M50455/M50517

This set is the group's current flagship. Preserved in 1992 they were moved to the Churnet Valley Railway where a major restoration was undertaken which was concluded in the Autumn of 2004, the set emerging in BR Green with speed whiskers.

 

After a brief visit to the Severn Valley Railway, M50455/M50517 successfully ran every operating season from 2005-2014 working the majority of the Churnet Valley's supporting services alongside the staple steam traction. The set ran for over 20,000 miles and was enjoyed by many visitors.

Sadly at the end of the ten year period the group were unable to agree to the railway's terms to extend the operating agreement, and most of the fleet based there was consequently relocated to the East Lancashire Railway. By this time, M50455/M50517's body and paintwork were in a tired condition and the set was withdrawn for a second preservation era overhaul shortly after relocating.

The work, to last almost three years, was concluded in November 2017 and M50455/M50517 now operate as part of the ELR's mixed fleet of DMU sets.

50455

50455, built in October 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.

50455 was preserved by the group in 1992, moved to the Churnet Valley Railway and was put into store whilst work was being undertaken on other vehicles.

Between 1999 and 2004, 50455 was fully restored to 1950's condition and was launched into traffic in BR Green partnered with 50517 in September 2004. The set became the group’s main service provider at the Churnet Valley Railway and operated every season from 2005 to 2014.

In November 2014, 50455 was withdrawn from service at the Churnet Valley Railway and moved to the East Lancashire Railway with 50517. Three years of bodywork restoration followed before being relaunched into service in November 2017.

M50455 now operates regularly at the East Lancashire Railway.

BR HISTORY

50455 (numbered M50455) entered service in the North West, delivered to Longsight depot in Manchester in October 1957 with Trailer Composite Lavatory M59163 and Driving Motor Composite Lavatory M50507 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 50455 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 50455 was allocated to Longsight, Stoke-on-Trent, Leeds Neville Hill, Newton Heath & Buxton. Around 1960, the short lived light green livery that 50455 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 50455 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 50455 being renumbered M53455 in February 1983. The mid 1980’s were to see 50455 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 underinvestment, added to the fact the vehicle was now thirty years old, took its toll and reliability of all the units left much to be desired. In 1988, 50455 was selected for refurbishment at Doncaster works and was the second of four Class 104 sets so treated, emerging in the striking Network SouthEast livery, renumbered 53455, and paired with 53539 as set L702. The set continued to see use around London before being split up, 53455 being reformed into set L730 with other vehicles. During this time the vehicle was used mostly on the Gospel Oak-Barking route.

In January 1992 the Gospel Oak-Barking service that 53455 was dedicated to was given over to Class 115 units, so the vehicle was transferred to the Reading area for about 6 months on “Thames Line” duties Finally displaced by second generation DMU’s and with more thoroughly refurbished vehicles (such as Class 108’s) still available, 53455 was taken out of service on September 1992 and stored awaiting disposal.

GALLERY - WORKING ON THE MAINLINE

RESTORATION

By 1999 the restoration of 50517 was at a stage where its partner vehicle needed to be started if a running set was to be formed. 50455 was selected as being the best of the two brake vehicles on the railway.

 

2000 saw the restoration begin to move forwards (in parallel with M50517’s). many components were removed, the interior stripped out and restoration of the myriad of individual interior bits and pieces started.

2001 saw the bulk of the bodywork completed inside Cheddleton shed, involving much sanding and filling after the new metalwork had been completed. Mechanically, the vehicle was made operational (in a sense) with the revival of both of the engines. The vehicle also moved under its own power for the first time in a good few years during this period.

The big news for summer 2002 was the gloss painting and lining of M50455, completed in the shed at Oakamoor, which brought the external restoration of the vehicle to a close. The repaint was made possible

following a final 3-week marathon of sanding and filling during May, and also after the final cleaning and painting of the roof. During the diesel gala in September 2002, the vehicle was instead put on static display showing off its brand new paint scheme. The access to water was also taken advantage of and the coolant systems filled. Inside the vehicle, the new veneered panelling had arrived and was being fitted over the winter, in preparation for the “home straight” of seat fitting.

2003 saw the last of the interior work completed. New flooring was fitted to the guards floor as the originals had rotted away under the steel chequer plate. The cabs also received a final coat of paint. Mechanically, teething troubles were starting to be tackled in preparation for a return to service. The brake blocks were changed amongst other, smaller, components.

