From Southend Pier to Brighton, to Sandford Mill, to a restoration centre at Ross-On-Wye, a Victorian railway carriage has made its way to Chelmsford Museum, where its journey terminates.
Designed at Colonel Crompton’s factory in Chelmsford, and built at the Falcon Works in Loughborough in 1899, the ‘Toastrack’ carriage – so called because of its shape – ran along Southend Pier, packed with happy seafront visitors in the heyday of seaside town holidays. Later, it was transferred to Volks in Brighton, where it was fitted with old milk float engines.
The Crompton carriage eventually passed into the ownership of Chelmsford City Council. There it bided its time in storage at Sandford Mill until the redevelopment of Chelmsford Museum, part-funded by the National Lottery, presented an opportunity for it to be properly displayed.
On 1 May 2018, it was sent to Alan Keef Ltd, a specialist railway carriage restoration company, in Ross-on-Wye, near Hereford. The woodwork and metal fittings were actually in quite good condition, but it has been completely stripped down, repaired and earliest paint colours matched. The wheels and their mechanisms were previously seized up, but can now run freely.
On Wednesday 7 November, with restoration work complete, the gleaming Toastrack travelled by hiab – a crane on a lorry – to the grounds of Chelmsford Museum, which lies within the beautiful grounds of Oaklands Park, Chelmsford, Essex.
The carriage’s arrival took a great deal of care and attention, as it was gently lowered by crane and rolled along tracks into a huge glass display case which lay waiting at the back of the Museum. The lorry carefully reversed down the side of the Museum and workers manoeuvred the carriage through a tight fit, between trees, onto temporary rails, before sliding it onto its permanent rails within the all-glass protective case.
Within a fortnight, the installation will be fully complete and this icon of Victorian Essex will be on display for all to see and enjoy.
The arrival of the Toastrack is part of the big redevelopment of the older part of Chelmsford Museum, which will open next summer to reveal a whole new experience for visitors. There will be nothing stuffy about this museum: visitors will experience the story of this part of Essex told through the latest technology, incredible historic items and galleries designed to immerse you in the worlds of the past. The redevelopment is supported by a £1.44m National Lottery grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HF).
Councillor Susan Sullivan, Cabinet Member for the Museum, said, “The Heritage Lottery Funding that has enabled the redevelopment of the Victorian part of Chelmsford Museum is allowing us to open up so many more artefacts and experiences to the public than we have ever been able to before. It’s wonderful that things like this historic railway carriage, which was made by one of Chelmsford’s most incredible inventors and which delighted so many people during its time at Southend Pier, can once again become part of people’s family days out – this time in the leafy surroundings of Oaklands Park and the Museum.”
For more information about Chelmsford Museum and the redevelopment works, please visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museum.
Monday 12 November 2018