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Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Company

Too many vehicles too quickly were required for British Railways' own workshops to cope, so several orders for the private sector were put out to tender, with Metropolitan-Cammell, Park Royal, Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co, Craven Ltd, Wickham, Pressed Steel and Gloucester railway Carriage & Wagon Co all building railcars at this time.

The use of "private builders" gave railcars much in the way of variation, as each company took their own angle on a sometimes bried design specification. This lead to a multitude of front end designs, and the Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co was no exception, the front end of our Class 104 vehicles being unique.

Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co built all the group's railcars in 1957 & 1958, as part of an order for 302 vehicles of this type. They have a unique front end and unusually most had a wooden interior (nearly all railcars of the time were built with wipe-down Formica interiors). They were delivered in two car, three car, and four car formations, and we have enough vehicles on the CVR to (at some point in the future) authentically recreate a two and three car formation.

Unfortunately most of the four car sets allocated to the North East were withdrawn earlier than the others, and only half of a set has been saved (on the Telford Steam Railway).

Construction

The following information is from the Railcar Association website:

The bodies and underframes were built as an integral structure, the complete body and underframe being capable of carrying all the superimposed loads normally encountered in service and a 200% overload. The main body pillars were of a 16 s.w.g. thick mild steel pressed top-hat section, with the flanges located against the outer skin to form hollow box sections. These were connected by light and waist rails together with intermediate 16 s.w.g plate of angle and "z" section, and the 1/8 in plate cantrail. The main carlines were of similar section and thickness as the pillars, and were tied together by purlins of shallower top-hat section.

The body side, end and roof panelling was 16 s.w.g. steel, and these were stitch welded to the body framing in cast iron jigs to minimise distortion and buckling of panels. All joints between adjacent body side and end panels were welded and ground smooth after assembly to provide a completely flat exterior. The underframes were a conventional design of mild steel rolled sections and plates, with members spaced to accommodate the power and transmission equipment, and fabricated by electric welding. Standard BR drawgear and light alloy Oleo hydraulic self-contained side buffers were fitted, although some were fitted with spring buffers mounted on adapter brackets until receiving the one piece Oleos during overhaul in the late '70s.

The standard BR swing bolster bogies were used, and were fitted with Timken roller-bearing axleboxes and lateral control bolster dampers. 22 inch vacuum cylinders were carried in the power car bogies, although they were later changed to the standard 21" rolling ring type. Trailer cars had 18" cylinders and one bogie and carried a dynamo. On the power cars these were driven by V-belts from the transmission. Brakes were the Gresham & Craven quick release vacuum type, with two Clayton exhausters also driven from the transmission by v-belts. There were brake valves in the guards van, and in each cab, the cabs also containing the handbrakes. The TBS vehicles had a vertically mounted hand brake wheel by the corridor connection door but these was later removed.

BUT supplied their standard engine and transmission equipment, with each Leyland 680 engine driving a final drive on the inner axle of the nearest axle via a freewheel, four speed epicyclic gearbox, and cardan shafts. An air compressor was mounted on each engine to supply air for the electro-pneumatic controls. Radiators, mounted on the side of the frames were cooled by fans driven by a right angle drive on the engine. Each exhaust system had two silencers to cut down on noise.

Horsepower per ton of tare for a 3-car set (86 tons) was approx 7.0, and fully laden would be about 6.0hp per ton.

For heat and noise insulation cars were sprayed with asbestos, 1/4 inch thick on the inside of the side, end and roof sheeting, and 3/8 inch thick on the underside of the aluminium dovetail floor sheets. These were covered with 1 3/16 inch thick cork, to give better protection against noise, onto which the linoleum was laid.

J Stone & Co (Deptford) Ltd provided the lighting equipment, with 60W 24V lamps in the saloons powered by 150 amp Tonum generators. Standard BR A2 type lead acid batteries were used which had a capacity of 440 amp/hour. Destination and route indicator boxes could also be illuminated.

