Class 142 : The Bus That Became a Train

  • A unique photographic narrative with unpublished colour images
  • An in-depth and exhaustive examination on how the 142s were maintained, serviced and operated
  • Detailed coverage of the various interior fittings and layouts
  • Superbly written and researched, this is essential for the historian, train enthusiast and modeller
  • A review of scale 142 Pacer models produced is included

The British Rail Class 142 Pacer was an attempt to produce a cost-effective train to replace the worn-out and elderly first-generation BR Diesel Multiple Unit fleet that had been introduced in the late 1950s. 

The Class 142 concept was a marriage of proven bus technology, traditional railway chassis and powertrain by utilising modular Leyland National Bus Bodies mounted on a substantial steel underframe and powered by conventional underfloor diesel engines. 

They came at a time when the network was lacking in investment, and when first introduced from 1985 onwards, they presented a fresh, bright and clean image, breathing new life into many suburban and rural services. Unfortunately, soon after introduction, there were serious reliability problems, which necessitated much re-engineering and design issues. 

However, the British Rail Class 142 Pacer became a familiar sight across the network. With the remaining ninety-four trains now all past their thirtieth birthday, the fleet is due to be retired by 2020.

Book Review by Railcam’s Adrian Bradshaw

Martyn Hilbert has carved out a reputation for entertaining and informative books, geographically covering most of the North West. This latest title is slightly different in two ways. Firstly, it doesn’t cover a specific area, focusing instead on the famous/infamous Pacer units and their deployment all over the network. Secondly, it departs somewhat from the “album” format of previous titles.

Class 142s are not, it is fair to say, everybody’s cup-of-tea. Love them or hate them though, they have played a huge role in keeping rural lines ticking over since the 1980s, when the first-generation DMUs bowed-out. Without the “Pacers”, some branches may not have survived the doldrums which preceded the rail boom of more recent years. With the Pacers now consigned to history too, now is the time to take a look back – fondly – on what was undoubtedly a successful design.

The first part of this book covers the background to the design: the reasons for reviving the “railbus” idea, the early prototypes and finally the production and introduction of the units. After a brief look at the depots that serviced the units, for the second half of the book we move into more familiar territory with a pictorial record of the units in the various places they served.

Most of Martyn Hilbert’s books feature largely his own photographic work, and this is no different. Martyn has an eye for an interesting shot, where the train forms only part of the interest. Many of the scenes that feature these DMUs are unrecognisable today, making for a fascinating and nostalgic look at several areas of the country where 142s were an everyday sight.

In short, whether you liked or loathed these units, this book is an interesting and informative read, full of cracking photos, which demonstrates the author’s deep knowledge of the subject matter. Recommended.

96 pages, published by Fonthill Media. £18

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