OLD and rusty railway carriages can be restored and put into good use and this is exactly what a bespoke cabinet maker has been doing in the past two years.

Stuart Harris has been passionate about restoring railway carriages, refurbishing it at his workshop in Waterhouse Lane, Ardleigh.

The 52-year-old has been creating wooden furniture for 22 years, including church furnishings but decided to start an unusual project.

He said: “With the downturn of lots of crafts I needed a new outlet, and that’s where railway carriages came in and as shepherds huts are really trending at the moment I’ve got the idea of buying railway carriages, fitting them out and selling them to people. I needed to diversify my business by converting disused railway carriages.

“In the 1960s they decommissioned the railways and sold off a lot of railway stock, also giving them away, so lots of people were left with a carriage and for 50 years they just rotted in fields.

“If people don’t restore them, they will just rot away.

“The history of these carriages is very special, however the history behind them can’t speak for themselves, but we surely can.

“I think it's worth looking after them and restoring them and keeping the history going, because when they are gone, they are gone.

“The ones I create can last a person's lifetime, about 100 years for sure, if people look after them, paint them and if they change the roof every 20 years.”

The new carriage can be used as a sewing room, as a workshop place for different activities, or as an artist’s studio.

Stuart said: “Instead of having an extension to your house, you can buy the carriage and use it as an annex.

“Nowadays people are looking for a new feature to their house, and this definitely creates a unique talking point when visitors come around.

“There are lots of people who love it but can’t afford it.

"It is perfect for any railway enthusiast."

Mr Harris bought his most recent carriage from Wales for only £64, but there are quite a few carriages locally as well, but some people aren't willing to sell them.

He said getting it out of the field is the most difficult part, so sometimes he has to cut the carriages up and putting it back together is the "back breaking" work.

He usually works about four months on each carriage, using an angle grinder to cut it up and new metal to put the carriage back together.

Then he primes it, making sure it’s all sealed, to prolong the metal's life. He then grinds it to make sure it is all nice and flat, cladding the wood and priming it and then painting it over.

He said: "I put isolation in it as well, in the floor, in the walls and ceiling, also it has electric cables.

"A little heater can be put in such as a wood burning stove or a just a little oil heating on the walls.

"People can sleep in it as well, there’s plenty of room for a bed and even a small toilet area.

Stuart said he’s working on his own on this project, because he doesn’t want to teach anyone his job, as he’s been in the industry for 30 years and has developed his own techniques, design and ideas.

The carriage is a lot like a static mini caravan, weighting usually about five tonnes.

However, many people use them for their horses as well, because it’s perfect setting for a horse, or even as storage for hay, farmers tools and many more.

The grey 1951 carriage is on sale and if anybody is interested can visit Stuart's website at harriscabinetmaker.co.uk or harristimbersupplier.co.uk.