This set is actually only formed on paper, the vehicles having never physically met in preservation. It consists of two previously considered "spare" vehicles at different sites which could theoretically one day operate together.
50447 was preserved in 1992 and was dispatched on long term hire to the Llangollen Railway to provide spare parts and storage space for 2-car set 50454/50528 which were also on hire there. Pleasingly, 50447 did not surrender as many parts as originally intended for 50454/50528 and after many years in use as a mess-van and storage area 50447 remains in storage at Llangollen and could be restored in its own right in the future.
56182 on the other hand was a much later addition to the collection, not being preserved until 2000. It was the last Class 104 vehicle on the mainline and was secured for the collection due to its historical value. However the only place at the time to accommodate it was at the Churnet Valley Railway where it joined five other vehicles none of which were in traffic! However after 15 years in storage it was relocated to the North Norfolk Railway to be fully restored.
Resources are currently being directed at the full restoration of 56182, whilst 50447 currently awaits such resources patiently.
Moving to the Llangollen Railway in 1994, 50447 was in poorer condition than duplicate DMBS 50454, so was used for spare parts and as Llangollen Railcars' workshop/messroom for many years. In 2011, the decision to restore 50447 to full working order was made and this progressed slowly until 2015 when the project was stopped and resources reallocated. 50447, built in September 1957, is a Driving Motor Brake Second (DMBS) vehicle, weighing 31 tons and seating 54 passengers in two (second class) saloons. Two passenger vestibules separate the saloons with passengers exiting the vehicle through four exterior doors. Additional doors are located in the drivers cab and the guard’s compartment. 50447 is fitted with two standard Leyland 680 horizontal diesel engines providing 300hp. Standard British United Traction (BUT) transmissions and control systems enable 50437 to operate in multiple with any vehicles that carry the “Blue Square” DMU coupling code, which is the most common. 50447 was preserved by the group in 1992 but has never been used directly in the group's fleet. Upon preservation, it was one of three vehicles put onto long term loan to Llangollen Railcars Limited, a relationship we are pleased to say has been long and very beneficial for the three Class 104 vehicles involved.
50447 (numbered M50447) entered service in the North West, delivered to Crewe South depot in September 1957 with Trailer Composite Lavatory M59155 and Driving Motor Composite Lavatory M50499 as part of a batch of 51 three car sets for British Railways’ London Midland Region. The area was at that time receiving a number of new DMU sets that were being delivered as a result of the 1955 “Modernisation Plan”. The Class 104 3-car sets proved versatile replacements for previously steam hauled secondary & branch line services in the area, and 50447 would have worked many of the routes around Manchester, particularly the Manchester-Buxton line, which was to have an association with the class for years to come. During the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's 50447 was allocated to Crewe South, Stoke-on-Trent, Monument Lane, Derby and Newton Heath. Around 1960, the short lived light green livery that 50447 was delivered in was replaced by the more conventional BR green that was to last much longer. In the late 1960's the vehicle lost its lined green livery in favour of all over blue. During the 1970's 50447 went through a major overhaul, which included the removal of the original asbestos insulation and the two character route indicator box located on the front end. The introduction of the TOPS classification system in 1973 also resulted in 50447 being
renumbered M53447 in May 1983. By 1988, 50447 was running in a two car "power twin" formation from Newton Heath in set N667, but was reformed the following year upon transfer to Chester with DMCL 50531 (now also preserved) as set CH610. On the 4th May 1990, CH610 became the very last Class 104 to carry passengers along the Manchester-Buxton branch, the line that Class 104's were most associated with, when the set operated the 16:07 Manchester to Buxton and 17:08 Buxton to Bolton services. The early 1990's Class 104 vehicles were transferred for future use in the London area, however 50447 was not one of them, and it saw the end its days running from Chester, being taken out of service in March 1992.
GALLERY - WORKING ON THE MAINLINE
GALLERY - PRE-RESTORATION
50447 received limited restoration work between 2011 and 2015, which helped preserve its condition and made any future restoration an easier task.
56182, built in April 1958, is the only surviving Class 104 Driving Trailer Composite Lavatory (DTCL) vehicle, weighing 24.5 tons and seating 12 first class and 54 second class passengers in three saloons. Two passenger vestibules separate the saloons with passengers exiting the vehicle through four exterior doors. Additional doors are located in the drivers cab. 56182 is fitted with standard (BUT) control systems enabling it to operate in multiple with any vehicles that carry the “Blue Square” DMU coupling code, which is the most common. 56182 was preserved by the group in 2000 and was put into store whilst work was being undertaken on 50455, 50517 and 59137. In 2008 a limited cosmetic/mechanical restoration was completed to allow 56182 to operate demonstration Sandite trains being towed by a Class 37 as a feature of a Railcar gala that year. 56182 was then returned to store. In 2014 the vehicle's full restoration to passenger carrying condition was started, and remains in progress. In the future it is intended to complete 56182's restoration and operate the vehicle in service with one of the group's DMBS vehicles to recreate and authentic Class 104 2-car set. No date has been set for the vehicle's return to service.
