Churchill train set for York museum debut

Work is almost complete on the restoration of the train carriage which bore the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill after his funeral almost 50 years ago.

Ian Mathews puts the finishing touches to the restoration of the Southern Railway Baggage van which carried Winston Churchill's coffin at the National Railway Museum's site at Shildon

Until the great statesman’s death, the South Railway parcel van S2464S had carried items like newspapers and vegetables.

But on a grey, mid-winter day, January 30 1965, the carriage was seen by millions watching the funeral on small black-and-white TV sets.

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Thousands more lined the rail route as Sir Winston’s body was brought to its final resting place in Oxfordshire following a state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Now the property of the Swanage Railway Trust, the carriage had ended up in Los Angeles before being brought back to the UK in 2007.

It has been restored at the National Railway Museum’s site at Shildon in County Durham. From there it will be taken to the NRM in York where it will be displayed with the Shildon locomotive No 34051, called Winston Churchill, which pulled the funeral train and which has also been restored.

The Churchill Final Journey display will run from January 30 to May 3 2015. Helping to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the funeral will be James Lester, the fireman on board on January 30 1965.

Shildon’s workshop and rail operations manager Richard Pearson said: “We’ve reached an important point in the project to get the vehicle back to its best, ready to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s state funeral.

“All that remains is the painting back to its original shade of umber and cream by our dedicated team of staff, volunteers and trainees.”

The funeral of Churchill was a massive and moving occasion, attended by the Queen and many heads of state.

Churchill’s body lay in state at Westminster and his coffin was borne down the River Thames with the dockers dipping their cranes in salute.