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Heritage Railcars

    MORE INFORMATION ON OUR POPULAR HERITAGE RAILCARS

Railcar services are provided by our fleet of railcars (also known as Diesel Multiple Units or DMUs), all of which are now more than sixty years old.

In 1955 British Railways announced its modernisation plan for the phasing out of steam locomotives and that resulted in the building of a large number of railcars by its own workshops and also by a number of private manufacturers.  In general, they were all built to a standard mechanical design so that they could couple together and operate under the control of a single driver but they nevertheless emerged with different looks and feels that became the characteristics of each manufacturer.  Several of those differences can be seen in our relatively small but varied fleet.

When they were first introduced in the late 1950s and early 1960s the railcars proved very popular with passengers due to the excellent all-round views they provided, and their clean interiors compared to some of their predecessors.  Sadly, trains that offer passengers a driver’s eye view are now a thing of the past on the main line railways in the UK but our railcars enable passengers to sample that nostalgic experience whilst enjoying the picturesque views of the Dee Valley.

 

Class 104

50454/50528

 

a train traveling down train tracks near a forest Class 104 Railcars were first ordered by British Railways as part of a bold and costly modernisation of the rail network by the British Transport Commission, which announced in 1954 that it had authorised the building of 1,408 new Railcars at a cost of over £17.5m. This crucial step was intended to drastically improve the speed, capacity, reliability and safety of Britain’s decrepit post-war railways, while increasing demand in the manufacturing sector and drawing traffic away from the equally outdated road network. Although Britain’s economy was in a dire state at the time, it was understood that this unprecedented level of investment would be necessary to produce a lasting recovery.

When they left the Birmingham Carriage and Wagon Works in 1957, this pair of powered cars were originally part of two separate three-car sets, delivered to Manchester and Crewe Depots to work in the London Midland Region. The units eventually met at Buxton Depot in 1968 where they formed a powerful two-car set, with 600hp combined.

The set entered preservation in 1993, and had been largely refurbished by 1994, arriving at Llangollen shortly after. It has since been a popular staple of our DMU running, and is a favourite of enthusiasts due to its distinctive exhaust noise and iconic BR Blue livery. As a Birmingham-made DMU, this set’s interior still boasts wood panelling for a reassuringly retro look.

Class 108

51933/54504

 

Class 108 heritage railcar Developed from the original series of BR Railcars, the Class 108 was designed with a more rugged steel body, rather than aluminium. They retained the twin 150hp Leyland engines and gained a prominent ‘headcode’ display, which indicated the identity and destination of the train.

The vehicles in this set were produced late in the Class 108’s development in 1960, and worked primarily on the London Midland Region from Newton Heath Depot. The ‘Driving Motor Brake Second’ (51933) and ‘Driving Trailer Composite Lavatory’ (54504) were only paired after their withdrawal from mainline service in February 1993. The set was then acquired for preservation and spent some time at the Peak Rail yard and the Swanage Railway in Dorset, before moving to Llangollen in 2019 following an extensive programme of repairs at Eastleigh Works.

Since moving to the Llangollen Railway, this DMU has seen frequent use and diligent repairs. Its resilient design and reliable engine make it ideal for our mid-week running, which allows us to provide services throughout the year without inflating ticket prices.

Class 109

50416 /56171

 

Class 109 heritage railcar This pairing of ‘Driving Motor Brake’ (50416) and ‘Driving Trailer’ (56171) are the only working example of the Wickham Class 109 Railcar in the world. After being built at Wickham’s Carriage-works in Ware in 1957, these two vehicles operated together right from the get-go in the British Rail Eastern Region.

With a lightweight aluminium design, the 109 was ideal for work on the labyrinthine network of Branch Lines in East Anglia. Of course, this meant that they quickly became redundant when the infamous Richard Beeching proposed substantial cuts (admittedly somewhat justified) to the British Rail networks, the department suddenly found itself inundated with small, flimsy vehicles unsuited to the destructive running of the mainline. Of the five Class 109 units, two were sent to Trinidad, while ours was modified and repurposed as an Observation and Engineering train for the Eastern Region’s General Manager.

50416 and 56171 were acquired for preservation by the Llangollen Railcar Group in 1994. They were carefully restored at the Butterly works of the Midland Railway over ten years, before making their debut here in February of 2004. The units are reliable and cheap to run, and offer excellent views of the Dee Valley, while boasting an attractive interior ideal for heritage purposes.

Hybrid Class

127/108

51618 /56223

 

Class 127/108 heritage railcar This is a hybrid unit comprising two different types of vehicle although both were built by British Railways’ Derby works in 1959 and therefore have the characteristic Derby appearance.The class 127 power car no. 51618 has two 238hp engines and is the only one in our fleet to have hydraulic rather than mechanical transmission.  Hydraulic transmission has since been used in the majority of ‘Sprinter’ and ‘Pacer’ units that were introduced in the 1980s so the class 127 was, perhaps, 20 years ahead of its time!  It originally provided commuter services between Bedford and London St Pancras (hence the nickname ‘BedPan’ unit) and, for that purpose, it was built with doors to each seating bay to facilitate rapid boarding and alighting of passengers.  It was withdrawn from service in 1983 and moved to Llangollen shortly afterwards.  It has now worked at the Railway for longer than it worked on the main line!

The trailer car no. 56223 was based at various places including Bletchley, Chester and Manchester before ending its career in London in 1993 and being saved for preservation.

Each of the above railcars includes a small first class section with superior accommodation and passengers are invited to upgrade to first class for a small donation, the proceeds from which help to fund maintenance and restoration projects.

More detailed information about the above railcars, maintenance activities and the ongoing restoration of other ones can be found on the Llangollen Railcars web site.  The group is always keen to welcome new members and anyone interested is asked to get in touch via that web site.