NIR 458 ”Antrim Castle”

At a glance:

Builder:British Rail Engineering Ltd.
Build date:1987
Original company:Northern Ireland Railways
Withdrawal date:2012
Final company:Northern Ireland Railways
Arrived at DCDR:2014
Current status:Operational
Current owner:DCDR

458 is the sole survivor of NIR’s nine-strong 450 Class, built by BREL between 1985 and 1987. As with many railway vehicles in Ireland, they were a quick and cheap fix to rolling stock shortages – they were essentially 70 Class engines, generators and traction motors on British Rail MkI underframes housed in MkIII bodyshells. Of course as there had only been eight 70 Class power cars, the donor for the ninth 450 was from 80 Class No. 88 which had been written off in the Hilden Crash of 1983.

Each 450 was named after a Northern Irish castle, and as a result were known by enthusiasts as the ‘Castle Class’. Our own 458 is named for Antrim Castle. It consists of three semi-permanently coupled vehicles: A driving trailer, which sat 68; an intermediate, which sat 78; and a power car which sat 38. The power car also houses the guard’s compartment, right next to the English Electric 4SRKT ‘thumper’ engine. The seating has now been reduced as a result of modifications made by us.

458 began its NIR career in January 1987 on the Larne line, where it would spend most of its working life. Unlike the 70s that had went before them, the 450s were ideal for suburban services, with high density seating and five double doors on each side for optimal passenger flow. In 1996, it was renumbered as 8458 to prevent conflict with bus routes on Translink’s new computer system, though we have since removed this prefix.

458 underwent life extension work in 2005, gaining an overhauled interior and, uniquely among 450s, CCTV. With the arrival of NIR’s 4000 Class trains in 2011, withdrawal of the 450s was on the cards and it was then that they lost their nameplates. 458 became the last 450 in service, with its last passenger outing in March 2012. It languished at Central station and later York Road until September 2014, when it was moved by road to Downpatrick in a two-day operation having been acquired by us in February that year.  

Our intention with 458 was to convert it into our new buffet train to allow our then-in-use one to come in for overhaul. However this didn’t stop it from putting in passenger appearances on an ITG gala in October 2014, as well as at its official handover ceremony in November. Work began on the conversion in Winter 2015, though as tends to happen more urgent priorities kept arising and as a result this work was protracted until August 2018.

Among other work, a buffet compartment and kitchen facilities have been installed in the intermediate and the original 3+2 seating has been replaced with 2+2 to improve accessibility, whilst tables have been installed in every seating bay. The driving trailer has been gutted to allow future conversion to a Santa’s Grotto for our Christmas operations, and the guard’s compartment has been turned into a store. Wheelchair accommodation, previously housed in the guard’s compartment, has been moved to the intermediate.

458 officially entered service as a buffet train in August 2018, though due to electrical faults it is hauled out by a diesel locomotive using a translator carriage for the time being. This carriage, DBSO No. 8918, has conventional couplings at one end and ‘Buckeye’ couplings at the other, allowing it to work with both 458 and our diesel locomotives that don’t use buckeyes. We do plan to return to using 458 under its own power eventually, but as with many things its a case of finding the time!