Our fifth set was only formed in 2020 and brought together two vehicles that before then had led separate preservation lives before being brought together in our plans for the future. 50479 was originally intended to be broken up for spare parts to ensure the future of other vehicles within the collection, however an offer from a private individual to undertake restoration work on it was taken up instead. Sadly these bright fortunes did not last long term and the vehicle fell into disuse and deteriorated in condition to the point where it became an issue. 56182 meanwhile had entered preservation in 2000, some seven years after all the other 104 vehicles in the collection, so was therefore an unplanned extra that did not have a partner to readily run with. It too was stored and fell into poor condition.
Things started to look up in 2014 when a slight split in the restoration team (for personal reasons) led to two members moving to Norfolk away from the core 104 fleet. It was agreed the partnerless 56182 could go with them, to the North Norfolk Railway, as a project! It was provisionally planned for an extra set to be formed utilising spare vehicle 50447 from Llangollen to form a 2-car set, however as time went on 50479 was favoured instead, this plan becoming more practical after the Telford Steam Railway (50479's home) chose not to continue having the Class 104's based there.
The set remains more of a future aspiration at present, with 50479 remaining in storage. 56182 however is looking much better being mid way through its rebuild back to original condition. This is currently the main focus for the team at the North Norfolk Railway and 56182 will enter passenger service separately before its powercar is restored.
Longer term, the group have aspirations to bring 50479 back into serviceable condition to run with 56182, creating a third operational Class 104 set for the first time in preservation.
50479, built in March 1958, 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. 50479 is fitted with two standard Leyland 680 horizontal diesel engines providing 300hp. Standard British United Traction (BUT) transmissions and control systems enable 50479 to operate in multiple with any vehicles that carry the “Blue Square” DMU coupling code, which is the most common.
50479 was preserved by the group in 1993 and was originally destined to be broken up to provide spare parts for the developing Class 104 fleets at the Llangollen and Churnet Valley Railways. However an offer by a private individual to maintain and restore the vehicle resulted in 50479 being partnered with 50531 and returned to working order at the Cambrian Railway (Oswestry), moving shortly afterwards to the Telford Steam Railway in 1999.
Between 1999 and 2004, 50479 operated on the short line at Telford with
50531, being withdrawn occasionally for rolling restoration and repair work to be undertaken to keep the vehicle in reasonable condition.
In 2004 a ban on halon fire extinguishers led to 50479 being withdrawn from service as a powered DMU, shortly afterwards the restoration group looking after it disbanded. From this point onwards, the condition of 50479 went into increasingly serious decline. From 2004 to approximately 2014, 50479 operated as hauled coaching stock on the railway before finally being withdrawn altogether and stored out of use.
The Telford Steam Railway then terminated the long term loan and 50479 was split from 50531 and moved to the North Norfolk Railway in 2020 to partner DTCL 56182 instead.
50479 is currently still stored out of service awaiting the completion of 56182's restoration, following which 50479 will receive a full restoration of its own.
50479 (numbered M50479) entered service in the North West, delivered to Crewe South depot in March 1958 with Trailer Composite Lavatory M59187 and Driving Motor Composite Lavatory M50531 as the last 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 50479 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 50479 was allocated to Crewe South Toton, Derby and Newton Heath.
Around 1960, the short lived light green livery that 50479 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.
In summer 1980, 50479 went through a major overhaul at Derby, which included the removal of the original asbestos insulation and the two character route indicator box located on the front end. The computerisation of the TOPS classification system also resulted in 50479 being renumbered M53479 in February 1983.
The mid 1980’s were to see 50479 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 thirty years old, took its toll and reliability of all the units left much to be desired. It was paired with M53437 running as set 701.
In 1988, set 701 was selected for refurbishment at Doncaster works and was the first of four Class 104 sets so treated, emerging in the striking Network SouthEast livery and renumbered 53437 & 53479 (L701). The set continued to see use around London before being split up, 53479 being reformed into set L707 with Class 119 51090. During this time the vehicle was used mostly on the Gospel Oak-Barking route.
Finally displaced by second generation DMU’s and with more thoroughly refurbished vehicles (such as Class 108’s) still available, 53479 was taken out of service on January 18th 1992 (officially withdrawn the following month) and stored awaiting disposal.
GALLERY - WORKING ON THE MAINLINE
tail lamp aglow, with a Manchester Victoria-Blackpool North train (Martyn Hilbert)
50479 has mainly received "rolling restoration" rather than a particularly long period out of service being rebuilt. The late 1990's saw initial work to return the vehicle to service at Oswestry, when the vehicle was also repainted into BR Blue.
After moving to the Telford Steam Railway in 1999, the vehicle was refurbished with some bodywork repairs being undertaken on the exterior before seeing passenger service.
In 2001, the vehicle was withdrawn for 12 months and an interior refresh completed, including replacement of plywood interior panels.
In 2009, the deterioration of the exterior was aided by a repaint into BR Green.
A fresh round of restoration will be required if the vehicle is to see service again.
GALLERY - IN SERVICE
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 a DMBS vehicle 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. This looked great in photographs, but the work was limited 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 cab and first class saloon area (phase 1).
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.
In 2018 exterior progress included the rebuilding of all of the doors and complete stripping and repainting of the underframe structure between the two bogies, whilst more interior work was completed to the first class area.
In 2019 the interior of the first class was brought almost to completion with the repairs to the floor, refitting of ceilings, side panelling and heater ducting. A big push was had on the exterior of the front 1/3rd of the vehicle with a brand new cab front fitted, the roof dome reinstalled, cab doors fitted, and completion of the body reparation and painting work on the bodysides along that section. At the end of the year, the vehicle was moved along its small restoration shed, phase 1 (of 3) being complete. This allowed works to the middle (centre) saloon area to commence in earnest.
In 2020 (so far) work concentrated on the middle saloon which received all its required welding repairs similar to the previous section. The interior was also stripped out with ceilings etc requiring the same restoration as before.
M56182's restoration is a "live" project and regular pictorial updates are made on our News page.