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Railcars in Warwickshire

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Railcar Experiments in Warwickshire

Since the beginning of the 20th century and until the 1950s, a number of experimental motorised railcars trials take place within the county. The primary driver in the development of the railcar was obviously economics, particularly with, but not limited to, services on rural and lightly loaded passenger services. As such developments were often supported by companies associated with the motor industry it is not surprising that businesses from Coventry were involved, initially with the Daimler Company and then later by Armstrong Siddeley. The Daimler Company had, just prior to the outbreak of the First World War, initiated its own design and from contemporary press releases would appear to have been planning a series of railcars for a major railway company which no name was given. Armstrong Siddeley's approach was to be different and perhaps could be considered more sensible in that they looked to partner with an existing supplier of railcars, namely Michelin of France in the 1930s.

In fact the Michelin company was at the centre of two initiatives, the Michelin Type 9 and Type 11 articulated railcars (see 'gwrwm421' for a photograph of a Type 9 in action at Widney Manor) and the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Car promoted by Armstrong Siddeley from their Coventry base (see 'lnwrlave1349' for a photograph of it standing at Leamington Avenue on a service to Nuneaton). As described by Darren Kitson below, the development of both of these railcars should be seen as evolutionary, with the Coventry Rail Car being a development, albeit radical, of the Type 9 and 11 railcars. A major difference between the French railcars and other railcars developed in the UK was the use of pneumatic tyres as a means of making the ride much more comfortable for passengers as well as reducing operating costs to both vehicle and track.

The other two significant trials were, the LMS' collaboration with Karrier Motors of Huddersfield to develop the Ro-Railer, a vehicle designed to operate on both rail and roads. A partnership which according to JR Jennings, the SMJR line's archivist, was a surprise to some as Karrier were running down their bus production having earned a poor reputation for reliability in the 1920s. The other significant railcar development, albeit initiated in London but quickly exploited with services from Snow Hill to Cardiff, was the GWR's collaboration with Hardy Railmotors Limited, a subsidiary of Associated Equipment Company Limited (AEC) with what was to become a very successful series of railcars. With a total of thirty-eight railcars being built between 1934 and 1942, this railcar was the most successful vehicle until British Railways developed a number of different types in the 1950s. An early prototype which was partially tested in the county involved yet again AEC and Park Royal with the development of the BTU designed lightweight railcars.

The advantage of railcars is principally their ability to be started whenever it is required, or a few minutes before it is to be moved, or stopped whenever its stationary for more than a few minutes. There was no necessity, as with the steam powered railcars or locomotives, to start raising steam a few hours beforehand, or to keep steam up all day nor was a need for a fire-man or a skilled type of driver, as with the steam powered coach, as the driving controls were relatively simple. Another factor with regard to the experimentation of railcar development is the difference between power to weight ratio of the two types and the savings that could be made.

As an example of savings being derived from the power to weight ratio of motorised railcars, the first Micheline rail-coach tried in the UK had an unladen weight of 5 tons; its seating capacity was twenty-four; which works out at about 4 cwt of deadweight per passenger carried. A branch line steam train capable of carrying 160 passengers weighs, when empty, about 135 tons, giving 17 cwt of deadweight per passenger, and that is if its at full capacity. If a train of this weight runs with only one third of its maximum complement, as is frequently the case, the deadweight rises significantly to 2½ tons per passenger, about 12½ times as much as for the Michelin Railcar. This means a saving in fuel costs. The petrol consumption for the twenty-four seats coach was twelve to fourteen miles a gallon, about one penny a mile for twenty-four passengers ; this represents from one-fifth to one-tenth of the lowest steam locomotive train costs per mile. Apart from this saving, the cost of a rail-coach of this type is considerably less than for the steam coach, the relative costs bearing a rough relation to the respective weights of the two.

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Daimler railcar

THE DAIMLER MOTOR COMPANY LTD

Ron Cadman. Model Rail News, 1968

The Daimler Motor Company, is recognised today (1968 - Ed) for its production of bus chassis and luxury motor cars. During its formative years, however, products other than these were produced. Various commercial chassis, aircraft, military vehicles, tractors, an. extraordinary vehicle called the 'Renard Road Train' and, the subject of this article, petrol railcars. It was in 1904 that the Company first undertook the design of a railcar. Two prototypes were supplied to the Great Northern Railway (GNR) for use on the Hatfield to Hertford branch line (see image 'misc_railcar335'). They were designed to seat 28 persons and were smartly finished in Teak with white upper panels. Propulsion was provided by twin 38 hp. 4-cylinder, Daimler, side valve engines, with direct drive via a gearbox, and bevel gearing on to each axle. Being of short wheelbase and having a very simple suspension, they were rather hard riding and this led to difficulties with the final drive.

Oliver Bulleid, who was apprentice with the GNR at this time, was made responsible for maintenance and operation of them, and despite his love of steam became convinced that petrol driven cars should have been developed as a substitute for steam on some branch lines. The experiment was eventually dropped after the cars had run for some months in actual service, and presumably scrapped, as no further record remains of their continued development. A photograph taken at the time shows a group of GNR and Daimler officials posed with one of the vehicles; it is possible that Oliver Bulleid is one of this group. Nothing further was done until 1910 when the Company produced the K.P.L. bus, the design of which was well ahead of its time. The initials stood for Knight (engine), Pieper (Belgian designed transmission) and Lanchester (worm drive and suspension). It was experience with this transmission that prompted them to reconsider the idea of producing a railcar.

Designs were prepared in 1911-12 for both 3 foot and 3 foot 6 inch gauge railcars, 48 feet long having a single engine with a divided drive to two four-wheeled bogies. It is not known if these designs were produced with any specific railway in mind, but in 1912 an enquiry was received from Rhodesia Railways for four petrol railcars. It was probably this enquiry and the knowledge that the 'Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Vicinaux Beiges' in Belgium were developing a railcar with the Pieper transmission that decided the Company to produce a prototype. This was designed for standard gauge, and the result was a very interesting and handsome vehicle.

The chassis was of simple braced channel construction carrying two 105 hp Daimler sleeve-valve engines, each, with its own dynamotor located on either side of the car. Transmission was through two universally jointed shafts and worm gearing on to the inside axles of the four-wheeled bogies. A magnetic clutch and transmission brake formed part of the power unit. In normal running the two engines drove while the dynamotors were charging the accumulators. When extra output was required the accumulators automatically came into action to drive the dynamotors which thus became motors in their own right and provided an increase in available power. In the event of an engine failure, the railcar could still be driven home.

Compressed air brakes were fitted, and carriage heating provided by hot water radiators in circuit with the engine cooling system. The body, designed to seat 60, was built by Metropolitan Cammell and was of steel panel construction on an ash frame. The makers plate gives the date as 1912, but it was 1913 before this was delivered to the Daimler Works at Coventry. The tare weight of the finished vehicle was given as 77,000 lb. First tests took place in 1914, but the war brought all development to a halt as the factory was turned over to the production of munitions. It was March 1918 before extensive testing under service conditions recommenced. These were undertaken in conjunction with the LNWR. Mr Dingley, Chief Assistant to Bowen-Cooke, and Mr Morris, Chief Assistant to the electrical engineer were delegated by that Company, while Mr Balcombe and Mr Barriman represented Daimler. The LNWR stipulated certain minor alterations, inspection panels, removable driver's seats, engine indicators, interior layout and colour scheme, which was French grey lined out in white with a thin maroon line in the centre. No lettering or numbering was decided upon. The regular route selected for testing was from Daimler Halt, where the car was normally kept, Nuneaton, Rugby (on the main line), Northampton, via Market Harborough and returning via Rugby, Leamington, Kenilworth and Coventry. Tests went on throughout 1919 and a report dated March 3 shows that it was capable of 70 mph on the level, and at 50 mph petrol consumption was 4.5 gallons per hour. It was possible to maintain this speed with one engine on idle. Maximum engine output recorded at 70 mph was 125 bhp.

Despite successful trials, the LNWR had lost interest in the railcar by February 1920 and the testing was discontinued. Although other companies, notably the Dublin and South Eastern Railway, who offered to purchase the vehicle if Daimler would undertake to alter the gauge to 5 ft 3 in, showed interest, the car remained in the works siding until the middle of 1921 when the decision was taken to abandon the development altogether. Dr Frederick Lanchester writing to Percy Martin referred to the enterprise as 'a successful but commercially unpromising mechanical frolic.' One cannot help reflecting though that, had the Company's interests at that time been less diversified, and the railcar been given a more enthusiastic and extensive development, the result would have been commercially successful, and may well have changed the later development of the Company.

Daimler & BSA experimental railcar on the Nuneaton branch line as it passes Coventry No 3 Signal Cabin
Ref: lnwrcov3146
LNWR Society
The Daimler experimental railcar on the Nuneaton branch line as it passes Coventry No 3 Signal Cabin
The Daimler experimental Railcar posed for the camera at Kenilworth station shortly before the outbreak of the First World War
Ref: lnwrk3767
LNWR Society
The Daimler experimental railcar at Kenilworth station shortly before the outbreak of the First World War
The Daimler experimental Railcar is seen returning to Coventry between Gibbet Hill Signal Cabin and Kenilworth Junction
Ref: lnwrgh3766
LNWR Society
The Daimler experimental railcar returning to Coventry between Gibbet Hill Signal Cabin and Kenilworth Junction
A side elevation drawing of the 1911 experimental two 105 hp Daimler sleeve-valve engined Daimler Railcar
Ref: misc_railcar329
R Cadman
Side elevation drawing of the 1911 experimental two 105 hp Daimler sleeve-valve engined Daimler Railcar
A front elevation drawing of the 1911 experimental two 105 hp Daimler sleeve-valve engined Daimler Railcar
Ref: misc_railcar330
R Cadman
Front elevation drawing of the 1911 experimental two 105 hp Daimler sleeve-valve engined Daimler Railcar

Close up showing the final drive system of the 1911 experimental twin engined Daimler Railcar
Ref: misc_railcar331
R Cadman
Close up showing the final drive system of the 1911 experimental twin engined Daimler Railcar
The Daimler experimental railcar at Blisworth station shortly before the outbreak of the First World War
Ref: misc_railcar332
R Cadman
The Daimler experimental railcar at Blisworth station shortly before the outbreak of the First World War
A photograph of the front elevation of the 1911 experimental two 105 hp Daimler sleeve-valve engined Daimler Railcar
Ref: misc_railcar333
R Cadman
The front elevation of the 1911 experimental two 105 hp Daimler sleeve-valve engined Daimler Railcar
Near side view of the 1911 experimental twin engined Daimler Railcar at an unknown location
Ref: misc_railcar334
R Cadman
Near side view of the 1911 experimental twin engined Daimler Railcar at an unknown location
The experimental 1904 Daimler Railcar used on GNR Hatfield to Hertford branch
Ref: misc_railcar335
R Cadman
The experimental 1904 twin 38 hp engined Daimler Railcar used on GNR Hatfield to Hertford branch

A photograph of the newly painted 1911 Daimler Railcar complete with white painted tyres and filler cap by the side of the buffer beam
Ref: misc_railcar336
R Cadman
The newly painted 1911 Daimler Railcar complete with white painted tyres and filler cap next to the buffer beam

We would like to express our thanks to Roger Wyatt of the South Australian Protofour Group for his assistance in obtaining a copy of the Model Rail News article.

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Michelin railcars

Darren Kitson

La Micheline, in English The Michelin, was the name applied to a series of railcars running on Michelin pneumatic tyres. The name seems to have applied more specifically to earlier types which resembled road lorries in both rigid and articulated form. Apart from initial experiments, such as that described below, the railcars were not converted road vehicles. Nor were they diesel railcars as some sources claim, they were petrol railcars. The principle was pneumatic tyres mounted on wheels similar to those of road vehicles but bolted onto a steel disc which served as a flange. Thus the railcars offered smooth and near-silent operation with the added benefits of better acceleration and braking, due to the better grip offered by rubber, when compared to conventional steel railway wheels. The idea is credited to Monsieur Edouard Michelin who, it was said, had problems sleeping on overnight trains due to track noise. Standard railway vehicles are far too heavy for pneumatic tyres, however, so Michelin realised the way forward was with lightweight railcars. To this end, a standard Renault car was converted during 1929.

