Conversion of carriages to accommodation - resources?

 
  JustGus Station Staff

Hi - First post!

For some time, I’ve wanted to get a carriage sited on our property and fit it out as accommodation and am finally in a position to do so.  Interestingly, while there’s websites and books around that offer guidance and tips on projects like converting shipping containers and converting vehicles into tiny homes, I’ve not been able to find much on the subject of converting rolling stock into accommodation. The only thing I’ve found so far is Australian Train Movers (a-tm.com.au) and a few old auction listings, but nothing offering know how on going about a project like this.  If anyone here knows of resources like this, I’d really appreciate any information.

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  apw5910 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Location: Location.
Why not ask somebody who's done it? There are plenty of them out there.

Do you want to lay a small section of track and leave the wheels on, or sell the wheels and put it on a plinth? Live in it yourself, or temp accommodation for backpackers? Power, water, waste etc are much the same as for an out-building. Are you going to gut it, or restore the interior...
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: North Haverbrook; where the monorail is king!
Hi - First post!

For some time, I’ve wanted to get a carriage sited on our property and fit it out as accommodation and am finally in a position to do so.  Interestingly, while there’s websites and books around that offer guidance and tips on projects like converting shipping containers and converting vehicles into tiny homes, I’ve not been able to find much on the subject of converting rolling stock into accommodation. The only thing I’ve found so far is Australian Train Movers (a-tm.com.au) and a few old auction listings, but nothing offering know how on going about a project like this.  If anyone here knows of resources like this, I’d really appreciate any information.
JustGus
Railway carriage construction can be quite varied and there's not likely to be much general help you can get from the internet on the specific topic of converting carriages into accommodation.

The common-sense stuff I'll say is that timber-bodied cars are not likely to have much insulation in them and that you'll need to be really good friends with a carpenter to get rid of the rot and seal up all the leaks.

Regarding sourcing a carriage, it's worth enquiring with the various Tourist & Heritage Railways in your state (and out of state, depending on how far you want to go) if they have any that might be available for disposal. An unfortunate feature of today's railway preservation movement is that there are limited resources in these groups for restoring such vehicles and as a result many are slowly reducing how many carriages they have custody of. These groups also often have a wealth of experience with restoring carriages and their advice on specific classes of carriages will likely be invaluable if you can obtain it.
  BrentonGolding Chief Commissioner

Location: Maldon Junction
Railway carriage construction can be quite varied and there's not likely to be much general help you can get from the internet on the specific topic of converting carriages into accommodation.

The common-sense stuff I'll say is that timber-bodied cars are not likely to have much insulation in them and that you'll need to be really good friends with a carpenter to get rid of the rot and seal up all the leaks.

Regarding sourcing a carriage, it's worth enquiring with the various Tourist & Heritage Railways in your state (and out of state, depending on how far you want to go) if they have any that might be available for disposal. An unfortunate feature of today's railway preservation movement is that there are limited resources in these groups for restoring such vehicles and as a result many are slowly reducing how many carriages they have custody of. These groups also often have a wealth of experience with restoring carriages and their advice on specific classes of carriages will likely be invaluable if you can obtain it.
LancedDendrite
What he said. And you may like to consider volunteering some time with the carriage crew at one of the THRs to get some insight into what you are up against. There is a wealth of knowledge out there in the termites!

Personally I would avoid wooden bodied cars like the plague, they really don't like being left outside for long periods, the roof is generally (well in Vic anyhow) covered in canvas and then tarred / painted over and this doesn't last long (they would have been maintained regularly in service) and once the water gets through that outer cover it is straight into the timber with expensive results.
  Lockspike Deputy Commissioner

The common-sense stuff I'll say is that timber-bodied cars are not likely to have much insulation in them and that you'll need to be really good friends with a carpenter to get rid of the rot and seal up all the leaks.
What he said. And you may like to consider volunteering some time with the carriage crew at one of the THRs to get some insight into what you are up against. There is a wealth of knowledge out there in the termites!

Personally I would avoid wooden bodied cars like the plague, they really don't like being left outside for long periods, the roof is generally (well in Vic anyhow) covered in canvas and then tarred / painted over and this doesn't last long (they would have been maintained regularly in service) and once the water gets through that outer cover it is straight into the timber with expensive results.
BrentonGolding
Wooden carriages are a maintenance nightmare. You must be meticulous in keeping the windows and roof well sealed with lots (and I do means lots) of preventative maintenance. I'm not talking about initial restoration (for which there may be plenty of enthusiasm), I'm talking about ongoing maintenance.

