By Geoff Courtney
THE restoration of one of the GWR landmark diesel railcars that were the trailblazers for the modern DMUs will soon be entering its fifth decade – but volunteers on the project are determined that their enthusiasm will ensure the ground-breaking vehicle will once again earn its keep in service.
Numbered W20W, the car was built at Swindon in 1940, one of 38 in a class that with its eye-catching design and adaptability proved a success on both the main line and some of the byways of the country’s rail network.
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It was one of the last batch to be withdrawn, from Worcester (85A) in October 1962, where it was stored until being saved for preservation by the Kent & East Sussex Railway.
It arrived there in April 1966 and after an extensive overhaul, achieved its own small piece of railway history by forming the heritage line’s first public fare-paying train on February 3, 1974, between Tenterden and Rolvenden.
For six years it was a popular performer, but despite being mechanically sound, was taken out of service in 1980 due to corrosion, and a start was made on addressing the problem.
This work, however, was short-lived, as explained by Neil Edwards, a member of the restoration team: “Extensive rot was uncovered, but the vehicle was soon set aside and continued to deteriorate until a reinvigorated volunteer-led restoration effort was instigated under the management of Andrew Webb. Chris Davis joined in 1990 to work with Andrew, and a small team developed.”
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