Education at Pace

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Back in May 2019 the need to scrap those railbus units – the “Pacers” – resulted in the suggestions that they could be used to build garden sheds, or even as part of the garden / patio makeover. Some of us, might have thought that a bit of an extreme idea – but here’s the thing – an absolutely brilliant way of utilising a “Pacer” has been adopted by the Dales School at Blyth, Northumberland.

I actually wrote at the time: “You Couldn’t Make It Up”. But, this definitely proves me wrong, I think.

To be fair, I had suggested they had been unpopular and dangerously overcrowded for years, and could not be considered a success for the railway, but the government minister was perhaps more positive:

The arrival at the Dales School, Blyth, Northumberland of a Class 144 twin unit is an inspirational use for these redundant units. The intention is to use it as a learning centre and library, with a a special focus on railway safety and to inspire career aspirations, using a train driving simulator to make learning engaging and fun. 

The unit was previously owned by Porterbrook and leased to Northern Rail, and following its donation by Porterbrook, work on re-purposing this Class 144 was undertaken by Railway Support Services (RSS), which included the removal of the engine and transmission.

RSS provided road transport for the Northern Rail-liveried unit at a discounted rate and the vehicles were delivered from Worksop on 19th July, where it was placed on a short section of track, donated and installed by Network Rail.

Based on two sites at Blyth and Ashington, The Dales is a specialist primary school providing education for children with a variety of additional needs that may not otherwise be met in a mainstream school setting.  Dr Sue Fisher, headteacher at The Dales commented:

  • “This is a dream come true for our children.  The train will provide children with engaging learning opportunities and offer those with additional needs a chance to learn new travel skills, develop career aspirations and a lifelong love of reading.”

Andrew Goodman, managing director of RSS said:

  • “Transport of the two-car Pacer unit was straightforward for us as we have delivered many railway vehicles and locomotives by road transport over recent years.  However because of site constraints, the coaches were unloaded onto a temporary length of track and then slewed into their present position.
  • “We were thrilled to be involved with this imaginative project which sees redundant rail vehicles given a new lease of life, to help and inspire youngsters.

RSS have carried out similar work to enable these “much maligned” multiple units to be put to use elsewhere, including providing services on heritage railways.

So, it seems that the idea of re-using, or is it recycling, these “Pacers” has actually proved beneficial, and who knows maybe they could be adopted and adapted to provide accommodation to relieve the UK’s homeless crisis in some areas. Why not adapt them for use as accommodation for markets in rural areas, or workshops for small businesses and startups, or even holiday accommodation??

Memories of British Railways’ “Camping Coaches” spring to mind – but why not – better to re-use than simply throw them away.

Further reading & Useful Links:

NB: Photos Courtesy Ian Crowder MCIPR – Public Relations for RSS

oOo-

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