A pair of Northern Rail/WYPTE Class 144 Pacers Nos. 144005 and 144015 at Leeds.

A pair of Northern Rail/WYPTE Class 144 Pacers
Nos. 144005 and 144015 at Leeds.

In service1984–present
Family namePacer
Number built147 trainsets
OperatorNorthern Rail
First Great Western
Arriva Trains Wales
British Rail
Islamic Republic of Iran Railways
|3mm=3 mm (0.118 in)
|4mm=4 mm (0.157 in)
|4.5mm=4.5 mm (0.177 in)
|4.8mm=4.8 mm (0.189 in)
|6.5mm=6.5 mm (0.256 in)
|6.53mm=6.53 mm (0.257 in)
|8mm=8 mm (0.315 in)
|8.97mm=8.97 mm (0.353 in)
|9mm=9 mm (0.354 in)
|9.42mm=9.42 mm (0.371 in)
|10.5mm=10.5 mm (0.413 in)
|11.94mm=11.94 mm (0.470 in)
|12mm=12 mm (0.472 in)
|12.7mm=12.7 mm (0.5 in)
|13mm=13 mm (0.512 in)
|13.5mm=13.5 mm (0.531 in)
|14mm=14 mm (0.551 in)
|14.125mm=14.125 mm (0.556 in)
|14.2mm=14.2 mm (0.559 in)
|14.28mm=14.28 mm (0.562 in)
|14.3mm=14.3 mm (0.563 in)
|15.76mm=15.76 mm (0.620 in)

Pacer is the operational name of the British Rail Class 140, 141, 142, 143 and 144 diesel multiple unit railbuses, built between 1984 and 1987. Fifteen Pacer railbuses are still in use today.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 'Pacer' series was a project by British Rail (BR) to create a train, with low running costs, for use on rural and suburban services. At the time, BR was under increasing financial pressure from the government including proposals to cut more rail lines. BR set a challenge to several companies to design a cheap, lightweight train similar to railbuses. Since then, 165 Pacer trains (totalling 340 carriages) have been built, with many of the oldest at nearly 25 years old remaining in service in 2009.

Class 140[edit | edit source]


The prototype railbus LEV1

Main article: British Rail Class 140

The Pacer series was the result of an experiment to see whether the possibility of using bus parts to create a diesel multiple unit was viable - the results of this are still undecided. The initial prototype, known as LEV-1, was a joint project by the British Rail Research Division and Leyland Motors using a bus body mounted on a modification of an existing freight vehicle underframe (HSFV1). This was followed by the two-car prototype class 140, which was built in 1984 at the British Rail Engineering Derby works.

Class 141[edit | edit source]

File:141108 at Colne Valley Railway.jpg

A preserved Class 141 at the Colne Valley Railway

Main article: British Rail Class 141

The prototype was joined by another 20 two-car units which formed the Class 141 fleet. The units were used mainly in Yorkshire, operating on mainly suburban services. They had a capacity of 94 passengers per two-car set, and two Leyland TL11 engines gave a total of Template:Convert/bhp, resulting in a top speed of Template:Convert/LoffAoffDbSoff. The entire class underwent a technical upgrade in 1988 at the Hunslet-Barclay works in Kilmarnock. The units were withdrawn from use in 1997. They have since been sold to the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways[1] whilst a few remain in preservation. Because it used a standard Leyland National body, the Class 141 was narrower than the later Pacers, and could therefore accommodate only standard bus seating. The later Pacers had widened body panels to allow an increase in seating.

