55513 - Class 141
This is the newest item in the Llangollen Railcars collection and represents one of the first attempts to provide a cost-effective replacement for the diesel multiple units built in the 1950s and 1960s.
Those units had been built with a life expectancy of 20 years and so by the 1980's they had reached the end of their useful lives. However by this time the railways of Britain were very run down and there was little cash available with which to buy new trains.
A joint project was undertaken by British Rail Research at Derby and Leyland Buses at Workington with the object of constructing a cheap lightweight train. Three single-car railbuses and a more complex two-car train (the class 140) were made before the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority agreed to pay for a production batch of 20 vehicles to a revised design.
Known as Class 141 these vehicles were made using Leyland National bus body parts on a four-wheel chassis. Although much cheaper than a conventional train there were many disadvantages and the batch of 20 was to be modified many times during its time in service.
Once in traffic though the economies which the Class 141s brought with them enabled West Yorkshire to cut the cost of running trains and to use the money to open more stations and lines. The Class 141 was however a victim of its own success for the increased traffic which resulted eventually enabled more expensive conventional trains to be bought and some lines have even been electrified.
The Class 141 is unique in that it is narrower than a conventional rail vehicle or than any other of the later "Pacer" railbus classes. This is because it was built with standard Leyland National parts whereas later models, like the 142, had modified cove panels to make them wider, enabling seating to be raised from 94 to 120.
Unfortunately there were many problems, particularly with the brakes, gearboxes and the engines. This vehicle, and its partner, had - as an experiment - their Leyland engines removed and had Cummins LT10s fitted instead. At the same time the Self-Changing Gears gearboxes were removed and Voith T211r fitted. Later the set went to Hunslet-Barclay in Kilmarnock in Scotland where it was rebuilt to conform electrically with the later-built classes 142-144 and had upgraded brakes and other modifications fitted.
This set remained the only class 141 to receive Cummins engines and Voith gearboxes, although this upgrade was eventually applied to all the other Pacer classes. Withdrawal of the 141s started in 1996 and by 1998 there were only two left, one of which was our 141113. Some of those taken out of service found new homes in Iran and Holland while two unmodified sets went to preserved railways. After February our set was the final member of its class to remain in traffic but made its last journey on the main line on May 23rd 1998 at the end of the winter timetable. It was then stored at Doncaster works by then owners Porterbrook Leasing and was later offered for sale, but being unique mechanically failed to attract any interest for export.
It was bought by us in 2001 and required extensive work, including the rebuilding of one of the engines and a complete exterior overhaul and repaint before re-entering service at the start of 2007, making its debut at the Midland Railway Butterley. In mid 2010 it was relocated to the Weardale Railway where it was used on community rail services between Bishop Auckland and Stanhope. It remained on this duty until May 2012 when it returned to the Midland Railway via a gala appearance at Llangollen. It now works "as required" at the Midland Railway and is considered to be permanently based there, rather than at Llangollen.
This train is preserved in the later pattern of West Yorkshire Passenger Transport "Metro" livery and retains its West Yorkshire interior and period posters. It was based for the whole of its working life at Leeds Neville Hill Depot. It is based at the Midland Railway Butterly and sees use there throughout the year.
The interior of the 141 vehicles looks more modern than that of the first generation units in the fleet. The now infamous "bus seats" made their first appearance on these units. The centre doors were designed to be used by the passengers, and had internal and external buttons to allow passengers to open them once released by the guard. The crew doors just outside the cab are slam tpye, the units came with safety bars to prevent passengers using these doors.
One of the biggest differences from our other units is the cab layout. The amount of extra equipment is almost immediately obvious when you compare it to our first generation units. From left to right: The red and black switches control the saloon lights, and various auxillary electrical functions. The large white box is the Door Key Switch (DKS) used to liven the door controls at that end of the train for the guard to use. The minature circuit breakers (MCBs) (Much easier to reset than changing fuse wire!). The tail light and headlight controls are just to the right of the seat back. Then the reverser and master key switch. The brake control is the handle underneath the side window. The air gauge, speedo and AWS reset button are mounted in front of the driver along with the coupling controls. The throttle and horn are on the right in front of the AWS sunflower. The handset on the left handside allows communication between cabs, or to broadbast over the public address equipment. The right hand handset is for use with the NRN radio equipment.