RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - 24: Autocars, Autocoaches and Railmotors

Revolutionary Railcars and Railmotors from early days... The search for economy

1903 Petrol-electric Autocar. This is the foreseen livery of the vehicle when completed - hopefully by 2016. The only difference will be the power source, diesel instead of petrol
1903 Petrol-electric Autocar. This is the foreseen livery of the vehicle when completed - hopefully by 2016. The only difference will be the power source, diesel instead of petrol | Source
The vehicle, seen here with a trailer is one of two 1903 North Eastern Railway petrol-electric Autocars originally built, in in the process of restoration at the Bolton Abbey Railway near Skipton in Yorkshire (Ken Hoole Study Centre, Darlington
The vehicle, seen here with a trailer is one of two 1903 North Eastern Railway petrol-electric Autocars originally built, in in the process of restoration at the Bolton Abbey Railway near Skipton in Yorkshire (Ken Hoole Study Centre, Darlington | Source
This is the light and airy interior of the 1903 NER Autocar. It had been used as a holiday home near Pickering in North Yorkshire and was in poor condition, although the hardwood frame was intact
This is the light and airy interior of the 1903 NER Autocar. It had been used as a holiday home near Pickering in North Yorkshire and was in poor condition, although the hardwood frame was intact | Source
Another solution, tried and tested late in the 19th Century endured to the 1920's on the North Eastern Railway. Bogie Tank Passenger 0-4-4 well tank (water tank between the driving wheels) with auto-trailers either side, driven from cabs at either en
Another solution, tried and tested late in the 19th Century endured to the 1920's on the North Eastern Railway. Bogie Tank Passenger 0-4-4 well tank (water tank between the driving wheels) with auto-trailers either side, driven from cabs at either en | Source
Whitby auto-train in the early 20th Century at Hinderwell Station on the Whitby-Loftus coast line (Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Railway)
Whitby auto-train in the early 20th Century at Hinderwell Station on the Whitby-Loftus coast line (Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Railway) | Source
Or how about this Great Northern Railway Railmotor with a single carriage body and loco attached for branch services at Edgware, N W London 1906
Or how about this Great Northern Railway Railmotor with a single carriage body and loco attached for branch services at Edgware, N W London 1906 | Source
LNWR Railmotor at Rhuddlan Road, Wales, 1905, similar to the NER's autocar of two years earlier
LNWR Railmotor at Rhuddlan Road, Wales, 1905, similar to the NER's autocar of two years earlier | Source
Early in the 20th Century NER Locomotive Superintendent Wilson Worsdell came up with the Tyneside Electric sets to compete with Tyneside suburban tram services - this is a driving trailer destined for Percy Main near North Shields
Early in the 20th Century NER Locomotive Superintendent Wilson Worsdell came up with the Tyneside Electric sets to compete with Tyneside suburban tram services - this is a driving trailer destined for Percy Main near North Shields | Source
Model of an AEC GWR Railcar passing the signal box at this scale layout based on Radnor, Wales. An unusual design solution with streamlining and side fairing - for speed running?
Model of an AEC GWR Railcar passing the signal box at this scale layout based on Radnor, Wales. An unusual design solution with streamlining and side fairing - for speed running? | Source
Michelin disel railcar at Ascot, 1932 - Rail-mounted lorry and carriage frame, similar to the NER's rail-mounted bus
Michelin disel railcar at Ascot, 1932 - Rail-mounted lorry and carriage frame, similar to the NER's rail-mounted bus | Source

Model Solutions

Autocars, autocoaches and railmotors, the subject matter under discussion here, are available in proprietary - ready-to-run form and as kit models for the advanced modeller. They can look the bees knees on your layout.

They were developed as solutions to the problem of time and money. With driving cabs at the brake ends of railway carriages, or at either end of a railmotor or autocar, they had no need of the run-around facilities made available at terminus stations in the early days of railways. Originally a locomotive had to detach at branch termini and run around its train, back up again onto its train at the other end and set off back to its starting point. This was costly to the railway company and resulted in delays for passengers - in later years driving them to use local buses. Bad enough when the station was close to a small town, worse when in many cases the station might be a mile or two away from a village.

