50416 + 56171

On test soon after
arrival at Llangollen in December 2003

Above: The unique Wickham railcar, on test soon after arrival at Llangollen during late 2003. (Ian Bradbury)

During the 1950s, the then British Rail placed orders with a number of manufacturers for diesel railcars as part of the 'Modernisation Plan'. Wickham of Ware were an independent manufacturer who received an initial order for five two-car units.

The construction of these railcars was most unusual for its time: the body was built around a stress-bearing frame welded together from square section steel tube. Essentially it was a very early integral structure: there was no separate underframe or chassis, and enabled the vehicles to be lighter than any of the others built at the time. This type of DMU had two other notable features: an 'art deco' interior, and an almost complete absence of visible fasteners to give surfaces that were very easy to clean.

Unfortunately the design was not perpetuated, and only the initial five were built. They were declared surplus soon after introduction, and were early targets for withdrawal being non-standard. Two sets were exported in 1961, and one was equipped in 1967 at Doncaster for use as the Eastern Region general manager's saloon. The final two sets were withdrawn in 1971 and later scrapped, leaving only the inspection saloon.

This final set fell out of use during 1980, and was offered for sale in 1981. The fledgling Chasewater Light Railway bought the pair, with them being delivered later that year. The power car was mainly used as a static buffet car, and the trailer as loco-hauled stock.

Eventually both vehicles were declared surplus, and were bought by members of the Llangollen Railcar Group in 1994. The original intention was to fund restoration privately, and this was the option pursued initially; however progress was slow and the bills escalated. Asbestos removal had left both vehicles as gutted shells, and an entire new interior would have to be fabricated. Doors had been plated over and windows altered during the 1967 conversion, and those had to be restored. A complete mechanical overhaul was also required.

Restoration underway

Above: Restoration underway; the power car (behind) has had its bodywork completed. The trailer (nearest the camera) is in as-received condition, with doors and a window plated over. (Evan Green-Hughes)

After a number of years, an application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and a grant of £129,000 was made towards restoration. This was undertaken at the Midland Railway Centre near Derby, including substantial volunteer input from the Railcar group's volunteers. The final move to Llangollen came in December 2003, and the set was launched into traffic in 2004. The full restoration story can be found on the Railcar Group website.

General Info

Built

Wickham of Ware, 1957

Lot no.

30288, 30289

Engines

Two Leyland 680/1 of 150hp

Transmission

Mechanical - Cardan shaft / freewheel driving Wilson R14 four-speed epicyclic gearbox, with further cardan shaft to RF28 final drive

Weight

27.5t + 20.5t

Max Speed

70mph

Train Brakes

Vacuum

Coupling Code

Blue Square

Depot Allocations

unknown until:

Chasewater Light Railway

1981

Midland Railway Centre, Butterley

1994

Llangollen

2003

The unit is maintained by the Railcar Group.

Transferred 11th Sept 2007 by  John Rutter - email webmaster