The GWR built 38 Railcars between 1933 and 1942. The earliest batch of railcars proved very popular with passengers, and so later batches were fitted with standard buffers and drawgear. This allowed the railcars to tow a coach behind them at peak periods, and also allowed them to act as the local pick-up goods train during off-peak periods - these railcars could often be seen with one or more goods vans in tow on the branch lines. The final four GWR railcars were built as single ended versions with a pair operating back to back, or as a three car unit with a coach sandwiched in the middle - these were the ancestors of the Diesel Multiple Units you can see passing our picnic area on the mainline today.
Number 22 was built in 1940. Accommodation is provided for passengers in two open saloons with a total of 48 seats, and there are driving cabs at each end. It is powered by two AEC 9.6 litre, direct injection 6 cylinder engines through a Wilson epicyclic gearbox. The engines are of very similar specification to those used in London Transport buses for over 50 years. Externally it has been almost completely repanelled and last underwent a complete repaint in 1992/93.
The Railcar entered service from Newport shed on 18 September 1940. She was allocated to a number of different sheds, including Reading, and during her later days she worked around the Worcester area and frequently ventured onto the Severn Valley line. She was withdrawn from service in 1962 and stored at Swindon, from where she was bought by the Midland Group of the Great Western Society for preservation in 1967. She initially worked on the Severn Valley Railway before coming to Didcot in 1978.
Number 22 is one of only three GWR railcars to survive into preservation, and is currently the only operational example. Number 4 (one of the earlier streamlined versions known as the ‘flying bananas’) is preserved as a static exhibit at STEAM - the Museum of the Great Western Railway, while Number 20 (one of the same batch as our Number 22) is currently undergoing restoration at the Kent and East Sussex Railway.
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