Don't waste your time (and money) using house paint, even 'premium' house paint. Use industrial paint (even if the cost is eye watering), in the long run it will save you more time and money by helping to keep the thing sealed for longer, and looking good for longer.

Also be wary of stainless steel cars, there tends to be corrosion where stainless meets mild steel. It must also be sealed from ingress of water around the windows and doors, around the roof fittings, and check the welded join between roof and side.

LD is correct, no insulation. I recall opening the door of my father's carriage on a Summer afternoon and feeling the blast of hot air come out. They take hours for the interior to become bearable.

If you can afford to do so, build a carport type structure over it, and if aesthetics allow, wall it in on the the Western side.
Alternatively, place the car in a grove of trees, but don't let the branches actually touch it, ever!
  sthyer Deputy Commissioner

Plenty of good advice from Lockspike, although a wooden carriage that isn't moving can be managed differently from a mobile one. A solid, preferably separate, roof will keep the rain off the top, allowing the wooden carriage to breathe beneath it and provide some badly needed insulation. Some creative redesigning inside could allow for quite a bit of insulation to be fitted to walls and there's plenty of space underneath to stuff polystyrene. What would have been a nightmare for an operating carriage with all that insulation getting wet and causing rot won't be a problem for you. Walls can be rearranged to make more space and again, if the carriage isn't moving it won't cave in (within reason).

Fitting the carriage within a 'station' would be another way to keep water out and create a cosy space, it's your imagination and $$ that will limit what can be done. It's been done before, search for some of the accomodation publicly available to give yourself some ideas.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
If you use Google Maps Street View, you can see a carriage under a purpose-built roof beside the old Station House, right next to the level crossing at Culcairn.
  JustGus Station Staff

Why not ask somebody who's done it? There are plenty of them out there.

Do you want to lay a small section of track and leave the wheels on, or sell the wheels and put it on a plinth? Live in it yourself, or temp accommodation for backpackers? Power, water, waste etc are much the same as for an out-building. Are you going to gut it, or restore the interior...
apw5910
Thanks for the response - yes, my intention is to ask people who’ve done this.
Given expense and the site we have in mind, it looks like we’d have to resort to a plinth.
We’re thinking about renting it out as holiday accommodation and for friends when they visit.
Given this, we’re likely to gut and adapt the carriage with a small kitchen, sitting area, bed, etc.  We’re thinking that we’d expand/upgrade the existing septic on the farm and connect to that, as well as attach to the farm’s water tanks.
  JustGus Station Staff

Hi - First post!

For some time, I’ve wanted to get a carriage sited on our property and fit it out as accommodation and am finally in a position to do so.  Interestingly, while there’s websites and books around that offer guidance and tips on projects like converting shipping containers and converting vehicles into tiny homes, I’ve not been able to find much on the subject of converting rolling stock into accommodation. The only thing I’ve found so far is Australian Train Movers (a-tm.com.au) and a few old auction listings, but nothing offering know how on going about a project like this.  If anyone here knows of resources like this, I’d really appreciate any information.
Railway carriage construction can be quite varied and there's not likely to be much general help you can get from the internet on the specific topic of converting carriages into accommodation.

The common-sense stuff I'll say is that timber-bodied cars are not likely to have much insulation in them and that you'll need to be really good friends with a carpenter to get rid of the rot and seal up all the leaks.

Regarding sourcing a carriage, it's worth enquiring with the various Tourist & Heritage Railways in your state (and out of state, depending on how far you want to go) if they have any that might be available for disposal. An unfortunate feature of today's railway preservation movement is that there are limited resources in these groups for restoring such vehicles and as a result many are slowly reducing how many carriages they have custody of. These groups also often have a wealth of experience with restoring carriages and their advice on specific classes of carriages will likely be invaluable if you can obtain it.
LancedDendrite
Thanks, LancedDendrite! That’s all good information.  Insulation is a definite consideration.  Wondering whether a steel/metal body, rather than timber is more practical.  I’m hoping to do most of the work myself, periodically calling in favours and greater expertise from friends and family.
  JustGus Station Staff

Railway carriage construction can be quite varied and there's not likely to be much general help you can get from the internet on the specific topic of converting carriages into accommodation.

