The Class 144 Diesel Multiple Unit was built in 1986 to operate local services in West Yorkshire. It was a joint venture between British Rail (who built the underframes in Derby) and Walter Alexander & Co (who built the bodies in Falkirk). Final assembly and fitting out were done in Derby by British Rail. The unit was based at Neville Hill depot in Leeds for its whole working life before being finally withdrawn in 2020, after 34 years of service.
Before electrification of the main Aire Valley railway line in 1995 (which runs alongside the KWVR in Platforms 1 and 2 at Keighley Station) the Class 144 units operated the local services between Leeds, Bradford and Skipton via Keighley, as well as services further afield beyond Skipton to Lancaster and Morecambe. Once electric trains arrived, they operated most services through Keighley, however, Class 144 units could still be seen in Keighley running the services to Lancaster up until 2019.
As a heritage railway, the KWVR primarily uses steam locomotives however we also operate several diesel units and locomotives which date from the late 1950s or early 1960s, so whilst appearing ‘modern’ are only a few years younger than some of our steam engines – some of which were only built in the mid-1950s.
Their place on the KWVR
The KWVR believes that preservation doesn’t stand still. As time moves on, so does history. The Class 144 was built specifically for our local area and operated throughout West Yorkshire for 34 years. Class 144 is synonymous with the local West Yorkshire rail network, and having reached the end of their working lives, it is appropriate that one is preserved in the area they worked for so long to represent the development of our local railways over the years.
The Class 144, which was given the name “Pacer” by British Rail, originally had bus-style bench seating, but these were later replaced with the seats fitted to the unit today. They were introduced shortly after the abolition of the West Yorkshire County Council in March 1986, and a new logo and colour scheme was devised to coincide with their launch to show the partnership between the five new council areas in one Passenger Transport Executive and that Executive and British Rail. Our Class 144 has been repainted to show this original colour scheme from 1986, and the original stylised map logo has been reproduced. While the livery was adapted over the years and remained in some form until around 2007, the logo was short-lived and was replaced in 1988 with the “M” logo that can still be seen on stations throughout West Yorkshire today.
The Class 144, in its original 1980s appearance, makes a striking impression on the KWVR and evokes memories for a new generation of visitors, and shows – combined with all our other locos, diesel units and carriages – that we are an evolving and working museum, representing a cross-section of railway history, with memories and experiences for all generations.