Believed taken in 1928, this view shows a Shropshire & Montgomeryshire train at Llanymynech Junction. Lt. Colonel H.F.Stephens introduced a number of petrol railmotors to his light railway empire in an attempt to control operating costs. There was a single Wolseley-Siddeley railmotor, a number of Ford Railmotors and a number of Shefflex (Sheffield Simplex) sets. The Ford and Shefflex railmotors ran, usually, in pairs coupled back to back and with the leading vehicle towing the other. There was also a three-car Ford set; two powered cars with a matching intermediate trailer car. This intermediate trailer remains something of a mystery as, following a short period of use, it simply vanished. The three-car set is known to have been seriously underpowered and could not cope with the gradient out of Shrewsbury (Abbey). This exists a common misconception that the Ford passenger railmotors were converted road vehicles but they were not. They were actually built-up using Ford Model T components (possibly the 1 ton version), with bodywork by Messrs. Edmonds of Thetford, Norfolk. It is, however, unclear if Edmonds constructed the entire vehicles or if they merely supplied the bodies and the railmotors completed in Stephens own workshops. With the exception of no steering and a locking device to prevent passengers meddling with the controls of the trailing vehicle, the method of driving the Ford railmotors was the same as with the Model T road vehicles; hand operated throttle and ignition advance/retard with foot pedals for brake, reverse and top gear ratio plus a handbrake lever which also initially engaged the drive. Starting was by means of a cranking handle.
Two of the railmotors were converted road vehicles; the Wolseley-Siddeley car and the somewhat mysterious Ford lorry. The lorry is said to have been used by Stephens as his personal road transport and could, when required, be converted for rail use by changing the wheels and locking the steering. Indeed, close examination of the above photograph shows the steering wheel to be present. Whether or not the 'convertible' story is true has never been established but the lorry, believed to be a Model TT (the 1 ton lorry version of the Model T car), seems to have taken permanently to the rails as a partner for the one-off Wolseley-Siddeley railmotor which is itself something of a mystery as it is known to have had a second radiator at its rear end but is thought to have only been driveable from its leading end. This conjures up comical images of the railmotor rattling along, slowly, in reverse gear with the driver looking over his shoulder! Whatever the truth, paring the Ford lorry to the Wolseley-Siddeley overcame the reversing problem. The Wolseley-Siddeley, incidentally, also ran on the Selsey Tramway where it is known to have been turned on the Southern's turntable at Chichester and this inconvenience plus, perhaps, some damage it received to its second radiator during one such move, could have been the reason for the introduction of the lorry.
Both vehicles spent a time on the S&M and the photograph shows the lorry coupled to one of the railmotors. Whilst this combination could be described as a 'mixed' train, it is more likely that on the day it was photographed the lorry was deputising for a failed railmotor. The (passenger) railmotor is one of the Ford vehicles. Just visible is the sliding door in its rear which allowed passage between two such vehicles when coupled together. Luggage was carried on the roof, hence the railings, but whether this actually occurred in practice is not known. Seating was wooden, in the Fords at least, and of the reversible type as used in tramcars. As if that wasn't enough luxury, the railmotors are thought to have been heated by diverting engine exhaust through pipework within the saloon and then to atmosphere. Contemporary reports (and haters of the modern 'Pacer' DMUs take note) state the ride quality of the Colonel Stephens railmotors was atrocious. Nevertheless they did the job they were designed to do and provided a service where such would have been totally uneconomic with conventional rolling stock and steam locomotives.