Life

By Alex Matthews

This special house has a room with a choo – as it was built around two railway carriages.


The entire home has been constructed around two Victorian train cars that were first left on the beachfront as shelters for holidaymakers in the 1920s.

They were expanded by having a lounge, kitchen, dining room, bathroom and three bedrooms added to them.

But the carriages still form the centrepiece of the home, with the central corridor or ‘platform’ running right between the two of them.

Pic by Caters News

The railway theme continues in the garden with a model steam railway running around the decking.

The unique home sits just 160 yards from the beach in Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

Current owners John and Pamela Sibley spent 20 years lovingly restoring the carriages to their original condition.

John, 70, a retired garage owner and mechanic, said: “It’s not often you come across a house with two 1885 Midland Railway carriages inside. We absolutely love it.

“The funny thing is it was never supposed to be like this. We only bought the house after our deal on another nearby property fell through.

“Then our plan was to knock it down and replace it with a bungalow. The place was a disaster when we first moved in.

Pic by Caters News

“The carriages were painted yellow and white and there was a lurid red carpet. There was only one power supply in the hall and lots of leads coming off it, the bathroom was outside the house, and there was no drainage or proper plumbing.

“But after a year we had fallen in love with the railway carriages and we realised we couldn’t tear them down. So we set about improving the rest of the house instead.

“We’re used to it now, but we’re always reminded it’s different when other people come to visit. They’re often amazed by how it looks.”

John and Pamela, 69, who have two daughters and four grandchildren, bought the house 23 years ago and for three years had no idea where the railway carriages came from.

After becoming fed up with the mystery they decided to start investigating the carriages to find out why they were there.

At the time, they were painted in different livery and it was almost impossible to track their history down.

Eventually, another train enthusiast pointed them in the direction of the York National Railway Museum, where they were able to identify the Midland carriages.

Pic by Caters News

When John and Pamela, a retired shop assistant, contacted the Midland Railway Society in Derby and told them they were living inside two of the train cars, they got help finding the original colours.

John said: “Someone at the museum told us they were Midland 909s. We were taken to see a completely restored one and it looked fantastic. I knew then that I wanted ours to look like that.

“I worked on them on and off for 20 years, making sure I got all the colours right and the windows sliding.

“It was a real labour of love and we must have spent several thousand pounds over the years getting it perfect.

“Getting original parts for Victorian trains is almost impossible nowadays. I spent hours searching the internet for things we needed, such as leather straps for the windows.

“But in fact most of the parts came from other carriages around here. Whenever I saw people demolishing them to make way for new bungalows I would be straight round to see what I could salvage.

Pic by Caters News

“The model railway in the garden came later when I finally got a grandson. I already had the Stephenson’s Rocket steam train to run round it, so I built the track so we could play with it.”

John believes the carriages were first laid down by a farmer who, finding the land tough to farm, wanted to make extra money off Edwardian holidaymakers coming to the beach.

Overtime they were expanded until they became permanent dwellings in the 1950s.

He said: “In the early 1900s another company running the railway down south needed rolling stock and so bought the Midland carriages and redecorated them. That’s how they ended up a different colour.

“In the 1920s there was a trend of bringing old railway carriages to beaches and having them as changing areas and huts for holiday makers.

“They set them down on massive sleepers and they did not move again.”

John and Pamela are now reluctantly selling the home through Farndell Estate Agents for at guide price of £500,000.

John said: “The only reason we are moving is because we need to downsize. The house is too big for us now.

“We live on quite a dusty road, and living in a railway carriage means there are over 70 windows and window sills that need cleaning. Pam gets annoyed by that now.

“Otherwise we would love to stay here.”