2004 saw a final push to make the vehicle mechanically fit for regular traffic. By August the unit was undertaking test runs having had final preparations such as new oils and filters. After one last external clean and polish, the unit was complete.

Ten years of reliable service followed before M50455 had to be withdrawn again for bodywork attention. The interior and mechanics had fared a lot better so needed no attention, however in March 2015 major exterior renewal commenced. It took three years of chopping, welding and bodywork along with a whole host of other, smaller, jobs too numerous to mention. The cab front was a particularly time consuming area and was basically replaced rather than repaired! 50455 was returned to service (in BR blue this time) in November 2017.

GALLERY - IN SERVICE

50517

50517, built in December 1957, is a Driving Motor Composite Lavatory (DMCL) vehicle, weighing 31 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. 50517 is fitted with two standard Leyland 680 horizontal diesel engines providing 300hp. Standard British United Traction (BUT) transmissions and control systems enable 50517 to operate in multiple with any vehicles that carry the “Blue Square” DMU coupling code, which is the most common.

50517 was preserved by the group in 1992 and was put into store whilst work was being undertaken on 50454 and 50528.

 

Between 1997 and 2004 50517 was fully restored to 1950's condition and was launched into traffic in BR Green with speed whiskers partnered with 50455. The set became the group’s main service provider at the Churnet Valley Railway and operated every season from 2005 to 2014.

In November 2014, 50517 was withdrawn from service at the Churnet

Valley Railway and moved to the East Lancashire Railway with 50455. A period of storage followed whilst bodywork restoration was undertaken on 50455. However in 2017 contractors undertook similar bodywork repairs and a repaint to 50517 before being relaunched into service in November 2017.

M50517 now operates regularly at the East Lancashire Railway.

BR HISTORY

50517 (numbered M50517) entered service in the North West, delivered to Crewe South depot in December 1957 with Trailer Composite Lavatory M59173 and Driving Motor Brake Second M50465 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 50517 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 50517 was allocated to Crewe South, Stoke-on-Trent, Longsight, Newton Heath and Bletchley.

Around 1960, the short lived light green livery that 50517 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 50517 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 50517 being renumbered M53517 in May 1983.

The 1980’s were to see Class 104’s begin to fall into decline. By 1984, 50517 was running as a 3-car set with M59168 (in Blue & Grey livery) and M53464. The set was transferred north to Scotland, numbered set 456, where it joined a characteristic fleet of first generation DMU’s. The Strathclyde Transport route maps depicting the railway network surrounding Glasgow were to remained stuck on the ceiling panels for the rest of the vehicle’s BR life, only being removed during restoration in he early 2000's. One of the original maps was saved as part of the vehicle’s history. 

In 1989, 50517 was moved back down to the North West, being formed as a two car “power twin” set with DMBS M53451 with set number CH611. It operated in the Manchester area, transferred to Chester Depot, the last place to see 104’s in the north.

Some Class 104 vehicles were transferred for future use in the London area, however 50517 was not one of them, and saw the end its days running from Chester, where it was taken out of service in May 1990 after running its final months in set CH611.

GALLERY - WORKING ON THE MAINLINE

RESTORATION

The 2nd February 1997 saw M53517 (as it was numbered at that time) moved into the engine shed at Cheddleton, signifying the start of a thorough restoration of what was to become our flagship vehicle. By this time, the Churnet Valley Railway had become home to two Class 104 sets, a power-twin 2-car set and a 3-car set. M53517 was considered as the vehicle in the most superior condition of the four power cars awaiting restoration. From the beginning, it was stated that the restoration would not be a quick job and that a more thorough rebuild would ensure the vehicle would remain in good condition for many years after restoration was completed.

1997 saw the vehicle internally gutted alllowing the rotten bodywork and framework to be attented to later. The rear saloon windows were all removed within one hour! At this point, a major problem was discovered in the form of a very rotten cab corner which was recognised to require complete replacement. This would involve the rebuild of that side of the cab including removal of the roof dome. Although simple enough today, back in 1997 this was a major setback to the restoration.

 

The bulk of 1998 included much interior and exterior work. Externally, the solebars, bogies and underfloor electrical boxes had their BR "rubber" paint burned/scraped off, primed and painted in chassis black. The buffers were removed, straightened and the cab end ones replaced by the original "sprung" type as opposed to the OLEO type the vehicle arrived with. The roof vents were also refitted to return the roof to its original appearance, although the vents would be "dummies" (except in the first class) to prevent future water ingress. Bodywork included the removal of all the windows and the replacement of several rotten window bottoms with new steel.