The answer at first was a locomotive-carriage formation that had no need for the run-around because there was a driving cab in the last carriage. On the North Eastern Railway (NER) a solution was found on off-peak services of having a locomotive sandwiched between two brake 3rd coaches (see top image).that had been built with a driving cab at the outer end of the brake compartment. porthole windows were fitted for the driver. The locomotive used for these services was the Bogie Tank Passenger with an 0-4-4 wheel arrangement and well tank for its water supply underslung between the driving wheels.

The Great Western (GWR) had purpose-built autocoaches on branch line services, as other campanies had in time, where the driver would be with the fireman in the locomotive for the outward, and in the coach driving compartment for the return trip. The London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) developed its own version with enlarged cab windows for the driver under the auspices of Chief Mechanical Engineer Nigel Gresley.


The London and North Western Railway (LNWR), the Midland Railway (MR) and one or two smaller companies in Wales had a different design idea: that of a shorter carriage with its own steam locomotive attached (also above).

A new development around the turn of the 20th Century was the autocar with its own motor, no engine. The NER under Wilson Worsdell - younger brother of Thomas William Worsdell - had another couple of ideas, tailored to needs. On Tyneside third rail electric traction enabled trains of several carriages in length with a driving-luggage trailer on either end to compete with the new tram (street car) services on either side of the river east of Newcastle. For country services in 1903 his assistant Locomotive Superintendent Vincent Raven introduced a different solution, the petrol-electric railcar or autocar. Two were built and served communities between York and Scarborough at off-peak times. One of these survived, used for many years as a temporary home at Keldholme near Kirkbymoorside (Pickering). A group of enthusiasts led by Stephen Middleton began a restoration project in 2003, later winning Heritage Lottery Funding for the work needed to 'bring in back to life', albeit with a diesel engine (a technological progression). Great strides have been made, as you will see if you click on the link below.

Look up the diversity of railmotors and autocoaches included on this page in glorious colour with building details and data. A worthwhile and well researched work I invested in recently in relation to my membership of the 1903 NER Autocar Trust based on the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Railway near Skipton

Modelling the beast...

Many options are available on the market, some you build yourself, some come ready-to-run (proprietary). Take a look at the pictures below for a taster. Go back in time to the 1890's or 1900's. There is a kit available for the 1903 Petrol Electric Autocar. One very smart model in 7mm scale (O Gauge) has been built from a kit by Medley Models of No.3170 by Robin Taylor of Keighley Model Railway Club' for their exhibition layout Runswick Bay (in reality the station for Runswick Bay was nearby Hinderwell, and no Autocar was recorded as shedded in the Whitby/Middlesbrough area for services). I have no contact details for Medley Models despite an exhaustive net search. Maybe someone will supply details?

There is a 4mm kit of the NER 1903 P/E Autocar produced by Worsley Models at Worsley Works @ £30, contact www.worsleyworks.co.uk,

Versions of other railcars are also available. One I had was of a Sentinel steam railcar produced by Nucast (no longer trading). Coming closer to the modern day there is a plethora of diesel multiple units. These were introduced in the 1950's, built by various companies such as Metro Cammell, Clayton and British Railways at Derby and Birmingham Carriage Works. They are available from Bachmann Branchline, Dapol and Hornby Railways. Dapol took over the Airfix label to produce the 'bubble', 4-wheel railcar used largely on isolated branches around the UK..


What's available...