Interior

The following information is from the Railcar Association website:

The seating was of a high backed type, unique to Class 104 & 110. First class had tubular frame
seats upholstered in Dunpillo and trimmed in a blue shade of uncut moquette (with a "floral shaped"
vertical stripes) and contrasting blue Vynide panels on the seat frame and back panel, and had
armrests and headrolls. There was also a blue carpet over the linoleum. Second class seating was
also tubular framed and upholstered in Dunpillo but trimmed in cut and uncut maroon moquette
(with a narrower fawn/buff/light brown type colour vertical pattern approx. 1" wide), and grey green
Vynide panels in the seat frames and back. Headrolls were provided, but not arm rests. The floor
had a green shade of linoleum.

Self coloured anodised light alloy luggage racks ran the full length of saloons, which in most cases
were finished in polished veneered plywood. The first class was rose zabrano and the second class
lacewood. The type of wood was identified by a small plaque inside each saloon on the vestibule
walls above the archways. The exceptions were the NER sets, which had light blue formica in first class and light green in second. On all cars the window frames and panel beading were made from wood (most DMUs had alloy frames and strips). Vestibule bulkheads were formed from blockboard and veneered to match the saloons, with windows of armoured glass. The interior sliding doors were also blockboard but veneered in mahogany to match the mahogany framing in the bodyside and bulkhead windows. Standard BR bodyside windows with sliding ventilators were used, and Beclawat full-drop balance windows were fitted to the bodyside doors. Blinds were fitted to the second class windows, with curtains in the first class. Toilets were finished in primrose yellow plastic with furnishings to match.

Two S. Smiths & Sons fuel oil burning heaters were provided per car, each operating independently. One used fresh air from the outside and the other used recycled air. Ozonair filters were fitted to both systems between the air intake and the heater. The air was fed through longitudinal ducts along the bodysides and distributed at floor level. There were two feeds into the van through the partition, capable of being blanked off at the guards discretion, and another feed to near the guards seat. The drivers' cab and toilets also had feeds through the partitions. Warm air, and cool air from a grille on the front of the cab under the secondmans window, was fed into a mixing chamber which had a flap valve allowing the temperature to be controlled for de-misting and de-frosting. This was aided by an electric driven fan which blew the air to the distributing duct at the bottom of the drivers window.

There was good use made of fibreglass in the construction, for the cab roof and ceiling, front and side cab interior finishes, and alarm valve covers, which were in a dove-grey finish. It was also used for the covers over the heating ducts in vestibules, in a shade to match the anodised aluminium kickplates on the vestibule bulkheads.

Communication between the driver and guard was by electric buzzer, and there was an electric bell system that warned both driver and guard if any engine went on fire. Smith's Industrial Instruments provided the speedometer equipment, with Smith-Stone speed indicators, and a Smith-Stone distance counter on one axle of each power car. The cab controls were laid out in a manner similar to other manufacturers. The cab windows were 1/4 inch armoured glass, with Laycock pneumatic windscreen wipers, some fitted to both sides, some vehicles had one fitted to the drivers side only. Although not fitted when new on the first units, a Trico-Folberth window washer was added.

The door vestibule end of the TC and TS vehicles and the gangway ends in all vans were fitted with the same sized windows as the cabs, one either side of the gangway.

All the ER allocated vehicles were built with a luggage rack area opposite the toilet. One double seat was omitted to accommodate the rack, and the triple seat backing onto the toilet was replaced with a double.

Operations

The following information is from the Railcar Association website:

The first four sets were delivered in April (2) and May 57 (2) to Longsight, the first of two batches of 3-car sets for the LMR. They entered service on the Buxton line on the 17th June 1957. The second batch of 52 sets were also delivered in 1957.

An early sighting was 50420/4 & 59132, with B1 on the route indicator, working from Longsight on the 20th April '57.

Noted at Longsight on the 19th May '57 were 50421/59133/50425 & 50423/59135/50427.

Noted working the Manchester - Buxton - Crewe services on the 17th June '57 were 50423/59135/50427, 50428/59136/50480, 50430/59138/50482 and 50431/59139/50483.

