This Driving Trailer is the only survivor of its type made by Wickham of Ware in 1957. Introduced to the Eastern Region on East Anglian branch line services it has always been used with its current partner 50416, and so it’s history closely follows that of its sister vehicle.
The coach is of lightweight construction and relies for its strength on a box girder framework around the passenger area, rather than being fitted with a heavy chassis. To aid in keeping weight down it is clad completely in aluminium.
As branch line closures accelerated in the 1960s British Railways found it had too many diesel trains available and as a result the smaller non-standard classes were scheduled for withdrawal, included in these were the five Wickham units.
Two of the five were sold back to Wickham of Ware and were exported back to Trinidad, two were scrapped, and ours was taken out of service in 1967 and converted into a saloon for use by the Eastern Region General Manager. It would remain on these duties until 1980. A blessing in disguise, which allowed this unique set to survive long enough to be preserved, and eventually pass into the hands of our group..
As can be seen 56171 was considerably modified for departmental service. The interior was completely gutted, with the centre section being fitted with a boardroom table and the front saloon being fitted with easy chairs. The doors at the first vestibule were removed and plated over, the toilet was doubled in size and the gutters were raised higher up the body and straightened along the front. All these modifications had to be reversed as part of the restoration programme, although this was much aided by the interior having to be completely stripped out so that the asbestos contractors could remove the blue asbestos insulation.