The Railway Magazine

An Edwardian Gem

WHEN you first set eyes on the pristine North Eastern Railway (NER) petrol Autocar No. 3170, it’s hard to believe it was once a partially vandalised former holiday home which had sat in a North Yorkshire field 15 years ago.

The restoration to working order of this unique and historic vehicle is another remarkable tale in the history of preservation where ordinary people have proved anything is possible.

What is also remarkable is the fact the restoration of the Autocar has generally been under the radar, with little publicity in the mainstream railway press – until now.


Petrol Autocar No. 3170 and sister 3171 were produced by the NER at York works in 1903. Their 85hp Napier petrol engine drove a generator which provided electricity for the traction motors in what was a first for railway propulsion. They were the forerunner of self-propelled units in use today, but also electric and diesel locomotives.

Considering this was 115 years ago, such developments were incredibly advanced for their time, particularly as steam very much ruled the roost. Such was the vision of assistant mechanical engineer Vincent Raven (he was not knighted until 1915) in pioneering alternative traction, the original drawings for the

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