On Monday 16th September 1957 sets were introduced on an improved service between Crewe and Derby via Stoke. There were some half dozen more trains in each direction on weekdays, and three more on Sundays. Timings were based on an even-timed hourly service on weekdays and two-hourly on Sundays, with timings cut by some 27 mins compared with previous steam schedules. The 51 miles, stopping at all 23 stations between Crewe and Derby was covered in 87 mins.

Noted in use in the first days were 50435/59143/50487 and 50428/59136/50480. The only criticism they got was the noisy vibration of the luggage racks when in low gear.

At the same time a new fast diesel service was introduced to Llandudno Jct. The journey from Chester took one hour, and was advertised as being the fastest timing ever to operate between those points. The service was also advertised locally under the name 'The Diesel Rapide'. It left Crewe at 11:15, all stations to Chester, then leaving at 11:55 for Prestatyn (26 mins), Rhyl, Colwyn Bay (46 mins), Llan. Jct & Llandudno. It returned on the previously steam 13:45 through to Derby, to greatly accelerated timings. On the first day it was worked by 50480/59136/50248. Not having Llandudno on the indicators, they simply carried a 'B', arriving exactly on time. It was packed leaving Crewe, with standing in the van, and a steam releif had to be provided to cope with the Chester passengers. The service was scheduled for 2x3-car sets, but Crewe was short of stock.

DMUs had worked the Sunday service on the Millers Dale - Buxton branch for some months before taking over the weekday operations on the 7th Oct. '57.

On a Sunday excursion working from Manchester to Newcastle on the 3rd Nov. '57 were 50449/59157/50501 & 50437/59145/50489.

The Manchester - Hayfield/Macclesfield services saw 198,303 passengers for a sample month in '57, compared with 136,768 for the same month in '56, an increase of 61,535. On the Crewe - Stoke - Derby service at was 84,248 ('57) compared with 60,154 ('56), an increase of 24,094.

The through DMU working on Sundays from Stoke (dep. 16:00) to Rugby (arr 18:38 and return 18:50) was worked by 3-car sets, and on the 26th Jan. '58 it was the turn of 50437/59145/50489.

At the end of Jan. '58 the LMR preliminarily announced an extension of DMU services from Manchester (London Rd) to take in Stoke, with an hourly service between the two centres. The new workings were due to begin on the 3rd Feb., but were called off due to a mechanical fault found with the Class 104 bogies, just 48 hours before they were due to begin. About 40 sets were taken out of service, and the remedial work was expected to take five weeks and it was hoped the new services would begin in early March. Met-Camm sets were borrowed from the NER, and ten 2-6-4s obtained from Willesden.

They did start on the 3rd March '58. It made it possible to travel from Wolverhampton (High Level) at 09:06 and 18:23 to Birmingham New Street., via Bescot and Aston by trains which stopped at all stations, although there was not a similar service in the opposite direction.

The first four 3-car sets were re-allocated to the then new Buxton diesel depot on Feb 3, 1958 from Longsight, with more sets yet to come. They replaced the Derby Lightweights which could not cope with the demanding gradients and conditions of the 'Spa Line'. The 104s worked the line for almost 32 years, 31 years of which Buxton constantly had its own allocation of 104s. Buxton allocated driving cars were instantly recognisable with their painted white cab roofs, which complemented the green (and later blue) livery well.

Mid-58 saw 15 power-trailer sets delivered, 10 to the LMR at Stoke and 5 to the ER & NER at Bradford.

1958 also saw the 4-car sets delivered, a batch of 21 and a batch of 5, both to the NER, the first ones going to Darlington.

Four-car sets based at Darlington were introduced to York-Harrogate services on the 18th Aug. '58 to previous steam timings.

