Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Small yet mighty

Posted in Great Britain, Other general stuff about railways, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 13 July 2011

The Pacers built by British Rail in the early 1980s may be universally disliked today, but I think it is fair to at least call them a valiant effort at producing viable new rolling stock at lower cost during a time of economic stringency for Britain’s national operator; thus, as a consequence they should be viewed, rightly or wrongly, as a not insubtantial part of Britain’s railway history in the second half of the twentieth century. Therefore it is to be applauded that a group has been set up that seeks to preserve, not a production Pacer (although that will no doubt come in time when they are due to be withdrawn), but the vehicles that were built to develop the concept, the “Railbuses”. The Railbus concept, where a small rail vehicle is constructed using parts and techniques traditionally used to build buses, was first trialled by BR in the 1950s as a means of maintaining services on small, lightly used branch lines prior to Beeching. The idea was revisited in the 1970s, when BR was looking at economical ways to replace its increasingly obsolescent rolling stock. In this instance, the Research Division began working together with British Leyland to construct a number of prototypes, which to begin with essentially had a Leyland National bus body mounted on a four wheeled rail chassis. Four of these single car prototypes were constructed and trialled in various locations, before the prototype two-car Pacer unit (listed as Class 140) was built. As with all prototypes, once the testing was complete and production models built, there was no need to retain these vehicles; the single car Railbuses were sold to various operators around the world to showcase the technology, before entering preservation in different locations. The purpose of the Railbus Trust, as listed on its Facebook site is:

…to protect the future of Single Car Railbuses and Second Generation DMU prototypes. Of specific interest to the Group are the Leyland National based LEVs and RB demonstrators. The Group has secured the future of LEV2 in the USA are are currently fundraising to cover the costs of repatriation. The Group is responsible for operation and maintenance of RB004, which was recently moved to Llangollen Railway and took part in their 2011 Railcar Gala. The Group is also looking after the only Swedish railbus outside Scandinavia – Y7 No. 1212 which ran on the NVR back in the 1980s.

Given that all of the vehicles this group is looking to preserve are intact (although in various states of repair), we should welcome their efforts to try and bring all of them back to the UK and restore them to full working order. While we may dislike the Pacer for all sorts of reasons, that doesn’t negate the fact that these vehicles are of historical significance, and the more that can be preserved as running, the better. So, this is yet more free advertising for the Railbus Trust in their goals, both long term and more immediate.

The Railbus Trust – Yahoo Group
The Leyland Experimental Vehicle (LEV) 

R3 was the third of the Leyland National vehicles - trialled in Britain, it eventually ended up in service with NI Railways, and is currently preserved operational at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway

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