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GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

Earlswood Lakes Station: gwrel2865

A GWR steam Rail Car stands at Earlswood Station on an up local passenger service to Moor Street

A GWR steam Rail Car stands at Earlswood Station on an up local passenger service from Stratford upon Avon to Moor Street. The first steam railmotors date back to the mid 19th century, but the idea came of age in the early years of the 20th century, when a vehicle capable of being reversed quickly, and designed for local trains making frequent stops was required. The GWR steam railmotors were designed for specific purposes and had several advantages over conventional passenger trains consisting of coaches hauled by locomotives:

  • Reversed easily without the need for a locomotive to run round (or the provision of a loop for such purposes)
  • Purpose designed for stopping at unmanned halts
  • Economical to operate and thus suitable for lightly used lines or for local trains on main lines.

However there were also disadvantages, in particular:

  • Servicing the power unit took place in locomotive depots which gave rise to problems keeping the passenger accommodation clean
  • Any maintenance required on the power unit necessitated withdrawal of the entire vehicle
  • Major repairs often required removal of the boiler, or entire power unit, from the body which was a complex process involving specialist equipment
  • A lack of the flexibility to add additional vehicles to accommodate greater passenger numbers (the railmotors could haul one trailer or an ordinary coach, but their haulage capacity was very limited compared to even a small locomotive).

The coming of the steam Railmotor enabled the Great Western Railway to provide cheaply additional services between normal passenger trains, and also to provide extra intermediate stopping places. This led to a huge increase in people's ability to undertake local travel and consequently to greatly increased traffic. A report for the GWR Traffic Committee in January 1904 notes, for instance, that on the Chalford and Stonehouse Service 'the carryings by the motor cars and the local passenger trains average 1,354 passengers per day and 474,000 per annum. Prior to the introduction of the cars the carryings were 194 per day and 68,000 per annum. This gives an increase of 597 per cent.'

Courtesy of GWR Steam Railmotor and Trailer Project.