Introduction: Grounded Railway Wagon Office

This is an instructable on the building/re-building of a grounded railway wagon.
During the 60's in the UK the railway system was cut back dramatically, with lots of smaller lines being closed. This lead to lots of railway stock being offered for sale, many going to farmers where they were put to use as sheds and stores around the farms.

These wagons make great, characterful garden buildings, they are strong and relatively simple to assemble, and with the popularity of Shepherds huts at the moment these make a fantastic alternative with a little more usable space.

Step 1: Finding Your Wagon

The first thing you need to do is find a wagon, we were lucky and found two within 10 miles of where we live. I have since seen at least half a dozen more locally, all used as sheds in fields and which all look ripe for restoration, so there are still a lot about.

Expect to pay anything from £50-1200 for one, depending on the condition, where it is, how easy it is to get too and how much help the owner will give you to move it!

The £1200 figure was based on a "farm fresh" wagon at an architectural salvage yard near Derby in the UK.

Our two were at the lower end of the scale!

Step 2: Take It Apart and Move It

I booked a week off work and with the aid of a generator, pick axe, sledgehammer, crowbar & several grinders the two wagons were stripped of the wooden paneling and dug out of the ground they had sunk into. I tried to be careful removing as much of the wood as possible as it is heavy, good quality stuff which I hoped to reuse.

The Green wagon in the pictures was sold on for what it cost, so all I had to concentrate on was the red one, officially this is a Ventilated Meat Wagon, which we christened "Rupture Farm" during the move. To get the frame into our garden it would need to be carried through the house, so it was broken down in to pieces small enough to fit either inside or on the roof of my old estate car.

One of the videos attached shows the JCB dragging the wagon out of the ground, this sounded like a good idea but actually put quite a bow into the front top bar of the frame which caused some headaches later.

Step 3: Clear Some Space!

Once in the garden and under a tarp I started clearing its intended final resting place. We had an old 8x6 shed which had seen better days and was relatively easy to take down. I used some wood from this to knock up a temporary store for the small amount of content that we wanted to keep.

Once the shed was out of the way I cleared the ground and spent some time leveling it as much as possible. I had pondered the various ways to do the floor, and while a concrete slab would have been simple, it was also probably the most work and most expensive option. Money always being a consideration I decided to go with a number of block work plinths supporting the corners and along the sides of the frame. i figured these would be easier to level and would need me to move much less soil than if I was making a concrete floor.

Step 4: Prepare the Footings

Because the site rises up quite a lot at the back and particularly in one corner i started here, making sure the block was above the ground. Using strings and spirit levels I placed all the other pits and after poring in a few inches of concrete I laid the blocks to get 8 level foundation plinths across the site.

Step 5: Assemble the Frame

The frame went together quite quickly, I had labelled all the cuts with a letter code so it was easy to match up one cut end to the next. The biggest issue was with the damage caused when the frame was moved by the JCB, it only became apparent when dismantled but the long upper bar had quite a lot of twist/bow in it.

Once the sides were loosely bolted together I added the curved roof bars. The main issue all the way through was with the massive weight of all the parts, generally I was working alone and balancing some of these 200lb steel beams on a step ladder while clambered up a second step ladder holding the other end was always precarious!

Eventually everything was loosely bolted together with only the two end central panels left to pull it all together. These were pushed into place and ratchet straps pulled the joints tight while they were welded in. All the other cut lines were treated in a similar fashion, pulled tight with ratchet straps them welded up solid.

With the frame assembled It was great to be able to get an idea of the actual space inside the wagon for the first time.

Step 6: Cladding the Exterior

I had hoped to be able to clad our wagon using the wood reclaimed from both wagons, however this effort was stymied when I found the green one used a different thickness of plank, and a different tongue and groove style, meaning that they wouldn't match up with the wood from the red wagon. I had managed to remove most of the front wall of the red wagon in large pieces, so these were dropped back into place, along with the doors which were still in excellent condition. When cleaning the wood up we uncovered loads of old markings indicating its "Fresh Meat" history.

With enough original wood to complete the front I decided to use outdoor rated OSB for the back wall, which no one would see anyway.

As can be seen in the photos the wagon originally had a pair of louvered panels either side of the door, this was where we intended to put the windows (when we found them)

The roof was the biggest expenditure, new tongue and groove match board was purchased and screwed down to the new wooden roof struts. Making the large wooden roof struts was one of the hardest jobs, and revealed that most of my wood working tools were not man enough for the job!

Step 7: Windows

We spent a long time looking for the widows, eventually finding a set for just £40 in a reclamation yard an hour or so away. They were not in brilliant condition but good enough and pretty cool looking. It appears they had been cut from much larger windows but they had everything we needed and I thought it would be reasonably easy to fix them into the hut.

I cleaned the old glass/paint & putty from the frames then ground off the stumps of the extended corners to get nice clean edges. New glass was purchased, just £25 for enough for both frames and they were mounted into frames which were screwed to the inside of the wall. Once in place the boards which fitted up to the outside were cut carefully to fit and let in.

Eventually the frames were glazed and painted using a Gloss black metal paint to match the rest of the wagon.

Step 8: Flooring

The floor was built in several stages:-

  • First after flattening and compacting the ground using building sand I dropped and leveled a number of blocks. Around these I packed polystyrene insulation.
  • The damp proof layer was next, this goes up the wall all round by at least a foot.
  • On top of this is a frame work of support joists resting on the blocks.
  • Then large OSB sheets were screwed down to these, this stopping anything moving
  • Once the OSB was screwed down the floor was solid, but looked rubbish, so the final layer was made up of floor boards made from reclaimed pallet wood, but not your normal pallet wood. These boards were 6" wide by an Inch thick by 12ft long. They came from pallets used in the heavy haulage business and I stumbled upon a reclamation company that had the contract to reclaim and sell all of this timber. For £5 per piece, 40 lengths were loaded into, and onto my car and I very slowly drove home.
  • After de-nailing and planing the wood, I started laying it directly onto the OSB, eventually sanding and sealing the surface with a few coats of floor varnish.

Step 9: Paint Your Wagon! (the Entire Instructable Was Written to Support This Line!)

Eventually a colour was decided on, (this was by far the hardest part of the entire build) and after a sanding and primer coat the wagon was painted in the chosen blue and the metalwork given a coat of black metal paint.

There have been several mutterings of colour change over the last 12 months but for now its still blue!

Step 10: Interior Paneling

To complete the interior, sheets of insulation were fitted and a large order was placed for enough match board to clad all the walls.

At this point I had already carried out first fix electrics for the lights and sockets, we then had an electrician wire the buildings fuse box into the house supply, via a 6mm armored cable I ran underground through the garden. He also checked all our first fix work and provided a certificate for everything which is important step in the UK. In retrospect I wish I had taken the opportunity to run a network cable down the same route, I had assumed that the wireless signal from the house would reach the bottom of the garden, which it does, but only with the back door of the house and the office doors open!

The paneling was carefully cut around the sockets and light fittings and everything was given several (3 or 4) coats of white paint. We were now right at the end off 2017 and with Christmas fast approaching I was keen to get it finished before the big day.

Step 11: Decorate and Enjoy!

My partner had long ago claimed the space as her office, which was fine as it meant we could get the drawing boards and plan chests out of the house! (She is a Designer) So everything was manhandled down the garden on Christmas eve, a small electric heater was added to the room to keep the frost out, and it was declared done for now!

Since then we have fitted a corrugated steel roof and we are in the process of adding a log burner, as the electric heater is really just something to stop the damp, and is not man enough to actually heat the room.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this instructable as much as I enjoyed throwing the shed together :-)