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Autocoach 190 preserved at Didcot Railway Centre
|Diagram||A – Z, A1 – A44|
|Fleet numbers||1 – 256|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The GWR Autocoach (or auto-trailer) is a type of coach that was used by the Great Western Railway for push-pull trains powered by a steam locomotive. The distinguishing design feature of an autocoach is the driving cab at one end, allowing the driver to control the train without needing to be located in the cab of the steam locomotive. This eliminates the need to run the engine round to the other end of the coach at the end of each journey.
When one or more autocoaches are connected to a suitably equipped steam locomotive, the combination is known as an auto-train, or, historically, a railmotor train. A steam locomotive provided with the equipment to be used as an autotrain is said to be auto-fitted.
A locomotive fitted with additional control equipment is used to power the autotrain.
When running 'autocoach first', the regulator is operated by a linkage to a rotating shaft running the length of the locomotive, passing below the cab floor. This engages (via a telescopic coupling) with another shaft running the full length below the floor of the autocoach. This shaft is turned by a second regulator lever in the cab of the autocoach. (See photograph sequence below.) The driver can operate the regulator, brakes and whistle from the far (cab) end of the autocoach; the fireman remains on the locomotive and (in addition to firing) also controls the valve gear settings. The driver can also warn of the train's approach using a large mechanical gong, prominently mounted high on the cab end of the autocoach, which is operated by stamping on a pedal on the floor of the cab. The driver, guard and fireman communicate with each other by an electric bell system.
Internally, the passenger section of the coach is divided into two open saloons – originally for smoking and non-smoking – with a lobby in the middle separating the two. There is usually a small guard's and luggage compartment at the 'loco' (non-driving) end of the coach. The seating layout is similar to the lower deck of a modern-day bus, with a mixture of normal seating and inwards-facing bench seats. Passengers access the coach via the lobby. The coach is equipped with retractable steps, which are extended if the train stops at rural halts with either low or non-existent platforms, and which fold-in tight against the coach underframe to keep them clear of line-side obstructions when the train is moving. These steps are controlled by the guard using levers in the lobby.
Some earlier autocoaches were converted from steam rail motors, by the removal of the integral steam engine. The most familiar type of autocoach was introduced in 1928. The design proved very long-lived, with 163 examples being built to a similar design. The last coaches were built some years after nationalisation by British Railways in 1954.
If more than one autocoach was used, the locomotive would usually be marshalled between the coaches, as 'play' in the control linkages could otherwise make operation difficult. This arrangement was not always possible where turntables were not convenient for turning coaches and hence up to two autocoaches could follow or lead a locomotive with cab ends away from the locomotive..
Many GWR suburban services around Plymouth were formed of fixed autotrain formations of four autocoaches, two each side of the locomotive with cabs leading in each direction. When these were introduced in 1906, experiments were made to harmonise the appearance of the locomotive in the middle of the train by cutting down the sidetanks and encasing the entire locomotive in a square bodyshell of the same basic design, height and width as the coaches, complete with 'windows' and the same chocolate/cream paint livery, thus giving the complete formation the appearance of a later multiple unit. Two 2021 Class and two 517 Class engines were modified in this way during 1906. The coachwork greatly restricted visibility, made coaling, watering and servicing the locomotives awkward and initial concerns that passengers would be deterred by the unusual sight of a locomotive running in the middle of a train proved unfounded. The dummy coachwork was removed from all four locomotives during 1911.
Accidents and incidents
- On 15 April 1923, carriage No. 70 formed a passenger train hauled by locomotive No. 215. The train was in a head-on collision with a freight train at Curry Rivel, Somerset due to a signalman's error. Nine people were injured.
