Help this pioneer run again!

Our Team

  • Stephen Middleton
    Chairman / Trustee / Committee
  • Alan Chandler
  • 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
    RJS Media Ltd

Make a donation

We now accept payments through PayPal
We are pleased to announce that our website is now set up to accept payments for donations to our trust or membership fees. Click the donate button now!


We are members of the Heritage Railway Association

N.E.R. Buses. Lorries & Autocars (Hoole,1970)

Now available on the website is N.E.R. Buses. Lorries & Autocars (Hoole,1970) for £2.95. The book features the Autocar, it is not the PB edition, but a special hardcover edition for libraries with a coloured plate of the NER coaching stock arms. It is listed in ROAD TRANSPORT & in LNER GROUP. Purchasing a copy also raises funds for the 1903 NER Electric Autocar Trust.

Transport Loan Trust

The Transport Trust has agreed to provide us with a loan facility of up to £46,000 to enable completion. As you may know, we have been fortunate to gain grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, PRISM and the Ken Hoole Trust and have raised funds ourselves. However, despite extensive initial planning, some aspects of the restoration have taken longer and proved more expensive than originally anticipated, primarily due to the remedial work needed on the chassis and inflation. This came as an unwelcome surprise at a late stage in the restoration – more details are in Newsletter No. 24, downloadable from the membership page. Stephen Middleton, our Chairman, said, “This is a fantastic vote of confidence and I am proud that the Transport Trust is associated with us”. The loan is to be repaid when autocar is operational. We would still welcome financial donations and donors are entitled to a range of benefits. Every pound we do not have to borrow will help our finances. We would also welcome skilled volunteers able to help with practical work, both with ‘hands-on’ restoration and support roles. The Transport Trust is the only national charity established to promote and encourage the preservation and restoration of Britain's unique transport heritage in all its forms - by air, land (road and rail) and water (sea and inland).

Restoration Update

Feb 2015
Power unit arriving at the great Central Railway (Peter van Houten)
Adeys to Great Central Railway (Peter van Houten)
Craning across (Peter van Houten)
Chassis (Peter van Houten)
Our work on both the autocoach and autocar chassis continues. The autocoach is progressing well and we anticipate it becoming operational later this year. Down at Loughborough the power unit is now attached to the chassis and is in the GCR shed. Work has started on connecting various parts, whether brake rigging or electrical cables. The next newsletter is due in the second half of February and will have more details and photographs. The next exhibition for the publicity stand is the York show at Easter. If you can attend, do drop by and say hello and catch up on the latest news and pictures. It is possible we may have some pictures of the chassis being tested by then. 2015 is the year when we will see serious, tangible progress. All the hard work of the last four years is starting to come together. Can you help us complete the autocar?

Crowdfunding to raise a further £50k?

Sep 2014
Colourised outline - Gary Luck
Autocoach June 2014 - Simon Gott
We have been very busy in the last few months, with a team at Embsay working on the autocoach, and another team at Loughborough working on the mechanical parts of the autocar. The powerunit was run for the first time on April 15th and performed well, with the only issue arising being the time taken to prime the fuel system. The chassis has now been strengthened and had assorted parts (such as fuel tanks and battery boxes) attached. The engine housing has had a trial fitting on the chassis. After a lot of work, the chassis has been moved to the Great Central Railway and is waiting for space in the shed to allow the fitting of brake parts and controls. Unfortunately, extra work has been needed to deal with issues as they arose and this has cost extra money. Our original budget and grant applications did not allow for these, as we did not know of the potential need. Our estimate is that the project needs an extra £50,000 to complete (around 10% of our original budget). A more detailed report is in issue 23 of the newsletter.
Therefore, we have re-opened our fund-raising campaign. The Trust has been registered on E-Bay as a charity – if you sell items, you may donate a percentage of the sale price to the Trust – we are known as “NER 1903 Electric Autocar Trust” - .
Meanwhile, the autocoach is looking very smart, in dark maroon gloss paint. Almost all of the doors have been rehung, internal partitions replaced and we’re expecting the seating within a few days. We have quite a number of parts (such as handles and doorlocks) still to fit, but nearly all of these have arrived.
As well as asking for any financial help you can give, if you have some craft/DIY skills and spare time, we would welcome your help with practical restoration work. There are also ‘vacancies’ for less active roles – we can always use people who can help with fundraising, research and other ‘backroom’ tasks.
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' is availble online now!

Click here to view all of our newsletters.

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!