Class 144 ‘Pacer’ Diesel Unit no. 144011

For a preserved railway, renowned for its collection of steam locomotives of an age gone by, a Class 144 ‘Pacer’ may not seem an obvious candidate for preservation. However as KWVR Chairman, Matt Stroh, and Operating Company Director, Tim Moody, explain, these diesel units deserve their place in preservation and the KWVR is an ideal location for that to take place.

The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway is pleased to announce that following 34 years of service on the local railway lines of West Yorkshire, Class 144 ‘Pacer’ Diesel Unit number 144011 will be transferred to us from Porterbrook Leasing Company, current owners of the Class 144 units. The Class 144 ‘Pacer’ unit will move to our base in Haworth following its retirement from operation on the national rail network with Northern, currently expected to be in late May.

Matt Stroh, chairman of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society said, ‘Offering a Pacer a home on a West Yorkshire heritage railway is very fitting, because these units have been the mainstay of operation in the area for over three decades. We are very grateful to Porterbrook Leasing for giving us this opportunity.’

Rupert Brennan Brown, Porterbrook’s Head of Communications and Engagement, said: “We are delighted to be able to support the KWVR by donating a Class 144 Pacer to their operational fleet. These trains were in many ways the saviour of the social railway, so it is fitting that one of these multiple units will continue to serve Keighley, as well as communities along the Worth Valley and visitors to its world famous railway.”

The Class 144 DMU was designed as a lowcost solution to the need to replace some of the original first generation diesel multiple units, dating from the 1950s.# It was designed and built by British Rail and Walter Alexander in 1985 and introduced to passenger service in 1986. The Class 144 was delivered new to Leeds Neville Hill depot, and soon took over operations on the Airedale Line between Leeds/Bradford and Skipton and was the mainstay of the local services through Keighley until electrification in the late 1990s.

After electrification they continued to be regular visitors through Keighley, mainly operating the Leeds – Skipton – Lancaster service, something they could still be seen regularly operating until December 2019. Class 144 units have spent their entire working lives operating local services throughout West Yorkshire and can often be cited for re-invigorating declining local services and supporting the re-opening of many local stations after they were introduced.

Tim Moody, from the KWVR, said “We believe that the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway is an ideal home for a Class 144. We appreciate that our wide variety of steam locomotives hauling period carriages will continue to be the main attraction for many visitors, but we also recognise that preservation and history does not standstill or stop at a set point in time. What is considered modern and maybe unloved today is tomorrow’s history and heritage.”

“With only 23 Class 144s ever being built, and having worked in West Yorkshire their entire lives, they are an important part of the story of rail travel in our local area and we believe that with suitable interpretation it will become an interesting and valuable asset which visitors, young and old can continue to ride on and experience, now and in the future. The Class 144 will further the objectives of the Society and I believe will attract new visitors in the future, especially younger generations, which is vitally important for working museums such as ours”.

# First generation diesel multiple units

First generation diesel multiple units are represented on the KWVR by the current operational Class 101 and under restoration Class 108. As their successors are now being withdrawn, it is appropriate that a ‘Pacer’ finds a new home, here on the KWVR.

Class 101
Class 108