GREEN LIVERY (1957-1971)
Pilot Sets (1957)
The first four sets to be built carried the original Class 104 colour scheme. The main bodyside colour, also applied to the cabs and corridor ends, was the standard British Railways dark "loco" green. This was broken up by two cream lines, above and below the windows (see below). The roofs were light grey and the cab roof domes white. The chassis and underframe components were predominantly black with selected items of equipment such as the speedometer drive and heaters picked out in silver. The tyres on the wheels were picked out in white. Bufferbeams were red on the cab ends only, although the buffer heads and lamp irons remained black.
All lining and lettering was cream. The top line was a thinner line whilst the lower one was thicker with a 3/8" black border. Both lines wrapped around the rear of the vehicle whilst at the front they curved upwards slightly in order to follow the cab windscreens which were a few inches higher than the bodyside windows. Lettering included 4" vehicle numbers normally located centrally below one of the windows towards the right of the bodyside. 2" high "Guard" lettering was applied below the window of the guards doors. 1 1/2" high "load 1 1/2 tons evenly distributed" lettering
was located close to the guards doors along the bottom edge of the bodyside. 1" high "Private" lettering was under the window on the cab doors. On TCL vehicles only, the passenger door at the extreme end of the vehicle had a large cream "1" centrally below the window to signify the first class section. On the rear of the vehicle on the drivers side of the corridor end was a data panel with information such as vehicle type, dimensions, shopping dates and seating capacities.
Other features included BR lion-over-wheel emblems which were located centrally along the side of power cars only, these were handed so that the lion always faced towards the cab. Blue square multiple working codes were located on each corner of the cab and corridor ends.
Production Vehicles (1957-1959)
For the production vehicles, the shade of green used was changed to the lighter "multiple unit green" and the lion-over-wheel logo was changed to BR's coaching stock roundel, still handed to face the cab. The picked out white tyres were discontinued although a few odd sets still received them, likely the sets that were used for official photographs.
The roof colour was also darkened on many vehicles and sets could also emerge with the cab roof domes "roof colour" as opposed to white.
Some time in 1958, vehicles were being delivered with two large "speed whiskers" on the cab fronts but confusingly this wasn't a clean transition on the factory floor. It is estimated that approximately the final 10 London Midland Region 3-car sets and all of the Eastern Region 4-car sets were delivered with speed whiskers.
Major modifications to the green livery when the vehicles were so new
were rare, however it has been noted that several depots had their codes sign written onto the corners of the bufferbeams. Some Eastern Region vehicles also had "YK SET" painted on to the cab fronts to the left and right of the marker lights. Many (mainly) London Midland) vehicles delivered without speed whiskers had them added during this period by depots.
Dark Green (1960)
When the vehicles were around three years old (between 1960-62) BR took them through works and during the overhaul eradicated the livery features that BRCW had applied that BR were not satisfied with. During these repaints, the roof colour was darkened (if they were still light grey) and the white cab roof domes were usually painted in the main roof colour. Some sets, such as those allocated to Buxton depot, would retain the white cab domes.
The main change however was that the lighter multiple unit green was returned to the darker loco green (which the original four sets carried) so that the units matched BR's diesel locomotives. The newly applied carriage roundels now all faced left as standard rather than being handed. Due to expanding electrification on the network, overhead warning flashes were now also appearing on the cab and corridor ends, or alternatively sometimes as stickers in the corner of a cab window. If vehicles didn't already have speed whiskers, they were applied, the last sighting of a vehicle with no whiskers being 1962.
The most striking livery change to the dark green scheme was the replacement of the cab end speed whiskers with a half panel of yellow from 1962. This safety driven policy was much more aggressively progressed than previous changes and photographic evidence suggests that the entire fleet gained these panels over an approximately 12 month period, the last recorded sighting of a vehicle with whiskers being March 1963. The panels varied slightly in height and width: "standard" versions were wide enough to cover the marker lights and tall enough to line up with the top of the route indicator panel box. However there were examples of wider panels, and there was a collection of Eastern Region vehicles that had very short panels, that appeared to "cut through" the route indicator box and the adjacent ventilator grill.
