Thursday 5 March 2015

What Place a Pacer (3 of a Series)

Remember Skippers?

Sardines, or pilchards, are common names used to refer to various small, oily fish within the herring family of Clupeidae. The FAO/WHO Codex standard for canned sardines cites 21 species that may be classed as sardines; FishBase, a comprehensive database of information about fish, calls at least six species "pilchard", over a dozen just "sardine", and many more with the two basic names qualified by various adjectives.

For fbb, this was an iconic tin of "sardines" ...
... now more commonly branded as John West.
But this, also, was a skipper:-
While all other parts of the UK called these little beauties (?) "Pacers", the western region of British Rail decided a more appropriate name was "Skippers"; and they painted them in a happily nostalgic chocolate and cream. The trouble was that they didn't go round the corners. Well, they did; but they squealed in protest like so many stuck pigs and this was symptomatic of damaged track and damaged wheel sets.

The wheelbase was too long for the sharply curved ex Great Western Branches; so the Skippers got the traditional seafarer's "Heave Ho me Hearties" and were sent off to Wales and the North. And good riddance say all of us!

fbb's model Pacer (aka Skipper) does go round the corners on his model railway. Were the chassis to be authentic, the units would grind to a Western region shuddering halt on the unrealistically sharp curves that are necessary on a model. But the clever lads at Hornby have though of that.

Turning one half unit upside down ...
... the eagle-eyed can see that he right hand pair of wheels, fixed in a rigid chassis in the 12 inches to the foot version, is ...
... a pivotted pony truck. The ruse is duplicated on the second car thus ensuring that the model does go round corners.

Real squeaky pacers have appeared in five forms. The original Leyland National bus on a rail chassis:-
Class 140 (experimental two car).
Class 141 and similar class 142.
Classes 143 and 144 only distinguishable by hard-nosed rivet counters.
And, despite the venom with which these trains are often greeted, there is a Pacer Preservation Society ...
... complete with an alliteratively titled magazine. Several early units are already operating on Heritage railways.

Pacers have also toured the world (?) to promote sales, alas unsuccessfully. This one was ...
... adapted for metre gauge lines and is seen here in an unidentified far off land (?).

But, all said and done, these little trains remain an exclusively UK phenomenon. Many wish they weren't!

But what have Porterbrook proposed by way of an £800,000 upgrade?

 Coming on Saturday : Fearnley opens new Railway service! 
Whilst writing Falmouth blogs, fbb whizzed of an email to First-in-all-sorts-of-places-way-out-West. What, please was the single and day return fare from Falmouth to Truro?  Back came the ever-helpful reply on Monday 16th February:-


Local Operator: Devon, Cornwall & Mid Somerset

Address: Downsell Barn Bells Hill,
Mylor Bridge,
not known on holiday

Fare please from Truro to Falmouth
Day return if available

Thank you for contacting us. We aim to respond to all enquiries within 14 working days, but hope to respond sooner. If you have not heard from us within this time, please accept our apologies and contact us by phone on the number shown on our website.

14 working days is today, assuming First Bus doesn't work at weekends. Perhaps driving buses on Saturday and Sunday isn't "working"? It's a real challenge looking up a fare; it takes great skill and a huge amount of time, don't  you know. fbb is eagerly awaiting the reply. More news tomorrow!
 Last Pacer blog : Friday 6th March 


  1. I had a ride on LEV1 the single car Leyland National rail bys on the Wensleydale railway last year. A very odd piece of kitbitbeven as the pay on entry exact date please glass next to the door

  2. And don't forget that after withdrawal a number of class 141's were sold to the Iranian State Railways.
    If this link doesn't work an on line image search will find them.

  3. Reference your outstanding reply from First, I emailed them a question in December 2014 and had their standard response on the 12 December 2014 and am still waiting for their proper reply! Through the passage of time, the question is now out of date but even so, there is a distinct lack of customer care.

  4. I had reason to contact First regarding a bus which I believe took the wrong route, and therefore did not pick me up. This was on 5 January. On 10 January I was told they would let me know the result of their investigation. Since then, absolutely nothing!