ENTHUSIASTS have been awarded a £20,000 grant towards the restoration of a historic electric autocar once used as a holiday home.

The money will allow the North Eastern Railway (NER) 1903 Electric Autocar Trust to restore the body and the underframe over the next 12 months.

The autocar was one of a pair designed and built by Vincent Raven, assistant chief mechanical engineer of the NER in 1903. It was the world’s first use of an internal combustion engine in a passengercarrying rail vehicle.

They went out of service in the Thirties, and one was later used for 70 years as a holiday home on a farm near Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire.

It was spotted by the enthusiasts and bought in September 2003 by carriage restorer Stephen Middleton.

The latest money has come from the Prism Fund – the Fund for Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material.

A grant has also been provided by the Ken Hoole Trust and it is hoped both awards will help unlock a grant from English Heritage.

If that is successful, it would allow the autocar to be equipped with an engine, controls and brakes and restored as a driving trailer.

Trust chairman Stephen Middleton said: “We are immensely grateful to both bodies.

“In such tough times, competition for increasingly-limited funds must be intense, so it is wonderful to see our work valued.

“Trust members are excited at the prospect of beginning restoration work after so long and would welcome new volunteers to help us achieve our tough deadline.”

Mr Raven dreamt up the idea of the autocar in 1903 when the world of railways was powered by steam.

Electric tramcars were on the streets, and he saw the advantage of using electricity as a superior power to haul vehicles up hills.

But instead of drawing electricity from overhead, as tram cars did, he used a petrol-powered engine to drive a dynamo to power the electric motors To donate to the project, visit electric autocar.co.uk or call Mr Middleton at the autocar’s base, on 01423-561965.