The Friends of the 502 Group

502 original site

The original "Class 502" web site, before the group was formed

In 2007 a group of railway enthusiasts came together, at first on the Class 502 mailing list. This was followed by a meeting at the East Lancashire Railway on 24th November 2007, at which the Friends of the 502 Group was assembled.

This proved fortuitous timing, as the management at Kineton gave the NRM notice to quit the site, and a new home for the unit was needed as a matter of urgency. Following a meeting with the NRM in July 2008, it was agreed that the two 502 vehicles would be placed on loan to the group.

The next task was to find a new home for the unit. This proved more difficult than anticipated. The group approached Network Rail with a plan to use the former Merseyrail depot at Hall Road. However, a visit to the disused building quickly revealed that the building was in too poor a condition to be used (indeed, it was subsequently condemned and demolished).


502 on low loader

Motor coach 28361 on low loader, headed for Tebay.

Other sites were investigated (including several preserved railways) but were unsuitable, either for financial or practical reasons. With the need to move the unit becoming increasingly urgent, a site was secured on private site in Tebay, Cumbria.

This site was less than ideal in many respects: it was some distance from the core of the group's membership in Merseyside and Lancashire, and the unit would still be outdoors and exposed to the elements. However, with no other option available, we made arrangements to move the unit.

On 28 and 29 May 2009, the unit was moved by low-loader to Tebay, with the NRM paying the costs of the move. See how we reported it on the blog at the time.

502 at Tebay

502 vehicles shortly after arrival at Tebay.

At Tebay, the unit attracted a great deal of interest, both from local residents (prompting the Westmorland Gazette to run an article) and rail enthusiasts who could see the two carriages from trains passing on the adjacent West Coast Main Line.

An initial inspection of the unit revealed the scale of the task ahead of us. The bodysides were affected by severe corrosion, in particular around all window frames, and the cab end of trailer car 29896, in particular, was in extremely poor condition.

Work on the unit took place on average once per month, with work parties travelling to Tebay. Progress was slow, as a sizeable portion of each work day was spent removing tarpaulins and gaining access to the unit, then making everything secure again at the end of the day. We were also hampered by poor weather and occasional acts of vandalism.

In October 2011, the National Railway Museum officially handed the unit over to the Friends of the 502 Group.


We remained at Tebay until March 2012, when the land on which the unit stood was let to a commercial organisation. The unit therefore found itself homeless once again. We were helped on this occasion by the Merseyside Transport Trust, who had just relocated their collection of heritage buses to Burscough Industrial Estate. With space to spare in the new building, the MTT offered us a space.

So, over the weekend of 3rd-4th March 2012, the 502 moved to the MTT building, as seen in the video below.

At Burscough, the 502 is now in secure, undercover storage for the first time in nearly two decades. The 502 is now near Liverpool, easily accessed by the majority of the group's members. We can be found working at Burscough most weekends. The move to Burscough also offers the opportunity for the public to view the unit, thanks to the occasional open days held by the MTT.

What next?

New bodywork

Bodywork stripped away and replaced.

That is the history of the 502 so far, but what of the future?

The unit is secure for the foreseeable future, but restoration will be a long and painstaking process. We hope to carry out a complete cosmetic restoration and replacement of the corroded bodywork has now begun.

Eventually we hope to have the unit running under its own power on the Merseyrail network once more, but that is many years away yet.

We need your help to continue our good work! If you want to assist us, please see our donate page. If you'd like to join us at Burscough, find out about membership.

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