At a glance:
Builder: British Rail (Litchurch Lane Works, Derby)
Build date: 1974
Original company: British Rail (Midland Region)
Withdrawal date: 2006
Final company: Northern Ireland Railways
Arrived at DCDR: 2014
Current status: Operational
Current owner: DCDR

8918 was built by British Rail at their Derby Works in June 1974, as a Mk2F brake standard open (BSO) No. M9534. It was transferred to the Scottish region in June 1984, becoming SC9534. It had seating for 32, with a toilet, guard’s compartment, and luggage space.

In March 1985 it became one of 14 MkII coaches converted to Driving Brake Standard Opens (DBSOs) for push/pull use between Glasgow and Edinburgh. As part of this conversion it was again renumbered, becoming SC9712, though this would later be shortened to just 9712. As a result of the tragic Polmont rail disaster 1984, in which a cow on the line was struck by an Edingburgh-bound train running with the DBSO leading, derailing the train and killing 13, front end protection was improved and the carriage weight was increased to mitigate the effects of a collision.

After being replaced by DMUs in the late 1980s, 9712 was cascaded from Scotland to Norfolk, where it was used on trains between Norwich and London’s Liverpool Street station. After British Rail was privatised in 1997 it passed into the ownership of Anglia Railways, who withdrew the carriage in April 2006.

Soon after withdrawal, 9712 was purchased by NIR for use with their ‘Gatwick’ set of MkII carriages and 111 Class diesel locomotives. Work to prepare it for its new career in Northern Ireland was started by EWS, then taken over by ESG Rail who decided to re-start the overhaul from scratch! As well as interior and cosmetic refurbishments, re-painting in NIR’s ‘Green stripe’ livery and re-gauging from 4’8.5” to 5’3”, the cab was redesigned and fitted out with GM loco controls so that it could be used with the 111 Class.

In NIR ownership 9712 was renumbered 8918, but ever since arrival in Northern Ireland it has been referred to almost exclusively by rail staff and enthusiasts alike as simply ‘the DBSO’. 8918 had been acquired by NIR to work with the Gatwick set on peak hour trains between Belfast and Newry, the push/pull capability reducing turn round times at each end of the journey (not needing the diesel locomotive to shunt and run round its train). Unfortunately, the DBSO was delivered from England later than hoped for, in June 2009, and by that time, NIR had introduced a new fleet of Spanish-built CAF railcars and withdrawn the Gatwick coaches. As a result, 8918 was placed into storage at York Road and never turned a wheel in revenue-earning service here.

8918 would not leave York Road until September 2014, when it was acquired by us for preservation to act as a ‘translator’ for the 450 Class railcar we were preserving at the same time. The 450 uses buckeye couplings, which none of our other vehicles have, whilst 8918 has both buckeyes and conventional shackle couplings. This means that it can be used in between the 450 and our locomotives to enable them to work as one complete train, a job it has been performing as part of our new buffet set since August 2018.