The common-sense stuff I'll say is that timber-bodied cars are not likely to have much insulation in them and that you'll need to be really good friends with a carpenter to get rid of the rot and seal up all the leaks.

Regarding sourcing a carriage, it's worth enquiring with the various Tourist & Heritage Railways in your state (and out of state, depending on how far you want to go) if they have any that might be available for disposal. An unfortunate feature of today's railway preservation movement is that there are limited resources in these groups for restoring such vehicles and as a result many are slowly reducing how many carriages they have custody of. These groups also often have a wealth of experience with restoring carriages and their advice on specific classes of carriages will likely be invaluable if you can obtain it.
What he said. And you may like to consider volunteering some time with the carriage crew at one of the THRs to get some insight into what you are up against. There is a wealth of knowledge out there in the termites!

Personally I would avoid wooden bodied cars like the plague, they really don't like being left outside for long periods, the roof is generally (well in Vic anyhow) covered in canvas and then tarred / painted over and this doesn't last long (they would have been maintained regularly in service) and once the water gets through that outer cover it is straight into the timber with expensive results.
BrentonGolding
Thanks BrentonGolding.  That confirms my bias to avoid timber.  Looks great, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life endlessly painting and patching!
  JustGus Station Staff

The common-sense stuff I'll say is that timber-bodied cars are not likely to have much insulation in them and that you'll need to be really good friends with a carpenter to get rid of the rot and seal up all the leaks.
What he said. And you may like to consider volunteering some time with the carriage crew at one of the THRs to get some insight into what you are up against. There is a wealth of knowledge out there in the termites!

Personally I would avoid wooden bodied cars like the plague, they really don't like being left outside for long periods, the roof is generally (well in Vic anyhow) covered in canvas and then tarred / painted over and this doesn't last long (they would have been maintained regularly in service) and once the water gets through that outer cover it is straight into the timber with expensive results.
Wooden carriages are a maintenance nightmare. You must be meticulous in keeping the windows and roof well sealed with lots (and I do means lots) of preventative maintenance. I'm not talking about initial restoration (for which there may be plenty of enthusiasm), I'm talking about ongoing maintenance.

Don't waste your time (and money) using house paint, even 'premium' house paint. Use industrial paint (even if the cost is eye watering), in the long run it will save you more time and money by helping to keep the thing sealed for longer, and looking good for longer.

Also be wary of stainless steel cars, there tends to be corrosion where stainless meets mild steel. It must also be sealed from ingress of water around the windows and doors, around the roof fittings, and check the welded join between roof and side.

LD is correct, no insulation. I recall opening the door of my father's carriage on a Summer afternoon and feeling the blast of hot air come out. They take hours for the interior to become bearable.

If you can afford to do so, build a carport type structure over it, and if aesthetics allow, wall it in on the the Western side.
Alternatively, place the car in a grove of trees, but don't let the branches actually touch it, ever!
Lockspike
Lockspike, that’s very helpful advice.  I’m wondering if there’s certain carriage types that I should specifically search for. For instance, I was thinking something like a NSWGR FS passenger carriage might be worth a look (I’m assuming it’s not stainless).
  JustGus Station Staff

Plenty of good advice from Lockspike, although a wooden carriage that isn't moving can be managed differently from a mobile one. A solid, preferably separate, roof will keep the rain off the top, allowing the wooden carriage to breathe beneath it and provide some badly needed insulation. Some creative redesigning inside could allow for quite a bit of insulation to be fitted to walls and there's plenty of space underneath to stuff polystyrene. What would have been a nightmare for an operating carriage with all that insulation getting wet and causing rot won't be a problem for you. Walls can be rearranged to make more space and again, if the carriage isn't moving it won't cave in (within reason).

