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LNER Buffet Cars - 61'6"

If you thought that the history of the conversions in 1932-35 was complicated, so were the so-called "standard" 61'6" designs when they came along and the records are confusing. I'm sorry to keep making the point about the unreliability of records because all such stuff is man-made and liable to unrecorded progress and human error. They are not the proverbial tablets of stone which some people believe them to be.

Michael Harris covered the "standard" 61'6" design in his two books of 1975 and 1995 (reprinted in 2011) and so did Clive Carter in Back Track January 1995 (which also embraced all the conversions) so, to avoid duplication, I am going to focus on how it started, some grey areas and errors. There's long been a Kirk kit and now there's a RTR model from Hornby which I shall address obliquely by describing how the real thing looked.

The first 61'6" buffet cars

The first example of D.167 was built in 1933 in the middle of the period when shorter pre-Group carriages were being converted and for several years it was a one off and conversions continued to be made. Indeed, it was followed in 1934 by conversion of an LNER-built 61'6" carriage, to D.185. Here are the two Diagrams alongside each other:

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These developments have never been explained before. Internally, the two designs were very similar and they clearly embraced the same thinking. The main difference was in the provision of doors and windows in which regard the conversion was poorer by having fewer windows opposite the kitchen and bar and the external door was placed conventionally in the end vestibule. D.167 was more elegant with more windows and the entrance door at that end was placed further up the carriage and closer to the open/dining area. Both had cooking by gas. They were in fact a pair of prototypes.

In this period of conversions - when money was still tight - a custom-built buffet car may have been seen as unnecessarily expensive and Gresley wanted to explore the recently started concept that was proceeding well - of conversion from already extant carriages, but to a longer length. The one he chose was a former D.27A 3rd Open dining car, albeit only built a few years ago, in 1930. The Diagram 27 series of dining cars (built to run with RFs) dated back to the first years after the Grouping and advanced through D.27/A/B/C as it became more modern - the same as all catering carriage designs for the best expresses. Gresley would have viewed the earlier ones as suitable candidates for replacement sooner or later and conversion to buffet cars would have been a viable option.

One also has to bear in mind that cost wasn't the only factor. When the LNER introduced buffet cars in 1932 it was feeling its way - indeed, the first two conversions were of carriages only 52'6" long. Once in service the LNER learned that they were so popular that it converted them back to TOs and went over to converting 58'6" designs instead. This was thwarted in the NE Area where nothing longer than 53'6" was available. As the LNER warmed to the concept and that buffet cars had as much PR value as restaurant cars, it seems that the desire to build elegant buffets increased and, for conversions, faded.

Production to D.167 launched

Hence conversion of pre-Grouping carriages ended in 1935 when the last two were produced and construction of brand-new RBs to D.167 kicked off as follows:

1935 -   7
1936 -   4
1937 - 15

Another mover in this sequence of events was the well-described keenness of the NEA to develop services with RBs. In other words, the years 1932-35 saw the tentative first steps and then the blossoming of buffet cars on the LNER.

Gas or electric cooking?

Michael Harris wrote that gas cooking was fitted until 1935 when it went electric, which implies that only the prototype had gas cooking. When he reproduced the Diagram for D.167, which Clive Carter also reproduced, it only referred to the prototype of 1933, No 32372. I happen to have a latter issue of that Diagram in which a lot more detail was added and by combining with other sources the following summary is possible:




light bogies






21608-11, 648


light bogies




heavy bogies


43138, 24275-81, 641-4, 649-50**, 51769


heavy bogies

* Michael Harris described construction from 1935 having gone "all-electric". I don't know what his source was but the Diagram (above) and photo (below) show that gas continued to be used and the change didn't take place until 1936.

** In the Back Track article there is a typo and 649-50 are shown as having been built in "1935" instead of 1937.

The first production batch

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- of 1935 is illustrated by this official picture of No 648 and is dated "6/1935". It was fitted with gas cooking whose cylinders are barely visible in the centre of the underframe, between the battery boxes. The gas gauge, however, is clearly seen on the solebar with the vacuum pipe dipping below it. Hanging down from the middle of the underframe is the release valve for condensation in the steam heat pipe. Note the 4-square toplights.

Bogies were the 8'6" light type. Photo: LNER D.O. York Neg. Author's collection.

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The second production batch - of 1936, I have three views of the same example:

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The two ex-works photographs show the corridor side of RB No 24082 from 1936 and the service picture, the kitchen side with the screened windows catching the light. All three views show electric cooking.

Bogies are the 8'6" heavy type which is not surprising given that most of D.167 with electric cooking was almost 5 tons heavier while two (Nos 43138 and 51769) were 6 tons heavier.

The third production batch - of 1937 can be seen in the official view of No 24280:

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It too was fitted with electric cooking and heavy bogies. The screening of the catering windows appears to differ in intensity but was probably just the result of differing back lighting. Photo: Author's collection.

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Summary of details and fittings

Body - the Diagram for D.167 shows toplights of the 3-rectangular type and it is possible that this was applied to the first one built in 1933 (32372), but all the photographs I have seen of subsequent builds show the later 4-square type.

Glazing - windows by the kitchen were screened pale white by the LNER (note that the Hornby model has clear textured glass as fitted to a preserved example on the SVR). The two windows on the corridor side opposite the kitchen were not screened in LNER days (that changed when BR applied screening).

Roof - two of the ex-works pictures show the buffet cars with a pristine roof in which most of the fittings are whited out but the others show the arrangements quite well. The key fitting was the pair of hard-to-describe rectangular vents which were a kind of double triangle with baffles on the outer ends which used the Venturi effect to create a draught. I described construction of these in the model article about about Gresley Kitchen Cars (note that the Hornby model has BR-fitted circular Vent-Axias).


The best way I can illustrate the above is by showing how I approximated the fitting on a 4mm scale model of a Gresley Kitchen Car where several were fitted (the more powerful circular fans were directly over the ovens).

Underframe - See above re the type of cooking. There were extensive changes in BR days as the arrangements were modernised.

Bogies under the cars originally built 1933-35 with gas cooking were the light type. From 1936-37 when cooking was electric heavy bogies were fitted.

To be continued re the BR period...

LNER buffet cars from conversions: are here.

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