A.C.V. Lightweight Diesel Railcar

The ACV Railcar was a not-specifically "Southern" train, but one that operated for a short while on the Allhallows-on-Sea branch in late 1953, as well as on various other branches around the British Railways Regions.

The attention of railway companies had been turning towards alternatives to steam power for light branch passenger work for some time before nationalisation, though progress in the 1940s was, understandably, almost non-existent. The Great Western Railway led the field with their fleet of diesel railcars, designed for both branch passenger and lightly loaded main line trains, which came in single unit, multiple unit, passenger and parcels versions.

After nationalisation the British Transport Commission started further thinking along these lines and one result, in many ways the precursor of the DMUs that eventually took over the non-Southern branchlines of Britain, was the A.C.V. lightweight diesel train.

The A.C.V. diesel train enters Cliffe station whilst working a Gravesend passenger service on 24th October 1953, whilst more traditional motive power stands in the other road in the form of "C class" locomotive Nº31223.
Note the perpetuation of the paraffin tail lamp, despite the provision of electric lamps!

photograph by RC Riley
(© R C Riley, The Transport Treasury)

Powered by two AEC 125hp diesel engines, as used in London's buses, the train was formed of three four-wheeled cars and was noted for its quick acceleration, although the ride was a little rough if the track was anything other than smooth! Finished in a grey livery, Car Nº1 had a driving compartment and two saloons, each seating 16, a Guard's compartment and luggage compartment with a second driving position. Car Nº2 (at other end of the unit) had two saloons, with 24 and 21 seats respectively, and a driving compartment whilst in the middle of the unit was Car Nº3 with 52 seats in two saloons. The units could, therefore, be assembled as a single, a two-car or a three-car train.

Gangways were provided between the cars enabling the Guard/Conductor to check tickets and/or collect fares. The seats were bus-type and upholstered in strawberry pink. As mentioned above acceleration was brisk, to about 45mph, though the rather low top speed of 50mph would have been a problem if used on the main line.

It was to be another three years before the "production" DMUs based on the heavier MkI coach were to be introduced to traffic - maybe with hindsight a low-cost, easy-maintenance, lightweight unit such as the ACV would have enabled some of the more marginal branchlines to avoid closure?

Bibliography - The Railway World, January 1954.

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This page was created 17 December 2002

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