This is the Keighley Model Railway Club's 7mm 1903 NER Petrol-Electric Autocar with its autocoach trailer.
This is the Keighley Model Railway Club's 7mm 1903 NER Petrol-Electric Autocar with its autocoach trailer. | Source
NSTEAM1 model Great Western Railway autocoach trainset with track oval, Class 14XX locomotive in charge
NSTEAM1 model Great Western Railway autocoach trainset with track oval, Class 14XX locomotive in charge | Source
Jidenco OO 0-4-0 LMS Railmotor in LMS maroon livery
Jidenco OO 0-4-0 LMS Railmotor in LMS maroon livery | Source
Ian Kirk model LNER Driving Trailer for autocoach train - these served everywhere between the Ongar branch near London and eastern Scotland. There was no need to run the engine around its two or three coach train as the driver walked to the other end
Ian Kirk model LNER Driving Trailer for autocoach train - these served everywhere between the Ongar branch near London and eastern Scotland. There was no need to run the engine around its two or three coach train as the driver walked to the other end | Source
The 'real thing': LNER Autocoach driving trailer with enlarged end windows and doors for drivers - three coach train awaits 'off' signal
The 'real thing': LNER Autocoach driving trailer with enlarged end windows and doors for drivers - three coach train awaits 'off' signal | Source
Triang Metro-Cammell diesel multiple unit sold second-hand through Hattons mail order. Other makers' units are on sale new through the same source.
Triang Metro-Cammell diesel multiple unit sold second-hand through Hattons mail order. Other makers' units are on sale new through the same source. | Source

Developments in alternative propulsion...

Almost as soon as 'Rocket' completed its winning lap at the Rainhill Trials alternatives were being looked into to steam traction. Marc Brunel and his son investigated the possibilities of gas powered technology. In Ireland an atmospheric railway near Dublin was built with stationary steam engines at regular intervals to create and maintain the vacuum on a 1.75 mile long stretch of line in 1844. The line lasted a decade. However Isambard Brunel was sufficiently impressed to install the Samuda technology on his South Devon Railway in mid-September,1847. Due to stresses and material weaknesses the railway abandoned gas technology within twelve months and reverted to steam locomotive haulage.

Magnus Volk came up with electric traction on his seafront railway at Brighton on the south coast in 1883. Despite setbacks presented by the weather, his system was reinstated in the 20th Century and provided the impetus for applying electric traction on standard gauge railways in Britain.

Robert Francis Fairlie came up with the idea of linking two conventional steam locomotives back-to-back for use on narrow gauge railways, thus avoiding the need for turntables. He hosted a meeting other locomoti7 ve engineers from around the world and came away snowed under with orders. James Cross & Co of St Helens in Lancashire built the engines. However, these days the only countries still using this type of motive power are Mexico, New Zealand and Wales (on the Ffestiniog railway in Snowdonia).

The next train of thought would be 'why not cut out the need for locomotive hauled trains, why not build a carriage with an engine on the same frame?' William Bridges Adams became the father of the steam railmotor. His idea was to have a carriage and locomotive in one, decades ahead of its time. The first of its kind, 'Express' (nicknamed 'Liliputian' for its size),was a 12'-0" long vehicle with 40" diameter wheels and outside cylinders of 31.2" X 6" built at his Fairfield Works in Bow, London ran on the Eastern Counties Railway between Shoreditch in London and Cambridge. A speed of 47 mph was achieved. Over six months in 1848 it covered 5,500 route miles. He later brought out a broad gauge (7'-0") version named 'Fairfield' for the GWR before the 'Gauge Wars' standardised British railways on 4'-8.5".

Developments led eventually to the railmotors I introduced at the opening of this page in the early years of the 20th Century. Diagrams and copious illustrations can be seen in RAILMOTOR by Robin Jones. See the Amazon link.above.

If you're an experienced modeller/engineer, why not have a crack at scratchbuilding one of these pioneers? Have fun.

Further developments, 1920s to 1950s...

