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24 September 2014

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You are in: Suffolk > Community > Features > End of the line for railway houses?

End of the line for railway houses?

A secret piece of Suffolk's social heritage has come to an end in Darsham, but how about the rest of Suffolk?

Railway carriage home

In the 1920s, many Suffolk families couldn't afford to build a conventional home, but there was another, cheaper option available to them.

They could buy old Victorian railway carriages and build a bungalow around them. A typical example would see three carriages in a U shape placed within the walls of a bungalow facade.

Darsham housed quite a few of these until August 2007, when the last bungalow we know of was pulled down and the carriages transported away.

Story behind a familiar sight

If you use the A12 near Darsham Station, you've probably driven past the site hundreds of times. Maybe you've seen a little pink bungalow nestled quietly behind some old shrubs.

But did you know that this was merely a facade? Behind it lay three third class railway carriages from the Great Eastern railway.

Bungalow facade for railway carriage houses

The bungalow facade

They were built in 1895, sold off in 1926 and then the bungalow was built around the carriages in 1927.

Olive Reeve, the local historian for Darsham, and her husband Ron say the unique homes were mostly built in east Suffolk: "What's happened today is tomorrow's history.

"It's an important part of Suffolk's social history which has just about disappeared now."

All of the homes were connected to mains water and electricity, providing a fully functional house for its residents.

Babies were born, people died and meals were eaten, all in the old railway carriages.

But it's unlikely the idea would bear fruit nowadays: "In those days you didn't planning permission to erect this sort of home, just a plot of land and some railway carriages," Olive added.

Uncertain future

There were still people living here at Darsham up until 1999.

Inside the railway carriage

One of the carriages used as a bathroom

In 2001 The facade of the bungalow was dismantled and in August 2007 the railway carriages were loaded on to a lorry to be transported to Kelsale.

New owner Keith Beecham says they will be restored but their long-term future has not yet been decided: "They may be turned into garden features or possibly a café.

"There are a number of different people with different ideas for them."

Appeal for further examples

The railway carriage houses may have come to an end in Darsham, but how about the rest of Suffolk?

Railway carriages without the bungalow facade

Railway carriages minus the facade

David in Hadleigh was quick to respond to Lesley Dolphin's coverage on BBC Radio Suffolk to let us know that he still lives in two of the carriages in Hadleigh, whilst John in Southwold uses one as a fishing shed.

We'd love to hear your stories of the railway carriage houses, especially if you still own one.

last updated: 14/08/07

Have Your Say

Have you got any memories of the carriage houses? Have your say below and send your photos to

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

R. Newton
I have a old railway carriage at the bottom of our garden, it was in poor condition when we puchased the property, i have since repaired it and filled it with various bygone items, unfortunetly i dont know the history of it, but it does appear on the deeds to our house dating back to around the 1900s. Situated next to the poppy line just out of norwich

wayne wicks
on 13th august 2009 at the mid-suffolk light railway museum a recently restored carriage from a bungallow will be in service.first time on wheels for many years.beleived to be built in the late 1800,s yours, wayne (mslr,brockford station,nr.mendellsham)

Andy longridge
Yes I lived and was brought up as a boy in railway carriage home. The two carriages are still there and lived in.My bedroom was second class. Great memories.This was in Gloucestershire. We were out in the countryside with no neighbours,just great,what old England was like. We got mains water and electric put on in 1958 and our first television in 1963. I still go and visit this place and sleep in my long gone grandmothers bedroom.The smells are just the same. Sadly I,ve got to go, all the best

Bernie Ward
Yes there were three old railway carriages at "Thorpeness Halt" station which formed the parcells office, booking office and waiting room.Stn was closed 1966, carriages burnt.Am writing booklet about station.

jo kornstein
i am looking for an old railway carriage to convert into a home. if anyone knows of any i would be very grateful. 07801 816389 thanks.

Norman Vingoe
There's a bungalow on Magdalen Road, Tilney St. Lawrence, Norfolk, which was built around a railway carriage. The bungalow is relatively recent - about 1970 maybe.The bungalow still stands, but the carriage body was removed maybe 20 years ago.(Google Earth 52,41'37N, 0,17'59E)

Lived in Framlingham for many years,Now western australia, with access to many old carriages, looking for information as I would like to join at least three together for sustainablity etc. Regards

R Burgess
I am a history/landscape archaeology researcher in Cambridge working on railway houses in norfolk ; particularly used as summerhouses at areas around Gt. Yarmough (hemsby, scratby etc.) If you have knowledge of these (perhaps in existance today) please contact

John Dunthorne
My wife and I own a carriage identical to these on a site at Snape, Suffolk. Sadly it will have to be moved shortly and is available free of charge to anyone who can organise its removal. If interested see our community paper Ebb 'n' Flow.

Dawn Howes
My grandmother lived in one of these bungalows in Westleton Suffolk, with my mother and Aunt, I spent summers there from 1968 until the 1980's.

ann connell
Whilst looking for a property to buy recently I was sent details of a "bungalow" as described. It is 2 railway carriages side by side with a 15' gap between them, all enclosed in a bungalow frame, It is sited near Yoxford.

CALLEN [The Voice]
Yes very interesting indeed. I didnt know this but was aware that elsewhere in Suffolk after the WW2 due to an acute shortage of houseing that Prefabucated houses [prefabs]were built as a tempory measure intended only to last 10yrs but many still survive today! Examples can still be found in Subbury. interesting fact that years ago we had so little yet were reasonably happy! Today we have so much that our granfathers wouldnt have dreamed of yet we are less happy..loss of a sense of Community perhaps? CALLEN [The Voice]

John Fish
How nice it is to know that these matters of pure nostalgia still exist. Please keep us up to date with any more 'finds'

My mother grew up in a bungalow in Yoxford (near Darsham) on the Westleton Road built around old train carriages. I believe my Uncle and Auntie still live there - you could clearly see the insides of the carriages in the bungalow, but from the outside looked like a normal bungalow.

V. interesting!


Dave Whiting
Railway carriage homes were quite a common site around Leiston when I was growing up. There used to be one or two on the road leading to Blackheath Corner at Knodishall where I believe my father Sam Whiting was born in 1916. I think there were also some near the Thorpeness Halt on the Saxmundham to Aldeburgh railway line.

J Martin FISKE
My life commenced in 1927 in an ex-railway carriage, home to my parents at March in Cambridgeshire. The Whitemoor marshalling yards nearby must have been a noisy background for my parents to tend my early life, as they moved to Cambridge soon afterwards! As this is my eightieth year, the health aspect was clearly no problem, but the carriages must have been long gone, probably then in Whitemoor Road. It would be interesting to hear from anyone in that district.

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