The Paris - Lyon - Mediterranee Railway (PLM) was approached regarding trials, after the converted Renault had operated successfully in the Michelin works sidings at Clermont - Ferrand. The PLM, having composed itself following a mixture of horror and hysterics, agreed to trials on an isolated branch line in the Savoy Alps with a breakdown train in attendance. The latter transpired to be unnecessary and the trials were a total success to, apparently, the surprise of all concerned. It has to be said that credit must be given to the Michelin company for by 1931 they had produced an 18-seat railcar which was demonstrated, successfully by all accounts, between Paris and Deauville during that year.

By 1932 Michelin's Type 9 railcar had appeared and in that same year one of these was sent to Britain for trials. We know from surviving records that the railcar was in Britain by February 1932. The Type 9 railcar is known to have also operated in the Leamington Spa area and between Oxford (Rewley Road) and Bletchley. The railcar was articulated with a six-wheel bogie at the front and, despite appearances, a four-wheel bogie at the rear (earlier examples had a single axle at the rear). Brakes were Lockheed hydraulic, acting upon all wheels.

The power unit was constructed by Renault and the engine was a Panhard - Levassor sleeve valve petrol unit of 27 h.p. This figure was the RAC rating; a peculiar system devised by the RAC on behalf of the British government for taxation purposes. The calculation took into account only the cylinder bore diameter, not the swept volume of the pistons. The actual brake horsepower of this railcar engine would have been in the region of 80 - 85 h.p. at 2,500 - 3,000 r.p.m. Petrol engines were used because no diesel engine available at that time had a suitable power-to-weight ratio; in other words the then-available diesel engines were too heavy. Sleeve valve engines are today museum pieces. The inlet and exhaust ports were controlled by cylindrical sleeves inside the cylinder bores and which moved up and down by means of cams. The best known names associated with sleeve-valve engines were Ricardo and Knight, the latter design being used by Daimler in its 'Silent Knight' engine. These engines, at the time, offered a number of advantages over other types but their oil consumption was necessarily heavy and vehicles so fitted were characterised by the haze of blue smoke which followed them everywhere they went.

The two images of the railcar in what is thought to be a factory siding in Coventry ('lnwrcov3749' and 'lnwrcov3763') show a board at cantrail level with just the name 'Michelin' displayed. However, the image of the railcar at Widney Manor ('gwrdm421') has a longer board, again at cantrail level, with the legend 'Running on Michelin Pneumatic Tyres' displayed. The radiator grille was a dummy; aircraft type radiators being fitted one each side of the cab roof. This in turn meant topping up of the coolant had to be done via a filler cap located on the cab roof. A four-speed manual gearbox was fitted and, with the obvious omission of steering gear, the driving controls were the same as those of contemporary road vehicles. A separate reverse gearbox was fitted to allow all four speeds of the main gearbox to be used when running in either direction and this bi-directional ability was the reason for the use of aircraft type radiators. Drive, it is believed, was from the engine to the centre axle with a roller chain connecting to the front axle with remaining axles therefore being purely load-bearing.

Given that a separate reverse gearbox was fitted but that the cab and controls were otherwise similar to a road vehicle, quite how these railcars were driven in reverse is something of a mystery. A surviving French document suggests these railcars needed turning at the end of each trip, but some details of the rear end of the Type 9 are known.The body sides tapered inwards and the roof downwards to meet a door in the end of the body. In the upper part of the door was a two-piece window, the top section of which appears to have been hinged from the top. This top section had a windscreen wiper. On the left side of the body's rear end was a klaxon and on the right side a single headlamp. These items strongly suggest driving controls were fitted at the rear but bearing in mind the road vehicle type cab and controls at the other end, plus the articulation, quite what the precise arrangement was is difficult to comprehend. Also, driving controls immediately behind an opening door somehow seems rather unlikely.

The passenger section of the Type 9 was a rudimentary affair; it consisted of a welded steel frame covered in canvas - presumably doped (a form of varnish) as in aircraft practice. Seating was for just 24 passengers, while heating was achieved by the simple expedient of passing air over the engine exhaust pipe. The railcar weighed, in working order, a mere 5 tons and was capable of speeds in excess of 60mph. The lightweight construction was necessary due to the inability of the pneumatic tyres of the time to support the heavier loads usually associated with railway vehicles. Tyre-to-rail contact area was, of course, dictated by the width of the rail head, so to have wider tyres would have been pointless. It was for these reasons the railcars, once out of the early prototype stage, had 8, 10 and eventually 16 wheels. Tyre pressure is unclear, with accounts varying between 'low pressure' and 85psi. In the event of a puncture or loss of pressure, by 15 p.s.i., for other reasons, a warning horn would sound in the driving cab and pressure gauges were fitted to each wheel. If a puncture occurred the Type 9 had a wooden rim inside the tyre which prevented total collapse. Later railcars had steel rims inside the tyres while the Coventry railcars had solid rubber tyres within the pneumatic tyres. Changing a wheel was accomplished in exactly the same way as on a road vehicle with spare wheels, jacks and other tools being carried.

On plain track, tyre wear was said to be negligible but points and crossovers took their toll of the tyres. Michelin themselves stated their 'Super Low Pressure' tyre had a service life of over 18,500 miles while other sources state the tyres were good for an average of 20,000 miles. Such a mileage was good by the road vehicle standards of the time but the greater mileages railway passenger vehicles are expected to achieve meant tyre changing would have been necessary at frequent intervals. Even a passenger train, or railcar, operating only branch and local services would be expected to cover, on average, 2,000 miles per week, so tyre replacement would be required every nine or ten weeks. However, we must be careful not to judge too harshly the engineering standards and expectations of almost a century ago with those of today.

The view of the Michelin Type 9 railcar's rear end (see image lnwrcov3749), is said to have been taken in April 1932. As stated in the caption, visible are the klaxon horn, single headlamp and windscreen wiper on the end door. Despite these embellishments it remains difficult to see how these railcars could be driven from the rear. Was there really linkage to the road vehicle type controls at the other end? Was there really a driving position behind the opening end door? These are questions to which answers have proved evasive. The large disc on the near mudguard/splasher presumably deputises for a tail lamp. It is not known what the cranked bar apparently protruding from the rear of the vehicle is. This view gives an idea of the construction of the passenger section of these contraptions. Bearing in mind the body was of doped canvas on a lightweight tubular frame, the passenger section was little more than a tent on wheels. Crash Worthiness? Minus ten perhaps!

The Type 9 was returned to France at an unknown date towards the end of 1932 or in early 1933. At this point there is some confusion over what happened next. Two photographs exist of a Type 11 railcar; one taken at Leamington Spa* and the other at Harwich, with the latter taken just after the railcar had been unloaded from the Dunkirk ferry. The Type 9 entered Britain via Tilbury and a check on freight train ferries at that time shows the port had indeed changed from Tilbury to Harwich during 1933. Therefore we know the Type 11 railcar entered Britain no earlier than 1933, so it is quite likely the Type 11 was sent from France as a swap for the Type 9 which had arrived the previous year. Whilst similar to the Type 9, the Type 11 had a few differences; a more powerful engine was installed; the cab differed in detail and an all-over livery was applied (possibly a deep shade of red). There was also the addition of the tubular object on the cab roof; this was in fact a header tank for the engine cooling system and topping-up was achieved by removing a cap of which there was one at each end of the tank. Little is known of the Type 11s time in Britain, but it appears not to have been tested on the Southern Railway but instead pottered around the Leamington Spa area and the Oxford - Bletchley line much the same as the Type 9 had later done. There is some very scant evidence that it made one trial run to Cambridge. The Type 11 returned to France after a very short stay in Britain. Tyre size was 910mm x 125mm and this seems to have been consistent for all standard gauge Michelin railcars.

On 16th February 1932 the Commercial Motor magazine published an article on the Type 9 railcar. While such articles are now a valuable historical record, the Commercial Motor article, in typical journalistic fashion, is rather dubious in respect of accuracy. It was claimed the railcar whizzed along the Oxford - Bletchley line at 92mph fully loaded; whilst that figure is specific rather than given as, say, 'around 90mph' which would suggest guesswork, it is doubtful the Type 9 could attain such a speed; 55 - 60mph being the usually quoted figure. The article also states the railcar was suitable for 'oil or electric' propulsion. 'Oil engine' is a now somewhat archaic term for a diesel engine and as we have seen it was not possible at that time to equip these railcars with diesel engines. Nevertheless even today some people, who in many cases ought to know better, still describe these railcars as 'diesel'. Electric propulsion was also a somewhat ridiculous claim as rubber tyres would not provide the current return path necessary with overhead wire or conductor rail power supplies. Battery power would in theory have been possible but the ever-present problem of battery weight would have made it completely impractical for the Michelin railcars which through necessity had to be lightweight.

Darren Kitson

* A copy of this photograph would be very much appreciated

View of the experimental Michelin Rail Car being trialled on the GWR as it passes through Widney Manor station
Ref: gwrwm421
P Hopkins
View of the experimental Michelin railcar being trialled on the GWR as it passes through Widney Manor station
A rare view of the Michelin Type 9 railcar's rear end, said to have been taken at Coventry in April 1932
Ref: lnwrcov3749
M Morant
A rare view of the Michelin Type 9 railcar's rear end, said to have been taken at Coventry in April 1932
A three-quarters frontal view of the Michelin Type 9 Rail Car between tests standing in in Coventry
Ref: lnwrcov3763
M Morant
A three-quarters frontal view of the Michelin Type 9 railcar between tests standing in in Coventry
A three-quarters frontal view of the Michelin Type 9 Rail Car between tests standing in in Coventry
Ref: lnwrcov3764
NRM
A close up of the Michelin Type 22 Railcar seen arriving at platform 3 of Cambridge station in 1935
An interior view of what is thought to be the passenger cabin in a Michelin Type 22 Railcar
Ref: lnwrcov3765
Michelin
An interior view of what is thought to be the passenger cabin in a Michelin Type 22 Railcar

Film of the Experimental Michelin Rail Cars in action

French streamlined rail car

On the LMS rail track between Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire and Euston, London. Originally part of the film 'New in a Nutshell'.

Michelin auto-trein (1932)

The Michelin Rail Car performing on Dutch Tracks. Its similar to that trialled in the UK.

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The Coventry Pneumatic Rail Cars

Darren Kitson

The Coventry Pneumatic Rail-cars (see image 'lnwrlave1349') were a development of the Michelin Types 9, first seen in the UK in 1932, and the Michelin Type 11 first seen in 1933. Promoted by Armstrong Siddeley, they bore more than a passing resemblance to the Michelin Type 22 which was also sent over from France in 1934 and was still evident in Cambridge in 1935. This shuttling of railcars back and forth suggests Michelin was keen to ensure Britain's railways were kept up to date with their developments. The Type 22 railcar was in outline very different to the Michelin Type 9 and 11 articulated railcars, but as stated above, very similar at first glance to the Coventry Rail Cars. There were however a number of differences between them and the Coventry railcars, as we will see in due course. The French Type 22 was a 56-seat railcar carried on two 8-wheel bogies and powered by a Hispano-Suiza 240 hp petrol engine. Two spare wheels and what is assumed to be a toolbox can be seen underneath the end of the body. Passenger access was via a single-leaf air-operated sliding door on each side of the body in the centre. A toilet compartment was provided and at the powered (No 1) end was a luggage compartment accessed by roller-shutter doors. Braking was air-assisted hydraulic, acting on all wheels.

Hispano-Suiza was a Barcelona based company with tentacles in France and better known for their large, upmarket cars and their involvement in the aircraft industry. The company still exists but is, at the time of writing, known as Safran following a series of takeovers and mergers. For use in the Michelin railcars, Hispano-Suiza developed a lightweight and rather neat engine known as the Type 86. It was a 12 cylinder horizontally-opposed unit using much aluminium alloy in its construction and designed to sit transversely in the bogie frame, drive to the wheels being via fluid coupling and self-changing gearbox to one axle and thence via roller-chain to an adjacent axle.

Perhaps the most striking feature of both the Type 22 and Coventry railcars was the 'conning tower' and its driving position. This meant only one driving position, and thus one set of controls, was necessary. The drawback with this arrangement was the driver needing to turn one way or the other according to direction of travel. To access his position, the driver had to first climb onto a raised platform and then onto his seat which was cantilevered from safety railings around the edge of the platform. The precise method of control with railcars using the Type 86 engine which, being bogie mounted, moved relative to the body, is not clear, but other railcars used a more conventional Hispano-Suizar V12 engine (a bored-out Hispano-Suiza J12 automotive engine) mounted in the body underframe and in these cases control was via levers projecting up into the conning tower. The official term for the conning tower seems to have been 'Driver's platform'.