56182 (numbered M56182) entered service in the North West in April 1958 with Driving Motor Brake Second M50539 as part of a batch of 10 two car sets for British Railways’ London Midland Region. The area was at that time receiving a number of new DMU sets that were being delivered as a result of the 1955 “Modernisation Plan”. The Class 104 2-car sets proved versatile replacements for previously steam hauled secondary & branch line services in the area, and 56182 would have worked many of the routes around Manchester, particularly the Manchester-Buxton line, which was to have an association with the class for years to come. Around 1960, the short lived light green livery that 56182 was delivered in was replaced by the more conventional BR green that was to last much longer. In the late 1960's the vehicle lost its lined green livery in favour of all over blue. The vehicle initially carried an early form of the livery which included a blue sole-bar, however by 1971 this had been quickly changed to the standard version of the livery. During the 1970's 56182 went through a major overhaul, which included the removal of the original asbestos insulation and the two character route indicator box located on the front end. The introduction of the TOPS classification system in 1973 also resulted in
56182 being renumbered M54182 in in early 1980's. The early 1980’s were to see M54182 transferred away from its North West home south to the London area, where it was operating the lines that had not been electrified. Working a poor area of the BR network during a time of under investment, added to the fact the vehicle was now over twenty years old, took its toll and reliability of all the units left much to be desired. The vehicle was moved around several times paired with many different vehicles as maintenance dictated. M54182 was noted as working around London between 1981 & 1986. However as first generation DMUs were being replaced by modern sprinter units only power cars were being selected to run to the end. M56182, being a trailer, would be slowing services down so it was taken back to the North West in 1987 where it was dumped at Buxton, having operated its last passenger train.
M53539 (M56182’s original partner) was also in London around this time and survived until the very end of Class 104 operations in 1992 as a Network SouthEast refurbished DMBS. Unfortunately it was unable to be saved to form an original formation. It was stripped bare at Margam in 1995 for the preserved vehicles, many parts used in restorations still having 53539 stamped on them!
During late 1987 the vehicle was converted to a Sandite vehicle at Gorton Carriage & Wagon, renumbered ADB977554, and allocated to Buxton where it replaced a Cravens 105. The work involved cutting down two of the internal bulkheads, removing the corridor connection and sealing with a plate with a perspex window. Class 108 seats were installed in the former first class saloon, and a fixed seat was fitted in front of the sealed corridor connection, enabling the vehicle to be pushed or pulled from both directions safely. Sandite hoppers and air tanks were fitted in the middle and rear saloons, and the toilet was retained. 56182 performed Sandite duties until 1994, presumably replaced by Longsight's power twin Sandite 101s. Its role was the dispense a gritty substance (Sandite) over the rails
during the leaf fall season, when the rainy weather, along with leaves falling on the line, builds up deposits on the rails which can affect railway safety systems and also cause loss of traction. The wooded and steeply graded lines around Buxton were sufficiently affected enough for dedicated vehicles to be based there all year round, for those few weeks in autumn when they would be used. The decision to retain this trailer car for Sandite duties, despite the modifications which can be reversed, effectively saved.
the vehicle and allowed it to be the only Class 104 to survive beyond the end of British Rail into the privatisation era. With the privatisation of British Rail, the unit passed to Railfreight Coal sector, where an unsuccessful attempt to purchase it was made by Kevin Dowd and Rob Simpson, the owners of the only 12 class 104s in preservation, all the others (except 56182) having been cut up by this time. The unit then passed to Transrail, who again refused to sell it, until in May 1997 a sale was eventually agreed with Railtrack. 56182 was, by now, stored at the side of Buxton TMD, and in May 1998 some painting & weather sealing of the unit was done for a proposed move to Barrow Hill roundhouse. This fell through, and the unit remained stored along with several internal user vehicles. Following complaints from local residents about the unit being used as a static discotheque by the local youngsters, the saloon doors were chained up and the one with the broken droplight that was being used for entry was boarded up. Late May 1999 saw some blue paint applied to disguise the graffiti, and by 2000, preparations were being made to move the last 104 off the national rail network and into preservation, which was completed on 4th June that year.
GALLERY - WORKING ON THE MAINLINE
GALLERY - PRE-RESTORATION
In summer 2008 the descision was taken to give 56182 a quick repaint and examine the air and vacuum system to allow it to be hauled by a diesel locomotive during a gala, recreating its days as a Sandite vehicle. The work was limited however and M56182 was returned to storage shortly afterwards to await full restoration.
In February 2014, a full rebuild including reversing its departmental modifications back to original condition was started. It was to be a large task lasting many years. The remainder of 2014 was spent restoring small components such as interior woodwork as we were unable to extract the vehicle itself from storage at the time.
In 2015 the vehicle was relocated to the North Norfolk Railway where restoration could start in earnest. Further small components were restored during the year, including a proportion of the cab interior and control components. The wooden internal sliding doors were also restored.
During 2016 the six exterior doors were removed, dismantled and fully
overhauled. Bodywork on the vehicle itself was also started as M56182 was finally moved into a position where services could allow restoration on the main structure to commence, which started with the First Class saloon area.
In 2017 the welding repairs to the First Class saloon were completed and the cab front was dismantled for similar repair. Sadly the front end was in a much worse condition and far more replacement material was needed. The two fibreglass cab roof domes (inner/outer) were stripped back, repaired and repainted ready for refitting. During the year, all of the passenger seating was dismantled, and required repairs to cushions made and then the whole coach reupholstered. The first 1/3rd of the roof was stripped down, repainted and the original roof vents returned. The First Class ceilings and windows were also restored
M56182's restoration is a "live" project and regular pictorial updates are made on our News page.