British Rail Class 104

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British Rail Class 104
Class 104 24307217093.jpg
Class 104 formed from vehicles M50564, M59182, M50594 at Tottenham Hale in March 1976
In service1957–1993
ManufacturerBirmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company
Family nameFirst generation
ReplacedSteam locomotives and carriages
Number built71 DMBS, 108 DMCL, 15 DTCL, 56 TCL, 26 TBSL, 26 TSL. Total: 302 cars
Formation2 car sets: DMBS-DTCL
3 car sets: DMBS-TCL-DMCL
4 cars sets:DMCL-TSL-TBSL-DMCL
CapacityDMBS: 52, DMCL/DTCL: 12F 51S, TCL: 12F 54, TBSL: 51, TSL: 69
Operator(s)British Rail
Car body constructionSteel
Car length57 ft 6 in (17.53 m)
Width9 ft 3 in (2.82 m)
Maximum speed70 mph (110 km/h)
WeightDMCL/DMBS: 31 long tons (31.5 t),
TBSL: 25 long tons (25.4 t),
DTCL/TCL/TSL: 24 long tons (24.4 t)
Prime mover(s)Two B.U.T. (Leyland) 6-cylinder diesels of 150 bhp each
Power output300 bhp (220 kW)
TransmissionMechanical: 4 speed epicyclic gearbox
Braking system(s)Vacuum
Safety system(s)Automatic Warning System
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The British Rail Class 104 diesel multiple units were built by Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company from 1957 to 1959.

The first units ordered were for the London Midland Region, with the majority of the class for use in North West of England. Sets were also used in Tyneside, replacing the former LNER Tyneside electric units following the de-electrification of the North Tyneside Loop line in 1967, but were themselves made redundant by the opening of the Tyne & Wear Metro in 1980. In the mid-1980s a few units reallocated to Scotland, with one unit being repainted in a unique maroon and white livery for services to Oban – it became known as the "Mexican Bean".[1] Other vehicles spent time in London and the last vehicles could be found there in the early 1990s, notably on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

The class was gradually taken out of service from the early 1980s. The final vehicles were withdrawn in 1995.


Car type Qty Fleet
30290 Driving Motor Brake Second (DMBS) 4 50420–50423 L.M.R. three car sets
30291 Driving Motor Lavatory Composite (DMCL) 4 50424–50427 L.M.R. three car sets
30292 Trailer Lavatory Composite (TCL) 4 59132–59135 L.M.R. three car sets
30293 Driving Motor Brake Second (DMBS) 52 50428–50479 L.M.R. three car sets
30294 Driving Motor Lavatory Composite (DMCL) 52 50480–50531 L.M.R. three car sets
30295 Trailer Lavatory Composite (TCL) 52 59136–59187 L.M.R. three car sets
30296 Driving Motor Brake Second (DMBS) 10 50532–50541 L.M.R. two car sets
30297 Driving Trailer Lavatory Composite (DTCL) 10 56175–56784 L.M.R. two car sets
30298 Driving Motor Lavatory Composite (DMCL) 42 50542–50583 N.E.R. four car sets
30299 Trailer Second Lavatory (TSL) 21 59188–59208 N.E.R. four car sets
30300 Trailer Brake Second Lavatory (TBSL) 21 59209–59299 N.E.R. four car sets
30301 Driving Motor Lavatory Composite (DMCL) 10 50584–50593 L.M.R. three car sets
30302 Trailer Second Lavatory (TSL) 5 59230–59234 N.E.R. four car sets
30303 Trailer Brake Second Lavatory (TBSL) 5 59240–59244 N.E.R. four car sets
30404 Driving Motor Brake Second (DMBS) 5 50594–50598 N.E.R. two car sets
30405 Driving Trailer Lavatory Composite (DTCL) 5 56185–56189 N.E.R. two car sets


Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 18 January 1986, a Class 104 unit (vehicles 53433 & 53482) suffered a brake failure, ran past three signals at danger and collided with Class 47 locomotive 47 111 near Preston. Forty-four people were injured.[2]

Departmental Use[edit]

A number of Class 104s were used following their withdrawal from passenger services.

The last two London Midland DTCL vehicles to survive, M54182 & M54183, were converted in 1987/1988 into loco hauled Sandite cars and renumbered ADB977554/ADB977555 respectively.[3] Used until 1994, M54183 was scrapped in February 1994[4] while M54182 was stored at Buxton until June 2000 and was saved for preservation.[5]

Other Sandite cars included 53472, 53478 & 53530 which were used in Scotland until April 1989.[6]

Derby RTC, known for their railway testing, used 53475, 53506 & 53422 (renumbered 977342, 977343 & 977344 respectively) as carriage washing test coaches. They also used 53451 & 53529 as part of DMU auto-gear experiments until February 1991.[7]

M54182 was the only vehicle converted for non-passenger use to survive into preservation.[8] In 2008 after several years in storage, the vehicle was restored externally, retaining its departmental condition and run in a demonstration capacity with Class 37 37075 for a gala weekend at the Churnet Valley Railway.[9] It was believed by the organisers to be the first and only time that departmental DMU Sandite operations had been recreated in a heritage setting.


