ACE Trains Southern Railway Maunsell Olive Green/Malachite Green Coaches
The early years of Southern Railway (SR) in terms of coach provision was one of economy, rebuilding and generally making do with existing stock of the former companies which was predominantly non-corridor, often without lavatories and in many circumstances made up of coach rakes with fixed formation permanently-coupled sets. Much of this was appropriated to provide additional capacity for busy summer-time holiday traffic. Throughout its history, SR did not build any new locomotive-hauled non-corridor coaches effectively passing on its inherited stock to British Railways (BR) a quarter of a century later.
When Richard Maunsell became CME of the newly created company he had a brief to bring to Southern the same level of travelling comfort passengers were enjoying on other group railways particularly for long-distance services such as the steam routes out of Waterloo to Bournemouth/Weymouth and to the West of England where iconic expresses such as the Atlantic Coast Express (ACE) became indelibly imprinted on travellers’ minds. However, Maunsell and his team did not have the benefit of being able to produce a standard new corridor coach design that would be able to traverse any SR metals because of width restrictions on former SECR and LBSCR routes in the eastern part of the region. Thus the late 1920s saw new Maunsell 59’ corridor stock produced (based on LSWR’s ‘Ironclad’ coach designs) with three different body widths and the basis of a distinctive ‘Southern’ look. The coaches comprised 1st and 3rd class compartments with wide corridor windows and looked somewhat different from the other Big Four companies. The initial Maunsell stock for steam services was built on timber frames but with steel exterior panels with wooden edging strip to the fixed windows. In time open corridor coaches were introduced principally for dining services but these were nowhere as extensive as could be found on LMS for instance.
Notwithstanding, Maunsell stock was used for lucrative summer holiday traffic such as the ‘ACE’ which had been inaugurated in July 1926. One of the features of the westbound ‘ACE’ service was that it was considered to look like a parcels train with typically five corridor brake composites making up a ten car train. Maunsell stock were also used on the ‘Bournemouth Limited’ with its three separate coach sets – four for Weymouth, two for Swanage and the remainder for Bournemouth including the dedicated six coach dining set. In 1939 the coaches and a batch of Schools class locomotives became the first stock to be painted in what became known as malachite green livery – traditionally associated with the post-war period. It should also be noted Southern was a keen supporter of Pullman services often utilising a mix of older Pullman cars together with other Southern corridor coaches on West Country services.
ACE coaching stock provides an opportunity to create authentic cross-country through trains to Southern stations such as the Liverpool, Manchester and Bradford LMS routes to Bournemouth and the south coast via Bath and the Somerset & Dorset line.