History

Built in 1967 by British Rail, Derby, Mark 2 TSO 5344 took on a new life.
On 13 March 2004, Matt Beacham’s ambition to open it as a café at Milcote Picnic Area was finally realised.

In 2003 Matt purchased Carriage5344 standing on the MoD site at Long Marston.
The plan was to empty it of all fittings and re-equip it as café/dinner.
Prior to re-locating it at the Milcote Picnic Area later that year.

However, things didn’t go quite to plan. Although able to complete most of the interior refitting, Carriage5344 was barred from moving because of a blanket movement ban imposed by the MoD.

It was only after a letter from John Maples MP and the intervention of the MoD in Whitehall, that permission was finally given for a one-off movement, under the supervision of personnel from the Defence Rail Executive. That movement took place on Saturday 21 February 2004 and just moved Carriage5344 to the hard stand area inside the Camp. There it stood whilst arrangements were made to assemble the necessary equipment for the next stage.

On Wednesday 3 March 2004, two 80 tonne cranes, one 38 wheeled low loader with towing unit and a track-bed low loader and towing unit arrived. The two cranes proceeded to separate Carriage5344 off its 12 tonnes of bogies and then lift the 20 tonne remainder onto the 38 wheeler, the combined weight now being 58 tonnes. The bogies were then craned onto the low loader.

Once everything was loaded and secured, the two cranes, two low-loaders, and support vehicles, set off for Milcote Picnic Area. A track panel had been installed, together with connections to all mains services many months before.

After a considerable wait, the first crane arrived, allowing the crane operator to set up, ready to off load the bogies, which were the next to arrive.

The low-loader carrying the carriage had to reverse two and a half miles from the main road at Clifford Chambers and in due course it too arrived.

On 13 March 2004, Carriages 5344 Café welcomed its first customer and on
27 March 2004, Johnny Herbert of Formula 1 fame, performed the opening ceremony.