Despite appearances, parts of FR 117 qualify it as one of the oldest vehicles on site! FR 117 was built on the frames of former Isle of Man Railway bogie carriage F72. Carriage F72 was actually the combination of two bodies (A.3 & 0.2) of much earlier four wheel carriages mounted onto a new bogie frame built by Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon in Birmingham in 1926 (which is the frame incorporated into FR117). By 1967 these former four-wheel carriage bodies were in poor condition. The carriage was one of 11 such bogie vehicles to be stripped of their bodies and turned into experimental container carriers in an effort to increase revenue on the railway. Carriage F72 thus became container carrier wagon R8.
Unfortunately, the container scheme only lasted until 1968. The wagons were then parked at Douglas, loaded with containers, for some years afterwards. They were finally sold to Manx Metals in 1974 as part of a major clear-out of historic but unwanted rolling stock at this time and ultimately arrived at the FR in 1975.
At the FR, an all steel saloon carriage body with semi-stressed skin was built on the frame at Boston Lodge in 1977. The carriage was refitted in 1989/90 with Pattern 88 bogies, “Beclawat” windows, diesel heating and cabled/plumbed for Push-Pull operation. In 2011 carriage 117 was refitted with a new floor, walls, an extra window and new diesel fired central heating. The down end of the carriage formerly incorporated a compartment that housed the gas fired heating equipment (boiler, gas canisters and header tank). The arrangement of the double seats means that there is a “luggage area” in the centre of the carriage which covers the brake cylinder. FR117 was finally withdrawn from FR service on Monday 7th September 2015.
The coach was delivered to Apedale on 25 November 2015. Extensive work was required -the FR had retained the original bogies, so replacements were sourced, overhauled and fitted -the replacements came from South Africa. Air brakes needed to be installed (the FR using vacuum brakes), many other modifications, and a repaint, in order to make the vehicle suitable for operation at Apedale. The vehicle entered traffic at the August Bank holiday 2017.