At a glance:
Builder: Walker Bros. (Pagefield Iron Works, Wigan)
Build date: 1947
Original company: Sligo, Leitrim & Northern Counties Railway
Withdrawal date: 1971
Final company: Córas Iompair Éireann
Arrived at DCDR: 2005
Current status: Stored
Current owner: DCDR

Railcar B was built by Walker Brothers of Wigan for the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway in 1947. Costing £10,500 (£400,000 in today’s money), it was acquired to reduce the operating costs the SLNCR incurred for its low levels of passenger traffic; a purchase inspired by the Great Northern Railway’s railcars and railbuses which were tested on the SLNCR during the 1930s.

As designed, railcar B sat 59 passengers in a 2+3 layout, with 15 holding straps provided for standing passengers. The railcar is articulated, with a full driving cab and 102hp Gardner 6LW engine being separated from the main body over the powered bogie. The passenger saloon has a guard’s and luggage compartment at one end and a half-cab at the other allowing Railcar B to be driven from either end.

Railcar B was an instant success, slashing the SLNCR’s passenger train operating costs to just 1/8th of those of steam locomotive-hauled trains. Attractive, modern, reliable it was well-liked by passengers and staff alike. It worked the line until it closed in September 1957, being purchased by CIÉ the following year. Under CIÉ, the railcar was renumbered to 2509 and for the next three years was used on Limerick – Nenagh local services.

It was then trialled on Loughrea branch in 1961, but returned to Limerick soon after. In 1966 it was again relocated to Waterford, but upon breaking down there was sent to Inchicore Works in Dublin. From then on it would mostly be used for railtours and driver training, save for a brief period in 1969 when it worked in Rosslare Harbour bringing foot passengers from the ferry pier to the mainland.

2509 was withdrawn in 1971 – its last working was in September on an Irish Railway Record Society special from Foynes to Limerick. After withdrawal, the railcar was left in Limerick Junction – there it was inspected by two of our founding members during a photo stop on a passing railtour they had been travelling on. The conclusion was that Railcar B would not be calling Downpatrick its ‘home’ any time soon! The railcar was later moved to Mallow in the mid-1980s after being preserved by the Great Southern Railway Preservation Society, though this venture was not to last.

It turns out that ‘any time soon’ meant within the next 20 years, as in 2005 Railcar B (which had been moved up to Inchicore a few years earlier) made its way to Downpatrick. We acquired it as part of a ‘job lot’ from Inchicore, along with GSWR No. 90 and our two Midland Great Western Railway six-wheelers. Although Railcar B would be ideal for our quieter running days, it is a massive job and one that we would need considerable help for. It is currently located in the Cathedral Siding under protective tarpaulins, but we remain hopeful that we will be able to fully restore this unique vehicle some day in the future.