The winter of 2011-12 saw the start of an extensive refurbishment of the Cliff Railway carriages, this was undertaken by Watts’s Design of Bratton Flemming. (The pictures illustrate some of the deterioration). It was going to be a major task not only to rebuild but also to source the materials required, as the cars were originally constructed with pitch pine not readily available today. The first one to be refurbished would be the North carriage. On arrival at Watts design workshops the car was carefully unloaded from the trailer and positioned outside the entrance to the workshops so that a purpose made marque could be erected to completely cover the carriage.
The Carriage could start being stripped down, the fibreglass roof was removed first to reveal the original slatted roof timbers, (rightup to 1973 these were covered with canvas, that was tensioned to make a waterproof cover). Some deterioration was found in a small number of the timbers, all of this would need to be removed and replaced. We could now start removing the windows and the ply sides of the carriage, this would reveal all sorts of problems, the deterioration of some of the timbers was far worse than we could of imagined, but we were assured by Watts Design that it could be overcome. Some very detailed repairs would need to be done cutting timbers back and scarfing in new pieces, some of which were very small indeed.
Many painstaking hours were spent preserving the interior of the carriage most of which is original. Most of the exterior parts of the timber window frames were replaced, being very careful not to damage the interior woodwork. The tension wires that help to hold the carriage timber carcase and joints from distorting run the full length on each side of the cars these were replaced using new stainless steel wires and turnbuckles, as the old steel assemblies were in very poor condition.