Help save an NIR 80 Class DEMU

Although this site is predominantly concerned with locomotives and not multiple units, I do feel that there are a small number of the latter that are far more interesting and popular than many locos.  Prime examples are the English Electric-powered DEMUs used in Northern Ireland between 1966 and 2017.

Comparable to British Rail’s “Thumper” DEMUs in that they were powered by above-solebar English Electric 4SRKT power units, very few examples of the three classes of these units survive.  All of the 1966-built 70 Class power units were disposed of – due to asbestos, they were shrink-wrapped and submerged in Crosshill Quarry, County Antrim; their power equipment being reused in the initial batch of 450 (“Castle”) Class units built in the mid-1980s.  Just one unit of that class survives – no.458, at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway, south-east of Belfast.

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A very recent photo of 80 Class driving trailer vehicle no.749 undergoing a repaint into its original livery at Belfast York Road (copyright and courtesy of Robert Gardiner)

The third class of NIR DEMU was the 80 Class, built from 1974 to the basic BREL Mark 2 carriage design.  Their final withdrawal from passenger service being in 2011, just four of the 22 power cars remain extant – one of them for spares recovery (only) at the East Lancashire Railway in England, and the other three which were granted a stay of execution by their use on sandite workings – duties that ended after Autumn 2017.

Time is therefore of the essence if a set is to be saved for future generations to enjoy.

The above is a link to the official video of the railway’s fundraising appeal, on the Downpatrick & County Down Railway‘s official YouTube page.

The Downpatrick & County Down Railway have launched an appeal to raise funds by the end of April 2018 to secure two of the former sandite train vehicles – 69 and 749 – for passenger use on their heritage railway, as well as 90 and 752.  69 and 749 are already in the process of repainting into their handsome original maroon and blue livery (see photo) by Translink at Belfast York Road, but there is a need to raise more money in order to transport them – necessarily by road – to Downpatrick, and to make them fit for use there.

How you can help

I personally have no connection with the railway, but I have been an enthusiast of both these units and the railway for nearly 25 years, and I’d very much like to encourage you to donate to this very worthwhile project.  The railway have set up a crowdfunding/pledge-style donation scheme where rewards are available upon donation of particular amounts – please see here for more details on that.

Alternatively, of course, you could share this article – or one of the railway’s Facebook posts – on social media in order to spread the word.  This really does seem to be the last chance saloon to secure an 80 Class unit for operation into the future.

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Power car no.99 “Sir Myles Humphreys” returned to England in 2006 when it was acquired by the East Lancashire Railway for use for spares for its BR Class 207 DEMU.  Soon after arrival, it was fired up – as seen here – but it is very unlikely to run under its own power again.  If the Downpatrick appeal does not raise enough money, then that indeed may be ‘game over’ for the whole class.  (JW)

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