Railcar of the Year 2016

Congratulations to the winner of the Railcar of the Year award:Class 101/111 3-car set 50321/59575/51427.

The Nominations
Class 100 56097, which was also a nomination for the very first award back in 2012. It was initially nominated for the sheer courage the owning group showed for starting such a thorough restoration on a vehicle in such dilapidated condition. This determination has continued over several years, and several thousands of pounds, at the Midland Railway Butterley and 56097 was finally rolled out of the shed following work to replace and repair corroded bodywork during February 2016, leading to its nomination for this years award. This is the first time that anyone had been able to see what the complete vehicle looked like having been externally completed. Around 60% of the vehicle's outer skin and 40% of the framework has had to be replaced, along with all the glass. 56097 was nominated firstly in recognition for the owning group's stability during a long and expensive rebuild, secondly for the scale of the bodywork restoration hitherto unseen on a Gloucester 100 in preservation and finally for the historical significance of ensuring such a vehicle is saved from structural collapse, so that it can in time take its place in the only surviving complete Class 100 set remaining.

Class 101 51213: This vehicle has received significant backdating since entering preservation in 2003 and has had many original features returned to it including a 2-character route indicator box, tungsten lighting and original interior trim. During 2016, 51213 was further protected by being repainted into BR Blue & Grey livery, an unusual and interesting choice considering it retains the early style of front end, which replicates a limited number of 101 sets in the Cardiff area during the 1970's. It was nominated in recognition for giving true weight to historically accurate features during its continued restoration, and for its portrayal of the Blue & Grey era, being the only active Class 101 in preservation currently carrying this colour scheme.

Class 101/111 50321/59575/51427: Based on the Great Central Railway, the set was first formed as a 2-car power twin in 2004 and had the claim of being the first Class 101 to be returned to BR Green colours in preservation. Boosted to 3-cars ten years later with the completion of unique Class 111 buffet car 59575, the set had been looking weather beaten of late. 2015 & 2016 was spent intensively refreshing the two powercars and 2016 has seen the full 3-car set returned to service in a very tidy condition. The set was nominated for its continued reliability operating most weekends of the year at the Great Central, for the quality and speed of the latest overhaul and for its interest as the only working DMU set in the country currently containing an (authentic) buffet car.

Class 110 59701: Flying the flag for the humble centre car. Currently resident at the East Lancashire Railway, the vehicle was first restored there during the 1990's where a lot of backdating work was done to return it to as-built 1960's condition. Relocation to the Wensleydale Railway followed, but a punishing (often daily) schedule of service led to an alarming decline in the vehicle's condition, culminating in a withdrawal from service in 2010. Its service life was extended between 2011 & 2014 during a loan to the Churnet Valley but the resources were not available to properly improve the vehicle's plight. 59701 was nominated for the remarkable activities observed during the past 12 months, after being returned to its original owner at the East Lancs. In just a few months, the vehicle has been transformed inside and out, receiving bodywork and roof repairs, full repaint and an interior refurbishment. More remarkably, most of this work has been undertaken the "old fashioned way" with in-house voluntary labour. Returned to service in record time, 59701 has been well and truly saved from a declining fate and is now back in good condition and in service once again, the proper place for a sole surviving Class 110 centre car.

Class 117 51360: Based at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, the vehicle has had an interesting history paired with lots of different vehicles in hybrid sets. This continues to be the case, with the latest transfer of ownership enabling it to act as a maintenance spare vehicle for an existing Class 117 3-car set, whilst longer term the vehicle is due to operate with a Class 107, an unusual partner indeed. Much restoration work has been completed during 2015/2016 to bring the vehicle up to a higher standard and to ready it for the regular services that the GWSR timetable demands. However it is nominated for different reasons. The restoration work, particularly the cosmetic and interior, has been undertaken in co-operation with the railway's main Carriage & Wagon department working in conjunction with the usual DMU group. A fine example of inter-departmental liaison for the greater good of the railway, it is a relatively rare thing, and worthy of celebration. The volunteer resources have been excellently marshalled, and the swift and high quality result in the form of 51360 is testament to that.

Voting Pattern
Last year's award was notable for the closeness between the winner and the runner up. This year could be no more different, with a clear winner rising head and shoulders above its closest rivals. Voting opened soon after Christmas and the Class 117 took an early lead. However after just three days a surge of votes for Class 101 51213 put it in a very strong position, taking the top spot. This lead was maintained for over two weeks and 51213 was in first place for the longest time in the competition. However, mid January saw a wave of support for Class 101/111 3-car 50321/59575/51427 which, importantly, was sustained throughout the final week of voting. The 3-car set's lead became larger and larger as the final days went on, and an astonishing 169 votes had been cast for the winner by the end.

The set becomes the highest voted for British DMU in the award's history, being exceeded only by Swedish Railcar 1212 (which attracted 244 votes, many from Sweden, back in 2012). The set also won over 100 more votes than the closest runner-up, so a deserved win indeed. A very pleasing 354 votes were cast in total for the 5 nominations, making it the second most popular award since its inception in 2012. This was particularly pleasing as last year saw the lowest recorded number of votes, so hopefully the popularity will continue in 2017! Many thanks to all who voted.

Place Vehicle Number of Votes
1st Class 101/111 50321/59575/51427 180
2nd Class 101 51213 70
3rd Class 117 51360 57
4th Class 100 56097 32
5th Class 110 59701 15