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.

OPERATIONAL RAILCARS
  • Class 104 50454/50528 – Built in 1957/8 by the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Company this is a twin-power-car unit with both vehicles having two 150hp engines.  Internally it retains its original wooden panelling and high-backed seats.  It spent much of its life working services around Manchester before being withdrawn from main line service in 1989.
  • Class 108 51933/54504 – Built in 1960 by British Railways’ Derby Works,  51933 has two 150hp engines, and 54504 is an unpowered trailer car.  It spent most of its life working in North West England (e.g. Manchester and Liverpool areas) before being withdrawn from main line service in 1993.  Internally it has undergone various refurbishments over the years including some that were carried out during the preservation era before its arrival at Llangollen.
  • Class 109 50416/56171 – Built in 1957 by Wickham of Ware in Hertfordshire, this was one of only five units and is now unique in being the only survivor of its type.  It ran in East Anglia until it was withdrawn in 1967 and was then converted into the Eastern Region General Manager’s Saloon and used as such until its withdrawal in 1980.  During a 10-year rebuild the entire ‘art deco’ interior was rebuilt from scratch using photographs, works drawings and replica components.  As a result, the unit is now the flagship of the fleet.
    50416 has two 150hp engines and 56171 is an unpowered trailer car.
  • Hybrid Class 127/108 51618/56223 – 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.

Class 104 Heritage Railcar

Class 104 50454/50528

Class 108 Heritage Railcar

Class 108 51933/54504

Class 109 Heritage Railcar

Class 109 50416/56171

Hybrid Class 127/108 Heritage Railcar

Hybrid Class 127/108 51618/56223

Photographs by Mike Martin