The image of the Cambridge railcar shows the conning tower, as we will call it, is more or less located along the body centre line. Railcars using the underframe-mounted V12 engine had, by necessity, the conning tower located to one side of the body and this was the case with the Coventry railcars. All the railcars had a radiator mounted in a conventional position, as per road vehicles, above the frames at the No 1 end. For running with No 2 end leading the radiator had shutters which closed and instead air was drawn in via roof-mounted scoops. These scoops can be seen either side of the conning tower in the Cambridge image. The Coventry railcars used a similar arrangement but which differed in detail. The Coventry cars had 'Coventry Railcar' monograms on their body sides. The 'Cambridge' Type 22 railcar also had monograms which appear to have stated 'Pneumatic Railcar' but surviving photographs are too unclear to be certain.

At around the time the Coventry cars were introduced in 1935, the Type 22 railcar simply disappeared. Probably, the Coventry cars rendered it redundant and it returned to France. The Coventry Pneumatic Railcar Company was a joint undertaking between the LMS, Michelin and Armstrong-Siddeley of Coventry. Like Hispano-Suizar AS was also a producer of upmarket cars as well as being involved in the aircraft industry. After the Second World War AS became part of the Bristol-Siddeley-Maybach concern, producing Maybach engines under licence for some of British Rail's diesel-hydraulic locomotives.

For the Coventry railcars, Armstrong-Siddeley had developed their own V12 petrol engine; a 13 litre unit giving 275 hp at 3,000 rpm. It weighed a mere 1,000 lb and the complete railcars weighed, in working order, a very commendable 6½ tons. However, a drawing exists clearly intended to show a Coventry railcar (it is titled as such) and this states the weight in working order as being a fraction over 8 tons. An Ogden's cigarette card depicting a Coventry railcar gave the tare weight as 9 tons or 14 tons fully laden. The drawing also shows the conning tower located just off the centre line of the car, as per the 'Cambridge' Type 22, and with the roof-mounted air scoops also as per the Type 22. As pictures of the Coventry railcars show, the design as-built was rather different and the reasons for the changes are not known although we can guess they may have been connected with the decision to use the V12 engine instead of the Hispano-Suiza horizontally opposed unit.

Mentioned earlier was the fitting of solid rubber tyres within the pneumatic tyres of the Coventry railcars. This allowed the railcars to continue in service with a punctured tyre until a convenient time to change the offending wheel arose, although this would presumably have required reduced speed, inner tubes were also fitted, as was the norm at the time, and this applied to all the pneumatic railcars. The inner tubes differed to those used on road vehicles because of the need to accommodate the anti-collapse rims or, in the case of the Coventry railcars, the inner solid tyres. As far as can be ascertained regarding the Coventry railcars, the inner tube was of a 'U' cross section and was fixed and sealed to the wheel rim and with the inner solid tyre inside the tube and the pneumatic tyre outside. Thus when a puncture occurred, the inner tube deflated and the railcar ran on the inner solid tyre. This means air would have provided nothing more than a cushioning layer between inner and outer tyres - very different indeed to the much simpler system of tubeless tyres were are familiar with today on road vehicles.

The Coventry railcars were 55 ft long overall, 9ft wide and 12 ft high from rail to top of conning tower. The conning tower had, of course, to fit within the British loading gauge and, like the Type 22, the Coventry railcars had to suit the height of British station platforms. It was for those reasons the railcar bodies were rather squat, giving the illusion they were wider than they actually were. For their time and to British eyes, they were ultra-modern in appearance and their livery, said to have been crimson lake and a light shade of cream, while not exactly new (the LNWR had used a similar coaching stock livery) must have been quite eye catching. Coventry No 1 made its debut on 20th June 1935, with No 2 following soon afterwards. One, at least, of the Coventry cars is known to have undertaken trial runs between Rugby and Market Harborough (part of the now-closed Rugby - Seaton - Stamford Peterborough route) and also between Oxford and Cambridge. Details of the latter are, however, vague and it is unclear if either Coventry car actually ran as far east as Cambridge. Most photographs of the Coventry cars depict them in service in the Coventry, Kenilworth / Leamington Spa area.

No 1 is known to have then made a press run from Rugby to Wansford (near Peterborough) and return, following which both railcars operated services in the Coventry - Leamington Spa - Rugby - Nuneaton area. The services were advertised by handbill and slotted-in between regular timetabled services operated by proper trains. They were based at Rugby a three road part of the shed being reserved for them. Possibly this was done partly to keep them away from steam locomotive grime but mainly to keep the fuel supply petrol, away from the risk of fire. In time, the Armstrong Siddeley engines became problematic and at least one railcar was given a Hispano-Suiza engine instead. This was presumably a J12 as fitted to the later Michelin railcars.

Image 'lnwrlave3766' shows Coventry Pneumatic Rail Car from the rear, in this case the driver's end, but with the vehicle be propelled forward. The side position of the conning tower can be seen, this being necessary because of the underframe-mounted VI2 engine. The exhaust silencers can be seen, as they can in the previous image; there was one for each bank of cylinders and located conspicuously but neatly under each side of No 1 end. Another difference to the Michelin Type 22 was the two-leaf sliding passenger doors mounted externally of the body. The oil tail lamp was a mandatory requirement despite these railcars being fitted with electric lighting clusters. Mentioned earlier was the air scoop arrangement which differed to that of the Type 22. The scoop was raised and the radiator shutters were closed when the railcars ran with No 2 end leading. With No 1 end leading the radiator shutters opened and the scoop closed. When closed, the scoop was flush with the roof. There has been some suggestion that in the Coventry' cars the driver was able to sit actually facing the direction of travel and this does appear to be the case from photographs of the cars in service. If so, the arrangement of the driving seat and controls has to be questioned but details are not known.

The railcars were popular with the travelling public and: providing it wasn't a hot day, with the crews too. The railway authorities, however, quickly lost interest and the scheme was abandoned in 1937. Later that year the Coventry' railcars were taken to the Michelin premises at Stoke-on-Trent and there they lingered until 1945 when they were scrapped. All that remains of them is one wheel, in the National Railway Museum having been presented by Michelin. All the lightweight pneumatic railcars had their drawbacks. The necessary light weight prevented the use of proper buffing and drawgear; their near-silent operation was seen as a hazard to track workers used to the sound of steam locomotives and the rubber tyres could not operate track circuits (track circuiting is a system whereby a small electric current is passed through the rails and when this is short-circuited by conventional steel wheels the instruments in signal boxes are actuated). The Coventry railcars were fitted with skates to eliminate this problem but apparently they proved unreliable). One perpetual problem with any lightweight railway vehicle is the relatively high cost of construction and of repairs following accident damage; British Railways was mindful of this problem many years later with their Wickham-built diesel multiple units and railbuses.

It is said that the Coventry railcars were prohibited from running during the hours of darkness and during fog due to safety concerns. The hours of darkness were, of course, known in advance and as the railcars were not guaranteed to run this would not have caused any problems. Fog, however, is less predictable so must have caused some cancellations at short notice. It is not known if these restrictions applied only to the Coventry railcars or all those which operated in Britain but it is likely it was all of them. Another aspect for which the answer is not known is whether the safety- concerns were genuine or part of an attempt by a disinterested LMS to kill off the project, but given that the railcars were quiet running and very dodgy where track circuits were concerned we can probably safely assume the concerns were genuine.

Despite the drawbacks the railway authorities in Britain were quick to point out, the main reason for their demise in Britain was probably the Second World War. As war clouds gathered, industry, including Armstrong Siddeley, was gearing up to rearmament and other war production and, as happened with the LMS articulated diesel multiple unit, experimental projects were very' much pushed into the background. The success of the Great Western's AEC diesel railcars may also have influenced the decision to abandon the concept.

Drawbacks or no drawbacks, war or no war, the French, as might be expected, took a totally different approach and over one hundred Michelin railcars gave many years of good service in France and her colonies. Others eventually found their way to other parts of the world and in the USA the Budd company produced them under licence. Today several examples can be seen in museums while at least one, in Madagascar, is still operational as of 2015. On a brighter note, several Metro systems operate rubber-tyred trains. Paris, Mexico City and Santiago have some lines operated in this manner while the Montreal Metro is currently operated entirely by rubber-tyred trains. The rubber-tyre principle offers distinct advantages in urban areas, especially where lines are underground, where reduced noise and vibration are most desirable. Metro systems are also usually self contained and operate, engineering trains excepted, only passenger trains of lightweight fixed formation stock, therefore the problems of operating rubber-tyred trains on main lines where they have to integrate with conventional rolling stock are eliminated. However, while the rubber tyre principle remains on these modern metro systems, the precise technology is a long way from the Michelin railcars of yesteryear.

Darren Kitson

Operational Trials

View of a fairly full Coventry Pneumatic Rail-car leaving Nuneaton station on a Coventry service on a wet day on 12th May 1937
Ref: lnwrns1732
HR Robinson
View of a fairly full Coventry Pneumatic Rail-car leaving Nuneaton station on a Coventry service
Coventry Railcar No 2 stands at the Coventry end of the bay platform ready to return on a Leamington to Nuneaton service
Ref: lnwrlave1349
G Coltas
Coventry Railcar No 2 stands at the Coventry end of the bay platform on a Leamington to Nuneaton service
Close up showing the raised cockpit of Railcar No 2 and the louvered door for the driver and luggage
Ref: lnwrlave1349a
G Coltas
Close up showing the raised cockpit of Railcar No 2 and the louvered door for the driver and luggage
Coventry Pneumatic Railcar No 2 is seen passing through Kenilworth station on its way to Nuneaton via Coventry
Ref: lnwrk161
G Coltas
Coventry Pneumatic Railcar No 2 is seen passing through Kenilworth station on its way to Nuneaton via Coventry
The Coventry Railcar from the non-driving end seen as it stands under the footbridge at platform 2 waiting to depart
Ref: lnwrlave1362
G Coltas
The Coventry railcar from the non-driving end seen as it stands under the footbridge at platform 2 waiting to depart

Coventry Pneumatic Railcar No 2 stands at platform 2 waiting to depart on a Leamington to Nuneaton service in 1936
Ref: lnwrlave3766
J Alsop
Coventry Pneumatic Railcar No 2 stands at platform 2 waiting to depart on a service to Nuneaton in 1936

Pre production views and design specifications

A right hand three-quarters view of No 1 Rail Car before the transfer 'Coventry Railcar' has been applied
Ref: lnwrcov3761
The Engineer
A right hand three-quarters view of No 1 Rail Car before the transfer 'Coventry railcar' has been applied
The drivers compartment of the Daimler Coventry Pneumatic Rail-car as seen from inside the main cabin
Ref: lnwrcov3750
Anon
The drivers compartment of the Daimler Coventry Pneumatic Rail Car as seen from inside the main cabin
View of one the Coventry Railcar's chassis frame being erected at one of Armstrong Siddeley's workshops
Ref: lnwrcov3755
The Engineer
View of one the Coventry Rail Car's chassis frame being erected at one of Armstrong Siddeley's workshops
View of one the Coventry Railcar bodies being erected at one of Armstrong Siddeley's workshops
Ref: lnwrcov3762
The Engineer
View of one the Coventry Rail Car bodies being erected at one of Armstrong Siddeley's workshops
View of the power bogie and transmission fitted by Michelin to the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Cars
Ref: lnwrcov3759
The Engineer
Elevated view of the power bogie and transmission fitted by Michelin to the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Cars

A 12 cylinder Armstrong Siddeley engine and gear-box of the type fitted to the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Car
Ref: lnwrcov3756
The Engineer
A 12 cylinder Armstrong Siddeley engine and gear-box of the type fitted to the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Cars
An interior view of what is thought to be the passenger cabin in a Michelin Type 22 Railcar
Ref: lnwrcov3765
Anon
An interior view of what is thought to be the passenger cabin in a Michelin Type 22 railcar
The eight wheeled bogie unit of the 1934 'Micheline' 56-seater rail-car which had a slightly different suspension system
Ref: lnwrcov3751
Anon
The 8-wheeled bogie of the 1934 'Micheline' 56-seater railcar which had a slightly different suspension system
An exterior view of a Michelin 56-seater Rail-car passing itself off as a Coventry Rail Car
Ref: lnwrcov3753
Anon
An exterior view of a Michelin 56-seater Rail-car, in France, passing itself off as a Coventry Rail Car
A close up of the Michelin Type 22 Railcar seen arriving at platform 3 of Cambridge station in 1935
Ref: lnwrcov3764
Anon
A close up of the Michelin Type 22 Railcar seen arriving at platform 3 of Cambridge station in 1935

A schematic drawing of the 56 seater Coventry Pneumatic Rail-car and its relationship with the LMS loading gauge
Ref: lnwrcov3752
Anon
A schematic drawing of the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Car and its relationship with the LMS loading gauge
Schematic diagram of the Track Circuiting System employed on the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Car
Ref: lnwrcov3757
The Engineer
A schematic diagram of the Track Circuiting System employed by Michelin on the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Car
Plan, elevation and cross section of the trailing bogie fitted by Michelin to the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Cars
Ref: lnwrcov3760
The Engineer
Plan, elevation and cross section of the trailing bogie fitted by Michelin to the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Cars
Plan and elevation of the power bogie fitted by Michelin to the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Cars
Ref: lnwrcov3758
The Engineer
Plan and elevation of the power bogie fitted by Michelin to both of the Coventry Pneumatic Rail Cars
A cross sectional view of one of the Armstrong Siddeley Rail Car's Pneumatic Tyred Wheel
Ref: lnwrcov3754
The Engineer
A cross sectional view of one of the Michelin designed 'Armstrong Siddeley' Rail Car's Pneumatic Tyred Wheel

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The LMS Ro-Railer

The following article appeared in Railway Wonders of the World published on 21st June 1935. Darren Kitson provides a word warning when using archived material from such sources. He points out that most articles are not objective assessments of the item being reviewed as they are often published at the time of their launch and consequently the claims of achievements and benefits are provided unchalleged by the relevant PR department.

