GWR 5804 Brake Third

GWR 5804 Brake Third
GWR 5804 20170401.jpg
5804 at Bewdley in April 2017
Built By GWR Swindon
Status Static use
Number 5804
Other numbers 3406, ADW 150304
Built 1934
Designed By Collett
Diagram D118
Lot 1510
Type BTK
Length 57ft 0in
Weight 29t 17cwt
Seats 32 third (as built)
1983 Entered preservation
1991 Arrived on SVR


Ambulance livery at Bewdley in 2009
Collett abandoned the ‘bow-ended’ carriage design in 1933. 5804 is an early example of his later designs, dating from the following year. As built, the Brake Third Corridor seated 32 passengers in four compartments, the rest of the carriage being given over to a guard’s compartment and large luggage area.[1] During the Second World War 5804 saw service overseas as a Pharmacy Car in an Ambulance Train.


5804 in service


GWR Collett Brake Third Corridor (BTK) 5804 was built in 1934 at Swindon as Lot 1510 to Diagram No D118.[2]

Conversion for use in Overseas Ambulance Train 34

In 1944 the GWR provided six ambulance trains of 14 coaches each for use in Europe following the Allied invasion. 5804 was one of the coaches selected for this purpose, its conversion for use as a Pharmacy Car taking place in early 1944. Internally the coach was stripped and new partitions installed to create a pharmacy room, dressing room, sterilizing room, two store rooms and a toilet. The dressing room had a large sliding door to allow easy access from the corridor for stretchers. Sinks in the pharmacy and sterilizing rooms were fed from 75 gallon tanks installed in the roof. Externally, all doors on the non-corridor side were sealed while the corridor side retained one single door and two double doors. The livery was matt olive green with a grey roof, and a large red cross on a white background painted on the roof and sides. Westinghouse air brake equipment was fitted for use while overseas.

Following conversion, 5804 was allocated to Overseas Ambulance Train 34 where, as the sixth coach in the formation, it was numbered 3406. The complete formation was as follows:

Number Description Origin
3401 Brake/store/boiler car GWR Brake Third 5884
3402 Ward car GWR Siphon G 2064
3403 Ward car GWR Siphon G 2757
3404 Ward car GWR Siphon G 2761
3405 Ward car GWR Siphon G 2763
3406 Pharmacy car GWR Brake Third 5804
3407 Ward car GWR Siphon G 2765
3408 Ward car GWR Siphon G 2767
3409 Ward car GWR Siphon G 2771
3410 Sitting car GWR Open Third 4567
3411 Kitchen / mess car GWR Restaurant 9551
3412 Staff car (Enlisted men) LMS Sleeper 548
3413 Staff car (Officers / nurses) LMS Sleeper 551
3414 Brake / stores car GWR Brake Third 5764

The train was fitted out in July 1944 at the R.A.M.C. depot at Weston Camp, near Derby. The Pharmacy Car was equipped as a miniature hospital with a dressing / operating table and oxygen supply as well as the necessary surgical instruments, drugs and dressings.

Overseas service

The train left Southampton by sea on 2 October 1944, destined for Ostend in Belgium. A week later it was moved from there to its stabling point at Brussels (Petit Ile) by the 43rd British Ambulance Train Unit. 35 medical personnel were quartered on the train, and a Belgian baggage car was added to provide additional storage, forming a fifteen coach train in service.

Ambulance Train 34 saw almost continuous use in October and November 1944, collecting casualties from a railhead at Valkensward, near the Allied front line on the Dutch / German border. The casualties, both Allied and German, were taken to Brussels for treatment in General Hospitals there. At the end of November the train was moved to Amiens in France for the winter. Despite operational difficulties resulting from the freezing conditions, a few operational trips were made between Rouen, Lille and Ostend. March 1945 saw the train stabled at Lille, making several trips to railheads near the Dutch / German Border.

In April 1945 the train was stabled at Etterbeke depot, Brussels. The nature of its duties changed to the transfer of casualties from the Brussels General Hospitals to Convalescent Hospitals at Lille and Eekloo, and also to Ostend for repatriation by sea.

Ambulance Train 34 was disbanded by the British Army Train Unit at Ostend Quay station on 2 June 1945. It had made 28 operational trips, carrying more than 6,500 casualties. The train was then taken over by the USA Army Transportation Corps, probably for use in repatriating recovered Allied prisoners from Germany to the Channel Ports, before finally returning to England towards the end of 1946.[3]

Post-War UK service

5804 was converted back to a Corridor Brake Third at Swindon and re-entered regular service in February 1947. It ended service having been converted for use as a breakdown tool van, Departmental number ADW 150304.[1]

GWR 5804 in preservation

5804 was originally purchased for preservation in 1983, and arrived on the SVR in 1991 from Marsh Mills, Plymouth, having been acquired by SVR(H). It is located adjacent to Bewdley car park, where it was originally used as the headquarters of the SVR Junior Club and is now used as the SVR Apprentices Mess Coach.

For some years it was located by the car park entrance; during this time the side visible to the public was painted as a war time Ambulance Car. In late March 2017 5804 was moved the other side of the car park, next to the Sales Coaches, revealing the other side in a GWR chocolate and cream livery with no insignia.

Sister vehicle 5883 is also an SVR resident.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 SVR Stock Book Ninth Edition
  2. Railway Heritage Register Carriage Survey
  3. SVR News 116, "Wartime Service of Corridor Brake Third No 5804" (Adrian Turley)