Fitting the carriage within a 'station' would be another way to keep water out and create a cosy space, it's your imagination and $$ that will limit what can be done. It's been done before, search for some of the accomodation publicly available to give yourself some ideas.
sthyer
Cheers sthyer.  You and others have mentioned putting a separate roof over, which seems like a good, cost-effective way to avoid lots of additional maintenance down the line.
I’m hoping we can make up in imagination what we’re lacking in $$! There’s definitely the budget to be considered!
  JustGus Station Staff

If you use Google Maps Street View, you can see a carriage under a purpose-built roof beside the old Station House, right next to the level crossing at Culcairn.
Valvegear
Hi Valvegear.  Looks like new (the roof, I mean)!  That offers a lot of protection (it overhangs the carriage substantially).  I wonder if it kind of overwhelms and takes away from the carriage.  A necessary trade off, perhaps.  Any ideas what that carriage is now being used for?
  apw5910 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Location: Location.
Please consider offering whatever you remove from your carriage to a museum. Ask them to do it!

NSW FS carriages are all timber interior inside a steel shell and a maintenance nightmare once they start to leak. Wooden roof covered in malthoid/canvas, needs replacing every few years. Come to Canberra and I'll show you. The carriage destroyed by arson the day we re-opened was an FS (FS2134).

I would seriously look at what, say the Pine Creek Railway Resort https://www.visitkatherine.com.au/non-member-pine-creek-railway-resort have done and avoid getting a real carriage at all. The crane/transport charges alone are eye-watering.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: North Haverbrook; where the monorail is king!
Another thing to keep in mind is that most carriages that are likely to be on the private buyers market will be timber-bodied so you may not have much choice in the matter. If you do go for a timber-bodied carriage, it’s going to have an “iceberg” style cost profile: the actual cost of the carriage will be less than the transport cost and together they can be anywhere from 10%-25% of the total cost of restoration and adaptation. That’s not including maintenance costs either!

Look around for guards vans as well - they’re smaller and more likely to have steel & timber composite bodies. You won’t get the amount of space that a proper passenger carriage will give you but a tasteful extension (like this one: https://www.domain.com.au/news/converted-train-carriage-turned-tiny-house-in-daylesford-a-minimalists-dream-20180514-h0zz01/ ) can give you a practical “best-of-both-worlds” result.

Be prepared to walk away once you know what the costs will be like. If you don’t have prior experience in construction or carpentry then I wouldn’t recommend “doing up” a carriage as a first time hobby project on your own.

It’s really important to go into such a project with your eyes wide open. Look up the actual history of the carriage you are looking at buying, particularly after disposal from whichever Government railway it was owned by. Where it is and where it has been are quite important. Wet climates will destroy timber far quicker than dry ones. Being stored under cover (or to a lesser extent under a tarp) will help enormously. Have there been restoration attempts done with it in the past? Tourist & Heritage Railways are much more likely to have good records of these things and will probably be more forthcoming with them than private sellers.
  Lockspike Deputy Commissioner

Lockspike, that’s very helpful advice.  I’m wondering if there’s certain carriage types that I should specifically search for. For instance, I was thinking something like a NSWGR FS passenger carriage might be worth a look (I’m assuming it’s not stainless).
JustGus
Hi Gus,
I can't recommend any particular type; first thing is you have to like that style! An FS is mild steel with timber interior.

My father's car was a First Class (only the best, you know!) end platform car; BI 1153. After he took his one way journey to the celestial station, my mother sold it (thankfully!) to a B&B at Junee. Look up Belmore Manor, they have good photos of it.
  CPH8 Locomotive Fireman

Have a look at what Scott McGregor has done at "Ruwenzori", just north of Mudgee, with the carriages he dragged up there.
  ANR Deputy Commissioner

Properly done, a retired railway carriage could be the envy of the neighborhood.

In bushfire zones, a metal structure would be able to withstand a passing blaze with proper BAL flamezone rated screens. There would be nothing left to do except a fit out, and landscaping.

These things can be dropped anywhere.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Hi Valvegear.  Looks like new (the roof, I mean)!  That offers a lot of protection (it overhangs the carriage substantially).  I wonder if it kind of overwhelms and takes away from the carriage.  A necessary trade off, perhaps.  Any ideas what that carriage is now being used for?
"JustGus"
Negative, I'm afraid,Gus. I've no idea why its there or what people are doing with it.
  303gunner Station Master

Having gone through all this with my Sleeping Car, my most important piece of advice that I can offer is to talk to the council FIRST (and second and third, to get the picture straight) before you spend a single cent.

The Australian Building Code was re-written in 2013, so while there are plenty of examples around of carriages converted as offices and accomodation, how many have been done in the last 5 years?

