7. The Toolbox


Fitting the floor of the tool box or tongue box.


Front deck framed over the tool box. Floor of toolbox has bottom plates attached.


Here the tool box is finished with drop-down door.


Big damn drawer in the tool box has…well, tools. Underneath the space goes back three feet in the middle and that’s where the spare tire lives. On the inside, the box is open to the spaces between the stem walls. You’ll see why later on.


6. Framing the Walls


Basic framing of a side wall with door opening. The material was very old, very light redwood 2×3. The sill plate will get glued and screwed to the ledge box.


Another view of the side wall frame. This six-foot section defines the height of the central part of the coach compartment.


Here the forward, stepped down parts of the sides have been framed. A bulkhead has been built across the front well to define the inside bench area, and a little hip wall is built across the front to support a short piece of deck that extends beyond the square part of the trailer frame. This deck is supported by the tool box and the side walls. This little extension forward was necessary in order for the bed to not interfere with the doors when it is deployed.


Here the front end is starting to be framed in, including the footrest that extends forward over the trailer tongue


More front end framing. This is the flat surface where the driver will sit. Doesn’t look it, but trust me.


Look! The floor of the footrest is covered in plywood. The big open space is where the front window will go.


Here you can see some of the final decking installed forward. This and all the decking, locker tops and some interior walls are out of this gnarly black pine lumber that was kindly given to me years ago by Roy Kohl.


Paneling the inside of the footrest, using a beefy piece of masonite I had laying around.


Outside view of the paneled foot rest, which is also beefed up with lumber to support the brackets that will support the foot board that will be hinged to the foot rest.

5. Building the Ledges


Inner and outer stem walls are attached and the ledge bottoms (cut from 10′ CDX plywood) are being fitted.


Ledge boxes are framed in and glued and screwed down to the stem walls.


Fitting the floor of the tool box or tongue box.


Ledge boxes insulated with rigid foam.


Tidying up as we go… Once insulated, the tops of the ledge boxes are closed up with more 1/2 CDX plywood. The two stem walls support a rigid cantilevered box–the support brackets aren’t even needed. I was able to stand on the edge of the box with nary a wobble.


4. Adding the Stem Walls


A side stem wall has been framed and bolted through the frame with four 1/2 inch bolts. Each bay of the wall gets insulated.


Inside face of each wall is faced with doorskin. The outer face has 1/4 marine plywood face.


Brackets to support the ledges have been attached to the side walls with lag screws. The foot of each bracket also rests in a stake pocket on the frame. Note: the project has been moved outside! New taillights attached to the rear brackets.


Framing the inner stem walls. These will be screwed down into the deck and into the cross members, and will also be insulated and skinned.


3. Preparing the Trailer


After I cut off the front rail and the tail light brackets, I removed the plywood decking and flipped the trailer over. The bottom was skinned with 1/4 inch marine plywood.


The bottom skin is attached with machine screws and seams sealed. The leveling jacks are attached to the steel frame at both ends with machine screws. The bottom was then painted with black marine underside paint that has fiberglass strands in it.


Frame is flipped back over and ready to insulate. (Better insulate than never)


Each bay of the framing is insulated. First, Ecofoil is fitted and taped in, followed by a fitted piece of rigid foam.


Every bay of the frame has been fitted with Ecofoil and rigid foam.


The trailer’s plywood decking is reinstalled over the insulation. It was dirty and rough, but it would all be covered up.


2. More Coach Planning


With the basic Royal Mail Coach as a foundation, I proceeded to translate this form into something that would work as a camping trailer. One of my early decisions was to have side entrances even though the design utilizes ledges that go out over the wheels. I have never seen another ledged trailer that doesn’t have the door in back or in front. This requires steps in front of the door, but I figured hey, I needed something to hide the trailer wheels anyway.

Another unusual decision was to have a door on each side just like a real coach. Since there isn’t a kitchen inside I could afford the wall space. On the other hand, the second door contains another window. My final Coach has a total of nine windows and is very light inside. Also, the Coach is truly ambidextrous and I can have either side as the entrance depending on the campsite.

Like almost all small campers the bed converts from something else. In this case, we just have a full size futon that works as a couch or a bed as needed, with moveable boards to provide the support where needed.

One of the biggest commitments I made to truly disguise the fact that the Coach is really just a trailer was to build BIG three-dimensional wheels. These are a pain in the ass to build and to transport, but the Coach wouldn’t be the same without them. More on them later.

Another feature that contributes to the Coach’s coachiness is a driver’s seat and footboard up front. Along with the wheels, the broken roofline, the boot (back end) and decoration, these features keep the trailer from looking like a plywood box. And the front end latches closed to provide a reasonably aerodynamic profile.

All that remained was to find a suitable trailer as the foundation, and this eventually turned  up on Craigslist. I found a medium duty ATV trailer with a 3500 lb. axle, measuring 5 feet between the wheels by 9 feet long. Wheels were 12″ rims by 5.80 tires, which is a step up in size from the Harbor Freight trailer wheels. It was time to begin!


1. Designing the Coach


The Coach kinda evolved as I went along, but I did begin with some basic requirements that I wanted to achieve:

  1. The finished trailer needed to give a very respectable impression of historical authenticity. It is our intention to use it at historical reenactment events, some of which are more exacting than others, as well as for our personal camping trips in Humboldt County and beyond. I have already camped in it at one Society for Creative Anachronism event where it was well received. More events to come!
  2. The trailer needed to be reasonably small and light enough to tow with our pickup truck. As our truck is a half ton with a v8 engine, that was not terribly difficult. While I did try to keep the trailer weight down, particularly by using some boat building techniques and materials, it is definitely overbuilt–constructed more like a tiny house than an RV. You are probably wondering what the gross vehicle weight came in at…it was just under 3,000 pounds. No problem pulling it but pushing the capacity of the axle and tires. I will be upgrading the suspension.
  3. A big and comfortable bed. Nuff said.
  4. Room to stand up and dress, room to store our gear and personal effects (including historical costumes and accessories which can be bulky).
  5. A kitchen. While we could have designed a cooking area inside the Coach, we opted for an outside kitchen such as are found in teardrop trailers. Think Gypsy Wagon–the wagon is for Mom & Dad to sleep in, with the cooking done outside and the kids sleeping under the wagon.
  6. Insulated for warmth, coolth and noise reduction when drunken reenactors are partying all around.
  7. Weather resistant and durable enough to last a few years before I need to repaint.
  8. Relatively inexpensive, because we are not rich people. I had been scrounging and hoarding materials for years and already had much on hand that was used in the Coach. Some materials were donated, some was horse-traded, and some was purchased on Craigslist. Total bill including trailer, new wheels and tires and everything, was, like the weight, a tad under $3,000 (but I’m thinking the suspension upgrade could be another $1,000). Biggest expenses were the trailer, new wheels, stove pipe & fittings, leveling jacks, windows, marine plywood for the exterior, insulation, seven gallons of epoxy, fiberglass cloth, thousands of exterior grade screws and over 50 tubes of PL Premium construction adhesive.
  9. Ah yes, the stove. Having a woodstove in a small trailer is completely impractical, expensive and some would say dangerous. Therefore it was a necessity.
  10. Potty facilities–are not very practical in such a small trailer. There is a honey bucket for middle-of-the-night needs, but otherwise we will use the campground or event facilities.

That’s more or less what I wanted to achieve at the beginning.