GWR Autocoach

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GWR Autocoach
GWR Autocoach.jpg
Autocoach 190 preserved at Didcot Railway Centre
In service1904–1964
ManufacturerSwindon Works
Constructed1904–1954
Number built256
Number preserved15
Number scrapped241
DiagramA – Z, A1 – A44
Fleet numbers1 – 256
Operator(s)
Specifications
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 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.

The autocoach is the forerunner of the driving trailer used with push–pull trains.

Design features[edit]

Retractable steps for use at low platforms

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.

In operation[edit]

The non-driving end of preserved W225 in British Railways livery on the South Devon Railway

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.[1].

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[edit]

  • 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.[2]
  • 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.[3][4][5][6][7]

Fleet list[edit]

Table of Diagrams and numbers[8]
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 34 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 34 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 34 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 34 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.

Auto-fitted locomotives[edit]

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 40About 40 1869 Some fitted with auto gear after 1905.[9]
517 Class 0-4-2T 86 1868 Some fitted with auto gear after 1905.[9]
1076 Class 0-6-0ST/PT 21 1870 Some fitted with auto gear after 1905.[9]
2021 Class 0-6-0ST/PT 27 1897 Some fitted with auto gear after 1905.[9]
4575 Class 2-6-2T 15 1927 5526, 5542, 5572 A few fitted with auto gear in 1953.[9]
4800 Class 0-4-2T 75 1932 1420, 1442, 1450, 1466 Auto-fitted version of 5800 Class later renumbered as 1400 Class.[9]
5400 Class 0-6-0PT 25 1930 All auto-fitted.[9]
6400 Class 0-6-0PT 40 1932 6412, 6430, 6435 Smaller wheel version of 5400 Class, all auto-fitted.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Vaughan, Adrian (1989). Obstruction Danger. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens Limited. pp. 29–32. ISBN 1-85260-055-1.
  3. ^ Trevena, Arthur (1980). Trains in Trouble. Vol. 1. Redruth: Atlantic Books. p. 41. ISBN 0-906899-01-X.
  4. ^ Lewis, John (1991). Great Western Auto Trailers - Part One: Pre-Grouping Vehicles. Didcot: Wild Swan. pp. 197–200. ISBN 0-906867-99-1.
  5. ^ Lewis, John (1995). Great Western Auto Trailers - Part Two: Post-Grouping and Absorbed Vehicles. Didcot: Wild Swan. p. 312. ISBN 1-874103-25-9.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Accident at Ealing Broadway on 16th November 1937". The Railways Archive. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
  8. ^ Harris 1966, pp. 131–156.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h 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)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]