The GWR railcars

The GWR railcars

The Great Western Railway is more often remembered for its fleet of copper-capped chimney steam locomotives rather than for technological innovation - but in fact the company was amongst the first to introduce viable diesel traction, in the form of a series of self-propelled railcars, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

Above: GWR diesel railcar W13W draws attention at Kensington Addison Road during a London Railway Society railtour on September 26 1954. A.W. Croughton/Rail Archive Stephenson.

Although in the first half of the 20th century the steam engine reigned supreme, there were many jobs on the railway for which it was not ideally suited. One of these was for light passenger duties where infrequent services required that rolling stock stand idle for much of the time. By the 1930s, small self-powered trains became a practical possibility due to development of the internal combustion engine, but the earliest designs proved, on the whole, to be unsuccessful, mainly because of a lack of performance or reliability.

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