- On 16 November 1937, an empty train in a siding at the eastern end of Ealing Broadway station (between platforms 2 and 3) was waiting to be called into the platform to form the next service to Denham when the driver started the train in thick fog without noticing either that the points were not set for the platform nor that the signals were against him, and the auto-trailer crashed into the signal box. This auto-trailer, no. 211 of Diagram A31, had been converted in August 1935 from steam rail motor no. 81 (Diagram Q1); it was repaired after the accident, and was not withdrawn until March 1959.
|Year||Diagram||Lot No||Fleet No||Length||Notes||Preserved examples|
|1904||A||1055||1||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)|
|1904||B||1055||2||70 ft 0 3⁄4 in (21.36 m)|
|1905||B||1081||3–6||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1905||C||1087||7, 8||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)|
|1905||D||1090||9, 10||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1905||E/F||1097||11–13||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1905||G/G1/H||1097||14–17||52 ft 0 3⁄4 in (15.87 m)|
|1906||J/J1||1102||19–24||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)|
|1905||K/K1||1103||25–28||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1906||L||1108||29–34||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1906||M/M1||1108||18, 35||54 ft 0 3⁄4 in (16.48 m)|
|1907||N||1126||36–41||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||38 out of service at the Telford Steam Railway|
|1906||L||1127||42–47||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1907||O||1128||48||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Experimental|
|1907||P||1130||49–52||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1908||L||1141||53–58||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1908||L||1143||59–70||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1909||Q||1160||71, 72||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1909||R||1161||73, 74||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1911||T||1190||75–80||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1912||U||1198||81–92||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||92 at Didcot Railway Centre, used with the steam railmotor|
|1913||Q||1224||93–95||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1913||R||1225||96–98||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)|
|1915||Z||—||99–104||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 3–8|
|1917||A6||—||105, 106||57 ft 0 3⁄4 in (17.39 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 1, 2|
|1916–19||A7||—||107–112||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 9–14|
|1919–20||A9||—||113–124||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 17–28|
|1920–23||A10||—||125, 128–133||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 29, 32, 31, 33–36|
|1920||A13||—||126||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 59|
|1920||A14||—||127||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 60|
|1923||A15||—||136, 137||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 46, 47|
|1923||A17||—||134||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 43|
|1923||A18||—||135||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 44|
|1923||A19||—||138–140||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 50–52|
|1928||A23||—||146||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 38|
|1928||A24||—||147||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 41|
|1928||A25||—||148||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 45|
|1928||A26||—||149||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 57|
|1928||A29||—||150–153||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 61, 63, 67, 68|
|1928||A26||—||154–157||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 85, 87, 89, 90|
|1928||A26||—||158||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 99|
|1929||A27||1394||159–170||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||163 and 167 at the Llangollen Railway|
169 being restored at the West Somerset Railway
|1930||A28||1410||171–180||62 ft 8 in (19.10 m)||174 being restored at the Llangollen Railway|
178 at the Severn Valley Railway
|1930||A26||1432||181–185||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 54, 56, 84, 95, 94|
|1930||A29||1432||186||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 62|
|1933||A33||1480||187–196||62 ft 8 in (19.10 m)||190 at the Didcot Railway Centre|
|1934||A23||1511||197, 198||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 39, 40|
|1934||A26||1511||199, 200, 206||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 53, 58, 86|
|1934||A29||1511||201||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 69|
|1934||A31||1511||202–205||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 73, 74, 82, 83|
|1935||A31||1521||207–209||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 75, 78, 79|
|1936||A26||1542||210, 212–215||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 91, 93, 96–98||212 restored as a steam railmotor at the Didcot Railway Centre|
|1936||A31||1542||211||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 81|
|1936||A29||1545||216–218||70 ft 0 in (21.34 m)||Rebuilt from railmotors 64, 66, 72|
|1936||A31||1542||219||59 ft 6 in (18.14 m)||Rebuilt from railmotor 76|
|1938||A34||1600||1668–1671||57 ft 0 in (17.37 m)||Auto-fitted Brake Thirds|
|1951||A38||1736||222–234||64 ft 0 in (19.51 m)||232 was modified as a first class saloon on the Dartmouth Steam Railway
233 was modified as a test coach by British Rail (see below)
|225, 228 and 233 at the South Devon Railway|
231 at the Didcot Railway Centre
232 at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway
|1951||A39||1736||220||64 ft 0 in (19.51 m)|
|1951||A40||1736||221||64 ft 0 in (19.51 m)|
|1953||A43||1766||235–244||64 ft 0 in (19.51 m)||238 Chaffinch on the Severn Valley Railway|
240 awaiting restoration on the South Devon Railway
|1953||A44||—||245–256||Rebuilt from Brake Thirds 5491/95, 4015/16/05/19, 4343, 5871, 4358, 5875, 4351/45|
233 finished its passenger service with British Rail in 1964 and was subsequently used by BR for a variety of non-passenger purposes as Test Car 1 at Derby D of D, (the old CM&EE.) where it was used for ride testing all types of new and old freight rolling stock. It was part of a catenary test train hired by Balfour Beatty for the then new Channel Tunnel and where it achieved 104 M.P.H. in test runs. When purchased by 5542 Ltd in July 2013, it had no seats, a large diesel generator, a kitchen sink unit, remnants of computer equipment, BR Mk 1 toilet, dual Air/Vacuum brakes, B4 bogies, Oleo pneumatic buffers and all of its auto-train control gear removed but has now been refurbished although retaining many of its test car features.
