Help this pioneer run again!

Our Team

  • Stephen Middleton
    Chairman / Trustee / Committee
  • Marcus Woodcock
  • Dave Cullingworth
  • Steve Hoather
    M.A., C.Eng., F.I.Mech.E., F.I.E.T.
    Pro. Engineer / Committee
  • Stuart Hiscock
  • Bob Gwynne
    Curatorial Advisor
  • No Pic
    Qiuying Ren
    Fundraising / Trustee
  • Ian Douglas
    Ian Douglas
    Trustee / Committee
  • No Pic
    Peter Lund
    Treasurer / Committee / Trustee
  • Simon Gott
    Publicity / Committee / Newsletter
  • No Pic
    Paul Jarman
    Committee / Trustee
  • Rob Shaw

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We are members of the Heritage Railway Association

£465k Heritage Lottery Fund Success

March 2011 - ‘Grandfather of modern trains’ to be restored
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a grant of £465,800 to restore the world’s first electric Autocar and accompanying 1904 ‘autocoach’.
As the first train to be powered by petrol electric engine, the York built 1903 ‘autocar’ is the forerunner of today’s modern trains. The four-year volunteer-led project, to be run by the NER 1903 Electric Autocar Trust, will see the train and accompanying coach restored and brought to life for use on heritage railways in the Craven area, North Yorkshire and the North East. When complete, the train will carry passengers again for the first time in over 80 years.
The works will start shortly at Embsay, near Skipton, and will see the body restored, and a new engine, generator, controls and brakes fitted. There will be lots of exciting opportunities for volunteers to get involved, in particular for people with electrical, pipe fitting, welding, painting and woodworking skills keen to experience working in the heritage sector. The train, when finished, will be fully accessible to all, and equipped with the latest audio visual techniques will act as a ‘mobile classroom’ for schools and community groups so they can learn all about the development of rail transport from steam travel, to present day.
Fiona Spiers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for Yorkshire and the Humber said:
‘This project to restore the predecessor to modern rail transport is fascinating. Not only will it preserve a precious relic from our industrial past, it will also provide many opportunities to get involved and develop skills as part of the restoration, which is great news for people in the area.’
Stephen Middleton, Harrogate coach restorer and NER 1903 Electric Autocar Trust Chairman, originally bought the autocar body from a landowner who had used it as a holiday home since 1930. He said:
‘We are delighted that the HLF has recognised the importance of this train and our restoration and educational plans. This, with smaller grants from the Ken Hoole Trust and PRISM (The Fund for the PReservation of Industrial and Scientific Material) has given us the boost we need to complete the project within an ambitious timetable.’

Latest news and progress, click here.

Autocar Featured on BBC

January 2011 - Autocar restoration shown on Look North

To view the clip in HD, click here.

Our Trust and NER Autocar No. 3170

Early Pioneers
In 1903 the North Eastern Railway designed and built a pair of “autocars” which laid the foundation for most of the trains running today. At that time, steam powered the world’s railways, and although railcars were being developed, they too were steam powered.
Forward Thinking
Vincent Raven, the Assistant Chief Mechanical Engineer of the NER, was a forward thinking designer who saw the advantages of electric traction. The modern electric tramcars introduced on to the streets of Britain at this time showed that electric power provided superior acceleration and hill climbing ability over steam. Raven used this electrical technology in his autocars but went a stage further. Instead of drawing electricity from overhead lines, as trams did, with all the expense and inconvenience that installing these involved, the autocars carried their own power plant – a petrol engine driving a dynamo which supplied power to the electric motors.
World First
This was the world’s first use of an internal combustion engine in a passenger carrying rail vehicle. At the time the petrol engine was in its infancy and reliable diesel engines were not developed until the mid 1930s. The two autocars, numbers 3170 and 3171, were also fitted with electric track brakes, another first in railway use. In short, it is hard to overstate the importance of these pioneering vehicles in transport history, as they were fifty years ahead of their time. Similar rail transport did not really take off until the 1950s.
Service and Withdrawl
Initially the autocars saw service between West Hartlepool and Hartlepool stations (in direct competition with electric tramcars) and Scarborough to Filey (as a replacement of a steam service). Later, the autocars were transferred to the Selby – Cawood branchline to work the passenger services there. In 1923, no.3170 was fitted with a larger engine and new generator giving it sufficient power to pull a conventional carriage, thus increasing passenger capacity. It worked in the Harrogate area for a while before rejoining its twin on the Cawood branch. No.3171 was withdrawn in 1930 and no.3170 in 1931.
Holiday home and Preservation
Luckily, the body of 3170 was sold to a North Yorkshire landowner and made into a holiday home at Keldholme near Kirkbymoorside on the North Yorkshire Moors. Fitted with a tin roof and veranda it was well protected from the weather and survived there until September 2003 when it was sold to carriage restorer Stephen Middleton who moved it to the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway.

Autocar Newsletter

Our Latest Newsletter 'Autocar' Issue No 15 is now available

Click here to view our back issues.

Help us turn this...

The shell of 1903 North Eastern Railway Autocar No. 3170, which lay in a North Yorkshire field for over 70 years as a holiday home...

...back into this!

...into a restored, working vehicle as near to its original state as is practically possible!