Class 142[edit | edit source]


A class 142 pacer at Cardiff operated by Arriva Trains Wales

Main article: British Rail Class 142

The next and largest Pacer class was the Class 142. This again was built by Leyland and BREL, in 1985. The body was based on a Leyland National bus, built at Lillyhall, Workington in Cumbria. Many fixtures and fittings of the Leyland National could be found on the train. The new class had a greater capacity of 106 passengers per two-car set and the same engines were used. The first sets were used initially on Devon and Cornwall branch lines and on commuter services in the North West. The units from Cornwall were eventually moved to Liverpool and the North-East, and the Class 142 has become a common sight on services across the North of England. The class was upgraded in the early 1990s to include more powerful engines, which gave a total power output of Template:Convert/bhp per two-car set. A number of trains were then modified for use on the Merseyside PTE city lines around Liverpool, which included dot-matrix route indicators, improved seating and Merseyrail PTE paintwork. This class moved into the control of First North Western at privatisation and subsequently passed on to Northern Rail and Arriva Trains Wales who have since operated it. Eight units have now been withdrawn from service, replaced by a cascading of British Rail Class 158s.[2] First Great Western will receive up to 12 units to cover for refurbishment of their fleet and withdrawal of 12 Class 158 units for use by First ScotRail and East Midlands Trains. (Four 158s that were subleased from Northern Rail to First Great Western were also returned.)

Class 143 & Class 144[edit | edit source]


Class 143 at Cardiff Central

Main article: British Rail Class 143

Around the same time of the Class 142 development, a Pacer railbus was being developed by Kilmarnock-based Hunslet-Barclay. The train used a Walter Alexander bus body. The train was given the number Class 143 and entered service in 1985. Again with 2 205 bhp motors giving a total output of Template:Convert/bhp and a top speed of Template:Convert/mi/h, the class originally had a capacity of 122 passengers. The class was used in the North East of England, before being transferred to Wales and was moved over to Wales & West control during privatisation. It then passed on to Wessex Trains, which became part of the Great Western franchise. The interior was completely changed in 2000, when the Valley Lines service was introduced, with full back, coach-type seating installed throughout, along with improved fittings. This reduced seating capacity to 106 seats per set. A similar Class 144 train, a Walter Alexander body on BREL underframe, was introduced in 1987. A unit was formed of either a two-car set with 122 seats or a three-car set with a total capacity of 195 passengers and Template:Convert/bhp, though still limited to Template:Convert/mi/h. The trains were used in the North East, passing to Northern Spirit at privatisation, then Arriva Trains Northern and now Northern Rail. All of the Class 144s are being stored at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, some are reserved for preservation.

Disadvantages[edit | edit source]

Although the Pacer is economical, there are limitations to using bus parts for railway use. Instead of the more usual bogies, Pacers use a basic four-wheel two-axle configuration. The lack of articulation can result in a rough ride, especially over points and around tight curves. Other performance problems include poor acceleration and poor reliability for some units. On a section of line between Northwich and Greenbank in Cheshire the speed limit is Template:Convert/mi/h but could be raised to Template:Convert/mi/h if Pacer trains were banned from the line. The basic bus bench seating can also be uncomfortable, whilst the suspension has given rise to the nickname "Nodding donkeys" due to the up and down motion on uneven track. The inward-opening doors similar to those on buses can be unreliable and the two-step entrance make loading slower and hard for the elderly and those in wheelchairs. Doubts were raised about safety after the Winsford crash,[3] which involved an empty First North Western Class 142 colliding with a Virgin Trains Class 87 and coaching stock at Winsford, Cheshire on the West Coast Main Line.[4] No railbuses have been produced in Britain since the Pacer classes.

Replacements[edit | edit source]

Most Pacers are now almost 25 years old. Various train operating companies have investigated ways of trying to replace the Pacer, although little progress has yet been made. Arriva Trains Wales have acquired Class 150 Sprinters from other operators to reduce their dependency on Pacers for Valley Lines services.[5] Northern Rail had planned to replace a number of Pacers with cascaded Sprinters, however due to rising passenger numbers the Pacers will remain in operation alongside the Sprinters.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Template:Citeweb
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  4. Template:Citeweb
  5. Arriva Trains Wales. Ask the MD. Retrieved on 2009-03-24. “the Welsh Assembly Government have provided us with additional Class 150 trains, which are in regular use on the Valleys services to supplement the Pacer fleet, which makes it more likely that you will travel on a Class 150 than previously.”

Template:British Rail Pacer Template:British Rail DMU simple:Pacer

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