Model Ambulance Van stars alongside steam locomotives at the Apedale Valley Railway

Andrew's prototype, the Ambulance van a long way from Skegness, behind an American-built Baldwin 4-6-0T from the Trench railways, which had in turn been returned from India and restored on the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway in Bedfordshire; together at Tracks to the Trenches
Andrew's prototype, the Ambulance van a long way from Skegness, behind an American-built Baldwin 4-6-0T from the Trench railways, which had in turn been returned from India and restored on the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway in Bedfordshire; together at Tracks to the Trenches // Credit: Chris Bates

In the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean is probably the least likely place for you to be seated next to someone with a detailed knowledge of an Ambulance Van from World War One, which is preserved at the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway.

However, this is just what happened when Chris Bates was seated next to Elaine Mawer, who is a Tristan islander who has, for many years, lived and worked in Glasgow and was making the 6,600-mile journey to Tristan to see her family. The boat takes up to 11 days and covers around 1,750 miles between Cape Town and Tristan da Cunha. The conversation got round to how he was spending more time at the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway.

At this time, Elaine told Chris that her son, Andrew, builds models of War Department locomotives which served with the British Forces in France and Belgium during World War One.

At this point, it emerged that Andrew was looking for more information on the ambulance van found at the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway, the only completed example in the UK. At this point, Chris agreed to take a selection of photos when he returned to Lincolnshire, which would allow the model to be completed.

Between the 14th and 16th July 2018, the Ambulance Van and a Ration Wagon and a 1920s locomotive, Nocton, visited the Apedale Valley Light Railway for their Tracks to the Trenches event. This is a popular event which is supported by the National Lottery Fund.  It was attended by thousands of visitors and featured WW1 steam, diesel and electric locomotives brought back to the UK from Australia and India! After the Armistice, the War Department sold all of the surplus locomotives and wagons such as the Ambulance Van.

The Ambulance van and ‘Nocton’ went to the Nocton Estates Railway near Lincoln. These two were later sold to the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway.

Andrew Mawer with his completed model -- thanks to information gleaned by his mother on the way to Tristan da Cunha!
Andrew Mawer with his completed model — thanks to information gleaned by his mother on the way to Tristan da Cunha! // Credit: Chris Bates

Meanwhile, Andrew Mawer travelled from Glasgow to Staffordshire to bring his model of the Ambulance Van, which is now complete thanks to the conversation on the boat to Tristan Da Cunha.

The model was displayed on the LCLR’s stand and has seen some brilliant comments and enquiries about a possible purchase. This is all due to the conversation aboard the boat that the model could be made and displayed inside the real thing.

What did the officials say?

Andrew Mawer said:

It was all worth it. To see the actual vehicle all the way from Skegness attracting such attention for the quality of its restoration by the LCLR’s volunteers and to enjoy the appreciation of visitors admiring his model.