BR(W) Auto Trailers

The South Devon Railway has four British Railways auto trailers designed for the Western Region by F. W. Hawksworth, the last chief mechanical engineer of the GWR. Their design followed the earlier Great Western designed trailers.

These coaches have windows in one end and a set of driving controls comprising vacuum brake handle, regulator handle, automatic warning system and warning gong for push and pull operation.

The regulator handle is connected to a rod beneath the coach and, by a universal joint, coupled in turn to a similar rod under the engine, to the locomotive regulator. This means that the driver can control the train from the driving cab of the auto trailer, while the fireman stays on the footplate. Up to four auto trailers could be used on a train, with two each side of the engine.

There are two types of auto trailer on the line: W225W and W228W have longitudinal and transverse seats, while the later W240W had bus-type face to back seats.

W225W and W228W were used on the ‘Tivvy Bumper’, the name given to the local service between Tiverton and Tiverton Junction which was the last BR(W) auto train working. They were withdrawn in October 1964 before being purchased for preservation. Many local trains had local nicknames: that between Totnes and Ashburton was called ‘Bulliver’. They are currently in service.

W240W was last used between Yeovil Town and Yeovil Junction. It is very derelict having for some years been used as a PW Department mess van in Dart Valley Railway days. It is now awaiting a major rebuild.

The fourth auto trailer is W233W, owned by locomotive group 5542 Ltd, which arrived on the line in the summer of 2013. It has an interesting history. After a career spent mainly in the west country, it was withdrawn and became British Rail Railway Technical Centre's Test Car No 1 (numbered ADB150375) in 1971. The seats were removed, as was the auto equipment and, over time, it was fitted with a 240v generator, dual air and vacuum braking, kitchen and workshop for use in its new role. It also lost its GWR buffers, to be replaced by BR hydraulic buffers, and its GWR bogies, which were replaced by modern BR B4 examples.

The aim is to restore the vehicle to passenger working. Withdrawn in 1998 for preservation, it was previously stored at the Midland Railway Centre.


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225e.gifW225W, built by BR Swindon in 1951

228.gif W228W, built by BR Swindon in 1951

240d.gif W240W, built by BR Swindon in 1954

W233W_1.gif W233W, built by BR Swindon in 1951