The Wensleydale Railway have saved two Pacers from the scrapyard and will be running them as real ale trains

A supporter of heritage line the Wensleydale Railway has bought two Pacers to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

One of the Pacers at Redmire Station
One of the Pacers at Redmire Station

The Class 142 diesel units are part of the first generation of Pacers to have entered service in the 1980s, and were working on lines across Yorkshire until their retirement at the end of 2019.

Since operators Northern began withdrawing their fleet of 102 leased Pacers from service, a large number of the trains have been sent to Rotherham scrap metal yard C F Booth for dismantling.

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A Pacer is running on the York to Scarborough line for the first time in 15 years todayBut now the Wensleydale Railway have unveiled their pair of Pacers and have announced a real ale-themed running day before they are given an overhaul and re-painted.

The Pacer duo have arrived at the Wensleydale Railway

Aysgarth Station will become a businessman's private hobby railwayAn anonymous benefactor purchased the Class 142s from leasing company Angel Trains, saving them from scrap and donating them to the line, which runs from Northallerton to Redmire along 22 miles of preserved track.

They are expected to operate off-peak services and host educational visits, but will run on the regular timetable as a one-off on Sunday February 23.

There will be casks of real ale on board the Pacers to mark the occasion, which is likely to be the first time Class 142s have carried passengers on a heritage line.

One of the pair, 142028, will then be out of service for a considerable period of time while it is overhauled and given a new livery - raising the possibility that it may return to its original British Rail colour scheme.

The trains will work the yellow timetable on the day with 'rover' tickets priced at £17.80 for adults and £9 for children available, entitling the holder to unlimited rides.

The Pacers have already been tested along their new route, and it is the first time one of them has ever visited the western terminus of the line at Redmire.

What is happening to the Pacer fleet?

The Pacers were introduced as a temporary stopgap solution to stock shortages but ended up serving Northern routes for 40 years before their phased withdrawal began at the end of 2019.

They are being decommissioned and scrapped at the CF Booth metalworks in Rotherham, one of the few firms in the UK capable of dismantling old rolling stock. The parts and metal could end up being shipped overseas.

Northern leased 102 Pacers from Angel Trains, and the first one was removed from service last August, with three more following in the autumn. Their retirement has been delayed due to ongoing problems with electrification of the network and the manufacture of new rolling stock. They are sent to a storage depot in Worksop before being taken for decommissioning.

Northern have promised they will disappear from Yorkshire routes in 2020 despite the 'temporary retention'.

The trains - known for their rattling motion, cold, dated interiors and noisy engines - were created by attaching bus bodies to rail bogies, and the passenger experience is frequently likened to being on board a bus.

The National Railway Museum have accepted a donated Pacer - the first of the Class 142s to be produced - to add to the national collection. It is currently at their Locomotion site in Shildon, County Durham, where it will eventually run on a short test track, giving rides to visitors.

The Chasewater Railway heritage line in Staffordshire has also bought two Class 142 units for preservation.

Charities and community groups were also invited to bid for Pacers, and among the competition winners were men's mental health charity Platform 1, who are based at Huddersfield Station and will convert the train into a kitchen to teach cooking classes.

Airedale NHS Trust were awarded a Pacer to use as a patient space and Fagley Primary School in Bradford will turn theirs into a science lab.

On February 5, trainspotters were surprised to see Pacers running on the York to Scarborough line - a route not operated by Northern and one which Pacers hadn't been used on for around 20 years. It transpired that the retired stock was being used for driver training by Northern, who are due to begin operating new services on the line in May.

What is the Wensleydale Railway?

The route originally ran between Northallerton and Garsdale, where it linked up with the Settle to Carlisle line. There were stations at Leeming Bar, Bedale, Leyburn, Aysgarth, Askrigg and Hawes.

It was only ever a single-track branch line and never heavily used by passengers; the last train ran in 1959 and after that it was mainly used for transporting milk and quarried stone. In 1964, the section between Redmire and Hawes was closed completely and the track lifted. Freight traffic ended in 1982, but excursion tours for visitors later started running and there was a renewal of interest in the line's potential for tourism.

An association was formed in 1990 with the aim of restoring passenger services, and its members offered to operate trains when British Rail tried to sell the route. They were backed by the Ministry of Defence, who wanted to use the line to transport armoured vehicles to Catterick Garrison and eventually paid for repairs and restoration, while allowing the Wensleydale Railway Association to take it over. Passenger trains did not start until 2003, when Leeming Bar and Leyburn stations were re-opened and a 99-year lease with Network Rail was signed.

In 2004, the stations at Bedale, Finghall and Redmire opened, and a passing loop was added to allow two trains to run at once. Scruton re-opened in 2014 and a new terminus was built at Northallerton West so that trains could continue running from Leeming Bar, which had previously been the eastern end of the line. However, the Scruton to Northallerton West section was later closed pending safety upgrades following an accident at a level crossing.

The railway's long-term aim is to reinstate the 18 miles of former track from Redmire to Garsdale via Castle Bolton, Aysgarth, Askrigg, Bainbridge, Hawes and Mossdale - all tourist honeypots - and rejoin the Settle to Carlisle line. However, their plans have been thrown into doubt by a millionaire businessman's decision to purchase the old Aysgarth Station site to operate as a private shunting yard.

Although West Coast Railways chairman David Smith's offer was welcomed by Wensleydale Railway, who could no longer afford to maintain the station site, and he has told them he will consider reinstating the link himself, there are fears he could instead operate the Aysgarth to Garsdale section privately under his own company's branding, taking custom away from Wensleydale Railway.