Steamport and the NRM

Class 502 at Steamport

The preserved 502 is shunted at Steamport, prior to repainting in LMS maroon (picture courtesy of Fred Kerr)

A 2-car set, formed of motor car 28361 and driving trailer 29896, was earmarked for preservation by the National Railway Museum. As there was a chance that the unit could run again, it was placed on extended loan to the Steamport railway centre at Southport.

The museum's own volunteers, supported by The Northwest Friends of the NRM, began work on restoring the unit. Progress was slow, but by the end of 1983 the unit had been overhauled and rewired, using spare parts acquired from scrapped sets. In November 1983 the unit was taken out onto Southport carriage sidings for a trial run. With team members and NRM management looking on, a sigh of relief was breathed by all concerned when the driver applied power and the unit moved away smoothly.

Picture of Class 502 at Birkenhead North

The preserved unit is seen working a special service at Birkenhead North in 1986 (picture courtesy of Clive Hanley)

In 1986, British Rail began formulating plans for the 100th anniversary of the Mersey Railway. The Steamport team was approached with a view to using the 502 as part of the celebrations. With the help of the workshops at Birkenhead North, who repainted the unit into LMS colours, the unit was ready just in time for the anniversary commemoration on 6th April 1986. The unit entered service on a special shuttle between Birkenhead North and Hoylake, making the 502 the first privately-restored EMU to work a revenue-earning train on the BR network.

The unit subsequently returned to Southport, where it remained available for enthusiast specials for several years. During this time the LMS livery was modified by the addition of yellow safety panels.

In 1989 the unit was due for an overhaul. There were no resources available at the time for this, and so the unit was retired from the main line. It remained on display to Steamport visitors until 1997, when the museum closed.


Picture of Class 502 in store at MoD Kineton

Trailer car 29896 in store at Kineton in 2007 (picture courtesy of Jason Lovell)

Most of Steamport's exhibits moved to their new site at the Ribble Steam Railway, Preston. However there was no role there for the 502, so Steamport's loan of the unit was ended and it was returned to the National Railway Museum. There was no space at the NRM's York site for the 502, which was placed into storage at MoD Kineton.

Although Kineton was secure from vandals, there was no covered accommodation available and the 502 was open to the elements. Within a short time, the bodywork began to rust. Corrosion had been a problem throughout the life of the 502s, and only regular preventative maintenance kept the problem at bay. In open storage, with no maintenance for many years, the bodywork deteriorated severely.

Picture of Class 502 in store at MoD Kineton

Power car 28361 in store at Kineton in 2007 (picture courtesy of Jason Lovell)

This situation continued for the next 11 years. The NRM, with its limited resources, had to focus on rolling stock of more general interest than the 502, and the unit continued to deteriorate.

From time to time preservation groups expressed an interest in taking on the unit, however all these proposals came to nothing.

In 2008, matters came to a head, as the management at MoD Kineton gave notice to the museum to remove the 502 from the site. There was a very real possibility that the unit could be scrapped...

Fortuitously, at around the same time a new group appeared on the scene, ready to take custody of the 502...

< The long career of the ‘502s’
The Friends of the 502 Group >