feature to W86500: production vehicles having six pairs. Due to the varied nature of the goods being carried, internally there were no partitions, the vehicles being open plan. Folding tables were the only feature of note in the interiors.
Being the prototype vehicle, after its construction W86500 was evaluated during 1956. The design must have been well received because following some minor modifications, a further 900 production GUVs were built between 1957 & 1960.
W86500 was disposed of in April 1993. Like so many rare and often unique vehicles, W86500 was saved by Pete Waterman (Waterman Railways). It is not known whether it was “accidently” preserved simply as a tool van, its historical significance overlooked, or whether it was selected for its rarity.
Either way: W86500, being in good condition, required no restoration work and was stored at Crewe for 16 years, continuing its departmental role as a stores van. Although the vehicle had been saved from scrap, no work was undertaken to return the vehicle back to its former glory, the van having a more functional purpose. During these years, W86500 suffered a graffiti attack, two windows were smashed and the vehicle started to deteriorate.
In 2009 a clear out of the sidings resulted in the vehicle being sold for scrap as part of a line of dilapidated vehicles. Several other vehicles in the line were pulled apart in situ by a mechanical “grabber” and progress had reached the vehicle adjacent to W86500 when a BRCW Group member was informed that this was no ordinary GUV, it being the prototype. Hasty informal arrangements were made with about half an hour to spare, which later concluded in the sale of the vehicle; W86500 being moved by rail on the 11th September 2009 from the sidings south of Crewe station to the Heritage Centre, for onward movement by road to the Churnet Valley Railway. The group are grateful to the people whose quick initiatives saved this vehicle from being quietly lost.
With W86500 being the prototype GUV, the group felt it fitting that the vehicle be preserved in as built condition. The vehicle arrived at the Churnet Valley Railway in mid September 2009 and work to return the vehicle to its former glory commenced immediately. The condition of the vehicle, despite its drab and rusty appearance, was regarded as relatively good after an inspection. As several of the group’s vans had deteriorated over the years due to a lack of maintenance, it was decided in light of the vehicles historical value that full restoration would be done immediately.
Between 2009 and 2012 the vehicle was restored inside and out. The underframe and body-sides were both shot blasted and sprayed into their original livery. Much effort was spent on the bodywork for a smooth finish. Internally all the woodwork was repaired and the vehicle repainted from floor to ceiling in original colours. Mechanical components were brought back into use and original features unique to the vehicle returned. The doors were then made secure and the vehicle racked out to become a stores vehicle.
W86500 was launched into traffic in February 2013 after completion of its restoration, with many favourable comments. It ran during a photographic steam charter and also in a demonstration freight train during the line's steam gala the same month. The vehicle was later showcased as a DMU “tail load” during a dedicated day in May 2013.
Presently, when not in operational use, W86500 remains at Cheddleton as the group’s main storage van but is always available for use during special events, maintained in fully operational condition.