Railcar of the Year 2017

Voting for this year's Railcar of the Year award is now open! Make sure you cast your vote before the end of Thursday 4th January 2018. Please note that only one vote is allowed per person and you are required to list your name in order for your vote to be counted. Voting is free and the winner will be announced in early January.

The Nominations

Class 104 M50455/M50517 (East Lancashire Railway: The first time a Class 104 has been nominated for the award, a dozen of this class entered preservation in the early 1990's, however there has never been more than four vehicles in service at any one time due to their unfortunate design causing rampant body corrosion. They had not been doing so well recently with just a single set (at the Llangollen Railway) available for visitors and enthusiasts to sample. However this changed this year with the return to service of East Lancs based "power twin" set M50455/M50517. Originally preserved at the Churnet Valley Railway and restored between 1992 and 2004, ten good years of service and a relocation to the ELR followed before serious bodywork repairs were required again and the set withdrawn for repairs. The set is nominated for the dedication of a small restoration team and owner in getting the two vehicles bodily overhauled during a three year period. The DMBS (M50455) is particularly worthy of mention as it received the greater amount of work, and the final finish is uncompromising. It has received (amongst other items) a whole new cab front and is now the only Class 104 running in preservation to represent their "plated over" or plain front end as carried by the class from the 1970's through to their withdrawal.

Class 105 Sc51485/E56121 (East Lancashire Railway): Again, this is the first time a Class 105, or "Cravens", has been put up for the award. Those in the railcar community will need no explanation as to why this 2-car set is nominated. Representing two thirds of the overall preserved Class 105 fleet (there is only one other vehicle in existence), this set was preserved by the West Somerset Railway in 1982 and was worked hard for 15 years with little major restoration or overhaul work carried out to safeguard its long term future. By the mid 1990's it was withdrawn from service in very poor condition and was contaminated with lethal asbestos insulation. Disposal was the preferred option of the West Somerset, which was a big problem for the movement as this was the only complete Cravens set left, so was one of the "Holy Grail" sets of historically significant DMU's. Rescued by members of the East Lancs Railway, it was moved there in 1997 and was stripped of asbestos leaving corroded and stripped out shells as a starting point for what would become a truly mammoth restoration. Extraordinary in nature, the restoration back to as built 1950's condition was completed without grant funding over 20 years using dedicated graft and determination. A comprehensive "nut and bolt" rebuild, the body and interiors were transformed from almost nothing, with every surviving component restored and everything missing faithfully reproduced. It is nominated this year of course due to the set reaching completion and making its first runs post-overhaul during November, and sending ripples throughout the movement in the process.

Class 110 E51813/E59701/E51842 (East Lancashire Railway): The third nomination from the same railway, the East Lancs, is the unique 3-car Class 110 "Calder Valley" set. One of only two sets preserved, this is the only one in original 3-car format (the other set having lost its centre car) and was preserved at the ELR in 1990 (as a 2-car, the centre car joining it four years later). By the mid 1990's it had been largely restored to its original 1960's condition and ran for many years on the ELR before moving to the Wensleydale Railway in 2003. The following 13 years weren't kind to the unit, with high mileages, bodywork deterioration and eventual mechanical failure putting the entire set out of service and on the road to decline. The set is nominated this year for the astonishing turnaround in fortunes that has occurred over the last two years. In 2016, the 3-car set was rescued and returned by its owner to its original home the ELR, following which the full three cars within the set have each in turn been mechanically and bodily overhaulled to return them to a presentable and operational condition. What is special about this work is the sheer speed in which it has been undertaken. As far as we know, a 3-car set has never been overhauled in such a short period and the owners deserve great credit for achieving this feat without the comprehensive use of contractors. Once again it is an example of dedication and teamwork that yielded the results. In common with both the 104 and 105 (other nominations) the target deadline was the ELR's gala in November, which this set, like the two others, debuted at. The Class 110 set now takes it rightful place once again as an operational member of the geographically appropriate East Lancs Railway.

Class 116 M51131 (Battlefield Line): The final nomination, and the only nomination this year to be of suburban high density design, is Class 116 M51131. The first Class 116 ever to be nominated, it is part of a select group of only three Class 116 power cars to survive in preservation, after the preserved fleet was decimated by an arson attack in Swansea 10 years ago. Preserved in 1994 at the Battlefield Line, M51131 has always been special for retaining its later BR Blue & Grey livery rather than being reliveried into an early colour scheme such as Green. It has spent the vast majority of its preserved life in working condition, and had flown the flag for Class 116's in the past when the majority of the rest of the preserved 116's were out of service. However body corrosion eventually caught up with it, being withdrawn in 2011 for repairs. M51131 has been nominated as 2017 has seen it return to service, carrying (of course!) a fresh coat of Blue & Grey following the comprehensive cosmetic repair work. The size of the volunteer team who undertake this work at the Battlefield is small, and M51131 is nominated as it is proof that quietly working away at a restoration project will yield results if perseverance is applied. M51131's return to service will not gain the same media attention as some of the higher profile restorations, which is all the more reason to see it recognised here. M51131 is now the only Class 116 powercar in operational condition and now means that once again, the movement has an operating example of British Railways' own "standard" design of suburban DMU.

Due to problems last year with some people not being able to vote, this year the vote is on a separate polling website, follow the link below to cast your vote. Make sure you vote for your choice before the end of Thursday 4th January 2018. Please note that only one vote is allowed per person and you are required to list your name in order for your vote to be counted.