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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Solihull Station: gwrs2707

The experimental Associated Equipment Company Railcar 'arrives' at platform 4 for Snow Hill circa 1950

The experimental Associated Equipment Company Railcar 'arrives'* at platform 4 for Snow Hill circa 1950. The attention of railway companies had been turning towards alternatives to steam power for light branch passenger work for some time before nationalisation, though progress in the 1940s was, understandably, almost non-existent. The Great Western Railway led the field with their fleet of diesel railcars, designed for both branch passenger and lightly loaded main line trains, which came in single unit, multiple unit, passenger and parcels versions. After nationalisation the British Transport Commission started further thinking along these lines and one result, in many ways the precursor of the DMUs that eventually took over the non-Southern branchlines of Britain, was the A.C.V. lightweight diesel train.

Powered by two AEC 125hp diesel engines, as used in London's buses, the train was formed of three four-wheeled cars and was noted for its quick acceleration, although the ride was a little rough if the track was anything other than smooth! Finished in a grey livery, Car No 1 had a driving compartment and two saloons, each seating 16, a Guard's compartment and luggage compartment with a second driving position. Car No 2 (at other end of the unit) had two saloons, with 24 and 21 seats respectively, and a driving compartment whilst in the middle of the unit was Car No 3 with 52 seats in two saloons. The units could, therefore, be assembled as a single, a two-car or a three-car train. Gangways were provided between the cars enabling the Guard/Conductor to check tickets and/or collect fares. The seats were bus-type and upholstered in strawberry pink. As mentioned above acceleration was brisk, to about 45mph, though the rather low top speed of 50mph would have been a problem if used on the main line. It was to be another three years before the "production" DMUs based on the heavier Mk I coach were to be introduced to traffic - maybe with hindsight a low-cost, easy-maintenance, lightweight unit such as the ACV would have enabled some of the more marginal branchlines to avoid closure? Courtesy - The Railway World, January 1954.

* We received the following email with regard to the original caption which reitterated the information we had which stated the Railcar was departing from Platform 4. Colin Rock writes, 'I was browsing your Solihull station photos and happened to notice that image 'gwrs2707' may be mis-described...where the train appears to be departing towards Leamington (it's on the Blossomfield Road bridge, with views of Tudor Grange parkland - yet to be - on the right), unless it is approaching the platform driverless!? in the Snow Hill direction. But is this the right direction for this track? Other photos indicate traffic in either direction I think'.

Robert Ferris responds having undertaken some research, 'Noting the point rodding and telegraph poles confirms the railcar is definitely on the Down Relief line at the southern end of the station (crossing Blossomfield Road bridge), which would have normally meant that it was approaching the station from Leamington, but as Colin says there is no driver visible. I mention this because reversing photographic negatives is always a possible cause of confusion, but is not a cause applicable in this particular case. My best guess is that the train started at Moor St/Snow Hill, terminated at Solihull and having deposited its passengers on Platform 3 (Up Relief Line) then drawn forward and having reversed over the trailing crossover just south of the station, has been photographed reversing on the Down Relief in to platform 4. Once in platform 4 the driver would walk to the other end of the train and having collected passengers depart for Birmingham on the Down Relief Line.

This would also infer that 'gwrs2708' was the arrival of the same train at Solihull on the same day. The lamp seen in 'gwrs2708' is a little intriguing as it looks as if this oil lamp has a red lens implying it is a tail lamp (a thought reinforced by it's position in low offset left). If this is the tail lamp it implies it had been moved prior to the drawing forward and reversal movement, which ties in with the lamp not being seen in gwrs2707, but I would have expected the correct procedure should be to not move this tail lamp until after arriving in platform 4 (i.e. when the driver changed ends). As I said this is my best guess, but I am happy to be advised of a more likely scenario'.

Photograph courtesy of the Mike Morant Collection