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GWR railcars

GWR railcars
Preserved AEC railcar No. 22
The interior of railcar 22
In service 1934–1962
Constructed 1934–1942
Number built 38 cars
Number preserved 3 cars
Operator(s) Great Western Railway
British Rail (Western Region)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

In 1933, the Great Western Railway introduced the first of what was to become a very successful series of railcars, which survived in regular use into the 1960s, when they were replaced with the new British Rail "first generation" type diesel multiple units.


  • Design 1
    • Bodywork 1.1
    • Heating 1.2
    • Powertrain 1.3
  • Fleet list 2
  • Preservation 3
  • Models 4
  • See also 5
  • External links 6



The original design featured 'air-smoothed' bodywork, which was very much the fashion at the time. The rounded lines of the first examples built led to their nickname: "flying banana". The preserved W4W is an example of the original, rounded body shape. Later examples, such as No. 22 (pictured), had much more angular (and practical) bodywork, yet the nickname persisted for these too.


An odd feature of these units was the fitting of steam heating to them, which had the power to heat the railcar and another two to three coaches.


An unusual feature was the external cardan shaft drive from the gearbox on the rear of a horizontally mounted engine to road-vehicle style reduction boxes outboard of the two axles on one bogie. Later units had two such engine and drive combinations placed on opposite sides. Railcars 19-20 were fitted with a separate high-low ratio gearbox on the final drive side of the gearbox. This allowed a top speed of about 60–70 mph (97–113 km/h) in high and about 40–45 mph (64–72 km/h) in low. Railcar W20W retains this in preservation.

Fleet list

Number Range Introduced Builder Engine Weight (long tons) Seats Withdrawn Notes
1 1934 Park Royal 1 AEC of 130 hp (97 kW) 24 long tons (24.4 t; 26.9 short tons) 69 1955 Prototype railcar
2–4 1934 2 AEC of 130 hp (97 kW) 26.2 long tons (26.6 t; 29.3 short tons) 44 1954–1958 Buffet fitted
5–7 1935 Gloucester RCW 25.3 long tons (25.7 t; 28.3 short tons) 70 1957–59 Standard single car
8–9, 13–16 1936 29.5 long tons (30.0 t; 33.0 short tons) 70 1957–60 9 withdrawn in 1946 after fire
10–12 1936 29.9 long tons (30.4 t; 33.5 short tons) 63 1956–57 Lavatory fitted
17 1936 28.85 long tons (29.31 t; 32.31 short tons) None 1959 Parcels car, capacity 10 long tons (10.2 t; 11.2 short tons)
18 1937 33.6 long tons (34.1 t; 37.6 short tons) 49 1957 Prototype, with buffers & draw gear for hauling vans
19–33 1940–41 GWR, Swindon 2 AEC of 105 hp (78 kW) 35.65 long tons (36.22 t; 39.93 short tons) 48 1960–62 33 rebuilt in 1954 to replace 37
34 1941 34.9 long tons (35.5 t; 39.1 short tons) None 1960 Parcels car, capacity 10 long tons (10.2 t; 11.2 short tons)
35–38 1941–42 36.7 long tons (37.3 t; 41.1 short tons)
+ 37.6 long tons (38.2 t; 42.1 short tons)
60 + 44 1957, 1962 Power twins with buffet and lavatory 35+36 and 37+38
37 withdrawn in 1949 after fire and replaced by 33


Three of the GWR railcars have survived into preservation, as follows:

Vehicle No. Builder Year Built Location Comments
W4W Park Royal 1934 Swindon Steam Railway Museum -
W20W GWR Swindon 1940 Kent & East Sussex Railway -
W22W GWR Swindon 1940 Didcot Railway Centre -


Hornby Railways manufacture a model of the 1940-style railcar in OO gauge, using tooling acquired in their takeover of Lima.

See also

External links

  • The Great Western Archive
  • British Diesel Rail Coaches
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