Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Heritage Lottery grant to restore world’s first electric autocar

Heritage Lottery grant to restore world’s first electric autocar

Now, while I am all for steam locomotives over modern electric trains I'm not against all electric units, particularly if they're anything like this example!

The North Eastern Railway's petrol-electric railcar was the ancestor of today's diesel-electric locomotives and incredibly advanced for its time when it was introduced in 1903.  When steam was still the primary motive power for locomotives throughout the world this "autocar", as NER called it, was plying its trade around Yorkshire and shared more in common with the trains we travel on now than anything else of the time (it had two cabs, was capable of being operated in either direction and was later uprated to pull a coach - making it resemble even more the carriages we use today).  Sadly, as with many of these pioneering technologies, the established machines retained their dominance and no more than 2 of these forward-thinking engines were ever built, spending their entire working lives in the Yorkshire area before being decommissioned in the early 1930s.

Image courtesy of the NER 1903 Electric Autocar Trust

As this article explains, thanks to the tireless efforts of local railway enthusiasts, the luck of one of the railcars surviving (albeit as a holiday home!) and the good fortune of a Heritage Lottery grant, an autocar will once again soon be seen on the Yorkshire [heritage] railway lines as this fresh injection of cash allows a full restoration to go ahead.

While there is, and always will be, an inexorable romance surrounding the steam locomotive the renovation of this innovative engine comes as a welcome fillip to those of us whose experience and knowledge of electric trains has perhaps been limited to the 0715 to London.  Would that it could look like one of these "autocars" instead of the anonymous plastic tube we are forced to travel on today!  Now, thanks to the NER 1903 Electric Autocar Trust, we may have the chance to experience early electric rail travel for ourselves.

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