CLASS 104 HISTORY
Part of post-war modernisation for British Railways in the 1950's was replacing older steam locomotives with cleaner, more economical diesel trains. These were to be lightweight, have under-floor horizontal bus engines, and be able to be driven from both ends of a fixed formation or "set" comprising of between one and six coaches. Each set was also capable of working in multiple with similar sets.
Initial testing of the idea in 1954 & 1955 led to the launch of a £2,000,000 modernisation plan, the first units appearing in service in 1956. The scheme resulted in over 4,000 individual vehicles being built between 1956 & 1961.
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 brief 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 distictive front end and unusually most had a wooden interior (nearly all railcars of the time were built with wipe-down Formica interiors).
The Class 104 vehicles were designed to be formed into one of three configurations: two car, three car, and four car sets. Individual examples of vehicles built for all three of these configurations are represented in our collection.
More detailed technical and descriptive information on the Class 104 vehicles themselves and their history during their 35 year working lives is presented in this section of our website, available within the various sub-pages accessed below this one in the main page menu.