COACHES FOR ROAD OR RAIL

Experimental Services Designed to Speed-up Travel

Introduction

If a broad view is taken of the transport conditions of most civilized countries having the usual road and railway facilities, it must be agreed that the road motor vehicle, whether it is used for passenger carrying or for goods conveyance, has some definite advantages over the rail vehicle. It is not limited to a single track between two fixed stations. The motor vehicle can carry its loads over a network of roads from door to door, without the necessity of transhipment. Further, its use is generally independent of any other ordinary road traffic, and it can start at any convenient time without affecting other road services. The railway goods or passenger vehicle, on the other hand, must keep to its own track and also to a timetable arranged to keep the track clear at certain specified times only. Moreover, the railway station or goods depot is often a considerable distance from the destination of the passenger or goods, and some supplementary form of transport becomes necessary. With goods traffic, the usual procedure is to load the goods intended for transit on to a motor lorry, convey these to the railway depot, and unload them on to the railway trucks or vans. After reaching the nearest station or depot on the railway line the goods must be unloaded from the railroad on to another motor vehicle, conveyed along the roads to their destination and then unloaded once more This method of goods conveyance not only involves an appreciable loss of time in transit, but also necessitates two loadings and unloadings, with the added risk ot damage during these processes ; moreover, it necessarily adds to the cost of transport.

In view of these disadvantages it might be thought that to use the railway at all is a doubtful policy where small quantities of freight of, say, two to four tons are concerned, when the goods could be conveyed from door to door without employing the railway. The answer to this is that in partly developed districts, and in areas where the roads are either bad or are congested, it is very much quicker to send goods by rail. The speeds employed on railways are normally much higher than those on the roads. For long distance work, also, the advantages of rail transit are indisputable ; moreover, the transit costs are lower. In many undeveloped or partly developed countries there is generally a railway joining the main towns or industrial areas, and a network of roads leading to the railway stations and depots but there are few long distance main roads And it is here that the railway scores over the road vehicle ; for the latter cannot be used without suitable roads. From these considerations it seems that in its own sphere of operation the motor road vehicle and the railway vehicle each possesses definite advantages.

With a knowledge of these facts it is not surprising that transport engineers have considered the possibility of designing a new type of vehicle that will combine the advantages of each type while avoiding its drawbacks. After a careful study of this problem, combined with a good deal of research work, a suitable vehicle, known as a "road-railer," has been evolved. This can run equally well on either the road or the railway track. It can thus begin its journey by road from the loading place to the nearest railway station, and then transfer to the railway lines, becoming for the being a rail-coach. At the end of its railway journey it is once again transferred from the railway track to the road and thence driven off, just as any other motor vehicle, to its destination. It may be of interest to point out some of the more important uses of this combination vehicle. Its particular application is on branch lines and, especially, on those branch lines where towns and villages lie some distance from the railway. Passengers or goods may be taken on at any convenient place, wherever there is a suitable road. New or partly developed districts lying some distance from the railway can thus benefit materially from the use of the road-railer. Further, the possibility of using this vehicle for week-end and other abnormal traffic must not be overlooked. Road congestion, leading to both slow and dangerous travel, has often created a problem which this new type of vehicle at once solves. Both types of vehicle-passenger and goods-can be attached to trains, with the added advantage that they can be detached when required to proceed to their destinations as ordinary road vehicles.

Apart from its advantages to the railway authorities, the road-railer may be used in various Government services. Its utility in countries where, during certain periods of the year, the rains are so heavy that the roads become impassable, will undoubtedly be recognized, for it will then be possible for journeys to be made over the permanent way. On the other hand, should a portion of the track be destroyed, or under repair, it is then possible to divert the road-railer on to the road and return it later to the track at the other side of the part which is out of commission. It may even be an advantage to use the vehicle over long distances by rail, and then to cut across country and afterwards connect up with another railway, without having to unload and transfer the goods, as must be done with conventional vehicles. Perhaps the greatest advantage of the road-railer for use in developed countries, such as Great Britain, is the rapidity and economy with which passengers and goods can be transported over medium and longer distances, from sources and to destinations remote from the railway station.

From the point of view of the passenger service, the low tractive effort necessary to propel the vehicle on the rail results in much lower running costs, due to the reduced fuel consumption and absence of pneumatic tyre wear ; this should involve lower passenger fares. Again, when on the railway track the road-railer is capable of travelling, with safety, at higher speeds than it can attain on the roads ; thus, with the Karrier road-railer speeds up to sixty miles an hour are well within the engine's capacity. Further, it is much safer and easier to drive a road-railer on the railway lines than on the roads, for there are practically no obstructions on railway lines. From the point of view of the passenger's comfort, the road-railer has the advantage, well-known to users of motor-coaches, of combining first-class seating with third-class fares. Again, where the railway is the shorter distance between two towns, a certain amount of time is saved. As a goods vehicle the road-railer not only avoids duplicate loading and unloading, but also, owing to the lower fuel costs on the railway track, and to the absence of tyre wear, proves to be more economical than other types of road vehicles.

The LMS Karrier Road-Railer

The various advantages outlined above are embodied in the Karrier road-railer about to be described. This vehicle represents the results of over two years' experimental work. The first production model was delivered to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. It was in the form of a twenty-six seat passenger coach, and complied with the Ministry of Transport's Regulations, as well as those of the railway authorities. Large capacity double-deck passenger vehicles can also be built. The range of road-railer freighters is from 30 cwt. to 8 tons, if complying with the Ministry of Transport's Regulations, but for service abroad they are available from 30 cwt. to 20 tons. The vehicle which ran experimentally on the LMS. is fitted with a six-cylinder petrol engine of the usual commercial motor-vehicle design, rated at 37.2 hp, It has a wheel-base of 17 feet 1 inch, and road wheel track of 6 feet 3½ inch The rail track is the standard 4 feet 8½ in. gauge. The transmission has a top-gear ratio of 7 to 1 for road use, and 4.2 to 1 for the railway track. These ratios give maximum speeds on the road and rail of 60 and 75 m.p.h., respectively. The petrol consumption on the road is 8 miles per gallon ; on the railway track it is 16 miles per gallon. The total weight of the vehicle, unloaded, is 7 tons 2 cwts ; 3 tons are allowed for the weight of the passengers, staff, and luggage.

The following is the method employed in this ingenious car for converting the wheels from the pneumatic road type to the steel-flanged railway pattern. Flanged rail wheels are fitted to the vehicle's axles ; on the outside of these are placed pneumatic-tyred road wheels, each of which is mounted on eccentrics fitted to an axle extension through the rail wheel. When on the road, the road wheels are locked concentrically to the rail wheels, which, being of smaller diameter, are quite clear of the road. The wheel changing operation is as follows. For road to rail transference, the "road-railer" is driven on to the rails at any place where the road has been made up level to the rail tops. Then, with the rail wheels directly over the lines, it is driven forward a few yards until it reaches a point where the made-up road is tapered off. The rail wheels now gradually come into contact with the rails, and take the weight of the machine off its road wheels. The road wheels, which are mounted on an eccentric device, are then raised above rail level by the action of the driver, who rotates them on their eccentrics and locks them to the chassis frame by means of a pin. The road wheels, therefore, do not rotate when the vehicle is moving on the rails. The "change-over" operation is, of course, reversed when returning to the road.

The same principle holds good for both the front and rear wheels of the vehicle. The components are generally interchangeable on all four wheels. Two eccentrics per wheel are employed in this particular design, which enables as much lift to be obtained as is allowable by the wheel rim diameter. The operation of lifting a wheel of the necessary dimensions requires little manual effort. Further, when the road wheel is in a lifted position there is only one bearing in the mechanism which possesses any velocity relative to the main hub. In other words, all the road wheel mechanism remains stationary while the road wheel is out of action. The rear wheels are driven by a propeller shaft in the same way as an orthodox road vehicle, and the drive is cut off from the road wheels by disconnecting two pins which are utilized to secure the road wheels in an eccentric position to the slipper block structure. This structure-one for each wheel-is a device which provides support for the road wheels in their raised position while permitting vertical relative movement between the axle and the frame when the vehicle is on the rail. The structure is hinged in two places, and folds into the body when the vehicle is used on the road. It also offers, due to its radius from the centre of the axle, the required resistance to overcome the static friction between the wheel hub and the inner eccentric bearing. There is no load either on this slipper block structure or on the pins, except that immediately required to overcome static friction between the inner bearing of the inner eccentric and the driving hub when beginning to move on the rail. The pins, however, are of ample dimensions, for they are the medium through which the road wheel drive is taken when the vehicle is running on the road.

It is impossible to insert these pins in the wrong position when raising the road wheels, as the horn block slipper covers up the driving pin hole which is not required and exposes the one into which the pin is to be inserted. The construction of the horn block slipper is unique. It has in its body an automatic lock which prevents the pins from becoming loose when any small vibration is experienced. While this object is satisfactorily achieved, the construction is such that with a minimum of effort, applied sharply, these pins may easily be withdrawn. A similar device is incorporated on the driving hub flange when the pins are inserted for road work. Very long pins ensure that the drive is distributed over wide centres, and their diameter is such as to render wear on the pin bearings highly improbable, on account of the small intensity of pressure to which they will be subjected. When the road wheels are driving, the rail wheels also are revolving, the connection being made through the outer portion of the hub end which is keyed on a taper to form a connection between the hub and the driving wheel. The wheel bearings are of the adjustable taper roller type. Another interesting feature is the adoption of the Lang-pattern laminated wood wheel, which possesses both resilience and exceptional strength, and assists greatly in the elimination of track noise. Detachable and renewable steel tyres are employed on these wheels.

As the vehicle runs up to the rail it is impossible to guarantee the position that the driving pins of the road wheel will occupy in relation to the holes in the slipper block. Provision is therefore made whereby the inner eccentric may be positioned in relation to the slipper block. Having established this position it then becomes necessary to ensure the correct relationship between the inner and outer eccentrics. For this reason two slots are provided in the inner eccentric into which the single plunger may operate. After the position of the inner eccentric is located the wheel may be swung round the periphery of that portion of the mechanism. And, when the outer eccentric has assumed its correct radial position in relation to the inner eccentric, the plunger, which has previously been withdrawn automatically from its original slot, now becomes engaged with. a slot. This slot has been correctly positioned by its relation with the lower slipper-block pin. This ensures that the two pin holes are in line one with the other, and also in a correct relationship with the holes in the slipper block. It will be seen, therefore, that it is impossible to swing the outer eccentric past its correct centre. The condition is now one in which the inner eccentric is prevented from rotating by the lower pin, while rotational movement of the outer eccentric is also prevented by the upper pin and the spring plunger. It should be made perfectly clear, however, that the two pins substituted in the slipper block are in a position which definitely has disconnected all the drive from the hub to the road wheel of the vehicle in question.

