The Whistler Story

It all began with a chance find whilst browsing on Gumtree…

Kim Kemp

Kim Kemp

Interior Designer

This 1962 Midland Rail Guard’s Wagon had been housed on a property in Byford and the new owners no longer had any use for it. Sadly neglected, but with great potential to refurbish as a ‘weekender’, we decided we would purchase it and so began the Story of Whistler.

Why Whistler? Well apart from the obvious link with the railroad, the location we chose for the carriage on a large treed property, has lots of birds and, very rarely the Golden Whistler makes an appearance. The day we were preparing the site for the arrival of the carriage, this little yellow bird was very present, delighting us with his unique ‘whistle’. It was auspicious and the name seemed appropriate to us.

Golden Whistler
First big challenge

The first and biggest challenge was uplifting and transporting the carriage from one location to the other. Two large cranes and a big flatbed truck were engaged. The whole process was nerve wracking but seamless thanks to the very willing and able operators. The weather didn’t help matters – rain made the ground soft and muddy.

Success!  Whistler had found her new home…

Remodeling begins…

The next stage was all about making the carriage ‘our own’ in terms of what we needed to change and remodel to suit our needs. There were many features we wanted to retain to keep the overall aesthetic of the carriage in tact but also make it comfortable and inviting as a living space.

Concentrating on the exterior initially we installed gutters and the essential water tank to harvest water in the winter months. We fitted a glass front door to act as our main entrance. The large sliding door is only used when we ‘lock up and leave’ for any length of time.

Next we needed more windows so Iain constructed and installed a small window in the living area.  In the bedroom area there were two long metal structures housing small windows on either side for the guards to check the length of the carriages when in operation. These were in bad repair and we thought it best to remove them. One became the entrance to the bathroom-en-suite we constructed to rear side of the carriage, and the other now boasts a beautiful stained-glass window (again sourced on Gumtree) which fits the purpose perfectly. There was much repair work needed to rotten wooden exterior damaged over years of neglect – plenty of crack filler and timber replacement in the process!

Installing an en-suite and window

The limited space within the carriage didn’t allow for a bathroom and given our location we needed a basin and shower as well as a compostable toilet. The obvious place to build it was as an en-suite leading off the bedroom. We had already created the doorway by removing one of the original metal full length windows. The annex was constructed out of a wooden frame and then clad on the outside with some recycled ply that had been treated with Black Japan stain. We sourced two recycled windows on Gumtree – one a wind out with a flyscreen and the other a stained-glass feature. A simple colourbond roof in charcoal was fitted to finish it off.

What colour should we paint the exterior?

We felt, given the location, that a soft blue gum green would harmonise with the bush. The accent colour charcoal was selected for the gutters, roof, door and window trims. And what a difference it made to have a fresh coat of paint to hide all the imperfections!

Time now to focus on the interior…

The walls needed lots of work to restore the existing wooden panels and where necessary replace them with new tongue-in-groove to match. We carried that through to the bathroom installing much needed insulation as well.

Because the carriage is only 2 metres wide by 9 metres long we thought a soft white interior throughout would be best to create a feeling of space and airiness. Sadly the original jarrah floorboards were beyond repair as they would have been what we preferred for the floor. But we managed to find some oak engineered floorboards that suited the ‘look’ we were trying to achieve. Not easy to lay when there are imperfections and irregularities in the existing floor, but with a bit of unconventional padding and adjustments we succeeded and it gives the interior a clean fresh ‘Scandi’ appearance.

For the bathroom floor we chose inexpensive vinyl floor tiles in a black and white chequerboard design – functional and a bit different. This works well with the black shower base, basin and tapware.

We required the services of professionals to handle the electrics and the plumbing and gas for the carriage. A sparky friend very ably connected us to the mains on the property with some trench digging and many metres of cable – not an easy job with all the trees and roots hampering progress. We felt that the lighting in the carriage we felt should reflect off the roof so we installed led strip lighting down either side. A local plumber installed our small gas hot water system and the gas supply to our stove.  Lastly the water tank and  pump were connected and the water supply to the sink and shower and basin was up and running.

IKEA cupboards were assembled and installed in the limited kitchen space and a bench top created out of recycled wood.

Time to bring in the furniture and assemble the IKEA bed.

COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown halted work to finish-off the carriage for two months,  but back again and the first job on the list is to fit the little pot belly and flue. With approaching winter this is a much needed addition.

Finally we get to celebrate with our first dinner and a long weekend in The Whistler.

Come back again soon for further updates in our journey with The Whistler.

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