Waggon und Maschinenbau Railbus

British Railways ordered five railbuses from Waggon und Maschinenbau, similar to railbuses then common on German Federal Railways, for loss-making branch lines. The hope being that the lower cost of running the railbus would allow the branch lines to break even and avoid closure. Seventeen other railbuses from four other manufacturers (though of a similar specification) were also bought. Along with the German engines used in Western Region diesel-hydraulic locomotives the W & M Railbuses were a rare foray by British Railways into employing overseas expertise [1] during modernisation from steam.

Number built: 5
Built: 1959
Builder: Waggon und Maschinenbau
Engine: Büssing 6-cyl horizontal diesel
later replaced by AEC 220X
Power: 150 hp (110 kW)

Waggon und Maschinenbau adapted a fairly standard Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) design for British Railways needs. The railbuses had four wheels, ride being interesting on the often poor quality track they were later used on! The railbuses had a single sliding door on each side. One interesting feature was the cabs only occupied half the width of the cabin. Passengers could thus sit at the front next to the cab. Three of the railbuses had their original Büssing engines replaced by AEC diesels.

The Railbuses were used on branch lines in the London Midland and Eastern Regions [2] especially in East Anglia. They indeed were successful in reducing running costs but the branch lines they were used on were still losing money and closed. Due to the problem with spare parts for this small fleet and the closure of lines they could be used on the fleet was largely redundant by 1964 though continued in intermittent use until 1967 when they were withdrawn. Remarkably four of the five have survived into preservation.
E79960 arrives at Wirksworth

Another view of E79960

Cab view

E79960 at Ravenstor

Notice the cab only occupies half the front, passengers can occupy the other half

E79960 at Shottle

[1] Brian Haresnape, Diesel Multiple-Units: The First Generation (Ian Allan, 1985) p. 79
[2] Colin J Marsden, DMU and EMU Recognition Guide (Ian Allan, 2013) p. 21