The chassis of the road-railer generally follows conventional commercial vehicle practice. The gear-box, however, is provided with an additional over-speed arrangement to permit of a higher top gear (4.2 to 1), when travelling on the railway, than that used on the road (7 to 1). The braking system serves equally well for both road and rail operation ; on the railway, of course no skidding is possible when the brakes are applied. The vehicle may be stopped in a very short distance from speeds of forty to fifty miles an hour without the danger of wheel-lock. The tractive effort is ample, and permits the towing of other vehicles. The rear rail wheels are provided with sanding gear. Buffers are provided at both front and rear, special supports for these being anchored to the main chassis frame. There is also a spare wheel carrier fitted at the rear of the chassis. This is mounted on rollers, and it slides automatically to the ground upon release of the attachment fittings. Automatic lubrication is arranged for all the working members of the chassis.

The LMS Ro-Railer

The following article was originally published in Stratford upon Avon Transport Notes - Volume 02/04 by J R Jennings SMJR line archivist

I have been researching and lecturing on the Stratford upon Avon and Midland Junction Railway for over forty years. It is incredible how many times I am asked about the “Ro-Railer”. This vehicle only served in revenue service for a few weeks. It has taken on almost mythical status and although it deserves a place in history its main contribution to Stratford is that it put the station at Old Town and the LMS railway as an alternative route clearly in front of a much wider public than it had ever previously enjoyed. Not since the days of the “Harvard” special trains in the pre-Great War era did so many people crowd onto the 'other' Stratford station as on the morning of 23rd April 1932. I estimate that more photos were taken of the Ro-Railer (and certainly more survive) than of any other ex-SMJR line subject. If only the unique Fairlie engine had enjoyed similar status! This short volume has been edited over the years as new data has come to light. It draws together information that appears in many sources elsewhere.

The Stratford upon Avon and Midland Junction Railway and the LMS Railway that took it over in 1923 made various attempts over the years to offer a through connection between Stratford and London. The rival GWR route with a change at Leamington Spa was longer than either the Stratford - Marylebone or Stratford - Euston possibilities that existed using the SMJ route. In the early 1900s a through service was provided by a coach that was worked over the SMJ line before being attached to a Great Central Railway London service at Woodford. This involved the coach being 'trip worked' from Byfield to Woodford and back. Its progress over the SMJ line to Stratford was slow because it was attached to a normal all stations stopping train. The Railway 'grouping' of 1923 put the Great Central Railway in the LNER camp with the SMJ becoming part of the LMSR. This really ended any future cooperation on through coaches via Woodford. The 'gateway' from the SMJ line to London had always been via Woodford because when the GCR London extension was built the need to generate traffic was paramount and the layout at Woodford took account of interchange traffic with the SMJR. The LMS could direct traffic to its West Coast Main Line at either Blisworth or Roade. The connection at Roade had never been fully utilized even for freight but the interchange at Blisworth was one of the better used parts of the ex SMJ system and although passengers would need to walk through to the main platforms a reasonable connection to the capital could be achieved. The authors of the various books on the SMJ have never effectively explored why the Roade connection was not developed for passenger through traffic. In mileage terms it was very attractive but the most plausible explanation is that the LMS (and LNWR before it) did not want to stop express trains at a relatively unimportant station to attach/detach through coaches of dubious commercial benefit to them. Some authors have suggested that the track layout at Roade dating from the 1840s and the lack of a shunting engine at all times were also considerations.

During the 1920s competition from road transport was becoming a big problem for all of the railway companies and they explored ways of cutting costs and developing new traffic on loss making lines. The LMS were aware that Stratford upon Avon was an increasingly important destination with the attractions of the 'new' theatre and their own investment in the Welcombe Hotel. Ways of providing a passenger service of reasonable journey time were considered and it was decided to trial a new concept of vehicle that could run on both rail and road. If successful this would have great potential to win traffic for lightly used lines. In the case of the Stratford service it would be possible to convey passengers and their luggage directly to and from the Welcombe Hotel via the SMJ line as far as Blisworth where with just one change of train they would be conveyed directly to Euston. The journey time would be enhanced by the vehicle running non-stop from Blisworth to Stratford although the constraints of a difficult single track line often meant waits at Towcester and Kineton.

The LMS Ro-Railer UR7924 was ordered by the LMS carriage division at Wolverton in Feb 1931. The supplier Karrier Motors of Huddersfield was a surprise to some as they were running down their bus production having earned a poor reputation for reliability in the 1920s. The chassis was a standard Karrier Chaser powered by a 6 cylinder engine with a maximum rating of 120hp. The Chaser was the last serious bus design by Karrier. The body was built by Cravens to their B26C design and featured 14 front facing seats in the forward vestibule and 12 longitudinal seats in the rear smoking saloon. Luggage space was provided on the roof or by folding up some of the seats in the rear vestibule. It weighed 7 tons 2 cwt and was fitted with railway sanding gear, lamp irons and emergency drawgear for locomotive haulage. Loco haulage was limited to 20 mph although apart from the presumed rescue on its demise there is no record of loco haulage taking place. The pneumatic road wheels and traditional flanged rail wheels were mounted on a manually set eccentric arrangement and could be switched from road to rail in under five minutes by one man whilst the vehicle stood over a sleepered crossing. The technical arrangements are dealt with fairly comprehensively in most of the books that have been published about the ex-SMJR line.

After delivery and acceptance at Wolverton it was put on trial on the Hemel Hemstead – Harpenden branch where it was photographed in late 1931 by H C Casserley. In an attempt to gain publicity the LMS decided to allocate this first experimental vehicle to the ex SMJ section and the service was launched at Stratford upon Avon on 23rd April 1932. This is an important day for the town as it is the birthday of William Shakespeare and there would be many influential people and pressmen around on the day. As previously mentioned the LMS had converted a mansion at Welcombe into a Hotel and the Ro-Railer was charged with conveying passengers directly to it without the need to transfer themselves or their luggage at the railway station. There was a minor skirmish with an omnibus company who held the local carriage license and objected to the LMS in effect providing a service on their territory although they did not offer a route from Stratford LMS to the Welcombe hotel! This was resolved by the LMS agreeing to charge a flat rate fare of sixpence (6d) for any intermediate fare stage if passengers were picked up in the town. There were few takers.

The Ro-Railer suffered from the same problems as many early road bus conversions to rail in that it was too light for efficient rail adhesion particularly on a line like the ex SMJ which had the gradient profile of a switchback. It struggled to maintain progress uphill and was then driven hard on the downhill to compensate. (The author experienced a very similar vehicle still in use in Chile in 1993 and the ride qualities were not for the faint hearted!) The lack of effective suspension and springing meant that the hammer blow from rail joints and crossings was transmitted to both machinery and occupants. Early failure of some vital part was inevitable and after a few weeks of operation the Ro-Railer broke a front axle component whilst in service near Byfield. It was removed to Wolverton and never used again as a rail vehicle although the fact that its road registration was renewed for a number of years after suggests disposal for use as a road vehicle. The LMS did have plans to order more including goods/passenger convertible versions for branch line use. These plans were abandoned by virtue of a short minute at an LMS board meeting in late 1932.

In view of its novelty and the launch on 23rd April there is a wealth of photographic material of the vehicle. In addition to the railway coverage the odd shot of it on the streets of Stratford keeps coming to light as residents come forward with a photograph taken by a relative of this 'unusual vehicle' as the local paper had described it. Apart from Casserley's efforts not too many photos of it exist outside of the Stratford area or in any other SMJ l ine station. The launch of the service drew a large gathering of contemporary railway enthusiasts many of who can be seen in the photographs that have been well published over the years. Some cine films of the vehicle have survived and at least one copy is held in the archive collection administered by Rob Foxon of Leicester.

One Ro-Railer story that has recently surfaced was that it was alleged to have been sent out to substitute for an unavailable loco and coach on the Stratford - Broom Junction scheduled service one day. The turntable at Broom was unavailable (the East to West connection forming a triangle was 10 years in the future) so the Ro-Railer returned backwards!

The above article was originally published in Stratford upon Avon Transport Notes -Volume 02/04 by J R Jennings SMJR line archivist.

The Ro-Railer being presented by Lord Stamp

A view of the Ro-Railer at Stratford on Avon's up platform during one of the tests held during April 1932
Ref: smjsa30
The Shakespeare Trust
A view of the Ro-Railer at Stratford on Avon's up platform during one of the tests held during April 1932
The Ro-Railer reverses off the railway on to road using the special ramp which lay adjacent to the cattle dock
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Anon
The Ro-Railer reverses off the railway on to road using the special ramp which lay adjacent to the cattle dock
The Ro-Railer is seen reversing on to the ramp where it can lower its road wheels to proceed by road
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Lens of Sutton
The Ro-Railer is seen reversing on to the ramp where it can lower its road wheels to proceed by road
Close up showing the remains of the station's cattle dock and some of the goods yard buildings
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JR Jennings
The Ro-Railer at Stratford goods yard after made ready for to travel by road to the Welcombe Hotel
Another view of the Ro-Railer at Stratford undergoing its wheels being changed from rail to road use
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JR Jennings
Another view of the Ro-Railer at Stratford undergoing its wheels being changed from rail to road use

The Ro-Railer being tested on road and rail

The Ro-Railer seen here with a full complement of passengers which suggests its on test
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British Railways
The Ro-Railer seen here with a full complement of passengers which suggests its on test
The Ro- Railer is seen travelling 'wrong' road after leaving the single section from Fenny Compton
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AT Locke/KRM
The Ro- Railer is seen travelling 'wrong' road after leaving the single section from Fenny Compton
The Ro-Railer is standing at the up platform whilst ex-MR 4-4-0 No 556 stands on the middle road
Ref: smjsa104
Lens of Sutton
The Ro-Railer is standing at the up platform whilst ex-MR 4-4-0 No 556 stands on the middle road
The Ro-Railer undergoing fare-paying trials on the route between Blisworth, Stratford upon Avon and the Welcombe Hotel
Ref: smjsa311
RC Riley
The Ro-Railer undergoing fare-paying trials on the route between Blisworth and Stratford upon Avon
Passengers prepare to board the Ro-Railer during one of its fare-paying tests in April 1932
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A Jordan
Passengers prepare to board the Ro-Railer during one of its fare-paying tests in April 1932

A member of the LMS' staff checks the Ro-Railer's temporary buffing heads and a draw hook
Ref: smjsa310
A Locke
A member of the LMS' staff checks the Ro-Railer's temporary buffing heads and a draw hook
The Ro-Railer about to leave Stratford upon Avon goods yard for the Welcombe Hotel in April 1932
Ref: smjsa313
JR Jennings
The Ro-Railer about to leave Stratford upon Avon goods yard for the Welcombe Hotel in April 1932
View of the Ro-Railer passing through Stratford on Avon and the old Shakespeare Theatre on its way to the station
Ref: smjsa121
AT Locke
View of the Ro-Railer passing through Stratford on Avon and the old Shakespeare Theatre on its way to the station
Welcombe Hotel guests and their luggage are about to board the Ro-Railer for Blisworth via Stratford
Ref: smjsa312
JR Jennings
Welcombe Hotel guests and their luggage are about to board the Ro-Railer for Blisworth via Stratford

The Ro-Railer's wheel change and technical information

Close up showing the remains of the station's cattle dock and some of the goods yard buildings
Ref: smj_misc362
British Railways
The Karrier Ro-Railer photographed at the factory of Cravens after the fitting of the bodywork in 1931
Changing the wheels configuration of the Ro-Railer from travelling on the road to travelling on the rails
Ref: smjsa122
AT Locke/KRM
Changing the wheels configuration of the Ro-Railer from travelling on the road to travelling on the rails
The driver uses a lever to raise the road wheel on the eccentric, the man on the right holds one of the holding pins
Ref: smj_misc315
British Railways
The driver uses a lever to raise the road wheel, the man on the right holds one of the holding pins
The road wheel has now been raised to work on the rail with both holding pins located above the hub
Ref: smj_misc314
British Railways
The road wheel has now been raised to work on the rail with both holding pins located above the hub
View of the Ro-Railer's later modified wheel lift system with the road wheel in the raised position
Ref: smj_misc305
British Railways
View of the Ro-Railer's later modified wheel lift system with the road wheel in the raised position

Close up showing the remains of the station's cattle dock and some of the goods yard buildings
Ref: smj_misc309
British Railways
An interior view of the forward facing section of 14 seats, the rear section being a smoking salon
Table providing the technical specification of the Karrier Ro-Railer designed to meet the requirements of the LMS
Ref: smj_misc304
W Simpson
The technical specification of the Karrier Ro-Railer designed to meet the requirements of the LMS

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British Railways & BTU Experimental Lightweight Railcars

Stuart Mackay

The first three-car unit, comprising cars 1, 2 & 3 was built as a demonstrator set in 1952 and ran trials on many lines throughout the UK. It comprised a motor car, a motor brake car and a trailer. It was painted two-tone grey with red lining but was later purchased by British Railways and given green livery. Five similar cars were built for BR in 1955 and three more in 1957, and all eleven spent most of their later lives on the Watford-St Albans line. They were all withdrawn by 1962. The first three cars in BR livery can be distinguished by their half-drop windows and lower skirt panels. The eight later cars had sliding windows and no skirts.

