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Second ‘nodding donkey’ joins fleet at heritage railway

PUBLISHED: 08:18 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:18 24 September 2020

The new Mid Norfolk Railway's Pacer unit at Dereham. Picture: Mid Norfolk Railway

The new Mid Norfolk Railway's Pacer unit at Dereham. Picture: Mid Norfolk Railway

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The Mid Norfolk Railway (MNR) has welcomed a new addition - a Pacer diesel multiple unit.

Mid-Norfolk Railway general manager George Saville, left, and chairman of the railway's chairman Charlie Robinson. Picture: Ian BurtMid-Norfolk Railway general manager George Saville, left, and chairman of the railway's chairman Charlie Robinson. Picture: Ian Burt

The train number 142061 - now the second of its kind at the Dereham-based heritage railway - was delivered by Rail Support Services Ltd, a company that specialises in the road haulage of rail vehicles.

Charlie Robinson, MNR chairman, said: “The acquisition of Pacers by the railway is important, as they join our first generation of diesel multiple units and mean that we are assembling an important collection of this oft forgotten aspect of our railway heritage.

“Pacers have had in some quarters a controversial past, often being described as noisy and uncomfortable, but that you must remember was when they travelled at 70mph on the national network. Here they will be travelling at much slower speeds and will be an excellent way to travel on our line and enjoy our beautifully Norfolk countryside views.”

Pacer was the operational name of a number of British Rail classes of diesel multiple unit railbuses which were built between 1980 and 1987.

Half of the new Mid Norfolk Railway's second Pacer unit arrives at Dereham. Picture: Mid Norfolk RailwayHalf of the new Mid Norfolk Railway's second Pacer unit arrives at Dereham. Picture: Mid Norfolk Railway

They had their critics and many passengers considered them to be poor quality. The basic four-wheel, two-axle configuration of the Pacers often made for a noisy, bumpy ride, and the bench seating could be uncomfortable.

Their up-and-down motion on the tracks led to the nickname ‘nodding donkeys’.

The 142061 unit arrived at Dereham station after being stored at the Gascoigne Wood sidings near Selby, where it has been stabled since being withdrawn from service by Northern Trains.

The new train and MNR’s first Pacer, number 142038, are now planned to enter service during the 2021 passenger operating season, and there are plans to refurbish them both.

The new Mid Norfolk Railway's Pacer unit at Dereham. Picture: Mid Norfolk RailwayThe new Mid Norfolk Railway's Pacer unit at Dereham. Picture: Mid Norfolk Railway

The railway also wants to return one of the units to its original Regional Railways livery, as used by British Rail when they were first introduced onto the network during the 1980s.

The Mid Norfolk Railway has cancelled its popular Polar Express attraction this festive season due to coronavirus restrictions, but general manager George Saville said they were looking at alternative arrangements.

He said: “The railway is currently investigating an alternative steam-hauled Christmas train service which will comply fully with all social distancing regulations but allow families to enjoy a festive train ride this Christmas.”

The Mid Norfolk Railway's second Pacer unit at Dereham. Picture: Mid Norfolk RailwayThe Mid Norfolk Railway's second Pacer unit at Dereham. Picture: Mid Norfolk Railway


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