Sentinel and Clayton steam railcars were introduced on LNER branch lines to cut costs in the 1920's. With cabs at both ends and 'coffee pot' boiler in the middle, driver and fireman only met at termini. This one based in North Lincolnshire
Sentinel and Clayton steam railcars were introduced on LNER branch lines to cut costs in the 1920's. With cabs at both ends and 'coffee pot' boiler in the middle, driver and fireman only met at termini. This one based in North Lincolnshire | Source
Computer-generated image of GWR Autocoach in its original chocolate and cream livery
Computer-generated image of GWR Autocoach in its original chocolate and cream livery | Source
Driver Eric Nutland on the visiting GWR Autocoach at the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex
Driver Eric Nutland on the visiting GWR Autocoach at the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex | Source
1903 NER Petrol-electric Autocar under restoration at Bolton Abbey near Embsay, North Yorkshire, showing wooden frame - assembly. The near end was still to be restored at this stage some months ago
1903 NER Petrol-electric Autocar under restoration at Bolton Abbey near Embsay, North Yorkshire, showing wooden frame - assembly. The near end was still to be restored at this stage some months ago | Source
Single car Derby Lightweight unit at Wirksworth in Derbyshire. There are two and three car sets preserved at various locations around mainland Britain
Single car Derby Lightweight unit at Wirksworth in Derbyshire. There are two and three car sets preserved at various locations around mainland Britain | Source
Early 1950s E79962 Diesel Railbus on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in Bronte country. Airfix/Dapol kits are available for this vehicle, look for it at exhibitions, swapmeets or online for this gem. They ran everywhere from Dartmoor to Dundee
Early 1950s E79962 Diesel Railbus on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in Bronte country. Airfix/Dapol kits are available for this vehicle, look for it at exhibitions, swapmeets or online for this gem. They ran everywhere from Dartmoor to Dundee | Source

The way ahead - who could have known back in the 19th Century how developments would have taken railways in Britain. These diesel units link the country branches still in use with the main electrified lines.

The road ahead...

Next developments after the 1903 NER Autocar and contemporary solutions, in the 1920's the Sentinel and Clayton companies arrived at a similar solution, using a coach body with steam boiler within the same framework, as also on the GWR. This company came up with the conventional carriage shaped No.93 that took to the rails in 1908 at Southall in Middlesex. Sentinel and Clayton railcars, like the NER's 1903 Petrol-electric vehicle were able to draw trailer vehicles or branch goods wagons. The Port Talbot Railway built a one-off steam railmotor that had a conventional bogie at the 'dummy' end and a power bogie at the other under what looked effectively like a separate, shorter vehicle on a linked frame.

The next logical development came in the 1940's with a GWR railmotor powered by a diesel engine, the apparent precursor.to the diesel multiple units (dmu's) mentioned above, built at various locations around England by several companies in the 1950's to accommodate British Railways' need for economy in service. However these measures proved too little, too late to save many branch lines doomed by Dr Richard Beeching's report in the early 1960's. There had been closures already in the mid-1950's on branch lines around the UK, which might have benefited from the new dmu's technology.

In the south, from Victoria, Waterloo, London Bridge, Cannon Street and Charing Cross stations electric multiple units (emu's) came increasingly into use on boat trains to Dover, Folkestone and Southampton, and suburban services around Kent, Surrey, Sussex and eastern Hampshire. Early designs resembled Dreadnought battle ships, available from Hornby in OO Gauge, as well as later developments from Bachmann (see current catalogues). Power was, as on the London Underground, by third rail - like the Tyneside Electrics around half a century earlier. Later emu's looked very much like the earlier GWR railmotor from the front.

And now we come to the present generation of emu's and dmu's, fairly uniform in appearance and nowhere near as picturesque as the early ones. These include the 1970's Intercity 125 diesel sets and 225 Electric sets that took over from them in the 1980's, as well as the experimental train with its tilt mechanism. .

...And this is the shape of things to come, around the south, north and east of the capital and of major British cities. Both diesel and electric multiple units are available in model form from the era of the 'heritage diesels' and 'heritage electrics' as seen in the National Railway and London Transport Museums as well as Didcot and preserved branch lines up and down the UK..

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13 comments

lions44 profile image

lions44 16 months ago from Auburn, WA

Your level of detail is amazing and your love of the subject matter shines through. Great job. Voted up and shared.


annart profile image

annart 16 months ago from SW England

Although I'm no longer into model railways, I can't resist these wonderful photos. They are wonderful and nostalgia for the past is irresistible. I can understand why anyone would want to reproduce this era.

Great!

Ann


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 16 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello lions44 and Ann.

Lions, I'd have put some more technical details in, but that might've spoilt your search for further info.

Ann, I've just read your comment in ROPfaMR 23 'Snowploughs', I see you were here already. Some of the railmotors in this operated in your neck of the woods down in sunny Devon. I've just remembered another one I should've added (mentioned in my other comment).


billybuc profile image

billybuc 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

You see, Alan, all along I've been thinking you were a good man. Then you start this series that makes me green with envy, and regretting that I never started this hobby...so now I have to revise my opinion of you. :) Now I think you are cruel, cruel and more cruel.