Nicknamed the "flying bricks", a 3-car set was built as a demonstration train, formed of two power cars and a centre trailer, although it could also be operated as a one or two car train, The bodies were built by Park Royal, and the underframe and mechanics by AEC. Initially they were numbered Cars 1-3, but later given the BR numbers M79740-2. They were trialed in many places around the country, leading to them being bought by the LMR in January 1955 and a further set and spare power/trailer car delivered in 1955 and another 3-car in 1957. The later eight cars (M79743-50) didn't have the bodysides skirts, and had sliding lights rather than droplights on the sides. They were normally associated with the St Albans - Watford line, and to a lesser degree the Harrow - Belmont route. Despite the order for more vehicles they were not successful, and on paper at least some were transferred to the Civil Engineers Dept. in 1959. Eight vehicles were placed in store at Derby Friargate mid-1960, the other three still seeing occasional use for a further year before also going to Derby. They were all cut up by Derby C&W by the end of 1963.

First Three Vehicles

The bodies were designed by BUT but manufactured for them by Park Royal, and the underframe and mechanics by AEC. Both were ACV companies. As a 3-car set the length was 120ft 9ins over buffers, weighing 39tons 4cwt. The DMT and DMBT each weighed approximately 15 tons, the TT weighed 10tons 10cwt. Maximum speed was 45mph. They showed an average fuel consumption of 11½ to 12mpg per car, or 5¾ to 6mpg for a 2/3 car set.

Operations

They ran their first trials between Didcot and Newbury (DN&S) during w/c 28 Apr 1952. As a demonstration train it was naturally trialed around many parts of the country. The first demonstration was to Gerrards Cross, on the 23rd May, and then based on Neasden shed it worked a series of trials out of Marylebone on outer London suburban routes. Initially this was on the High Wycombe / Princes Risborough line, working 2 trains each way daily. Twelve days of demonstration runs in the Birmingham area were extended an extra fortnight until 12th September 1953. At this time it was thought that the the BTC would purchase the unit, and after fitting it with heaters for use during the winter months it would go into regular service either on the Southminster Branch (ER) or the Watford – St Albans line (LMR). In late 1953 they were on trial for a short while on the Southern Region Allhallows-on-Sea branch in Kent, after which they moved back to the London Midland Region. The Wellingborough to Higham Ferrers branch was another route the unit was tested on.

Prototype Lightweight railcars in action

The experimental Associated Equipment Company Railcar 'arrives' at platform 4 for Snow Hill circa 1950
Ref: gwrs2707
M Morant
The experimental Associated Equipment Company railcar 'arrives' at platform 4 for Snow Hill circa 1950
The experimental AEC Railcar stands at platform 3 having arrived on a local service from Snow Hill circa 1950
Ref: gwrs2708
M Morant
The experimental AEC railcar stands at platform 3 having arrived on a local service from Snow Hill circa 1950
View of a three-car, four wheel ACV Lightweight Diesel Unit standing at Moor Street's Platform 1 with a local service
Ref: gwrms2755
V Michel
View of a three-car, four wheel ACV Lightweight Diesel Unit standing at Moor Street's Platform 1 with a local service
The three-car prototype ACV lightweight diesel railcar set stands at Moor Street on a local commuter service
Ref: gwrms3223
EA Wood
The three-car prototype ACV lightweight diesel railcar set stands at Moor Street on a local commuter service
A three-car, four wheel ACV Lightweight Diesel Unit standing at Snow Hill station's Platform 5 with a local service
Ref: gwrbsh3222
G Hill
A three-car, four wheel ACV Lightweight Diesel Unit standing at Snow Hill station's Platform 5 with a local service

Prototype Leightweight railcars being built

View of the right hand side of No 79741, the Prototype Trailer Third Railcar, with skirt hiding the wheels
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G Hill
View of the right hand side of No 79741, the Prototype Trailer Third railcar, with skirt hiding the wheels
View of the left hand side of No 79741, the Prototype Trailer Third Railcar, with skirt hiding the wheels
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G Hill
View of the left hand side of No 79741, the Prototype Trailer Third railcar, with skirt hiding the wheels
A view of the side elevation of the Motor Brake Third Railcar's chassis outside of the works
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G Hill
A view of the side elevation of the Motor Brake Third railcar's chassis outside of the works
A three-quarters elevated view of the BTU Motor Brake Third Railcar's chassis outside of the works
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G Hill
A three-quarters elevated view of the BTU Motor Brake Third railcar's chassis outside of the works
View of the completed Railcar No 3, the Trailer Third (later 79741) standing inside Park Royal Vehicles' factory
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G Hill
View of the completed railcar No 3, the Trailer Third (later 79741) standing inside Park Royal Vehicles' factory

An internal view of Railcar No 1, the Motor Brake Third (later 79742), with a seating capacity of thirty-two people
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G Hill
An internal view of railcar No 1, the Motor Brake Third (later 79742), with a seating capacity of thirty-two people
Opposite internal view of Railcar No 1, the Motor Brake Third (later 79742), with a seating capacity of thirty-two people
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G Hill
Opposite internal view of railcar No 1, the Motor Brake Third (later 79742), with a seating capacity of thirty-two people
Internal view of the driver's cab in Railcar No 1, the Motor Brake Third (later 79742), with luggage space to the side
Ref: misc_railcar324
G Hill
Internal view of the driver's cab in railcar No 1, the Motor Brake Third, with luggage space to the side
Internal view of the driver's cab in Railcar No 2, the Motor Third (later 79740), with passenger seating to one side
Ref: misc_railcar325
G Hill
Internal view of the driver's cab in railcar No 2, the Motor Third (later 79740), with passenger seating to one side

Schematic drawings of the Prototype Leightweight railcars

Schematic diagram showing Railcar No 1, the Motor Brake Third, with a seating capacity of thirty-two people
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G Hill
Schematic diagram showing railcar No 1, the Motor Brake Third, with a seating capacity of thirty-two people
Schematic drawing showing Railcar No 2, the Motor Third, with seating capacity for forty-five people
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G Hill
Schematic drawing showing railcar No 2, the Motor Third, with seating capacity for forty-five people
Schematic drawing showing Railcar No No 3, the Trailer Third, with seating capacity for fifty-two passengers
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G Hill
Schematic drawing showing railcar No 3, the Trailer Third, with seating capacity for fifty-two passengers
Schematic drawing of the Railcar's end elevation showing the cab was the same at both ends of the Railcar
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G Hill
Schematic drawing of the railcar's end elevation showing the cab was the same at both ends of the Railcar
Schematic drawing showing the side elevation and plan view of the three car experimental diesel train
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G Hill
Schematic drawing showing the side elevation and plan view of the three car experimental diesel train

Schematic drawing showing the side elevation and plan view of one the three car production diesel trains
Ref: misc_railcar319
G Hill
Schematic drawing showing the side elevation and plan view of one the three car production diesel trains

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Great Western Railway AEC Diesel Rail Coach

Whilst the Great Western Railway's AEC Diesel Rail Coach was not initially associated with the county, its development was to prove beneficial to services originating from or terminating within the county. The most notable were the Birmingham Snow Hill to Cardiff Central services commencing 16th July 1934. This service was the first regular diesel working to be run to a fast schedule in this country and the 117½ miles between Birmingham and Cardiff were covered in 2 hours 20 minutes and being designed for express business services they incorporated a buffet bar service. The interior also had the luxury of removable tables and two toilets. Fares were charged at the normal 3rd class pricing but bookings were limited by the number of seats on the railcar. This twice daily working continued in the capable hands of Numbers 2-4 until 1940.

The following article is produced with the kind permission of Ruben Grace of www.totally-transport.co.uk

The GWR AEC Railcar

As a large company, the Associated Equipment Co. Ltd, better known as AEC, owned several smaller businesses. One of these was Hardy Railmotors, who had already built several small railway shunting engines for various customers. One of Hardy's employees, C.F Cleaver realised that AEC's AEC-Ricardo 121BHP 6 cylinder diesel unit, which had already proved its worth as a reliable and established engine, finding use in many of AEC's bus and commercial vehicle products, would be perfect for powering a self contained railcar type unit. The idea was quickly adopted and the first railcar was broadly based on the Deutsche Bahn's Flying Hamburger, which influenced the LNER's Sir Nigel Gresley in opting for streamlining on his 'A4' class Pacifics, in terms of its streamlined body.

However, this all changed following windtunnel testing carried out by AEC in Chiswick laboratory of the London Passenger Transport Board which gave the body a more streamlined appearance.The 8.85L, 6 cylinder diesel engine was mounted vertically and mated to a five Picture speed gearbox which drove all the wheels on one side of one bogie. This first prototype was bodied by another of AEC's numerous subsidiary companies, Park Royal, and could carry upto 69 passengers in style with a driving compartment at both ends of the vehicle, allowing the engine to be controlled from either end. The wind tunnel tests had suggested that a streamlined body would reduce fuel consumption by around twenty percent compared to a normal box shaped train. However, the engine and Park Royal body combination gave the prototype a poor power to weight ratio, limiting it to a top speed of 63mph.

Great Publicity

Before the prototype had been finished, the Great Western Railway had purchased it from AEC for £3,249, and, never a company to let any good publicity opportunity pass them by, No:1 was duly displayed at International Commercial Motor Transport Exhibition at Olympia in November 1933 before entering service. This prototype, resplendent in the company's chocolate and cream livery with the coat of arms proudly displayed on both ends, generated a huge amount of interest at the show; it's thought around 50% of paying visitors to the Exhibition (about 35,000 people) saw the railcar. The GWR's publicity machine kept on rolling as the show closed; No:1's movement to the railway's sidings at Brentford also received a good number of column inches, as did it's first official run on the GWR between Paddington and Reading on the 1st December 1933 to which journalists were invited. AEC described the run as an 'unqualified success' and just three days later No:1 was placed into service operating from Slough shed and competing for passengers on frequent parallel bus services between Slough and Henley, callling at Reading, Didcot and Windsor with 16 runs a day. The railcar's streamlined body had removable fairings to enable access to the engine, gearbox and drive systems. And within a month, fitters were removing them for attention to its engine mounting and braking systems. Whilst at AEC for this work to be carried out, No:1 also had the Great Western's other pioneering system fitted; Automatic Train Control. The railcar returned to service in February 1934 and proved very successful, transporting 10,000passengers in its first month in traffic and completing 60,000miles, carrying 136,000 passengers that year.

A second helping?

As a result of this positive experience with No:1, the GWR placed an order with AEC for a further six, more powerful railcars in February 1934 and the first three of this order were all delivered the same year. Learning from their experiences with the prototype, several important changes were made to the specification for the second order. The most significant change was the installation of a pair of AEC-Ricardo 121BHP 8.85L 6 cylinder diesel units along with adjustments to the drive gearing which allowed the maximum speed to be increased to the dizzy heights of 80mph.

