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Accessible Coach for Ferry Meadows Railway

By David Coging

Since buying the railway around 7 years ago, we have always had the idea of building a coach to carry wheelchairs. Just after Christmas 2013, we sat down and drew up some plans for the chassis and superstructure of the coach. We roughly followed the plans we had for the existing covered coaches.

The first photograph below shows the main chassis being welded, back in January. The second photo shows the coach's first time on bogies on the track. It was at this time that work stopped as we had to lay new track and sleepers in Gunwade station, which was followed by the school half term holidays when the railway was in service for two weeks.

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Work on the new coach was re-started in May. With two of us working on it full time it very quickly took shape. The main uprights and roof supports went into place and the first coats of primer paint were applied. It was then on to the roof and seating supports, very quickly followed by the loading ramps. We then took it back outside to test both the loading ramps and the stability, both passed with flying colours, so out came the paint brushes again.

After giving the whole thing two more coats of paint, we fitted the seats and the floor. The last thing we did was fit the loading ramps and give them two coats of antislip paint, the job was complete.

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The coach will carry two to three standard wheelchairs with two accompanying passengers or 1 of the heavy battery wheeelchairs that we see quite regularly in Ferry Meadows. Loading is a very simple process, the guard or driver will let the loading ramp down and wheelchair users can either boared themselves or if they wish we will assist them, we worked hard to keep the ramp angle as shallow as possible to make it easy to use and it would appear that we got this right the first time.

The coach is very usefull for a number of reasons, when it's not being used to carry wheelchairs, on busy days we can load passengers prams and bicycles on it and free up seats for passengers.

One end of the coach is a dedicated guard's area. From this position the guard can keep a watchfull eye on all the passengers and he or she is also at hand to assist any wheelchair passengers. The people who have used the new coach have been very happy with it and they feel it is an excellent addition to the railway and to the Park.