Nicknamed the Nodding Donkeys, because of their rough riding on the track, the last Pacer trains in northern England made their final journey last Friday November 27, on a service from Kirkby in Lancashire to Manchester Victoria. Built as stopgap trains in the 1980s, and initially constructed from Leyland bus parts, they were hated by many passengers. Their concertina doors let the draughts in on winter days and the four-wheel chassis caused ear-jangling squeals on curved track and points. Their engines guddered and vibrated alarmingly.
Yet I rather loved them. Their cheapness helped to ensure many branch lines stayed open with a decent train service, and their big windows offered panoramic views over some of the most beautiful landscapes that could be seen from a train. When travelling the country for my Slow Train books, I cheered when a Pacer hoved into sight, particularly one with old-fashioned bus seats that did not obscure the views. Rest in peace, old Pacers. And long may they last on heritage railways to which some of them will be lovingly homed.