rail experts rotting on a siding at Blaenavon Heritage Railway after a tip-off last year.
And clearance and structural work readying them to be transported to Hampshire for a three-year renovation project is now well under way, with a trust also being set up to raise funding.
The Titanic Boat Train Heritage Trust is a joint venture between the British Titanic Society and the London & South Western Railway Carriage Group, which operates the Thomas the Tank Engine Watercress Line heritage steam railway.
Trust chairman David Scott-Beddard said: “The restoration of these two carriages back to their original and working condition, will give visitors to the Watercress Line an experience like no other; to take you back in time to April 10, 1912; the day RMS Titanic departed Southampton on her ‘maiden’ and only voyage, into eternity…
“Nine hundred and twenty people boarded Titanic at Southampton with more than half being third-class passengers…
“Many of them travelled from London’s Waterloo Station via the two specially laid-on Boat Trains. one of which is actually passing along the line now used by the Watercress Line.
“This hugely exciting project is of course, going to cost a great deal of money to bring to fruition.
“The TBTHT has applied for charitable status, and fundraising has already begun.
“The historic and educational benefits are of vital importance, with Titanic being part of the National Curriculum,” he added.
“Every school pupil in the UK studies the story of the ill-fated ship. And the story of the Boat Trains that carried those passengers on the way to their destiny, will be much more intertwined with the history of Titanic once restoration is complete…”
The dining saloons had been rusting and rotting for 30 years when they were discovered last spring just in time to stop them being broken up.
David said: “They are the sole survivors of the exact type that formed the Boat Trains that ferried passengers from Waterloo to Southampton, for boarding Titanic on the morning of April 10, 1912.
“Both carriages are now completely cleared ready for transportation to their new home. The internal bracing for transit is to be installed very shortly…
“Please like our Facebook page, and support this project. Saving them, and restoring them to their original 1908 condition is of significant historical importance; preserving fine examples of boat train travel in the Edwardian Gilded Age.”
During a work day at Blaenavon a week last Sunday (January 23), trust volunteers met former carriages owner Captain Charles James and presented the retired army officer with a drawing of Car No 76 in its original condition.
He said last year when the dining saloons were first identified by experts: “We were told if they were still here after June 30 they would be seized and burnt, and cut up.
“I care about these things, and have owned them about 30 years now, but all we’ve been able to do is keep the wet out of them and stop things getting any worse.”
For more information, and to donate to the restoration see titanicboattrainheritagetrust.org and the trust’s Facebook page.