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Miscellaneous: Operating Equipment & Practices

Ambulance Trains: misc_equip246

Two views of the inside of an Open Ward Coach constructed for Continental Ambulance train No 18 at Swindon Works

Two views of the inside of an Open Ward Coach constructed for Continental Ambulance train No 18 at Swindon Works which was displayed at Paddington Station for three days in August 1915 (For information about an earlier Continental Ambulance Train see 'misc_equip244'). In 1916 two more Continental Ambulance trains (No 26 and 27) were exhibited at Paddington and various provincial stations (including Birmingham Snow Hill). Visitors were charged a fee; one shilling for the public, three pence for GWR staff. A total of 34,555 people paid to see the GWR built Ambulance trains, which with money from the sale of postcards, raised £1,710 for various charities. These two photographs accompanied in an article reproduced here:

New GWR Ambulance Train for the Continent

October 1915 Great Western Railway magazine Vol XXVII No 10

The public were recently afforded the opportunity of inspecting at Paddington Station a GWR ambulance train (known officially to the War Office as ‘No 18’), which had been constructed at the Company's Carriage Works at Swindon, for use on the Continent. The train was on view for three days – August 25th to 27th from 11:00am to 7:00pm, and upwards of four thousand people visited it. An admission fee was charged and the proceeds devoted to War Funds. A number of Great Western Ambulance workers and nurses of the St Johns Ambulance Brigade under Dr J Maclean Carvell, Honorary Surgeon of the Great Western Railway Division of the Brigade, were in attendance, and explained to the visitors the various equipment and their uses.

The train consists of sixteen coaches … It is 960 feet in length and weighs 442 tons. Accommodation is provided for 482 patients viz; 144 lying down, 320 sitting up and 18 infectious cases; and for a staff of 45, comprising 3 surgeons, 4 nurses, 6 cooks, and 32 orderlies.

Generally speaking the train and its equipment are very similar to those of the other GWR ambulance trains, which have already been described in these pages. The brake and steam-heating apparatus are of the Westinghouse type, with hose pipe connections as used on the continent. In each of the staff and personnel cars, hot water apparatus has been installed to heat the coaches when the train is standing in sidings. There is also an arrangement whereby the temperature can be regulated in different sections of the train, a control being provided between each set of six beds. Gangways at the ends of the coaches wide enough to enable a stretcher to be carried from the ward cars to the treatment room, provide communication from end to end of the train.

Stone's electric light apparatus is installed, each coach being self-lit; and candle bracket lamps are fixed throughout, for use in the event of the electric light failing. Ample ventilation is afforded by means of ventilators in the roof, side drop lights and thirty fixed and thirty two portable fans. The latter are specially provided for patients suffering from gas poisoning.

The equipment of the train was the subject of much admiration by a large number of members of the medical profession, nurses. And ambulance workers who visited it. Sets of post cards illustrating the various coaches were on sale, and collecting boxes for War Funds were brought to the notice of visitors by the nurses in attendance, with the result that the proceeds were largely augmented by these means.

Among the visitors was a blind lady who is a teacher at St Dunstan's Institute for Blind Soldiers, Regents Park. She was conducted through the train and acquired a knowledge of the equipment by touch. A small boy walked from Poplar to see the train, and put his only penny in the platform slot machine under the impression that the possession of a platform ticket would cover the inspection. His interest in the train was fully gratified, notwithstanding his lack of funds, and he now thinks the Great Western a very kind and sympathetic Company.

The following short article appeared in the:

Great Western Railway magazine for April 1916 Vol XXVIII No 4

The latest ambulance train (No26), which had been constructed at the Great Western Works at Swindon for use on the Continent, was exhibited at Paddington Station from March 16th to 18th inclusive, at Birmingham on March 20th and 21st, at Shrewsbury on March 22nd, at Oxford on March 23rd and 24th, and at Reading on March 25th. This train is modified on the same lines as the one exhibited in August last, a description of which was given in the Magazine for September. It consists of sixteen coaches, its extreme length being 960 feet and its weight 442 tons. During its exhibition at Paddington 2,833 members of the public and 1,714 of the Company's staff passed through the train. The whole of the proceeds will be devoted to railway charities.

Robert Ferris