The final variation was the application in the late 1960's of a full yellow cab end (as favoured on the standard rail blue livery), but this was incredibly rare on class 104's. So far just one (undated) image has been found showing such a vehicle. Unfortunately the identity of the vehicle is not known for sure due to the resolution of the image, but it may have been
From 1966 the BR Green livery was replaced and numbers would dwindle over the next five years. The last recorded sighting of a green liveried 104 was in 1971.
EARLY BLUE LIVERY (1966-1972)
Early Version (1966-1967)
Although the corporate image BR blue livery has a reputation for being one of the longest lived and least inspiring liveries in UK history, it took two to three years for the standard scheme for DMU's to be fully worked out. With the blue first being trialled elsewhere in 1964, the first class 104's were repainted in 1966.
The blue was much more simple than the green, a single body colour (no lining) which also extended over the solebar of the chassis. It was applied in an airless spray which over time gave it a matt finish. This has caused much confusion amongst enthusiasts who over the years have suggested that "early blue" was a different (lighter) colour than the later standard, however we believe it was the same colour, but that the spray application method creates a slight illusion in photographs that has led to this speculation.
Roofs remained grey or black but the underframe equipment and bogies were often changed to brown, an unusual decision! Signage included white vinyl vehicle numbers that were reduced in size to 3 inches tall and the new BR "double arrow" symbols on the cab doors. It would seem the first class "1" was dropped from the TCL doors although the "private" and "guard" was kept in the same locations as the green colour scheme.
At the front end, there was a half yellow panel which usually mirrored the size of the versions already on the green vehicles, although there was a selection of Eastern Region vehicles that received larger half yellow panels which covered the entire front from the bottom of the cab windscreens downwards. The red bufferbeams and light blue square multiple working symbols continued to be carried in the lower corners, although the overhead warning signs were now always carried in the secondmans side cab window rather than being fixed to the front under the windows.
Wrap Round Yellow & Full Yellow Ends (1967-69)
At the same time as the new livery was being rolled out, two major variations were trailed on most classes of DMU including the class 104's. This involved experimenting with an increase in yellow on the cab fronts, again on safety grounds. The first version involved painting the whole front yellow and also including the two cab doors, known as the "wrap round yellow end". The double arrow logo was moved off the drivers door onto the adjacent section of bodyside in such cases. All other features remained the same as the other early blue vehicles. This variation was rare and short lived, not being taken forwards as an idea. A handful of 104's received these garish ends, it's been suggested elsewhere that M50447 & M50496 were amongst the vehicles so treated.
The second variation was a compromise between the half yellow panel and the wrap round yellow end, which consisted of the full cab front being painted yellow but the cab doors retaining body colour. This last variation was to prove satisfactory and would go on to be selected for the "standard" BR blue scheme, although the trail version was still not that widespread on 104's.
The livery can be considered as a trail, and didn't last long enough for many modifications to occur. The option of cab domes being white or roof coloured continued. Photographs suggest that the practice of moving the BR double arrow symbol off the cab doors and onto the bodyside behind was increasingly occurring on vehicles carrying full yellow ends as the latter became the preferred place for them. Other features which were later to become standard were also creeping in, notably the
painting of underframes and front bufferbeams black.
All three designs of the "early blue" scheme were quickly changed to "standard blue" and as a result they were being eradicated at the same time as the last remaining green vehicles during the early 1970's. Many 104's never carried early blue, being repainted straight out of green into the standard rail blue. The last recorded image of a 104 in service carrying the "early blue" scheme is dated summer 1972.
RAIL BLUE LIVERY (1969-1990)
By 1969 (possibly late 1968) the trails were over and BR had settled on its standard corporate image design of the "rail blue" livery that it was to paint its entire DMU fleet in. This livery was be long lasting and would be the final livery for the majority of the class 104's.
The same blue used on the early sets was retained but this time gloss painted, giving it a slightly deeper look. Larger double arrows were situated behind the cabs on the bodysides, and the numbers were increased in size, returning to the four inch height used on green sets when first built. Other changes from the early blue vehicles were the bufferbeams lost their red, the solebars lost their blue and the bogies lost their brown - all three were changed to the more maintenance friendly black. Roofs were now generally also black. The full yellow end, first trailed on some early blue sets, was applied and sets retained the blue square multiple working symbols.