13 Class 104 vehicles are preserved, all owned privately by two individuals.[10] 12 vehicles were preserved in 1992 in a bulk tender from British Rail who at the time were reluctant to sell individual vehicles or sets.[11] The thirteenth was saved in 2000 after protracted storage after departmental use.[12]

Set number Vehicle numbers Livery Location Notes
- 50437 - 50494 NSE/BR Blue East Lancashire Railway Stored
- 50447 - - BR Green Llangollen Railway Under Restoration
- 50454 - 50528 BR Blue Llangollen Railway Operational
- 50455 - 50517 BR Blue East Lancashire Railway Operational
- 50479 - 50531 BR Green Telford Steam Railway Stored
- - 59228(TBSL) 50556 BR Blue Telford Steam Railway Stored
- - - 56182(DTCL) BR Blue North Norfolk Railway Under Restoration
- - 59137 - BR Green East Lancashire Railway Stored

East Lancs Railway[edit]

The East Lancs Railway is now the main location for Class 104 preservation, with a number of vehicles based there.[13] The line is geographically appropriate to the Class, being close to Manchester, and lines that the Class 104's served for most of their lives.[14] During their time at the Churnet Valley Railway a small restoration team returned a 2-car set to service between 1997 & 2004.[15] Between 2005 & 2010 attention turned to the rebuild of unique Trailer Composite Lavatory (TCL) M59137 to strengthen the 2-car set to 3 cars, however limited resources put the restoration on hold.[16] Driving Trailer Composite Lavatory (DTCL) ADB977554 was also cosmetically restored into BR Blue livery in 2008 and performed demonstration sandite trains that year with Class 37 Diesel 37075.

Llangollen Railway[edit]

The Llangollen Railway received three vehicles in 1994 on a long term loan basis.[17] A 2-car set (M50454/M50528) was quickly returned to service in 1994 and has operated in service every season bar one since.[18] The railway also have a "spare" power car (M50447) which was used as a mess-coach and workshop between 1994 & 2011 before being selected itself for a restoration to operating condition, which is currently ongoing.[19]

Telford Steam Railway[edit]

The Telford Steam Railway is home to the remaining four vehicles (also on long term loan), which arrived between 1999 and 2001 from Oswestry, Crewe and Meadowhall.[20] Between 1999 & 2004 the railway operated a 2-car set formed of M50479/M50531 but it was later downgraded to coaching stock use only and by 2010 only M50479 was used.[21] The other two vehicles, 59228 & 53556, are long term projects in poor condition and have not run in preservation.[22]


External image
"Mexican Bean" liveried Class 104 DMU, (units SC53434 & SC53424) at Glasgow Queen Street
  1. ^ See 'External images' box for photograph of the "Mexican Bean" unit.
  2. ^ Department of Transport (29 May 1987). "Report on the Collision that occurred on 18 January 1986 at Preston" (PDF). Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  3. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Butlin, Ashley. DMUs and DEMUs.
  5. ^ BRCW Group. Available at:
  6. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Butlin, Ashley. DMUs and DEMUs.
  9. ^ BRCW Group. Available at:
  10. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at:
  11. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at:
  12. ^ BRCW Group. Available at:
  13. ^ BRCW Group. Available at:
  14. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at:
  15. ^ BRCW Group. Available at:
  16. ^ BRCW Group. Available at:
  17. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at:
  18. ^ Llangollen Railcars. Available at: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 May 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Llangollen Railcars. Available at: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at:
  21. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at:
  22. ^ The Railcar Association. Available at:
  • Fox, Peter; Webster, Neil (July 1982). Multiple Unit Pocket Book. Sheffield: Platform 5 Publications. ISBN 0-906579-26-0.
  • Golding, Brian. A Pictorial Record of British Railways Diesel Multiple Units.
  • Haresnape, Brian. British Rail Fleet Survey 8: Diesel Multiple Units – The First Generation.
  • Marsden, Colin J. Motive Power Recognition: 3 DMUs.
  • Robertson, Kevin. British Railway Pictorial: First Generation DMUs.
  • The ABC of British Railways Locomotives combined volume (1990s reprint ed.). Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Limited. 1959. ISBN 0-7110-0726-8.

External links[edit]