Volunteers progress GWR railcar W20W restoration at Tenterden

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.

Getting there: Former GWR diesel railcar W20W takes shape at the Kent & East Sussex Railway’s Tenterden carriage and wagon works on October 8. No definite date has been given for the railcar’s return to service, but volunteers working on the long-term restoration are hoping that, subject to funding, it will coincide with the linking of the KESR and Rother Valley Railway, were that project to come to fruition. ANDRE FREEMAN

It was one of the last batch to be withdrawn, from Worcester (85A) in October 1962, where it was stored until being saved for preservation by the Kent & East Sussex Railway.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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