Great Northern Railway Directors’ Saloon No. 706E


GNR Directors' Saloon

This magnificent clerestory saloon was constructed in 1897, and refitted in 1933 by the LNER. It remained in the use of the GNR/LNER directors, then British Railways Eastern Region General Manager until 1969, when it was sold complete from Hornsey Carriage Sheds for the princely sum of £500.

One of the last remaining privately owned coaches on the Bluebell, the Saloon’s dedicated team of owners and friends, called the Howlden Group after the Saloon’s designer, E.F. Howlden, have now become the Howlden Trust. They have lavished large amounts of time and effort over the years restoring the saloon to its GNR/LNER appearance. It has always remained available for special-traffic use since first arriving at the Bluebell in October 1971.

Maintenance work in recent years has involved refurbishing the Edwardian hot-water boiler in the kitchen, as well as re-covering and painting the exterior of the fine clerestory roof, and refurbishment of the inner ceilings and fittings.

Interior of GNR Directors' Saloon To prepare the saloon for its centenary it was decided to reinstate teak panelling where plywood was fitted in the 1950s, and also over the winter of 1996/7 a new carpet fitted. The following year saw a major mechanical overhaul undertaken on the spare set of running gear, which was fitted to the bogies during the early spring of 2000. During the winter of 1998/9 remedial work has been undertaken to the structure at the ends of the coach, where corrosion of steel brackets was splitting the teak framing. In early 2001 further work was done on refurbishing the kitchen area. All this work is tackled when funds and time allow, without removing the saloon from special traffic use for long periods.

The celebration of the saloon’s 100th anniversary, which fell in 1997, included running of the coach with the GNR Saddle Tank belonging to the National Railway Museum. In July 2003 the saloon returned to its birthplace for the “Plant 150” event at Doncaster works. The saloon also returned to Yorkshire to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Nigel Gresley’s appointment as Carriage Engineer at the Great Northern Railway in 1905, and ran on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for two weeks as part of their Gresley 100 gala.

In 2000 it became famous around the world as the “Old Gentleman’s Coach” in the TV film of “The Railway Children”.

The Saloon accommodates about 20 passengers in its two luxurious saloons, one of which is laid out in lounge style, the other in a boardroom style which can be easily adapted for a buffet luncheon. Due to its great age, and to conserve it for future generations, the saloon is only occassional for private hire.

The Saloon’s page on Facebook carries news of the Saloon’s activities, and the dates of public running for the saloon on the Bluebell Railway.

Type: Directors’ Saloon
Built: 1897
Original No: 1283
Other Nos: 706, LNER: 706 E, 43909,
and BR: DE 942090
Seating: 20 to 22
Length: 48′ 6″
Weight: 28 Tons
Withdrawn: 1969
Preserved: 1969
To Bluebell: 3/10/1971