Thai restaurant planned for 40-year-old British Rail carriages in Pitlochry in restored original livery

Plans have been lodged to convert 40-year-old first class train carriages into a Thai restaurant beside Pitlochry station which will be restored to their original 1980 British Rail orange interior decor.

Mia McCallum in the buffet car. Picture: Fergus McCallum

Pharmaceuticals executive Fergus McCalIum and his Thai beautician wife Isara have bought two former InterCity 125 coaches, which continued to be operated by Great Western Railway in south west England until a few years ago.

They are of the same type and vintage as the carriages which ScotRail has refurbished as Inter7City trains which run through Pitlochry between Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness – feet away from the McCallums’ planned venture.

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Unlike older carriages which have been converted into cafes and restaurants in Dufftown, Glenfinnan and Grantown-on-Spey, the McCallums plan to restore their coaches to original decor from a more modern era.

The carriages have already been repainted in British Rail blue and white. Picture: WG Specialist Coatings

They have submitted a planning application for approval by Perth and Kinross Council, which includes re-laying a section of track for the carriages to stand on.

The Pitlochry couple have already had their carriages, which were built in 1977-79, repainted in their original British Rail blue and white external livery by a specialist firm.

They have launched a company, The Wee Choo Choo, with their 18-year-old daughter Mia, for the 60-seat restaurant, which they hope to open by June.

If permission is granted, it would be sited in a former rail marshalling yard which is now a car park to the north of the station.

British Rail InterCity 125 first class interior. Picture: J&LittleHouse

Mr McCallum is also considering developing a business to convert other old railway carriages into restaurants, accommodation and industrial units.

He told The Scotsman: “I have a very strong belief that such beautiful objects made in Britain in the 1970s to a standard of construction that would not shame a Dreadnought battleship should not be turned into a pile of waste.

"They are a gorgeous first class dining car and a first class carriage upholstered in leather with a fantastic kitchen and servery.

“We are restoring the carriages to the 1980s glory of British Rail in the correct landscape and creating jobs in a town that’s struggling at the moment with Covid closures.

The carriages' current Great Western Railway decor

"The location is bang next to the railway in a conservation zone, hence the huge effort we are making around provenance with genuine carriages in genuine colours in a former siding."

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Mr McCallum said his wife and their daughter were joint directors of the project.

He said: "They fell in love with Pitlochry four years ago when we drove through it after moving back to Scotland from Asia.

Isara, Mia and Fergus McCallum are all directors of the new venture. Picture: Fergus McCall

“They rented a closed-down clothes shop and opened a Thai-themed beauticians.

“Now that it’s temporarily shut due to Covid, they have thrown their efforts into opening a Thai restaurant in a train.

“They really want to own a Thai restaurant, but they thought I had lost my mind when I suggested a train.”

Train leasing firm Porterbrook, which sold the carriages to the McCallums, said they had been much loved.

Its spokesperson said: “We are always pleased to hear from individuals or groups with ideas on how to find a sustainable new use for retired railway vehicles.

"These carriages have always been very popular in passenger service and it is wonderful to see some of the creative ideas that will enable them to continue serving the community in a different role.”

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