I'm wondering how I can make a railway in my backyard, cruising around our urban farm. Wouldn't that be fun? All I need is a few thousand dollars to get started, right?

Thanks for the information and the lesson in envy. :)


Homeplace Series profile image

Homeplace Series 16 months ago from Hollister, MO

What fun! Oh, my! Thanks for sharing!! ;-)


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 16 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Billybuc, you don't have to be a tycoon to take part. You only need maybe eight foot of shed space by maybe two foot deep, a reasonable controller and a small investment in track and points. By the time you've put the track down you'll have had another month's money in. Buy an engine or two second-hand, maybe a boxcar, a caboose, a couple of open wagons - all second-hand, that's how you keep costs down - do some scenery and mess about shunting... The wife'll think you've gone to heaven (and you'll know you've gone to heaven).

It's eezee! Take your time, put some its together. That'll take up some of those winter evenings.

Homeplace out in the mid-west, tell Bill how easy it can be. By the way way, glad you enjoyed this. Only another twenty-three of these to go...


Homeplace Series profile image

Homeplace Series 16 months ago from Hollister, MO

Alan, you make me want to get out my Lionel Santa Fe Super Chief I got in 1952, as a youngster... O gauge... Still have track and a few cars... including the caboose that lights up! Get it out for the grandchildren every 5-10 years, it seems. Ah, the memories... ;-)


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 16 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

D'you live in a museum, Homeplace? I was given my first Triang/Rovex OO trainset (a Jinty, three wagons, brakevan and oval of track with battery control) at Christmas 1955. It's all gone (after many house moves) since then, but would have been incompatible with modern track anyway. Heigh-ho - memories, eh?

Back then most models were either GWR or LMSR. Very little LNER or SR was available. It's only in the last five years we've seen a splurge of both on the market. None of the models I have now goes back beyond 1984, and that's only three D49 4-4-0 engines. All the same there's still only one NER prototype available, the J72 0-6-0 Tank loco. You've probably got the drop on us, with a greater range available in both O and HO.

I gather Frank Sinatra had an extensive layout (just as Rod Stewart has over here).

Keep on chuffin'!


Homeplace Series profile image

Homeplace Series 16 months ago from Hollister, MO

I live in a tiny cabin, with my wife, Alan, not a museum... though I suppose some would say it the cabin has some museum artifacts in it... just our stuff. We'll celebrate our 56th anniversary next week... so perhaps we are artifacts, as well. ;-)

But, we'll be off to an exercise class in a few minutes, so must go. 76 is still young, by many definitions. The train set is in our storage unit, neatly bundled... ;-)


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 16 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

You're young yet, Homeplace, only eight years or so older than I am (April, '47). I go for 'rough' walks in the woods up at Epping Forest (see the Hub-page: 'A Walk In The Woods' I published last year) where I push myself. Less energetic walks are taken with the wife in Wanstead Park (cf 'A Walk In The Woods [2] Wanstead Park).

Meanwhile, get your Lionel engine and stock out and see how they run. Got a shed? You could set it up in there maybe. I've seen good 'O'-gauge layouts in magazines and at exhibitions that only measured about ten foot by two foot or less. It's how much you put of yourself into it.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 16 months ago from Victoria, Australia

An awesome article with so many great photos. Enjoyed it!


Homeplace Series profile image

Homeplace Series 16 months ago from Hollister, MO

I've been around 5000 steps a day for the last six + months. That is my goal. Wife has some 'not-major' handicaps, so I must stay in good shape, so I can support her. Interesting life, for sure. Appreciate you visit to one of my goat stories. Early in the King series, there is a story on Thurkill Dent background... ;-)


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 16 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello Blossom, glad you enjoyed it. (I think I've exhausted the subject matter for this series now). I might add a picture or two.

And hello Bill, keeping fit adds years on your life and enjoyment thereof. I'll dip into the King series reservoir and have a look some time - hopefully soon.

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