Since the dawn of trainspotting enthusiasts have had a fascination with the maintenance depots and running sheds that were built and used to house and maintain stock. The depot to which a locomotive or unit was allocated to in some ways also defined the identity of that item of rolling stock. It could the argued that their depots were the Class 104s' homes as much as the lines upon which they ran. This page describes all the depots the Class 104 fleet were allocated to over their working lives and attempts to broadly rank them in order of prominence in the context of the Class 104 story.
LONDON MIDLAND REGION
Buxton, Derbyshire (9D, 9L, BX)
Whilst Longsight depot was the first to receive a Class 104 set, Buxton depot was without doubt their spiritual home. The Buxton line had been selected as the main Class 104 route out of Manchester and the first dozen 3-car sets built were either delivered straight to Buxton or had moved there shortly after introduction. Buxton depot itself was a more modern building purpose built to house the new 104's on the opposite side of the line to the much larger and older steam shed. The depot opened in 1957.
As deliveries continued and loan agreements of sets fulfilled, more 104 sets settled in at Buxton and by 1961 there were 16 sets based there. Due to the gradients local to the depot, there were never any 2-car 104 sets allocated there, the increased power of the 3-cars being more appropriate. "Buxton sets" were easily identified from other depots, as the Buxton allocation was formed mainly of early built vehicles which had a roof mounted marker light to distinguish them from the majority of the build.
Unlike many other depots which switched and swapped frequently, the Buxton fleet remained fairly stable, the depot appearing to be very comfortable with its isolated and dedicated 104 fleet. The entire class sometimes gained the nickname "Buxton sets" even though more were allocated to several other depots, such as Newton Heath. Towards the end of the 1960's, some vehicles were transferred away, however several returned in the early 1970's restoring numbers.
The early 1980's saw the Eastern Region dispense with its 104 fleet, which whilst having different interior paneling were mechanically identical so very suitable for cherry picking out and replacing the more worn examples that had been resident at Buxton. In 1981 withdrawals of the early Midland 104's which had called Buxton home from birth started, with two sets withdrawn. 1982 saw five sets transferred to other depots, being swapped essentially for a similar number of vehicles mainly from the Eastern Region. After 1983 the decline started with more vehicles being withdrawn or transferred away than were coming in. Four sets were lost followed by a larger cull of nine sets the following year. At the start of 1985 Buxton had just 11 driving motor brake vehicles and 6 motor composites still on its books, with most of these being transferred to Newton Heath in 1986 having been replaced by transferred Class 108 sets. The lack of centre cars for the 108's however ensured a small allocation of 104 centre trailers were retained at Buxton to work in these sets until 1989.
The story was not to end there however with a single vehicle retained after the withdrawal of the 104's in the North West, this being departmental Sandite car ADB977554, based at Buxton for mainly nocturnal use on rail head treatment duties along affected lines in the area. Ironically this was one of the driving trailer cars from the 2-car batch, which had been deemed unsuitable for Buxton depot throughout their working passenger carrying lives. Although out of use by 1993, ADB977554 was stored at Buxton depot and out lasted all other 104's on the mainline network, it not being extracted until June 2000. Buxton depot can therefore claim the title of hosting 104 vehicles for the longest period of any mainline depot, with vehicles being allocated continuously from 1957 to 2000, a period of 43 years.
The depot never really recovered from the loss of its DMU passenger allocation, continuing for diesel locomotives employed on the freight traffic until 1997 before closure. After many more years languishing derelict, the buildings were demolished in 2016.
Longsight, Manchester (9A, LO)
Longsight depot was a prominent location for the Midland fleet of 104's, being the very first depot to receive the type when it took delivery of the original five "pilot sets" in the Spring of 1957. The depot had already existed since 1842 and had been a large steam shed up until this point, having been rebuilt and expanded several times in the 1860's and early 1900's, being home to over 200 locos by 1912. By 1957 the depot was undergoing further modernisation at a cost of £120,000 in order to support dieselisation and electrification. accordingly, the depot would survive the end of steam and into the next era, although the fabric of the buildings themselves has remained very original despite the passage of so much time.
Just under half of the main Class 104 production batch, some 29 3-car sets, would either be delivered new to Longsight or be transferred there less than 12 months into their lives. However in these early times Longsight's role almost appeared to be that of commissioning the sets before transfer elsewhere. Many of them only stayed on the depot for less than a year before moving on, typically to the nearby Buxton depot. However around a dozen sets remained resident, until 1960/61 when most of them too were transferred away, leaving just two sets behind, Buxton having well and truly specialised on the type at Longsight's expense.
In 1965/1966 a large reshuffle saw Longsight gain all ten of the Midland's 2-car 104 fleet along with 19 3-car sets, this period being the peak of Longsight's 104 history. It was to be short lived however, with the 3-car sets being taken once again by a rival Manchester depot less than a year later, this time Newton Heath. By 1969, Longsight had just the ten 2-car sets remaining.
The 1970's would prove to be a very stable decade for Longsight with no transfers in or out, the 2-car sets quietly plying their trade. It could be said that these twin sets were the "real 104's of Longsight" given that they were the only sets to put in a solid period (more than a decade) of service compared with their older 3-car sisters.
In 1980 it was time for change again. In May seven of the ten 2-car sets were transferred away and replaced with four 3-car sets, and in the November an interesting visitor was briefly allocated to the depot for one month: a single Eastern Region 104 set which had been evicted by the opening of the Tyne & Wear Metro. In late 1981 Longsight lost its remaining three 2-car sets, which were replaced six months later by three ex-Eastern Region 2-car sets that had been displaced from Norwich. These would have been almost identical to the 2-car sets long associated with Longsight, the Formica panelled interiors being the most obvious difference.
This final fleet of four Midland 3-cars and three Eastern 2-cars would run for a further two years before Longsight ended its association with 104's, the last vehicles being officially removed from the depot's allocation in October 1984. The depot had housed them continuously for 27 years and six months, and played a prominent role in their introduction to service. The depot would continue maintaining other first generation units right to the end of "mainstream" operations in 2003, and it continues to successfully maintain more modern rolling stock to this day.