The Great Western Railway introduced Diesel Railcar units in the 1930s as a more economic replacement to steam traction on smaller branch lines. They were first used on the Severn Valley and Tenbury Branches in 1941 and continued in use until the 1960s. Railcar 22 is owned by the Great Western Society at Didcot but was resident on the SVRSevern Valley Railway in the 1960s and 1970s.
Railcar 22 in service
The first 18 diesel railcars built between 1934 and 1937 featured a streamlined shape which gave rise to the nickname "flying banana". Railcar 22 was one of the next batch of 18 built at the GWRGreat Western Railway's Swindon works between 1940 and 1942; these featured a more angular design sometimes described as "razor edged". Railcars in this batch were equipped with 2 AEC diesel engines of 105 hp each and fitted with standard buffers and drawgear to which could be coupled a 60 ton tail load, allowing the railcar to tow a coach or act as the local pick-up goods train at off-peak times. The railcar could carry 48 passengers and included a large luggage department.
Railcar 22 entered service from Newport shed on 18 September 1940. On 30 July 1941, 22 and sister number 23 were noted in the Kidderminster area, believed to be on test runs for the introduction of railcar services on the Severn Valley and Tenbury Branches which began that year. Thereafter Railcar 22 was based in the Bristol area and between 1950 and 1954, in the Reading area where it had been paired with Car 38 after sister Car 35 was destroyed by fire. For the next few years 22 was based at Leamington, before a move to Worcester in 1958 from where it regularly worked services on the Severn Valley Branch as far as Shrewsbury and also on the Tenbury Branch. A railcar servicing depot had been established at Worcester in the Carriage & Wagon works area. This was north of Shrub Hill on the opposite side of the main line to the steam shed. Vehicle fuelling points were provided both inside and outside the shed and there were underfloor maintenance pits.
For much of its BRBritish Rail or British Railways life 22 was painted in maroon and cream, but in August 1958 it was repainted in BRBritish Rail or British Railways mid-green. Following the introduction of more modern BRBritish Rail or British Railways single diesel units, 22 was reduced to standby status in 1961, and finally withdrawn in October 1962.
Railcar 22 in preservation
Following withdrawal, 22 was stored at Swindon until being bought by the Midland Group of the Great Western Society in 1967. The Railcar arrived on loan to the SVRSevern Valley Railway on 13th May 1967. Restoration took place at both Bridgnorth and Bewdley until 1968. Railcar 22 was used during the opening weekend of service in May 1970 and from June 1970 until August 1971 was used on the Saturday shoppers’ service to Hampton Loade.
Other GWRGreat Western Railway Railcars on the Severn Valley Railway
Other GWRGreat Western Railway railcars were also used in service on the Severn Valley and Tenbury branches. In the early 1940s these included streamlined railcars numbers 5, 6 and 7. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 43 includes a picture of a burned out railcar in the up sidings at Bridgnorth following a serious fire. The caption identifies this as W7W in August 1956, although it is probably W10W which was destroyed in a fire at Bridgnorth on 9 March 1956.
Apart from Railcar 22, later examples known to have worked in the area in the 1940s include 14, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 32.
Worcester’s allocation between 1960 and withdrawal was 20, 22, 23, 24, 26, 29 and 32. Twin railcars 33/38 were also allocated, but it is thought they were not used on Severn Valley services.
Railcar W20W is seen in this picture at Tenbury Wells in 1959.
Another railcar, possibly W32W, is seen in this colourised photograph on the Tenbury Branch.
The page below is extracted from the GWRGreat Western Railway's internal document "GWRGreat Western Railway Birmingham and Worcester Divisions, Working of Coaches (rail motor, auto cars etc), 5 October 1942". It shows the working arrangements for the GWRGreat Western Railway Railcars which were based at Worcester. Three cars ("A", "B", and "C") were used daily. "B" mainly served the Severn Valley Branch, including services to and from Highley mainly for the use of miners working at Highley Colliery. "C" mainly served the Tenbury Branch. Both "B" and "C" are referred to as "New type".
Historical note: The services shewn to at the foot of this page refer to trains for workers at the Royal Ordnance Factory in premises commandeered from Cadbury's, which produced ammunition during both World Wars. Blackpole was an unadvertised halt to the north of Worcester built to serve the factory and operated only during and immediately after the Wars.
Steve Bartlett has blogged about 1950s diagrams:
- It emerged there was also a dedicated Worcester railcar drivers’ link; the drivers stayed with their railcars as they roamed over the Severn Valley system [..] Worcester’s Severn Valley turns started with early morning positioning empty stock movements. In 1950 no less than three of Worcester’s four diesel railcar diagrams started the day on the Severn Valley system. First out was a 4.55am Worcester to Highley empty stock to form a 6.07am Highley to Bewdley. Next out was a 5.10am to Kidderminster empty stock to form a 5.53am Kidderminster to Alveley Halt [..] This railcar then made a three minute empty stock movement to Hampton Loade where it reversed and worked a 6.33am unadvertised service back to Alveley Halt. Both trips were for the conveyance of colliers to work. The third Worcester diagram, the daddy of them all, was a 5.35am forty-eight miles empty stock movement to Ludlow via Shelwick Junction, on the approaches to Hereford. There it reversed and went up the North & West route to Ludlow where it formed a 7.25am Ludlow to Woofferton, continuing from there as an 8.09am to Kidderminster, via Bewdley. Having spent the day working this section its return home was equally worthy of record. This was a 7.26pm Woofferton to Worcester Shrub Hill advertised service via Leominster and Bromyard.
Wikipedia article Retrieved 22 Jan 2015
Past editions of SVRSevern Valley Railway News.
- SVRSevern Valley Railway Stock Book 5th edition
- Didcot Railway Centre Railcar 22 Page
- Turley (2005) P. 41.
- Bartlett, Steve, ‘Worcester’s Great Western Diesel Railcars Working on the Severn Valley’, Pen & Sword blog, 30 September 2020 (Retrieved 8 November 2021)
- A G Cleaver, "The Early Days Of The 'Severn Valley'", SVRSevern Valley Railway News 190 (2015) p24.
- Great Western Archive