One aspect of the disco train that we never envisaged was that we would lose our carriage. Unfortunately, 121 was selected to be the first service car. The underframe was reused and a new wooden body built combining buffet, toilet, and guard’s space. We did discuss with the carriage works the idea of using one of the other tin carrs. Although none of the tin carrs were the same as 121, there were sufficient similarities that at least one could have be used for the task, but would have required modifications to enable the “easy” seat removal. Had we not had a break from running them, a new era may have dawned. As it was, the disco train came to an end.
It had originally been discussed, prior to the 2005 bombshell that some modifications would be incorporated in the next rebuild to enable the disco function to be easier to achieve. Some of these are examined below.
The two hardest parts of running the disco train were the set up with the generator and then the running of cables inside the carriage. The amount of gaffa tape we went through in setting up the disco carr kept 3M’s profits in a good shape.
For the generator we did discuss the feasibility of fitting a small generator into the cabinet that once held the gas bottles. When the tin carrs were first built, the carriages were all heated by gas heaters, with the bottles kept in cabinets at the vehicle ends which could be accessed from the platform so the guard could change them. Later, Eberspächer diesel heaters were fitted which fit under the floor so the cabinet was empty and sufficiently large to contain a generator.
The second suggestion was to hard wire all the cables needed into the carriage with sockets behind removable panels in the end pillars to plug the lights, speakers, and desk / amp equipment in. Later discussions (with the advancement of technology) went along the lines of incorporating the lights and speakers into the end pillars so taking off the removable panel revealed the equipment ready to use.
The final idea was one that I put to the railway. In 2005, the railway was building the new observation carr numbered 102 and it was known that the old obs numbered 100 was going to come out of service. I suggested that the old 100 could be rebuilt and turned to face the other way round. We could then fit a generator in it, and the hard wiring, as discussed above and easy to remove seats, and then we could have a new carriage and disco carr. The idea was turned down but in 2010 old observation carr 101 which had also been retired from front line obs carr duties was rebuilt as a third class observation carr and turned to face the other way. Unfortunately it is much too classy to be used as a disco carr!!
Realistically, the railway is now in the market for a more luxurious experience for the passengers than in the days of building back to Blaenau and consolidation of the 1990s. The tin carrs are just not suitable for the new market and are being replaced by the new “Super-barns” which feature a wooden body on a steel frame, greater headroom, more legroom, and an interior far more luxurious than anything you will find on a standard gauge railway.
Tin carr, 110, is earmarked for the national, I mean Ffestiniog, collection. It is the prototype and was also the first carriage (a slate waggon was the first vehicle…) to be fitted with push-pull equipment to enable the Gelliwiog shuttles with Moel Hebog from the head of the railway at Dduallt up the new formation to show passengers the new deviation being built. In a way it is a shame that none of the production tin carrs will be kept for the Ffestiniog passenger service as they are not the same as 110 (110 has a centre spine while the others are on ex Isle of Man underframes) but at least they are still extant; 117 is at the Moseley Railway Trust, and 119 is at the Golden Valley Light Railway, which is also the destination of 118 in due course. 111 will be kept on the railway and will enter departmental use, and 120’s time is limited and I would expect it also to leave the railway.
If a disco is to be remounted in a Ffestiniog train, I would suggest that 110 might be the vehicle for the job, unless we can persuade the PW dept to make the seats in 111 removable. With the modern service carrs having a generator, it would then be possible to achieve a disco train with as few as 2 carriages if so desired.
Alternatively we could go alfresco and use a service vehicle and a couple of B wagons. At least the dance floor would be expandable to cater for demand that way…