While the initial objectives of the charity are to restore this special railcar and an appropriate trailer coach, the on-going function is educational. The autocar is laid out in such a way that it can be a “mobile class room”. There are double doors on both sides and internally, offering good access, even for wheelchairs.
The engine, dynamo, and driving controls are clearly visible from inside the autocar, so simple technical explanations can be given. When in motion the passengers will experience the sight and sound of what was a totally novel form of propulsion over a 100 years ago.
Educational battle bus
The history of railcars can be interpreted, from this pioneer to the modern developments forming the majority of rail passenger transport across the world today. This autocar will be made available to other heritage lines to spread the message as an “educational battle bus” and school parties encouraged to visit and ride, taking away interpretation material. Technical guides will be offered.
Those who experience the autocar can learn that although the peak of steam design had yet to be reached, modern railway vehicles were conceived, introduced and proven over a hundred years ago in Yorkshire.
In 2004, the North Eastern Railway 1903 Electric Autocar Trust was formed to preserve and rebuild this unique pioneer. The eight trustees were recruited from several established heritage railways, giving a broad knowledge base to draw from. Membership is open to all, we currently have over one hundred members and the number is increasing steadily.
Initial efforts concentrated on sourcing suitable components for the project, the focus has now moved to the fundraising and design stages. We are keen that once restoration is complete the autocar will be self-funding by carrying passengers on heritage railways, but with only 48 seats the autocar would be of little use to most railways. An additional 58 seats will come from a trailer coach, ex NER autocoach No 3453, built in 1904, which will increase the total seating capacity to 106 and give passengers a comparison between the “old” type carriage with compartments and the “new” open saloon accommodation of the autocar and modern trains.
The trust has achieved success in several grant applications, the largest from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Unfortunately the ground-breaking engineering work, so essential to the safe operation of the autocar, has taken longer and proved more expensive than originally projected. Now, the Trust needs your help to raise an extra £50,000 to complete this unique piece of transport heritage.