The Great Western Society’s steam Railmotor No. 93 has entered service at Didcot Railway Centre.
Initial stripping of the parts of the body added when the vehicle was converted to a trailer was undertaken at Didcot, then with the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant the carriage body was rebuilt and restored to its original form at the Llangollen Railway.
The restoration has essentially involved two elements, the power unit and the carriage body. The power bogie (encompassing frames, wheels, cylinders, motion etc.) plus vertical boiler has had to be constructed from scratch. The bogie was erected at Tyseley Locomotive Works and reached the stage of being a rolling chassis by August 2003. Work on drawing and producing the motion then followed while the boiler was being constructed through 2004/05 by Israel Newton & Sons in Bradford.
The GWR built 99 Steam Rail Motors of varying types in the first decade of the 20th century for use in suburban and rural areas. To some degree they were a victim of their own success for as traffic grew they were soon unable to cope, being only able to tow one further vehicle. No. 93 was converted into a plain auto trailer (No. 212) in 1934, the boiler and all components related to the power element of the vehicle being scrapped. As a coach, auto trailer No. 212 was withdrawn from passenger service in the late 1950s and passed into departmental use until being purchased in 1966 with the ambition of converting it back to its original form. It subsequently passed into the ownership of the Great Western Society and the restoration project was officially launched in 1998.
The restoration is simply stunning, from the totally unique cab containing a vertical boiler mounted on the swivelling bogie underneath to the breathtaking hand painted lettering and crests on the carriage sides. Moreover, the vehicle is unique and historically massively significant since the 1908-built steam powered vehicle was the predecessor of subsequent diesel railcars with a lineage of self-propelled passenger carrying trains which continues through DMUs to the most modern units on the national network.
The Great Western Society’s steam Railmotor No. 93 has entered service at Didcot Railway Centre. It was unveiled to the press on May 24 in advance of its ceremonial public launch the following Saturday.
The bogie and boiler unit were also completed at Llangollen with the power bogie (in stand alone form) being tested in steam in November last year. The elements were brought together and the completed vehicle ran at Llangollen at the end of February before it returned to Didcot, where a shed replicating an original shed at Southall has been built to house No. 93 and accompanying 1912-built trailer No. 92, restoration of which is also being undertaken at Llangollen.