Numbers 2 to 4 were radically different on the inside from the Picture bus 'inspired', more like borrowed, 2+3 seating arrangement with a central gangway. These new vehicles were destined for an express business service on the Birmingham - Cardiff route and as a result incorporated a buffet bar which boasted hot and cold drinks, wine, a small selection of snacks and hot food, thanks to a gas heated boiler which powered the coffee and milk boilers, even a toaster! The interior also had the luxury of removable tables and no less than two toilets, complete with hot water heated by the exhausts. The mechanical underpinnings of the vehicles was again completed by AEC under the capable direction of C.F Cleaver with each engine driving one bogie. All the changes made for the first railcars in this second batch caused the price to more than double compared to the prototype, Nos:2-4 costing £6,541. However, the swish streamlining of the prototype,almost decorative buffers and neatly concealed couplings (in the small panel that can just be made out in between the buffers on the photo of No:4 above) remained on these railcars.

The first of the new 44 seat vehicles arrived at the beginning of July 1934, undertaking several test runs including some especially for members of the press to help publicise the new service which was launched on the 16th July with the full compliment of three railcars (Nos:2-4). The express Birmingham (Snow Hill)- Cardiff service represented the first regular diesel working which ran to an express schedule in Britain; the 117½ miles travelled took just 2 hours 30 minutes, more than half an hour faster than had previously been achieved by steam. This twice daily working continued in the capable hands of Numbers 2-4 until 1940.

Mystery Tour delights

Although ordered as part of the same batch as the three express railcars, the construction of railcars No:5 to 7 was delayed on account of uncertainty over whether to opt for the short haul, high capacity type body of the prototype, or trial a new setup all together. Eventually an order for the bodywork for these vehicles was placed with the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. Ltd, using the same under frames and mechanical underpinnings, with very minor changes due to experience gained with the other railcars, as the three eariler machines on the express service.

The new body builders introduced several significant changes to the original bodywork including sliding doors, rather than the outward opening doors on the other railcars to improve access as well as deeper windows to improve the view for passengers, not to mention a variety of subtler changes related to ventilation and the overall shape of the front and rear which only enhanced the already aesthetically pleasing look of the earlier vehicles. These new bodies were built to a similar short haul format as found on the prototype, taking 70 passengers at a maximum speed of 70mph. The three railcars No:5-7 were delivered into service on the Oxford-Worcester line in July and August 1935, undertaking a variety of workings which encompassed London, Hereford and Birmingham. However, in order to capitalise on the novelty of these undeniably stylish vehicles, the first three Gloucester cars were employed on mystery tours around Worcester on Sunday evenings which were extremely popular.

Thanks to the success of the railcars it already operated, the Great Western placed another order with AEC in February 1935 for ten more vehicles built to the same design and No:5-7. Six of the cars were almost exactly the same, with 70 seater bodies, while a further two had the number of seats reduced and a toilet installed in their place. These vehicles had further modifications which the experience with running the railcars had shown to be necessary, such as special oil coolers under the buffers at either end which the earlier machines were subsequently fitted with as well. These railcars found work in the West Midlands and West Wales.

Multi purpose unit

In the 1930s the Great Western's express passenger trains were carrying large amounts of heavy parcels, particularly in the London area. It became obvious that the passenger railcars the Great Western were now using could equally well be used to take at least some of this heavy parcels traffic away from the passenger trains, consequently allowing the express passenger services to run faster and also reducing the need for shunting as Picture the railcars could operate as fast, self contained vehicles. As a result of this realisation, the last of the 10 railcars ordered in February 1935, No:17, was built with virtually flush sides and three pairs of glazed doors that could slide open to access the parcels space in between the two drivers cabs where in the other railcars the passengers sat. This was the world's first diesel parcels railcar, although the central space could just as well be filled with milk churns, letters or newspapers. No:17 spent its days shuttling around London and its suburbs, on some workings stopping at all stations between Oxford and London to collect general traffic. Due to the great success of No:17, later railcars Nos: 13 and 14 were also converted for parcels use too, while a later machine, No:34 was also built specifically for parcels use but with some significant changes including conventional railway draw gear which made it far more versatile than No:17 as it could also pull parcels vans, increasing its capacity greatly.

A load on my drawbar

Another experimental railcar was ordered along with the other railcars in February 1935 - the GWR's centenary year-, however, No:18 made a radical departure from the sleek and streamlined 'flying banana' railcars, as they were known, that had gone before it. From the outset this new vehicle was designed to take a 60 ton trailing load and so received the standard couplings and buffers found on any other railway vehicle, which rather spoilt the streamlined appearance. To cope with the additional strain of hauling a trailing load as well as moving its self, several key changes were made to the underframes of No:18 including strengthening chassis members and larger bogies since the streamlined valences were not fitted to this vehicle, in any case the voice of experience showed that on the other vehicles the streamlined valences were removed anyhow after a couple of months. In addition the gearing was adjusted to suit the greater weight, both of the car itself which was roughly 4tons heavier than Nos: 8-17 and to enable the machine to pull the 60 ton trailing load it was required to and a set of reduction gears were added behind the gearbox which could be selected to reflect the different operating requirements of branch line or express operation, meaning in theory the car could be used equally well on a branch line or on express work. However, changes as a result of experience from the other railcars was also put to good use, such as changing exactly how the two engines were positioned in relation to each other or improving the ride quality by changing the bogies.

To increase the small, 49 seat, capacity of No:18 it was envisaged that it would be paired with a special trailer carriage of a similar design to it with a cab at one end. However, in the event the control lines it was fitted with were used to pair it with a standard auto-trailer coach instead from the cab of which the railcar could be controlled. No:18 was fitted with a Clarkson boiler which heated both the car and its trailer with heat from the engine exhausts. However, No:18 was not just built on a whim, but was in fact constructed with a particular service in mind; the Newbury - Lambourne branch was a light railway that had opened in 1898 but by the 1930s was in need of track renewal to allow large locomotives to use it, but the cost of the renewal would not be recouped. Yet a light railcar like No:18 would take some of the strain off the track and allow the use of the heavy steam engines to be restricted to relatively infrequent freight services which the permanent way could just about tolerate. The new railcar was delivered to the branch in April 1937 but was based at Reading and as a result its first working each day was to deliver post dropped by Up Travelling Post Office to Basingstoke. The arrival of No:18 on the Newbury-Lambourne branch transformed an operating loss into a small proft, and this positive experience caused a seismic change in the principal motivations behind the operation of the Great Western's diesel railcars.

Let's go in house

By February 1938, the diesel railcars had more than proved their worth, running almost 1 million miles in total, so it was not a surprise when the Great Western Railway's chairman, Viscount Sir Robert Stevenson Horne, announced to the company's Annual Meeting that a further 20 diesel railcars were to be ordered. He added that although initially the idea had been to supliment the exisiting steam services, where the railcars had ultimately proved a victim of their own success and had to be replaced by higher capacity steam hauled trains, or provide a service where it would not otherwise have been economically viable to do so, like on the Lambourne branch, these new vehicles were intended to replace steam trains on loss making services, as shown by No:18 and its ability to haul a trailing load as well.

The arrangements for this batch of 20, the order for which was placed in September 1938, differed from all the previous railcars, with AEC only providing the engines, this time 105 BHP, 9.25L direct injection units (chosen for greatest possible fuel economy), and transmissions while the under frames, bogies, brakes and bodies were built at Swindon. As a result of the invaluable experience with No:18, several major adjustments were made to the design of the cars in this batch; the radiators were moved to being opposite the engines and gearbox, allowing another fuel tank to be fitted, and the positioning of the engines was reverted to the position found on the first 17 railcars to resolve the body sway experienced by No:18. However, undeniably the most noticeable change was with the body work; gone were the elegant lines of the 'flying bananas', replaced by Swindon's razor edges and flat panels. Not all of the 20 vehicles were the same, however; Nos:19-33 were intended from branch line work and fitted with 48 seats, and as a result of the success of No:18's low gearing, all but Nos:19 and 20 had gearing permanently set to give a maximum speed of 40mph. The two exceptions were fitted with duel range gearboxes similar to the arrangement on No:18 which allowed running of upto 60mph or lower speed and more power to haul trailing loads and carry out branch line work. As has already been mentioned, No:34 was built as another Express Parcels vehicle. The new batch were three feet longer than their predecessors and cost £6,240 each. No:20 was the first to appear from Swindon works in June 1940, closely followed by Nos:19 and 21 in July that year. However, the last four in the batch were quite special, so are deserving of a section all of their own.

The real daddy of them all

The final four GWR diesel railcars are perhaps the vehicles most closely related to the modern multiple unit which is so ubiquitous on Britain's railways today and blazed a trail for British Railways to follow up with their own multiple units in the late 1950s. Nos35-38 were designed to work in multiple with each other and consequently each unit only had one driving cab each so that when coupled together using the standard passenger gangway to walk in between the two units there were two cabs at the outer ends of the set. Together the two units could provide buffet and toliet facilities for 104 passengers, their combined seating capacity. However, the beauty of the concept was that it was possible to place a standard GWR 3rd class carriage in between the two units with control lines running through it to control both units from either end, thereby increasing the capacity to 184. Mechanically each vehicle was the same as the others in the batch with the four engines in the whole set giving it a total of 420 BHP. However, the engines were geared differently for those intended for branch line work which enabled these sets to operate at speeds of upto 70mph. The first of the two twin sets was taken into service on the Birmingham - Cardiff express service that had originally been operated by Nos:2-4 in November 1941. These vehicles were configured so that one railcar provided 60 seats, in two saloons, while the other boasted a 12 seat bar buffet, luggage rack and 32 seats. Unfortunately by the time this set entered service, wartime restrictions meant that all on-train catering was banned in order to increase passenger accommodation, and, even with the additional centre carriage they were unable to cope with the massive surge in demand for the service after V.E day, leading to their replacement by steam hauled trains except mid week, and eventual relegation to Bristol - Weymouth trains and Reading - Newbury services for the other set which arrived in February 1942.

At Axbridge on 17th February 1947 one half of a double set, No:37 received severe damage due to a fire, leading to standard railcar No:22 being commandeered to work with the other half of the set, No:38, inspite of the fact, as you may remember, that No:22 was only geared for 40mph running. This undesirable arrangement remained for seven years when in the Spring of 1954 railcar No:33 was rebuilt with a single cab to work in multiple with No:38.

British Railways service

With the exception of two vehicles, incidentally both damaged beyond repair by fire (the other was No:9, in 1945), all remaining 36 railcars passed into service with British Railways Western Region on nationalisation in 1948 where they received a W prefix to their Great Western numbers and smart Carmine and Cream livery for the passenger vehicles and Crimson Lake for the Parcels railcars. As with the streamlined LNER A4 Pacifics, the streamlined railcars Nos:1-17 had their side valences over the bogies removed for ease of access. Under BR the railcars remained carrying out much the same duties as they had for the Great Western serving a wide variety of branch line as well as secondary line destinations, ranging from Bewdley to Ledbury. However, the railcars continued, as has been alluded to earlier, to exhibit an unfortunate tendency to catch fire; with W10W joining the fire casualty list in 1956 after catching alight at Bridgenorth, followed by the double set of W35W/W36W just a year later near Bristol. The remaining railcars soldiered on through the 1950s; experimental railcar No:18 migrating to the obscure Llantrisant branch near Cardiff and a number of the razor edge Swindon vehicles receiving a green livery similar to the early BR DMUs that were just appearing. Meanwhile, the early streamlined railcars were slowly withdrawn; No:2 being the first to go (but not through fire!) in 1954, followed by the prototype and No:3 the following year. In fact, by 1960, none of the original streamlined examples remained in service, while the second pioneer, No:18 was pensioned off in 1957 with parcels railcar No:17 following in 1959. As the branch lines they served in Wales steadily closed, the remaining ex GWR railcars were moved to the London area where steam crews were becoming less readily available. The railcars also managed to find their way back to their old Worcester stamping ground in their penultimate year in service, 1961 and other examples working in the Severn Valley and around Tenbury Wells. The railcars final year in traffic was 1962; all 13 remaining examples had been withdrawn by October that year.

Conclusions

Overall, it seems fair to say that C.F Cleaver had a pretty good idea, one that only got a bit greater with later refinements from the Great Western Railway which arguably was the forerunner of all modern multiple units on Britain's railways today and it is marvellous that we can still enjoy their charm in the preserved examples today. However, in some respects the AEC railcars were a victim of their own success, becoming so popular they had to be replaced by the steam trains they'd been intended to supplement. Yet, with No:18 the railcar and later the DMU found their niche; lightly used branch lines where they might have been able to help turn a profit. Christian Wolmar, in his book 'Fire and Steam', even goes as far to suggest that an earlier and more widespread adoption of the concept that was shown to be possible by these railcars might have helped save lines which fell under Dr Beeching's infamous axe in his 1963 report, one year after the last of GWR's pioneering railcars were withdrawn....

