Coaches in the pre-grouping period were built of seasoned
quality hard wood, and mounted on steel underframes . (Note however that from 1903 to
1912 carriages had steel panels. Problems with corrosion led to the reversion to baywood
panels. This took place with no. 36 of Diagram 267.)
Many companies developed their own distinctive corporate styles: The LNWR style featured one large side panel from waist to eaves, into which windows were set without any visual links to the body panelling. Finished in the superb ‘white and plum’ livery, this became the ‘Wolverton style’, after the LNWR’s carriage works near Bletchley on the London to Birmingham main line.
Until 1865 carriages were built at Saltley , Birmingham, where the design style continued at Wolverton was initiated. Saltley carriages were narrow (7ft 9in) and vans were flat-sided (and narrower at 6ft 10in) but the seeds for the later style could already be seen in the designs.
‘Wolverton style’ increased the ‘turnunder’ below the waist, painted in a deep, dark plum colour, called ‘Carriage Lake’. Above the waist, panels were painted ‘Coach White’, a colour in which blue was added to offset the yellowing inevitable through ageing. This meant that newer coaches appeared very pale blue in colour, becoming more white or cream with time. Windows were surrounded by a raised mahogany bolection moulding, and the raised mouldings edging the panels were painted in lake and lined out initially in gold. Later a yellow tan colour simulating gold was used. Doors were edged with a very thin white line. Lettering and numbers were gold, later yellow edged black. Painting required sixteen coats — and 16 days to rub down, paint and dry.
Roofs were often painted white in the works but were seen to be grey in service. An elderly worker from Wolverton explained they became grey due to the “(expletive deleted) from the [engine’s] chimney.”
In the early 1890s a change to the panelling was tried on 45ft Family saloons, then used on the famed “American Specials”. The main windows were built in pairs with a wider panel adjacent to each seat back. The window mouldings were not rounded into the waist but instead took the form of an inverted ‘U’.