Autotrailer No 167

No 167 was one of a batch of 12 trailers ordered to diagram A27 in January 1928 and delivered by January 1929. They were in some ways a step forward  as no new autocoaches had been built since 1912, reliance being placed on the conversion of steam rail-motors, or converting existing coaches. They are substantial coaches being 59ft 6in in length and 9 ft wide. As built they comprised a steel underframe with the then fairly new design of Collett 7ft bogies. The bodywork was on an oak frame with hot dip galvanised steel cladding and roof which presented a smooth modern image when compared with the 1912 built batch. The interior was fitted out with mahogany seat frames, window assemblies and doors, however pine tongue and groove, carefully scumbled, was also used.

Lighting was electric using the GWR favourite Leitner regulator system - a most peculiar system involving resistance coils and mercury filled pots.

Finished in chocolate and cream, 167 left Swindon in January 1929 and took up duties on the Brixham Branch in Devon returning to Swindon in October 1931 for an overhaul and repaint into a simpler livery. Also at this point it appears that the rear windows were blanked over and changes made to the door handles. Few other changes were made during routine overhauls and 167 was repainted into Blood and Custard on nationalisation.

The introduction of DMUs and the closure of branch lines meant the end for autocoaches. 167 was withdrawn in March 1961, being used as an office at Bristol. It was bought by the Dean Forest Railway in 1977 and used briefly until body-frame rot prevented further use.

It was bought by Bill Turnbull and Chris Pendlebury in 1998 and moved to Llangollen. Initially, work concentrated on conservation until it was sold to its present ownerwho was able to fund the rebuild.

The wood frame was rebuilt by Don Ware, metal work by Harry Barber and Pete Cutler. electrics by Jeremy Price and new seats by R Owen. Fabric for the seat covers was made new by identifying and copying a small swatch found behind a seat frame during dismantling. Replacement brass fittings and new lamp glasses were also made. In June 2007the coach won the Heritage Restoration Coach Award and is a credit to the team who carried out the restoration and the craftsmen of Swindon Carriage Works.

Words by Chris Pendlebury

The GWR must have found its new Autotrailers very useful as a further 10 were ordered in January 1929, the same time at which 167 left Swindon Works. The new coaches were very similar, exceptthat the length was increased by 18 inches giving a few more seats and a little more space for the guard. Drop-down seats were fitted in the guard’s area.

Construction was identical to the earlier batch. 174 left Swindon in February 1930, initially going to the West Country based at Plymouth. It went back to Swindon in 1932 for a repaint and overhaul which included changes to the door handles and locks. It then moved north being apparently based at Oswestry and working around the Wrexham area. It was certainly used on the Llangollen line as one driver has recalled driving it on a train with five other autotrailers to Oswestry Works for mechanical overhaul of the auto-gear.

It wandered into Herefordshire being recoreded at Ross-on-Wye in July 1951 but was back in Llangollen not long after. It was one of the last in service, being withdrawn in August 1961 and then used as an office for the Traffic Manager.

Initially preserved at Wallingford in 1983, it deteriorated rapidly, not helped by a fire in the centre section which damaged the roof frame. It was bought by Hugh Shipton and moved to Llangollen in 2001. Rebuilding started in 2006 by replacing the oak frame which had splintered then rotted due to the corrosion of the iron knee bolts by the acid in the timber. The bolts swelled with the corrosion products, split the timbers and water then got in.

Swindon coach builders were asked about how they dealt with the problem. Initially they chopped out the rotten sections with a big chisel wnd new bits were let in,, then, when the whole frame had been patched, it would return to swindon where a complete new frame would be fitted, using iron bolts so the whole sequence work start over again. The comment on the process was “Swindon never changed things!” The new wood used on the rebuild is not oak and plated bolts are used so hopefully the problem will not reappear.

The rebuild is progressing with new side frames being constructed during 2007.

Words - Chris Pendlebury

Autotrailer No 174

Above Left - 174 driver’s end before restoration.

Above Centre -174 (L) and 167 under restoration in Pentrefelyn Carriage Shed during 2004

Above Right - timber and metal rot

Below Left - interior of 174 before restoration started

Below Right - Stripped down almost to the bare frames, restoration has commenced with the floor and one side is in the process of construction.

Photos - John Rutter

Autotrailer No 167 (Red/Cream) at Glyndyfrdwy during the 6880 Gala in April 2007.

Upper Picture - Steve Kemp

Lower Pictures - George Jones

Autotrailer No167 under reconstruction in Pentrefelyn Carriage and Wagon Shed

Autotrailer No167, fully rebuilt and fitted out, in service with Llangollen Railway

Above Left Approaching Glyndyfrdwy with 6430

Above Right Between Carrog and Glyndyfrdwy with 6430 and 5224

Both Pics Dave Allen

Right - approaching Carrog

Picture Gordon Heddon


The Autocoach, restored by Oswestry based 163 Autotrailer Trust, being delivered to Llangollen on 4th Sept 2007.

It was rostered in the  Autumn Steam Gala on 15th and 16th September 2007,  paired with sister vehicle No 167.  Autotrain fitted pannier locomotive no 6430 was sandwiched between the two and proved to be a popular train with passengers.

Above: Panorama from the inside of Autocoach no 174 on 25th November 2007  with Operational Autocoach No 167 on the left and the Railmotor under investigation to the right

Photo - John Rutter

174 in Pentrefelyn Shed 3rd Sept 2008