THE pair of Autocars introduced by the North Eastern Railway in 1903 can rightly be described as ahead of their time and the forerunner of all multiple units to follow.
Rather than go with conventional steam power, and having seen the superior acceleration being offered by recently introduced electric tramcars, the company opted to experiment with internal combustion.
The result was single cars Nos. 3170 and 3171, which each had a petrol engine driving a generator and traction motors – the first time this had been done in a passenger carrying vehicle. They were initially fitted with an 85hp Napier engine driving a Westinghouse multi-polar dynamo, but the following year were uprated with 92hp Wolseley engines.
Engine development allowed
No. 3170 to be fitted with a 225hp pack in 1923, which was then sufficient for it to haul an unpowered trailer coach as an early version of today’s multiple units. However, although the Autocar itself could be driven from either end, the trailer could not and so the power car had to run round at the end of its journey like a locomotive.
Read more in the December issue of Rail Express, on sale now.