In NSW, a carriage does not fall into any approved building construction class, and is listed as a Prohibited Construction. This is not as grim as it sounds, it just means that the whole project from go to whoa needs to be checked and signed off by a structural engineer and Council Inspector, again and again and over and over. There are restrictions and prohibitions for certain land zonings and lot size for a Carriage, and if you intend to let it as B&B or Backpacker use (ie commercial return), there are also other implications.

If the carriage has not had a DA and Occupancy Certificate issued by the Council to sign off on it, you will not get Insurance for coverage of loss, or liability to users.

If you just decide to plonk it there without any Council Approval or Insurance, realistically expect that "someone" will find out about it sooner or later, and Council will tell you to pack it up and get rid of it.

On top of the purchase price and delivery, your site costs are dependant on your site, but the compliance and engineering costs you WILL need to pay will be around $30,000.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
On top of the purchase price and delivery, your site costs are dependant on your site, but the compliance and engineering costs you WILL need to pay will be around $30,000.
303gunner
Magnificent! Who said Australia was finished as a criminal nation?  Legalised robbery lives!
  JustGus Station Staff

Please consider offering whatever you remove from your carriage to a museum. Ask them to do it!

NSW FS carriages are all timber interior inside a steel shell and a maintenance nightmare once they start to leak. Wooden roof covered in malthoid/canvas, needs replacing every few years. Come to Canberra and I'll show you. The carriage destroyed by arson the day we re-opened was an FS (FS2134).

I would seriously look at what, say the Pine Creek Railway Resort https://www.visitkatherine.com.au/non-member-pine-creek-railway-resort have done and avoid getting a real carriage at all. The crane/transport charges alone are eye-watering.
apw5910
Considering donating anything removed to a museum is a great idea. Thanks for suggesting that, apw5910.  Not sure that the Pine Creek option is what we’re after, but thanks for sharing it.
  JustGus Station Staff

Please consider offering whatever you remove from your carriage to a museum. Ask them to do it!

NSW FS carriages are all timber interior inside a steel shell and a maintenance nightmare once they start to leak. Wooden roof covered in malthoid/canvas, needs replacing every few years. Come to Canberra and I'll show you. The carriage destroyed by arson the day we re-opened was an FS (FS2134).

I would seriously look at what, say the Pine Creek Railway Resort https://www.visitkatherine.com.au/non-member-pine-creek-railway-resort have done and avoid getting a real carriage at all. The crane/transport charges alone are eye-watering.
Considering donating anything removed to a museum is a great idea. Thanks for suggesting that, apw5910.  Not sure that the Pine Creek option is what we’re after, but thanks for sharing it.
  JustGus Station Staff

Having gone through all this with my Sleeping Car, my most important piece of advice that I can offer is to talk to the council FIRST (and second and third, to get the picture straight) before you spend a single cent.

The Australian Building Code was re-written in 2013, so while there are plenty of examples around of carriages converted as offices and accomodation, how many have been done in the last 5 years?

In NSW, a carriage does not fall into any approved building construction class, and is listed as a Prohibited Construction. This is not as grim as it sounds, it just means that the whole project from go to whoa needs to be checked and signed off by a structural engineer and Council Inspector, again and again and over and over. There are restrictions and prohibitions for certain land zonings and lot size for a Carriage, and if you intend to let it as B&B or Backpacker use (ie commercial return), there are also other implications.

If the carriage has not had a DA and Occupancy Certificate issued by the Council to sign off on it, you will not get Insurance for coverage of loss, or liability to users.

If you just decide to plonk it there without any Council Approval or Insurance, realistically expect that "someone" will find out about it sooner or later, and Council will tell you to pack it up and get rid of it.

On top of the purchase price and delivery, your site costs are dependant on your site, but the compliance and engineering costs you WILL need to pay will be around $30,000.
303gunner
Thanks, that’s great information. One of the bits of advice I’ve gotten in broaching the subject with council is to be sure to specify that this is a demountable, i.e. non-permanent structure. Interesting to see whether this has impacts on Occupancy Certificates and insurance!
  JustGus Station Staff

Have a look at what Scott McGregor has done at "Ruwenzori", just north of Mudgee, with the carriages he dragged up there.
I have, CPH8.  Looks like he’s done a very good job!

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