Camping Coaches

Camping coaches, utilising withdrawn passenger stock, were provided by the railway companies to enable families to take economical self-catering holidays at a time when camping and hiking were gaining popularity. Originally introduced in the early 1930s by the LNER, the other companies soon followed suit, with the Southern Railway providing them from 1935. The first 12 camping coaches, numbers 1-12, were converted by in 1934 from ex-LCDR five compartment, 6 wheeled, third class coaches, though some had originally been second class.

It has been suggested that the Railway liked to place them far from centres of population so that it could maximise on the fares for travelling there! The LNER even went so far as to provide a touring camping coach. The boom in this kind of holiday was short-lived, however, as with the onset of WWII camping coaches were withdrawn after 1940, with many of the vehicles being put to alternative use providing temporary accommodation for railway workers during the war.

Happy Holidays in Cornwall!

Camping Coach Nº23 at Port Isaac Road in 1951. This coach was converted in 1938 from an ex-LSWR 50ft lavatory composite built in 1901 and SR diagram 273, Nº5017, which number was still painted on the end of the coach. Not only was this location far from a centre of population, it was quite a hike from the station itself, being at the far end of the siding.

photograph by Roger Stiggers

Camping Coach Nº23
Camping Coaches made a slow return after the war with the Southern Railway the first to re-introduce them in 1947. They didn't return in any number though until British Railways introduced a lot more during the early 1950s, with some Pullman conversions from 1960. Their popularity was already declining, however, and they started to be withdrawn from the mid-1960s. The last offered for hire to the public by British Railways were on the London Midland Region in 1971, though some were kept on after that date for use by railway families. Subsequently there has been a small revivial in this form of holiday with several coaches available on preserved railways and at other private locations.

Camping coaches didn't stay in the same place as they would be taken away over winter for maintenance and wouldn't necessarily return to the same location.

Camping Coach Nº23 Camping Coach NºS2 (originally Southern Railway Nº2) at Amberley, date unknown but during British Railways days and no later than 1953. This coach was converted in 1934 from a five compartment, 6 wheeled LCDR third class coach built in 1887, SR Nº5017. The coach adjacent in the photo is NºS7, converted from SR Nº1728 originally built in 1892. Both these coaches were withdrawn after the 1953 season, along with eight others of the first twelve. Nº8 had been withdrawn during the war but NºS9 lasted until the end of summer 1954.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

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This page was created 18 December 2010

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