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Wickham Railbus


The first delivered (around 9/58) under went trials on the Buntingford branch of the Eastern Region, a section near the manufacturer's works at Ware which formed an excellent test line, with its undulating single track, gradients as steep as 1 in 56 and many curves as sharp as 7 chains. On this section, as on the straight, level track between Ware and St. Margarets, the junction for Buntingford, the vehicle rode well, with freedom from vertical shocks and side oscillations at all speeds up to a maximum of 54 mph, an aim difficult to achieve with a self-propelled two-axle vehicle.

On the 3rd April '59 79966 was noted following the 14:15 Buchanan Street - Aberdeen through Bonnybridge.

Two vehicles were introduced on the Devon Valley line, through stations such as Dollar, Rumbling Bridge, Crook of Devon and Balado. They started on the 4th May '59 and one through journey in each direction between Perth and Stirling enabled the vehicles to be stabled overnight one at each of these points. Frame trouble saw then replaced by Park Royal railbuses.

At May '59 79965 was at Crieff, two were on the Devon Valley line, and two were spare.

In 1959 there was an exhibition of rolling stock etc. in Glasgow Central station during the period of the Scottish Industries Exhibition, and 79969 was on display.

79966 was sent north to Aviemore in August 1959 to operate the Great North of Scotland Speyside Line between Craigellachie and Aviemore. It was the third railbus type to operate on this line. Bristol 79959 lasted just six months before being replaced by Park Royal 79970, which returned with a broken frame after 4 months. On the 3rd November 1959, 79966 hit a lorry at a level crossing near Cromdale on the Speyside line, apparently carried for a quarter of a mile. Again steam came to the rescue, with 2Ps 40622/48 and 2MT 78052 using one BSK. Services on this line ended on the 18/10/65. A mention in the August Railway Observer stated that the vehicle had put in a very consistent performance since arriving there. Not unnaturally it was laid off during periods of heavy snow, and substituted by an engine and carriage. It had a further break on the 20th, 21st & 23rd May 1960 when steam engine "Gordon Highlander" and two LMS corridors took over the 10:27 Craigellachie to Aviemore and the 12:18 return in connection with filming for the BBC.

79966 finally succumbed after a successful year on the line due to a fractured frame. Trouble was experienced with 79972 which had been sent as a replacement, and by the end of September 79970 had taken over. This is interesting as it had broken its frame on the line in 1959!

A Wickham railbus took over the Craigendoran - Arrochar shuttle service on the West Highland line on the first Monday in Nov. 59, although steam did not disappear until the following April. 79969 went to Arrochar on the afternoon of the 31st October and sat in the goods yard ready to start in the Monday. It made three trips in each direction Mons - Fris, and four on Sats. There were connections at Craigendoran to and from Dumbarton and Glasgow. The stations serviced were from Craigendoran - Helensburgh Upper, Rhu (re-opened as an unstaffed halt for these services), Shandon, Garelochhead, Whistlefield and Arrochar & Tarbet. All did not seem well with 79969 on these services though, it retired to Helensburgh shed in mid-Jan 1960 where it stayed for some time. Soon after Park Royal was noted on trial on the line, no doubt with a view to taking over from 79969.

The West Highland services were revised when the Airdrie - Helensburgh line was electrified to improve the connections at Craigendoran. The 10:05 from Arrochar would now leave at 09:55, arriving at Craigendoran at 11:35. The 13:00 SO was retimed to 12:55 from Arrochar, arriving Craigendoran 13:42, the connection arriving Glasgow Queen Street at 14:35. The 18:14 Mon - Fri from Craigendoran was now 18:06, arriving Arrochar 19:00, and required getting the 17:32 electric from Queen Street. Park Royal railbuses and 2-car sets were also used on the line before the services were withdrawn on the 15th June 1964.

The Wickhams were also known to work services in the Crieff - Gleneagles line, which closed on the 7th July '64, although they had reverted to steam by this time. 79968 was on the line in summer '59, and 79967 was on the line in the summer of '63.

It was Wickham vehicle 79969 that was the first of the 22 railbuses to be withdrawn in December 1963, only five years after delivery. A further two were withdrawn in June '64. 79968 was noted damaged (buckled frame) at Ayr in March 1966; it had been hit by a reversing DMU in Ayr station. It was not repaired and was withdrawn with the final car in Oct. '66.

Elliot Track Recorder

Details about the preserved Elliot Wickham railbus can be found here.

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