Additions included the reintroduction of the first class "1" on the end doors of TCL's, these also appearing on the door nearest the first class section on DMCL vehicles. First class sections were also denoted by a yellow stripe
below the gutter which went some way to livening up the plain blue bodysides. Both of these first class features were later removed as time went on, as first class areas were declassified on 104's.
Early (70's) Variations
The 20 year reign of this livery meant that small variations were inevitable, it is not practical here to list all the numerous "one offs" that appeared over the years, however the more widespread deviations to the norm can be covered along with a few distinctive one-offs:
Buxton depot's stubbornness with regards to their trademark cab roof domes continued throughout the 1970's & 1980's, so despite sets losing their white domes Buxton sets often regained them. Vehicles to have known to have had white domes in the 70's/80's include 50420/2/4/5/9/31/4/56/84/7/8/90/2/504/34/41/56183.
Several vehicles failed to lose their red bufferbeams from the 1960's upon repainting, retaining them during much of the 70's. Vehicles included 50422/5/33/504/96. In addition, 50451/4/528/56183 all gained red bufferbeams in the final years of their working lives as a homage to earlier times.
Later (80's) Variations
A second Buxton rebelling against the corporate image came in 1985 when they painted at least 8 vehicles with black surrounds around the cab windows. Vehicles included 50421/9/30/1/74/87/91/96.
Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive's "M" logo was applied adjacent to the BR double arrow symbol on the bodysides of at least five vehicles (50442/72/504/22/93).
In 1986 a single set, 53429/507, had the yellow of the front end extended over the destination indicator. The DMBS lost the yellow upon repainting into Network SouthEast (NSE) livery a few years later, however the DMCL carried it to its grave.
The late 1980's saw 53442/516 receive an orange stripe along the gutter, the only vehicles to be so treated.
From 1986 around a dozen vehicles in the London area received NSE logos. These came in the form of the "flash" logo on the cab front, or the logo with legend "Network SouthEast" on the bodyside, or both.
Given that the class 104's were not part of BR's refurbishment programme, the majority of the 302 vehicles built would end their days carrying rail blue livery. From the early 1980's and for the next ten years, scrapyards would process tired blue 104's. The last 104 vehicles to work in passenger service in blue livery were withdrawn from Chester in June 1990.
BLUE WITH WHITE STRIPE LIVERY (1969-1985)
Circa 1969, a programme of bogie modifications was started with the aim of improving the riding characteristics at higher speeds (50-70mph) on thirteen 3-car 104 sets allocated to Newton Heath, specifically for use on the fast Manchester-Blackpool route. The scheme involved modification of the bogie's suspension and the addition of some further damping components and was almost invisible from the outside of the vehicles. The first sets to be modified in 1969 retained their normal (rail blue) liveries, but soon they would appear in their own version.
The livery was essentially standard rail blue, with the notable addition of a large white stripe running along the bodyside from the cabs to the rear corners. The corridor ends were marked "Manchester-Blackpool" on the drivers side. The white stripe was an effective relief to the large expanse of plain blue and certainly did the job of making the vehicles stand out.
They were a fixed fleet so there wasn't a great deal of variations on the livery. 50524 gained a red bufferbeam during the 1980's, whilst a handful of vehicles (including 50473/5/525 had yellow ends which extended lower
As the 104 fleet started to be run down, the dedicated sets were split up amongst the general fleet and although they retained their suspension modifications, vehicles were returned to standard rail blue from around 1982 onwards. The last vehicle to carry the white stripe was 53524 which lasted until 1985.
BLUE & GREY LIVERY (1981-1990)
In 1981, the first 104 vehicles, a 3-car set, received BR's Blue/Grey livery during an overhaul. The Blue/Grey livery was conceived at the same time as the rail blue in the mid 1960's, however in earlier times it was reserved for long distance intercity stock. Some years later, DMU's that had gone through the official life extension programme were also being painted in the livery, which was considerably brighter than the rail blue. Finally, from the early 80's, original boundaries were further broken with many non-refurbished DMU vehicles (such as 104s) getting the livery anyway. 104's never carried the scheme in vast numbers, but at least 22 vehicles did.
