Train carriages were first stationed and repurposed as ‘camping coaches’ in Britain in the Thirties, providing holiday apartments that rarely offered running water or electricity. Today they are back in vogue, but with the emphasis on the sort of luxury The Baron adores. For train-lovers, it is stirring to consider the Pullman carriage as both transport and destination of delight.
A short trip from Twickenham is The Old Railway Station, at Petworth, in the Sussex Downs. Here, you can climb aboard one of four splendidly restored Pullman carriages that provide eight suites. Pullmans first entered service in Britain in 1874, offering luxury carriages with a steward service. Taking their name from George Pullman, who pioneered the concept in the USA, they have a famous brown-and-cream livery and individually named carriages. Petworth has Pullmans from 1912 and 1914, as well as the 1923 Flora and Montana carriages that ran on the Golden Arrow service from London to Paris in 6½ hours. You can enjoy them as en-suite doubles with brass beds, mahogany panels and painted ceilings, creating an ideal base for visiting vintage events at nearby Goodwood.
At St Germans, in Cornwall’s Tamar Valley, Railholiday rents three carriages located in ten acres of private woodland. Mevy is a Victorian ‘slip coach’ – a type of carriage that was uncoupled manually from the back of a speeding express train, and then guided to a halt at the station by its brakesman! The Old Luggage Van was once Passenger Luggage Van No.1353, which served from 1896 on the London and South Western Railway (LSWR). It is located on the station platform, with delightful views of the Plymouth to Penzance section of the Great Western Railway. The Travelling Post Office dates from the late 1800s, and was once exactly that! It has a narrow gauge body on broad gauge bogies, with passenger compartments, sorting area, net and delivery arms. In 1904, it was pulled behind the City of Truro when she made a record-breaking 100mph run. Accommodation features include en-suite bathrooms, velvet upholstery, mahogany panelling and woodburning stoves, and the Travelling Post Office still has its original letter-boxes.
On the panoramic North Norfolk coast at Heacham, near Hunstanton, you will find The Old Station Waiting Rooms and Railway Carriage. A converted Mark I First Class carriage occupies the platform of the Heacham Great Eastern Railway Station. It has two en-suite doubles and retains its first class sliding door compartment. Heacham is conveniently close to the RSPB reserves of Snettisham and Titchwell if you desire to combine bird-spotting with your train-spotting.
Further north, at The Sidings in Stations Lane, York, five Pullmans rest alongside the East Coast Main Line. They have been converted into a restaurant, conference rooms and bedrooms. Original fittings recall the days of steam while you gaze at the electrifying sight of modern trains galloping by on the York to Thirsk stretch of the East Coast Main Line. En-suite rooms include four-poster options.
To reach the Loch Awe Carriage near Dalmally, Scotland, you disembark at Loch Awe Station and walk a few yards to the banks of the loch. Camping coaches were first located here in the Fifties, when they could be rented for £7. Today’s more refined lodgings occupy a British Railways Mark I, No.4494, built in York in 1956, which ran on the London to Edinburgh line. Retaining many original features, the carriage has two bedrooms and offers breathtaking views, both of the passing Glasgow to Oban trains and across the loch to Kilchurn Castle.
Of course, if you prefer to stay in the luxury serviced apartments at 20TheBarons, we are a mere 40-minute ride from central London. By train, of course!
Unusual Accommodations #2: Converted Train Carriages