Stonehouse History Group

Welcome to the web site for Stonehouse History Group

- promoting  interest in the History of Stonehouse & the locality.

At the early part of the 20th century the G.W.R. company was worried about  the increasing competition from local horse bus transport which was taking away passengers for short distance travel.  They came up with the idea of  a steam rail car service which had been successful in other parts of the country.

In May 1903 rail car number one did a trial run from Stroud, and on Monday 12th October that same year the service was put into place. The rail cars were to be kept at Chalford station and run every hour to Stonehouse via Brimscombe and Stroud. There would also be intermediate halts at St Mary’s, Ham Mill, Downfield, and Ebley which would be a big threat to the local busses. Timed at 23 minutes for the whole journey from Chalford to Stonehouse.

The first train that Monday afternoon was reported in the Stroud News as a great success - “three or four hundred people queuing at Stroud GWR station to get onto a 52 seater train”.

The first Steam Rail cars were built at Swindon costing £2,500 each, and were capable of around 45mph. They were 57 feet in length and designed to carry 52 passengers. They were steam powered and internally lit by gas.

In the first week 13,111 tickets were sold, 5,000 on the Saturday alone. The annual ticket sales in 1906 was 64,392. By 1908 the annual tickets sales was 68,268.

Steam Rail Cars

Later the Push-Pull trains were developed by the G.W.R and these progressively replaced the steam railcars (the GWR converted all its railcars to autocoaches for the Push-Pull trains in 1920/21),  These Push-Pull steam engines took over and lasted until 1965.

Using the Push-Pull system some of the locomotive controls were linked mechanically to a control set in the autocar/driving trailer of a push-pull steam passenger train for use by the driver when the train was being propelled.

In the G.W.R. auto-trains, all routine operations could be carried out by the driver and locomotives were provided with two regulator operating rods to front and rear buffer beams for 'sandwich' operation.

Photograph from David Christie:-