In 1999, bodywork was still in progress with more window repairs and the cab rebuild still to complete. Internally, the rear saloon saw the heater ducting repaired and refitted. The interior ceilings were replaced, the vehicle rewired (in the roof area), the wooden window surrounds repaired/replaced, the cab interior stripped (for the welding repairs) and the cab controls taken off site for refurbishment. M50517 finally left the shed in 1999 after the two year bodywork project was completed. During 1999 the remaining rotten framework was replaced and the bodysides rubbed down and filled, emerging nice and smooth in green primer. Whilst this was going on, the cab rebuild was tackled with new metalwork forming a new corner for the vehicle. With the windows refitted, the vehicle was made watertight and moved back outside for the rest of the restoration to continue.

Due to space constraints at Cheddleton, M50517 was moved to Oakamoor Sand Sidings in Autumn 2000 for restoration to continue. The vehicle was marshalled with M59137 & M50455. The former vehicle was an un-restored centre car which was used as a workshop/storage area for M50517 and the latter vehicle was also under restoration by this time.

By 2001, the internal saloon veneered bulkheads had been stripped and re-varnished, the cab desk refitted and the cab rewired. The main control air tank was also replaced as it had found to be leaking, following a test that was made coupling M50517 with M50455 and seeing if all the vacuum and air systems were still functioning. This was also an opportunity to test out the new cab wiring. Other progress on the vehicle was taking a backseat during this period, as by this time partner vehicle M50455 was being restored in parallel, and valuable shed space (for bodywork on this vehicle) meant volunteer time was spent on this project for much of the year, to bring M50455’s bodywork to a similar condition to M50517’s.

The big news for summer 2002 was the gloss painting and lining of M50517, completed in the shed at Oakamoor, which brought the external restoration of the vehicle to a close. The repaint was made possible following a final 3-week marathon of sanding and filling during May, and also after the final cleaning and painting of the roof. In other areas, the reupholstered drivers and secondmans seats were refitted, along with the remaining fittings (and leftovers from the rewire) in the cab. The exhaust pipes were also repaired, as several sections were rotten, particularly around the 90 degree bend where they emerge from under the vehicle at the rear and head skywards. These repairs were aided by components available from the truck industry. During the diesel gala in September 2002, the vehicle was instead put on static display showing off its brand new paint scheme. The access to water was also taken advantage of and the coolant systems filled. Inside the vehicle, the new veneered panelling had arrived and was being fitted over the winter, in preparation for the “home straight” of seat fitting.

Summer 2003 saw the completion of the project start to seem within our grasp. Internally, the saloon lighting had been installed completing the ceiling area ready for service. The seat frames were also stripped and painted black. The luggage racks were collected and missing examples (from the rear saloon) made up by cutting up bits of electric multiple unit luggage racks, examples of which were being scrapped near Sheffield at the time. The internal wooden window surrounds had also been completed, along with the veneered panelling. The luggage racks were also refitted. The footboards had also been completed and refitted after being painted gloss black. Miscellaneous work on the mechanics and running gear was also ongoing to clear the list of mechanical restoration faults/jobs prior to traffic. By winter the seating had returned from the reupholsters and been refitted in the vehicle in an attempt to debut at the 2003 diesel gala. Sadly, this wasn’t to be. The fire detection relays were tested and deemed operational, and the windscreen wipers were made operational again. More repairs to the air system were made and during the winter the vehicle finally satisfactorily built up and held control air and vacuum.

2004: Internally, the toilet was rebuilt with refurbished Formica panelling, the porcelain sink and pan fitted, and a myriad of wooden and alloy fittings restored and refitted. Mechanically, all the oils and filters were changed on the vehicle and the brake rigging cleaned and oiled, as it was still in good (albeit ex-BR) condition having seen no preservation use or wear. The unit also moved as a 2-car set at Cheddleton properly for the first time with all systems working. Soon after, a series of test runs were made along the line during the week between public running days, which flagged up a series of issues which were quickly attended to. Other finishing touches included the fitting of the brass grab handles for the doors. After one last external clean and polish, the unit was complete.

Ten years of reliable service followed before M50517 had to be withdrawn again for bodywork attention in March 2015. The interior and mechanics had fared a lot better so needed no attention. After a period in storage whilst bodywork repairs were undertaken on M50455, M50517 received contract bodywork and a repaint during 2017. 50517 was returned to service (in BR blue this time) in November 2017.

GALLERY - IN SERVICE