We’re delighted that our Belfast & County Down Railway carriage No. 72 (a.k.a. the Holywood Railmotor) is among nearly 20 carriages nominated for the Heritage Railway Association Carriage and Wagon awards.
As a wee treat to celebrate and wish the carriage good luck, here’s a film of the vehicle taking to the rails for the first time since the 1950s following a ten year restoration. The run was a proving run as part of the certification process for approving restored vehicles entering service. We hope to launch the Railmotor into passenger service for special events later in the year.
Three of these were built, two in 1905 and one in 1906, to combat the potential expansion of the Belfast Corporation Tramways network to Holywood and were used for rapid and frequent services between Holywood and later Dundonald.
Essentially the grandfathers of modern trains, which can be controlled from either end unlike the trains of the day where engines had to uncouple from their rake of carriages and run-round them to the other end, they had a small steam locomotive actually built into the end of a carriage.
They were numbered separately from both the main locomotive and carriage stock as Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Ours was positively identified as No. 2 (later No. 72) by a former BCDR fireman through repair works unique to this vehicle (which can also be seen on vintage photographs).
The locomotives were constructed by Kitsons of Leeds and the bodies by the Metropolitian Carriage & Wagon company.
All three railmotors were used extensively and by the time World War One came about the locomotives were wearing out, and the locomotives were removed and the carriages rebuilt with another set of wheels, but the control gear was retained and they were operated as ‘autotrains’ with normal locomotives refitted to be remote controlled.
Railmotor No. 3 was involved in serious accident at Ballymacarrett on the Bangor branch, which led to the operation of autotrains being halted, and the carriages renumbered and used as conventional loco-hauled carriages.