Railcar of the Year 2018

Congratulations to the winner of the Railcar of the Year award:Class 101 E51228/E56062.

The Nominations

Class 101 E51228/E56062 (North Norfolk): Selected from one of the most common classes in preservation, Class 101 vehicles have been run intensively since their late withdrawal from the mainline railway in the early 2000's. However as time has gone on these comparatively good conditioned vehicles have been running out of luck and steadily each vehicle has reached a point where they need serious overhaul work as opposed to just light maintenance. When preserved in 2004, 51228/56062 were quickly restored and put into service at the North Norfolk Railway. It then became one of the highest mileage railcars in the country working up to six days a week throughout most of the year. These factors contributed to this set being one of the first to "test" their owners when in 2011 the set had to be withdrawn for major work. The set was nominated this year in celebration of the completion and quality of said overhaul, which had been a gruelling seven year process with many hurdles along the way. The vehicle had required replacement or overhauled engines, gearboxes, freewheels and final drives, along with overhaul of the brakegear, air system and vacuum cylinders. Internally the set had had original tungsten lighting refitted, the 1980's orange Formica returned to original green and the seating reupholstered throughout the two cars. The exterior had received corrosion repairs and a full repaint into BR green livery, in the later lining style, becoming only the second Class 101 in preservation to carry this variation. The difference in the vehicles pre and post overhaul was huge, and had been completed by a small diesel team working on a steam focussed railway.

Class 115 W51859/W59678/W51880 (West Somerset): The only 3-car set nominated this year, and the first Class 115 ever to be nominated. The set was nominated for its continued existence in trying times. The Class 115's, mechanically interesting but difficult to maintain, have preservation unfriendly suburban bodies which are suffering badly from corrosion as time goes on. Additionally, their unusual Leyland Albion engines and other non standard equipment have made spares and expertise more difficult than for other classes. As a result of the above, the preserved Class 115 fleet has steadily declined over the past 20 years, to the extent that the 3-car set at the West Somerset is now the only one left still in operational service. It is hoped that the remaining spares, expertise, and luck(!) can be concentrated at the West Somerset to keep their vehicles running. Remarkably the West Somerset's set has run some very high mileages in its time and the efforts of the maintenance staff involved in keeping the set operation should be commended. Diesel Traction on very large steam railways can sometimes be overlooked so the continued upkeep of this rare set should be encouraged.

Class 116 59003 (Paignton & Dartmouth): Railcar of the Year nominations are not exclusively for the completion of overhauls, and 59003 this year was a good example of alternative reasons to be put forward. This year saw the Paignton & Dartmouth Railway launch a challenge to the traditional Santa Steam Special model that has served heritage railways every year for decades. This has come in the form of the "Train of Lights" and is a visually spectacular after dark show for the festive season involving lighting displays on the rolling stock and at key points along the lineside. 59003 had been included in the stock used for the Train of Lights and suitably adorned with bodyside, roof and underframe mounted lighting for the purpose, rather akin to the illuminated trams that several UK systems had in the early 20th century. Videos of the effects show 59003 to look like it has never looked before (after dark of course). 59003 was nominated for these awards for the place it has taken in a genuinely innovative undertaking which will no doubt attract many member of the non-enthusiast public, including many that will not have been on a heritage railway before. Initiatives like these are essential for the continued survival of our movement, and should therefore be celebrated.

Class 119 51074/51104 (Swindon & Cricklade): Railcar restoration is hard as most groups operate with very limited manpower and finance. The Swindon & Cricklade Railway is no exception and they have had more challenges than most as their unique Class 119 had to be stripped of the dreaded asbestos leaving it a stripped out shell. For over 15 years the 2-car set has been steadily worked on and whilst its still a good way till completion, this year the set has made a limited return to service so that visitors can once again travel on a Cross Country set, the only one in the country. The set's historical significance ensures that this move plugs a gap that has been in preservation for a very long time indeed. The thrust of the work has been rebuilding the stripped out interior, so important given the interior is the most characteristic part of a Cross Country set (mechanically they are similar to other units). The continued preservation of the only surviving Cross Country 2-car set should be encouraged and celebrated.

Class 141 141108 (Colne Valley): The very first second generation DMU to be nominated for the award, quite fitting given that 2019 would be the start of mass withdrawals for this era of vehicle. The preserved Class 141 fleet had reduced significantly in 2018 with half the preserved fleet scrapped leaving just two sets left: 141108 and 141113. The latter set has significant mechanical modifications making 141108 the sole surviving Class 141 with original equipment underneath. At one stage '108 was looking like it was going the same way as its scrapped classmates however a small team over the past few years have taken the set on and worked through many of the mechanical gremlins that were plaguing the set, also exhibiting good teamwork and communication skills by linking in with the group responsible for '113. 2018 saw '108 make its return to passenger service instantly doubling the number of Class 141's in an operational state. It would now be possible to experience both modified and original versions of the Class 141, and for that the team behind 108's revival deserve credit.

Voting Pattern
Throughout the competition votes came in thick and fast for the unit, gaining an early lead which only increased over time. By the close of voting, 253 votes had been cast for it, second place going to Class 141 141108. The West Somerset's Class 115 was third, the Swindon & Cricklade 119 following. Last place was Class 116 59003, down to single figures at 8 votes. So a clear winner with the Met-Camm, the second Class 101 to win the award. Well done to the restoration team responsible for its overhaul. It will be running throughout 2019 at its home railway all being well.

349 votes were cast in total, making this year the third most popular year for voters, behind the 2012 (541 votes) and 2016 (354) competitions. Interestingly, the Class 101 won with 253 votes, making it the highest voted for choice in the history of the awards, beating by some margin the previous record holder Class 101/111 50321/59575/51427 which won over 180 people back in 2016. Votes came mainly from the UK, but with a sprinkling of votes from across the globe, from as far afield as Zurich, Spain, the USA, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and even Malaysia! Many thanks to all those who took the time to nominate and vote.

Place Vehicle Number of Votes
1st Class 101 51228/56062 253
2nd Class 141 141108 38
3rd Class 119 51074/51104 27
4th Class 116 51131 23
5th Class 116 59003 8