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Caledonian railway brake van on track for summer Angus return after fine rebuild effort

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An arson-hit 1940s railway brake van is nearing the end of its rebuild following a year of hard work by volunteers in Brechin.

As the Caledonian Railway crew prepare for their first major event of the 2018 season with Easter Eggspress runs on the line between Brechin and Dun this weekend, the hard-working volunteers are also putting finishing touches to the restoration of the  London, Midland, and Scottish railway brake van which is expected to be officially brought back into service this summer.

Caley Railway volunteer Chris Pegg working on the van

They previously spent £5,000 and four months painstakingly restoring the 1949 LMS brake van and work was completed in December 2014.

The vehicle went back into use almost straight away but its new lease of life was short-lived when the brake van was destroyed after being set alight by vandals in April 2016.

Volunteers from the Caledonian Railway set up the Rebuild The Brechin Brake Van appeal to help raise funds to contribute towards the cost of the restoration.

Christopher Pegg, 22, a final year mechanical engineering student at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, and volunteer at the railway, took charge of the restoration project in May 2017.

A copy of the original general arrangement drawing was obtained from the National Railway Museum in York.

Kaine Bisset painting the interior

The steel frame of the brake van was then cleaned up and painted ready for the new wooden frame to be fitted.

The wooden frame of the brake van was complete in September 2017, with the next step being the painting of the internals and externals of the vehicle.

Another one of the enthusiastic volunteers, Kaine Bisset, 18, stepped in to help Chris with painting the vehicle, spending many evenings after college working away on recreating the classic ‘blood and custard’ colour scheme in the cabin.

There are still a few finishing touches left to do with the internal furnishings such as the benches still needing to be built and fitted.

A spokesman said: “The volunteers were shocked and angered by this mindless act of vandalism but vowed to not let it get them down.

“Upon posting the devastating news to our Facebook page, we were inundated with offers of support from the wider community.

“The volunteers were very thankful for the kind response and set up the Rebuild the Brechin Brake Van appeal with the aim of raising enough funds to allow this much-loved piece of history to be brought back to life.

“After receiving donations from all over the world, plans were set about in early 2017 to begin the rebuild.

“Now, that work is nearing completion.”

The brake van was built by British Rail at Derby Carriage and Wagon works in 1949.

It spent all of its working life travelling up and down the British Isles on the back of goods trains.

As time progressed, more and more wagons were fitted with their own braking systems, gradually making brake vans redundant.

Subsequently, British Rail began selling them off to scrapyards in their thousands.

Back in 1990, when the preservation of the Brechin to Bridge of Dun branch line was in its infancy, several volunteers visited Arnott Young Scrap Merchants in Glasgow to inquire about purchasing one of the brake vans.

A bid to save the vehicle from the cutter’s torch was successful and it moved to Brechin in 1990.

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