Coach No 249 is one of the few GWR vehicles built with what is described as a ‘royal clerestory roof’ that is with a domed end overhanging the body.
It was designed by William Dean and delivered in October 1894 for use as a directors’ saloon and was therefore laid out very sumptuously.
At one end was a 22ft 9in dining room with tables and revolving chairs for 10 persons. When not required, the tables could be folded down into recesses in the coach body making the compartment even more spacious.
Adjoining the dining room was an 8ft kitchen with cooking and washing up arrangements. Next was a 3ft lavatory and then a 7ft Private Compartment for 4 persons. Finally, the other end was a 16ft drawing room furnished with three lounges and two revolving chairs.
It was able to seat 24 people and was used as part of Queen Victoria’s royal train when required. It was unique in having a special inspection seat that could be fitted to either end of the coach, just above rail height, which allowed an engineer to inspect the track closely while travelling.
In 1907, it was renumbered 8249 then, later, 9045. After World War II, the coach was converted to an engineers’ saloon and renumbered 80978, being based mainly at Plymouth. Withdrawn in 1963 and sent to Swindon, it was purchased for preservation the following year.
Arriving in very poor condition, this magnificent vehicle has since been restored using many fittings from a prototype BR Open First coach and saw use on special occasions before being withdrawn for renovation.