The bodyside blue was the same as the rail blue livery, with the addition of a grey band around the windows with a white border. All other features were also the same as the rail blue livery.
The depth of the grey band could vary between vehicles by several inches, enough to make it noticeable when different vehicles were coupled adjacent to each other. This was further apparent on several of the Scottish 104's which weren't even fully repainted, they simply had the grey band
crudely applied over the top of the existing rail blue paint job to smarten them up. These "back street" repaints were sometimes noticeable as the grey had square rather than rounded corners and sometimes even chopped off the top of the large bodyside BR arrow!
Smaller variations included the Greater Manchester "M" logo appearing on 53424/434 in the same place as blue vehicles carried them.
A single set, 50446/521, had an additional black band below the cab windows, this was very deliberate and was part of making the set distinguishable from any others as it had received the unique (to 104's) single engine conversion work.
Most of the blue/grey vehicles in Scotland received small depot stickers on the drivers side of the cabs, usually marked Ayr.
53477/540 also gained NSE logos on their fronts.
With the exception of 53477/540 which were repainted again into NSE, all the blue/grey vehicles were withdrawn at the end of 104 operations outside of greater London, the last one being withdrawn from Chester in June 1990.
THE MEXICAN BEAN (1985-1988)
Few enthusiasts would have expected a new livery for class 104's in 1985, which were being condemned in serious numbers at the time. A withdrawn 2-car power/twin set (53424/434) was reinstated for use on a special shuttle on the Oban line in Scotland, receiving its own bespoke livery named "the Mexican Bean"
The livery was completely unique, with a lower half wrap eround yellow end complimented with white whiskers and a black upper half. The bodysides were brown & white arranged in an overall Z pattern. Standard BR logos and numbering were retained, with the addition of an Eastfield depot "Scottie Dog" symbol in the centre of the vehicles. The trimmings were somewhat special with the entire roof painted white, along with the tyres. Exhausts were picked out in silver for an extra sparkle!
The only notable variation was that after the first year in service the Scottie Dog logo was swapped for a larger version.
The set was used for three seasons before being withdrawn, stored and subsequently scrapped, the livery passing into history at the same time.
NETWORK SOUTHEAST (1988-1993)
The colourful Mexican Bean livery was set to be beaten by Network SouthEast, the most wild and the last livery the class 104's would carry in BR service.
NSE livery retained the standard black underframes, bufferbeams and roofs of many previous liveries. However the bodysides were to see a radical departure from rail blue, with a white base colour upon which several horizontal stripes of red, blue and grey were laid with a upward "swoosh" kicking up at the cab ends of driving vehicles. Logos were placed centrally on the bodysides with "Network SouthEast" alongside. NSE would be the first livery for 20 years to not include the BR double arrow logo. Ends were yellow but with black window surrounds similar to the Buxton vehicles treated in 1985, and there was a further NSE logo under the centre cab window. Ten vehicles were painted into the livery in 1988 & 1989: powercars 50429/37/55/70/7/9/539/40 and trailers 59163/206.
The exact shape and size of the black cab window surrounds varied slightly between vehicles.
Powercars received branded vinyls on the sides of the brake vans, adjacent to the nearby passenger door, advertised what lines they were allocated to.
One vehicle, 53540, received a white cab roof dome in its final stint of traffic before withdrawal, in homage to earlier times.
From June 1990 the ten NSE vehicles were the last class 104's left operating. The two NSE centre cars were also withdrawn the same year, but the powercars were mostly condemned in 1992. 53540 became the last NSE liveried vehicle to survive in service, bringing the curtain down in October 1993.
Whilst most of the information on this page was gathered from examining the real vehicles themselves, plus referencing the many images taken by photographers of the vehicles during BR service, we are in debt to the excellent which was essential for sourcing additional details and for cross referencing and confirming existing theories.