March 2011 saw the reappearance of a ‘fossil’ steam
locomotive, rebuilt in all its original 1908 glory,which has
now rewritten the history books. Great Western Railway
steam railmotor No. 93 is now arguably one of our greatest
steam era survivors. Comprising a steam locomotive
built into a carriage fitted with driving cabs at either
end, it marks the true beginning of the modern railway
network as we know it. Today’s railway passenger services
are mostly comprised of railcars and multiple units,which
are not hauled by a separate locomotive but are self-propelled.
All of them can trace their ancestry back to the
steam railmotor concept.
Only one steam railmotor operates in Britain today.
GWR No. 93 survived withdrawal in 1934 by being converted
into a coach, and later an office, before it was
acquired for preservation by the Great Western Society
at Didcot Railway Centre more than 40 years ago. A truly
astonishing story of re-birth saw it restored to a gleaming
example of Edwardian magnificence, right down to
the last detail, both inside and out. Furthermore, a matching
trailer was sourced and restored to run with the railmotor,
accurately reflecting a type of train regularly seen
in service in Britain a century ago but which has all but
been forgotten by time.
The book also covers a now-unique vehicle which reflects
the very next stage in railway evolution, North Eastern
Railway petrol-electric railcar No. 3170 built in 1903.
It is the sole surviving example of the world’s first train to
be powered by a petrol-electric engine, and is therefore
of immense historical importance. It is now being rebuilt
to original condition by acclaimed carriage restorer
Stephen Middleton at the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam
Railway in Yorkshire backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund,
and once operational in 2012, will provide a perfect
northern counterpart to the steam railmotor.
Together, they form the missing link in the real story of
how our railways developed. Backed by a wealth of both
archive and modern-day pictures, this unique and
ground-breaking book reshapes the way we look at the
history of passenger rail transport.
A graduate of the University of Central
England, Robin Jones, founding editor of
Heritage Railway magazine, was a news
editor and chief investigative reporter at
the Birmingham Evening Mail, and over the
years has produced several books and
special publications, along with historical
features for numerous other newspapers
He has been interested in railways from a
very early age, when his elder brother
Stewart took him trainspotting at Widney
Manor station in Solihull at the age of four, at
the end of the British Railways steam era.
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 0 85704 122 7, hardback, 214x230mm, 144 pages. Published October 2011.