*NOTE*. This blog was updated with extra photos and notes on January 22nd and August 25th 2018.
I’m not intending to go into a full history of the BR built Pacer trains as that’s been done many time before. Instead I’m going to go through my archive to illustrate their life and times whilst offering some personal recollections.
Pacers have been a feature of the railway scene since the mid 1980’s but now their time’s drawing to a close. The first sets will go off-lease after the May timetable change, then there’ll be a steady decline in the numbers until – one day – they’ll all be gone (which is due to be by 2020). Whilst disliked by many passengers (especially commuters) they’re not universally unpopular. Many train crews I’ve spoken to actually admit to liking them! I’ve a soft spot for them too – mainly because they allow you such good views of some of the scenic lines they’re used on. In that respect they’re far superior to the Class 150 fleet. Pacers have also earned their place in history. There’s little doubt that they helped save many a branch line from closure back in the 1980s so we should be grateful for them in some ways. Admittedly, they were far less fun when they were doing their maximum speed on jointed track. I’ve travelled on them coming back from Sheffield to Huddersfield several times when they were more like bucking bronco’s than nodding donkeys!
I’ve no recollection of travelling on the original narrow-bodied Class 141 Pacers, but I do remember encountering many of them during my travels around Yorkshire back in the 1980’s-90’s – especially around Leeds (they were based at the city’s Neville Hill depot) and Sheffield. Here’s a few memories.
141113 stabled at Sheffield on the 16th September 1990. The unit’s sporting the West Yorkshire PTE livery that was applied to the 141s after they were rebuilt. This particular unit survives today. It’s preserved by the Llangollen Railcar Group.
Vehicle 55541 from unit 141120 awaits scrapping at Wolverton works on the 15th December 2003. It was cut up the following year.
Over the years the Pacers have carried a variety of liveries. There’s also a wide variation in their interiors and other detail differences. Here’s a look at a few of them.
142015 at Southport on the 17th February 1990. It’s still wearing the mock GWR livery that was applied to members of the fleet which had been operating in Cornwall and Devon. Branded as ‘skippers’ they were unsuited to the sharp branch line curves so were eventually transferred North. Unusually, the unit is seen on the Wall side siding. This has a pit, which suggests the set needed inspecting.
142002 at Southport on the 27th May 1990. Its wearing the orange and brown livery and branding of Greater Manchester PTE.
‘Skipper’ liveried 142516 at Liverpool Lime St on the 17th June 1991. I’m trying to remember why some of these units were briefly renumbered in the 1425xx series. If I remember correctly they were units allocated to Heaton depot in Newcastle.
This scene is unrecognisable today! 142059 stands at the old Lancashire and Yorkshire railway station at Blackburn on the 3rd April 1991. 059 is one of two Class 142s to have been scrapped due to accidents. Later that year it ran-away and collided with the buffer stops at Liverpool Lime St, which led to it being withdrawn.
142020 along with a ‘Skipper’ liveried set stands at Middlesbrough on the 30th April 1997. It’s wearing Tyne and Wear as well as Regional Railways branding.
Operated by First NorthWestern but wearing a revised Greater Manchester PTE livery, an unknown 142 passes over the Leeds and Liverpool canal on the approach to Wigan Wallgate station on the 28th November 2002.
142044 speeds past Hoscar on the Southport-Wigan line on the 9th February 2006. This unit carries Merseyrail livery. These sets had been refurbished with a new interior and better destination blinds. The small bus-type ones were replaced with a much larger dot-matrix type.
Also seen at Hoscar on the same day in 2006 was this First NorthWestern, blue and gold liveried Class 142
On the 12th December 2006 Arriva liveried 142015 crosses the Tyne at Newcastle
A Merseyrail liveried 142 crosses the Burnley viaduct whilst working a Colne to Blackpool South service on the 25th of May 2007
An Arriva liveried 142 passes the Cumbrian coast at Parton on the 22nd September 2007. This beautiful line is a delight to explore on a Pacer because of their big windows and all round views.
The refurbished interior of Merseyrail’s 142056, showing the low-backed replacement for the original bus-style bench seats and the new PIS screen at the back of the cab bulkhead.
142014 (with white numbers) and 142094 pass at Wigan Wallgate on the 2nd October 2007
A Northern 42 heads through the beautiful Hope valley at Edale whilst working a service from Sheffield to Manchester Piccadilly on the 7th September 2014.