For reference sources please visit www.totally-transport.co.uk/gwr-aec-railcar.html

Specifications of GWR Railcar No 1

Engine(s) One engine - 8.85 litre AEC diesel Length over buffers 63 feet 7 inches
Bogie centres 40 feet Bogie wheelbase 7 feet
Seating capacity 69 seats Fuel tank 45 gallons
Weight 24 tons 0 cwt Maximum speed 63 mph

Specifications of GWR Railcar Nos 2 to 4

Engine(s) Two engines - 8.85 litre AEC diesel Length over buffers 63 feet 7 inches
Bogie centres 40 feet Bogie wheelbase 7 feet
Seating capacity 44 seats Fuel tanks 2 x 45 gallons
Weight 26 tons 4 cwt Maximum speed 80 mph

Specifications of GWR Railcar Nos 5 to 7

Engine(s) Two engines - 8.85 litre AEC diesel Length over buffers 63 feet 7 inches
Bogie centres 40 feet Bogie wheelbase 7 feet
Seating capacity 70 seats Fuel tanks 2 x 45 gallons
Weight 25 tons 6 cwt Maximum speed 80 mph

Specifications of GWR Railcar Nos 10, 11 and 12

Engine Two engines - 8.85 litre AEC diesel Length over buffers 63 feet 7 inches
Bogie centres 40 feet Bogie wheelbase 7 feet
Seating Capacity 63 seats for railcars Nos 10, 11 and 12 Ditto Ditto
Weight 29 tons 18 cwt for railcars Nos 10, 11 and 12 Ditto Ditto

Specifications of GWR Railcar Nos 8, 9, 13, 14, 15 and 16

Engine Two engines - 8.85 litre AEC diesel Length over buffers 63 feet 7 inches
Bogie centres 40 feet Bogie wheelbase 7 feet
Seating capacity 70 seats for railcars Nos 8, 9, 13, 14, 15 and 16 Fuel tanks 2 x 45 gallons
Weight 29 tons 10 cwt for railcars Nos 8, 9, 13, 14, 15 and 16 Maximum speed 80 mph

Specifications of GWR Parcel Railcar No 17

Engine Two engines - 8.85 litre AEC diesel Length over buffers 63 feet 7 inches
Bogie centres 40 feet Bogie wheelbase 7 feet
Loading capacity 10 long tons Fuel tanks 2 x 45 gallons
Weight 28 tons 17 cwt for railcar No 17 Ditto Ditto

Specifications of GWR Railcar Nos 19 to 33

Engine(s) Two engines - 9.25 litre AEC diesel Length over buffers 65 feet 8 inches
Bogie centres 43 feet 6 inches Bogie wheelbase 8 feet 6 inches
Seating capacity 48 seats Fuel tanks 4 x 45 gallons
Weight 35 tons 13 cwt Maximum speed 70 mph

Specifications of GWR Railcar Nos 34

Engine(s) Two engines - 9.25 litre litre AEC diesel Length over buffers 65 feet 8 inches
Bogie centres 43 feet 6 inches Bogie wheelbase 8 feet 6 inches
Loading capacity 10 tons Fuel tanks 4 x 45 gallons
Weight 35 tons 13 cwt Maximum speed 70 mph

Specifications of the two GWR Twin-sets, Railcar Nos 35 & 36 and 37 & 38

Engine(s) Four engines - 9.25 litre AEC diesel Length over buffers 65 feet 8 inches
Bogie centres 43 feet 6 inches Bogie wheelbase 8 feet 6 inches
Seating capacity 104 seats Fuel tanks 8 x 45 gallons
Weight 74 tons 6 cwt Maximum speed 70 mph

An unidentified ex-GWR Railcar is seen arriving wrong road at Leamington's up platform circa late 1950s
Ref: gwrls2028
M Morant
An unidentified ex-GWR Railcar is seen arriving wrong road at Leamington's up platform circa late 1950s
Ex-GWR 4-6-0 Castle class No 7012 'Barry Castle' sits at the up home signal waiting for the off to Oxford
Ref: gwrls2139
M Christensen
Ex-GWR Railcar coupled to an auto trailer stands at the down platform with a service for Stratford upon Avon
Ex-GWR Railcar No 14 having arrived from Stratford upon Avon stands at Leamington station's up platform in 1959
Ref: gwrls2072
P Kingston
Ex-GWR Railcar No 14 having arrived from Stratford upon Avon stands at Leamington station's up platform in 1959
Ex-GWR Diesel Railcar No W13W displaying ‘TRPS Special’ headboard at Leamington Spa Station
Ref: gwrls2629
HMRS ACD521
Ex-GWR Diesel Railcar No W13W displaying ‘TRPS Special’ headboard at Leamington Spa Station
An unidentified GWR Railcar is seen passing through Henley-in-Arden on a down Moor Street to Stratford on Avon local passenger service
Ref: gwrha469
P Hopkins
An unidentified GWR Railcar passing through the station on a down Moor Street to Stratford on Avon local passenger service

GWR Railcar No 2 is seen with its side panel removed to provide access to the engine as it stands in front of Tyseley's Repair Shops
Ref: gwrt343
WL Good
GWR Railcar No 2 is seen in front of the Repair Shops with its side panel removed to provide access to the engine
GWR Railcar No 4 is seen standing on one of the direct access roads in to Tyseley Repair workshops as it has maintenance undertaken
Ref: gwrt344
LGRP
GWR Railcar No 4 stands on one of the direct access roads into the repair workshops as maintenance is carried out
GWR Railcar No 6, a member of the second production batch, stands in front of Tyseley shed next to an unknown GWR 0-6-0PT Pannier tank
Ref: gwrt345
LGRP
GWR Railcar No 6 stands in front of Tyseley shed next to an unidentified GWR 0-6-0PT Pannier tank locomotive
GWR Railcar No 4 is seen standing outside on one of the entrance roads of Tyseley shed in 1934
Ref: gwrt2424
S Davies
GWR Railcar No 4 is seen standing outside on one of the entrance roads of Tyseley shed in 1934
Ex-GWR Railcars No 13 and No 17 are seen in dirty condition alongside Tyseley shed in March 1960
Ref: gwrt2365
S Davies
Ex-GWR Railcars No 13 and No 17 are seen in dirty condition alongside Tyseley shed in March 1960

Another view of ex-GWR Railcars No 13 and No 17 seen stabled on the scrap lines at Tyseley shed in March 1960
Ref: gwrt2366
S Davies
Another view of ex-GWR Railcars No 13 and No 17 stabled on the scrap lines at Tyseley shed in March 1960
A later view of ex-GWR Railcar No 13 sandwiched between another member of the class and the express parcel Railcar in 1960
Ref: gwrt2367
S Davies
A later view of ex-GWR Railcar No 13 sandwiched between another member of the class and the express parcel Railcar
GWR Streamlined Diesel Railcar No 3 with engine covers removed in the Tyseley Repair Shop on a Saturday in 1935
Ref: gwrt2990
F Hemming
GWR Streamlined Diesel Railcar No 3 with engine covers removed in the Repair Shop on a Saturday in 1935
A later view of ex-GWR Railcar No 13 sandwiched between another member of the class and the express parcel Railcar in 1960
Ref: gwrt2991
FM Butterfield
GWR Diesel Railcar No 4 outside Tyseley repair shop with engine access covers removed on 2nd June 1935
GWR Diesel Railcar No 4 is seen on an up service to Leamington just south of Claverdon station in 1939
Ref: gwrc2334
KRM
GWR Diesel Railcar No 4 is seen on an up service to Leamington just south of Claverdon station in 1939

GWR Diesel Railcar No 26 with auto trailer No 62 on a Stratford-upon-Avon local train
Ref: gwrhb102
HW Robinson
GWR Diesel Railcar No 26 with auto trailer No 62 on a Stratford-upon-Avon local service in September 1946
A GWR Diesel Railcar (thought to be Railcar No 2) crosses Bear Lane overbridge north of Henley-in-Arden Station
Ref: gwrha2817
RS Carpenter
A GWR Diesel Railcar (thought to be Railcar No 2) crosses Bear Lane overbridge north of Henley-in-Arden Station
An ex-GWR Diesel Railcar enters the station on a down local service to Stratford upon Avon in 1959
Ref: gwrhg2927
Stations UK
An ex-GWR Diesel Railcar enters the station on a down local service to Stratford upon Avon in 1959
In 1927, the GWR changed the signal arms and coloured spectacle lens associated with Distant Signals in the Birmingham Area
Ref: gwrms2537
HMRS AES117
Ex GWR Diesel Railcar No7 on the traverser at the end of Platform 3 at Moor Street on 23rd September 1950
Ex-GWR Diesel Railcar No 7 stands at Platform 3 with a special working to the Forest of Dean on 23rd September 1950
Ref: gwrms2752
AW Croughton
Another view od ex-GWR Diesel Railcar No 7 standing at Platform 3 with a special working to the Forest of Dean

GWR Railcar W14W with a 70 seat capacity powered by two 8 AEC engines is seen standing at Platform 8 with a local passenger service in April 1958
Ref: gwrbsh1294
Colour Rail
GWR Railcar W14W with a 70 seat capacity powered by two 8 AEC engines is seen standing at Platform 8
Ex-GWR AEC-Gloucester railcar W14W is seen leaving Snow Hill on one of it's regular trip to Dudley
Ref: gwrbsh1809
P Shoesmith
Ex-GWR AEC-Gloucester railcar W14W is seen leaving Snow Hill on one of it's regular trip to Dudley
An unidentified GWR 0-6-0PT locomotive is seen passing an unknown GWR Railcar whilst at the head of an up freight working from Bordersley
Ref: gwrbsh1233
Birmingham Reference Library
An unknown GWR 0-6-0PT locomotive passes a GWR Railcar whilst at the head of an up freight working
GWR Railcar W14W with a 70 seat capacity powered by two 8 AEC engines is seen standing at Platform 8 with a local passenger service in April 1958
Ref: gwrbsh1369
HMRS AEL326
The Dudley Diesel Railcar No 33 waits at Platform 6 on one of the two daily turns to the Black Country town
View of AEC Diesel Railcar No 5, the first of a trio of local suburban railcars, standing at Spring Road's down platform
Ref: gwrsr1115
RS Carpenter
AEC Diesel Railcar No 5, the first of a trio of local suburban railcars, standing at Spring Road's down platform

An unidentified GWR Diesel Railcar is seen passing Stratford on Avon West Signal Box on the up 9:10am  Cardiff to Snow Hill service
Ref: gwrsa1491
HES Simmons
A GWR Diesel Railcar passes Stratford on Avon West Signal Box on the up 9:10am Cardiff to Snow Hill service
Ex-GWR Diesel Railcar No W26 W is seen approaching the down platform with a local passenger service from Leamington Spa in 1957
Ref: gwrsa1504
J Moss
Ex-GWR Diesel Railcar No W26 W approaches the down platform with a local service from Leamington Spa
GWR Diesel Railcars W37 W and W38 W are seen with a Third class coach in between departing on the up 5:05pm Cardiff to Birmingham service
Ref: gwrsa1509
VR Webster
GWR Diesel Railcars W37 W and W38 W departs on the up 5:05pm Cardiff to Birmingham service
Diesel railcar W20W has become derailed on the crossover at Stratford upon Avon and requires the attention of the Tyesley breakdown train
Ref: gwrsa1337
TE Williams
Derailed Diesel railcar W20W is seen on the crossover and requires the attention of the Tyesley breakdown train
An ex-Great Western Railway Swindon built Diesel Railcar is seen outside Stratford upon Avon Station
Ref: gwrsa3039
JS Doubleday
An ex-Great Western Railway Swindon built Diesel Railcar is seen outside Stratford upon Avon Station

GWR 2-6-0 No 4397 is held by signals whilst at head of a Snow Hill to Stratford on Avon local train on 21st May 1935
Ref: gwrsa3187
AT Locke
GWR Railcar No 3, one of the first to be seen at Stratford, stands in the up refuge siding next to Shottery Lane footpath
View of the island platform looking towards Wilmecote as an ex-GWR Diesel Railcar stands in the bay platform with its doors wide open
Ref: gwrsa1529
J Moss
Looking towards Wilmecote as an ex-GWR Diesel Railcar stands in the bay platform with its doors wide open

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