Several locomotive classes included examples equipped to work in autotrains at different times. These included:
|Type||Locomotives fitted||Introduced||Preserved examples||Comments|
|455 Class 2-4-0T||About 40||1869||–||Some fitted with auto gear after 1905.|
|517 Class 0-4-2T||86||1868||–||Some fitted with auto gear after 1905.|
|1076 Class 0-6-0ST/PT||21||1870||–||Some fitted with auto gear after 1905.|
|2021 Class 0-6-0ST/PT||27||1897||–||Some fitted with auto gear after 1905.|
|4575 Class 2-6-2T||15||1927||5526, 5542, 5572||A few fitted with auto gear in 1953.|
|4800 Class 0-4-2T||75||1932||1420, 1442, 1450, 1466||Auto-fitted version of 5800 Class later renumbered as 1400 Class.|
|5400 Class 0-6-0PT||25||1930||–||All auto-fitted.|
|6400 Class 0-6-0PT||40||1932||6412, 6430, 6435||Smaller wheel version of 5400 Class, all auto-fitted.|
- Kingdom, Anthony R; Lang, Mike (2004). The Newton Abbot to Moretonhampstead Railway. ARK Publications (Railways). pp. 32, 43, 62 etc. ISBN 1-873029-09-8.
- Vaughan, Adrian (1989). Obstruction Danger. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens Limited. pp. 29–32. ISBN 1-85260-055-1.
- Trevena, Arthur (1980). Trains in Trouble. Vol. 1. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 41. ISBN 0-906899-01-X.
- Lewis, John (1991). Great Western Auto Trailers - Part One: Pre-Grouping Vehicles. Didcot: Wild Swan. pp. 197–200. ISBN 0-906867-99-1.
- Lewis, John (1995). Great Western Auto Trailers - Part Two: Post-Grouping and Absorbed Vehicles. Didcot: Wild Swan. p. 312. ISBN 1-874103-25-9.
- Mitchell, Victor E.; Smith, Keith (April 2000). Ealing to Slough. Western Main Lines. Midhurst: Middleton Press. map IV, figs. 9, 10. ISBN 1-901706-42-7.
- "Accident at Ealing Broadway on 16th November 1937". The Railways Archive. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- Harris 1966, pp. 131–156.
- Veal, Colin; Goodman, John (1981). Auto-Trains and Steam Rail Motors of the Great Western. Didcot: Great Western Society. ISBN 0-902956-06-X.
- Harris, Michael (1966). Great Western Coaches: 1890–1954. Newton Abbot: David and Charles.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Lewis, John (1991). Great Western Railway Auto Trailers: Pre-grouping Vehicles (Part 1). Wild Swan. ISBN 0-906867-99-1.
- Lewis, John (1995). Great Western Railway Auto Trailers: Post-Grouping and Absorbed Vehicles (Part 2). Wild Swan Publications Ltd. ISBN 1-874103-25-9.
- Lewis, John (2004). Great Western Steam Railmotors: and their services. Wild Swan Publications Ltd. ISBN 1-874103-96-8.
- "GW Autocoach 163 - History and Specifications". 163Autocoach.co.uk. GWR Autocoach 163 Trust. Archived from the original on 2 September 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to GWR autocoaches.|
- West Somerset Railway – Photo gallery: Restoration of Autocoach no 169 – Includes many pictures of the innards of an autocoach