In service, the 104s worked over many routes on the BR network, covering most, if not all the DMU diagrams of their home depots. Throughout their lives being allocated to: Ayr, Bletchley, Buxton, Cambridge, Carlisle Kingmoor, Chester, Crewe North, Crewe South, Cricklewood, Darlington, Derby Etches Park, Eastfield, Hull Botanic Gardens, Hull Springfield, Leeds Neville Hill, Llandudno Junction, Longsight, Newton Heath, Norwich, Old Oak Common, Ryecroft, South Gosforth, Stoke, Stratford, Toton, Tyseley, York and Walsall Monument Lane. Of the routes worked by the class, the one they became synonymous with is the Buxton to Manchester Piccadilly 'Spa Line'.

They were also known to work to Skegness, on summer Saturday services from Manchester Piccadilly, as well as the occasional excursion.

Saturday May 6, 1989 saw the last official booked run of a 104 on the 'Spa Line' when N669 M53454 + M59187 + M53528 worked the 'Buxton 104 Farewell', an express run from Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton and return. Even after 'Sprinterisation' of the line on May 15, 1989, 104s still managed to work to Buxton on odd occasions - deputising for non available 'Sprinters'. The last occasion was on May 4, 1990 when CH610 M53447 + M53531 worked the 16:07 Manchester Piccadilly - Buxton and the 17:08 return to Bolton.

There were ten NSE liveried vehicles (eight DMBSs 53429/437/455/470/477/479/539/540 and two trailers 59163/206) The DMBSs were paired into four sets (L701 to L704). They emerged in NSE livery following overhaul at Doncaster Works in late 1988 and early 1989 (the last of the class to be treated) to work Barking to Gospel Oak services, until displaced by Class 115 sets, when they moved to the Thames Line. The two trailers were allocated to Bletchley and worked in various DMU sets.

One of the most unusual workings was the 'Mexican Bean' (53424 + 53434), which although allocated to Eastfield, Glasgow was stabled at Oban. It worked summer services from there to Crainlarich giving connections with Fort William trains. About once a week (normally Friday afternoons?) would see the set attached to the back of a loco-hauled service train to Glasgow for refuelling.

Decline

The following information is from the Railcar Association website:

The first major withdrawals to take place amongst the class came with the opening of the Tyne & Wear Metro system. Many North Eastern allocated vehicles were taken out of service and some reallocated to the London Midland Region. The LMR vehicles never saw any form of 'mass withdrawals', being taken out of service at a steady rate from the early 1980s. Those vehicles which did not go through works for overhaul and asbestos removal were the first to go. Doncaster, Derby, Swindon and Glasgow Works were responsible for these overhauls, which ran through until 1987 for the LMR vehicles.

By the start of the summer 1989 timetable there were around 50 vehicles still in service. Those vehicles still to survive at Newton Heath were reallocated to Chester, where there were already some 104 trailers working between 108 power cars which came from Buxton. With the continued introduction of second generation DMUs, the surviving 104s at Chester were withdrawn at an increasing pace towards the end of 1989. The allocation from Scotland of several 101s to Chester drove more nails into the coffin for the 104s, although the surviving vehicles still managed to work as far afield as Birmingham New Street, Derby, Holyhead, Leicester, Rugby, Sheffield, Skegness and Stafford, to name but a few. The last two sets allocated to Chester were CH610 M53447 + M53531 and CH611 M53451 + M53529 which saw out there final days on Chester to Helsby services during June 1990, the month they were taken out of service. This left just the ten vehicles on Network SouthEast still in service. Of these, the two trailers were the first to be withdrawn, 59206 on October 1, 1990 and 59163 (due to fire damage) on October 22, 1990.

The withdrawal of the DMBS vehicles started with 53437 and 53479 on January 18, 1992. Two days later, Class 115 DMUs replaced the 104s on the Barking to Gospel Oak services and the remaining six vehicles were transferred to Thames Line duties. During the rest of 1992 five of the six vehicles fell victim to the continued introduction of new Class 165 Thames Turbo units to Thames Line services. 53540 was the last vehicle in service into 1993 and the only vehicle to be properly fitted with a high density halogen headlamp (the "Mexican Bean's" was fitted on the roof domes). It was withdrawn in October 1993.