by Frank Dumbleton

Southall’s Railmotor train returns after 106 years

Published: 11th August 2014

Southall’s most famous resident’s overhaul continues despite more problems

The Didcot based Great Western Society (GWS) has confirmed that their Steam Railmotor, No. 93 and trailer No. 92 will operate on the freight only Southall to Brentford branch line on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 October. This is thought to be the first steam passenger train on the line for over half a century and is only the second chance to ride on this particular train on the main line.

They said:

Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society, said: “We are delighted to be able to bring the Steam Railmotor back to Southall where it began life, and it is doubly important as this is also the birthplace of the Great Western Society.”

Tickets and Timetable

There will be seven departures each day from Southall at 10.00, 11.00, 12.00, 13.00, 14.30, 1530 and 16.30 and each round trip will take just over 30 minutes. There will be a maximum of 110 seats per train – 50 in 93 and 60 in 92 and tickets cost £20 and should be purchased in advance via the Didcot Railway Centre website at

Only passengers will be allowed onto the Brentford platform at Southall but a photographic area will be provided to the south of the line. There is very limited parking at Southall so the best way to get there is by rail using First Great Western or Heathrow Connect services.


Steam Railmotor 93 was allocated to Southall shed when built in March 1908 and stayed there for a year running on the Brentford branch and other West London lines. After being transferred elsewhere on the GWR, it never returned to Southall, but worked until 1935 when her boiler and steam engine were removed. This turned her into a carriage but retained a driving cab at one end from which the locomotive could be controlled as an auto-trailer.

She was withdrawn from passenger service in 1956 and used as a mobile office until 1970, when the Great Western Society preserved her.

Trailer No. 92 was built in 1912 and worked in the West Midlands, being based at Wolverhampton, Stourbridge, Stratford and Leamington being withdrawn in 1957 and used as a mess room at Cardiff Docks, until being preserved by the Great Western Society in 1969.

Both vehicles are now permanently displayed at Didcot Railway Centre and were restored using a Heritage Lottery Fund grant between 2007 and 2013 at the Llangollen Railway. A new power bogie with vertical boiler was built for Steam Railmotor 93, a project managed by Dennis Howells.

The carriage interiors feature varnished oak, polished brass and original pattern upholstery and travelling in them is to enjoy the elegant surroundings of an Edwardian steam yacht. When 92 and 93 operate together they form the world’s only working Steam Multiple Unit.

The Brentford branch was opened in 1859 and the principal engineering work on the line is the Three Bridges, designed by Brunel where The Grand Union Canal crosses the railway on an aqueduct, while the road is carried over both, so is actually two bridges.

Southall’s World Famous engine overhaul bill tips £5million

The National Railway Museum (NRM) has announced that further remedial work is to be carried out on the frames of its LNER Class ‘A3’ Pacific No. 4472 Flying Scotsman and was based at Southall when purchased by the NRM a decade ago.

This follows the trial fitting of the repaired steam cylinders which revealed that there were yet more problems which had not been detected by a detailed examination by specialist engineers last year.

The cylinders had been were removed from the frames of the 90 year old engine and extensive non-destructive testing carried out but an additional problem was identified. The mounting holes for the cylinders was not obvious because the frames and cylinders were slightly out of alignment. The NRM at York is having new partial front frames manufactured to remedy them and they still anticipate the engine being in service next year.

They said:

Paul Kirkman, Director of the National Railway Museum said: “We knew that when we removed the cylinders there was a possibility of finding further problems that weren’t apparent with the cylinders fitted. This is one of those problems and we are working closely with Riley & Son and engineering specialists First Class Partnerships on how best to resolve it.

The frame condition appeared to be acceptable, however when refitting the repaired cylinders it became apparent that most of the mounting holes were elongated. Although we anticipated some repairs of these holes, we soon realised that an additional solution was needed.

The testing we carried out earlier in the year also revealed some limited issues with the condition of the cylinders, the remedial work on this, including the fitting of the valve liners, will be finished by the expert team at Rileys in the next few weeks.

They said:

We are working out the precise implications of this additional work for the completion date, but we still anticipate it to be next year.”

Allan Baker of engineering specialists First Class Partnerships said: “The three cylinders fitted to the locomotive when it was acquired by the museum had not been secured within the frames to best engineering standards.

The middle cylinder was of the incorrect width as well as being out of alignment and there was evidence when all three cylinders were removed from the locomotive, that some movement between the cylinders and the frame plates had taken place.

As a result the majority of the cylinder-securing holes in the frame plates were elongated - this could only become completely apparent when refitting the corrected cylinders.

It was the number of holes and their close proximity to each other, along with the difficulty of correcting such a situation that led to this decision to renew the frame plates from just ahead of the leading coupled axle. This will also enable the new frame plates to exactly match the repaired cylinders without using shim plates in between the cylinders and the frames.”

A year ago, Riley & Son (E) Ltd, Bury was appointed to complete the work after the NRM carried out a procurement exercise. Engineering specialists First Class Partnerships continue to provide specialist engineering and project management advice to the museum with regards to this complex project.

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