142064 leads a classmate along the beach at Dawlish on the 4th August 2008. A dozen Class 142s were loaned to First Great Western from Northern in 2007. The last ones returned in 2011. All were based at Exeter, which was nicknamed ‘the Donkey Sanctuary’ by some FGW staff.
A FGW 142 passes the Swan Inn at Lympstone on the Exmouth branch on the 22nd June 2010.
The first built Class 142 was one of those loaned to First Great Western. Here it is climbing the bank between Exeter St David’s and Exeter Central on the 23rd June 2010
142038 is about to enter the Summit tunnel on the Calder Valley line on the 31st October 2014
A Class 150 and 142 in multiple are seen from across the rooftops in Todmordon whilst working through the Calder Valley on the 17th May 2015.
A Northern conductor prepares to open the doors on a Pacer
A good place see to find Pacers nowadays are the lines from Manchester Piccadilly out to New Mills Central and Rose Hill Marple. Not only is it an intensive service but services are usually operated by pairs of Pacers like this.
142033 and 142057 leave Romiley with a service to Manchester Piccadilly
I’ve blogged about the lines in detail here.
As well as the British-Leyland/BREL Class 142s, BR also purchased a different design from Andrew Barclay. These were based on an Alexander bus body and were built at Kilmarnock between 1985-86. They were originally put into service in the North-East before being transferred to South Wales and the South-West. After privatisation the Class was split between Arriva Trains Wales and Wessex trains (later First Great Western)
First of the class 143601, sporting the original Arriva Trains Wales livery leaves Cardiff Queen St for Cardiff Central on the 24th July 2017.
Two varieties of Pacer pass at Cardiff Central on the 24th May 2017. Leyland/BREL 142076 in old Arriva livery and Barclay/Alexander 143625 in revised Arriva livery.
On the 2nd May 2007 143603 passes Standish Junction whilst working a Gloucester to Swindon service.
On the 30th October 2008 a rather tatty 143621 approaches Bristol Temple Meads. Many 143s had been given different advertising liveries. In this case ‘Visit Bristol’ – although I’m not entirely sure the train or the state of it was a great advert for the city!
143619 Calls at Copplestone on the Barnstaple branch whilst en-route to the end of the line on the 15th August 2016. By this time all the units were in the attractive First Great Western ‘Dynamic lines’ livery (with the lines made up of place names on the network).
Two of the Class 143 sets gave themselves Viking funerals back in the early 2000’s, these were sets 143613 and 143615. The effects of the fires were rather spectacular, as these two pictures show.
- The fire had been so severe on this car of set 143613 that the underframe has buckled and drooped. The unit was at Crewe works and could be viewed at the open day on the 10th September 2005.
143615, bearing Valley lines livery was the other member of the class that self-combusted. It’s also seen at Crewe works open day in 2005.
The final batch of Pacers are the Class 144. These were Alexander bodies on BREL underframes. They now operate across Yorkshire, especially around Leeds which is where they’re based. At one time they did used to have diagrams which took them across the border into Lancashire.
Northern liveried 144022 crosses Paddock viaduct in Huddersfield whilst working a Huddersfield to Sheffield (via Penistone) service on the 6th January 2015
A trio of Pacers stabled for the weekend in the yard at Huddersfield. Along with their Class 15x brothers, the units work services to Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield
144015 sits inside Leeds Neville Hill depot on the 3rd June 2011. The fleet are based at and maintained by the depot.
A pair of Class 144 Pacers arrive at Halifax, West Yorkshire on the 25th September 2007.
High backed Richmond seating as fitted to refurbished Pacer 144021, seen on the 15th September 2016
A driver waits to take 144023 on a service from Sheffield on the 16th September 2016
Of course, no mention of the Pacers would be complete without a look at the sole 144e (E for Evolution) number 144012. This unit was rebuilt by Porterbrook at the RVEL workshop in Derby back in 2015. Here it is in service at Huddersfield in 2016.
I wrote about the launch and published a series of internal views of the unit in this blog
UPDATE: 25th August 2018
The letting of the new Welsh rail franchise has spelled the death knell of Pacers in Wales. It’s been announced that they’ll be replaced from next year by older DMUs which will be cascaded to the franchise from elsewhere.
Update: 12th August 2019
The first of the Pacers has been ceremonially withdrawn today. 142005 was adorned with banners announcing its ‘retirement’ and shown off to the press at Manchester Victoria before working a final service to Stalybridge. Expect many more to follow now…