VOLUNTEERS are restoring the world’s first electric Autocar after it was found in a field in Kirbymoorside.

The autocar, built by North Eastern Railway in 1903 at York Carriageworks, was one of two trains, numbers 3170 and 3171, which were powered by petrol electric engines, rather than steam.

The two autocars served between West Hartlepool and Hartlepool stations and Scarborough to Filey, later being transferred to the SelbyCawood branchline.

In 1923, no.3170 was fitted with a larger engine so it could pull larger carriages of passengers and it was moved to Harrogate before returning to Cawood.

It ended up being sold to a North Yorkshire landowner who made it into a holiday home at Keldholme near Kirkbymoorside. He fitted the carriage with a tin roof and veranda, and it remained in the field until carriage restorer Stephen Middleton of Harrogate bought it in September 2003.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has now awarded a grant of £465,800 to help the volunteers restore the 3170, which is a four-year project at Embsay, near Skipton, run by the NER 1903 Electric Autocar Trust.

The Trust hopes to bring the train and accompanying coach back into use for carrying passengers on heritage railways in North Yorkshire and the North East.

The Trust also intends to make the autocar available to other heritage lines and to use it to teach school parties about the railways.

Stephen Middleton, chairman of the NER 1903 Electric Autocar Trust, said the project had also received smaller grants from the Ken Hoole Trust and PRISM (The Fund for the Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material), as well as raising money through a fundraising shop at Bolton Abbey.