The class 104 passenger seating was split into two types: first class and second class, both shared the same tubular steel construction for the framework, along with several other mainly wooden components that formed the rest of the seat.
A stylish high backed tubular steel frame welded together in one unit formed the basis for the rest of the seat components to be mounted to. They came in three forms: a second class twin seat, a wider version triple, and the first class type which was between the previous two in width. The latter two had extra strengthening bars welded into the back for support, whilst the first class examples had additional framing forming hoops between the rear and the base of the seat, in order to mount the armrests.
The main mass of the seats were formed from a large back, with headrest, and base (two individual bases for first class). The back was a curved lattice hardwood frame with a forward facing plywood skin, on which was glued a custom shaped piece of foam, originally specified as "Dunpillo". The front and sides were then covered in moquette (material). The backs were screwed into the frames from the rear.
The headrest was a separate piece, located above the back, but constructed and attached the same way. These headrests were an important feature in the Class 104 seat being superior to most other branch line DMU types (which did not feature them, having lower backed "bus style" seats with no head support).
The bases had a thick plywood bottom, beneath which four stiff rubber "bollards" were bolted. These were coned shaped and "snap" into position within the steel seat frame when the base is pushed down into place, making them removable to allow access to the floor hatches below, or the lino floor for cleaning. Fixed to the plywood bottom was a box shaped steel cage containing several springs which provided the soft support. This cage was in turn clad in a sewn bag and a thin layer of foam before the outer moquette.
The seat was finished with thin plywood side covers (nicknamed "boomerangs" in preservation) and a large rear cover, both of which were covered in material. The purpose of both of seats was cosmetic, to complete the seat and to side the unsightly fixings holding the other components to the steel frame.
Unique to the first class seats were the armrests: three simple hardwood blocks screwed to the seat frame, each with a square of foam glued on and clad in material. Worth noting is that no extra padding or upholstery is dedicated to the first class: the bases, backs and headrests were identical in cost and comfort between classes. The superiority of the first class seat was through the extra width, plus the presence of the armrests which of course offered a higher degree of separation from your neighbour!
Unique to the second class were ashtrays which were mounted into a rectangular hole cut into the rear of the seat back, serving the passengers in the next row. These were a hopper type made of cast steel which pivoted inside a chrome surround. A sprung chrome lid completed the assembly. The ashtrays were reportedly useless (presumably to staff emptying/cleaning them) and motions were made to have them replaced but this was deemed too costly so the poor design was retained. As time went on the vast majority of them were removed and the holes in the seat back paneled over and patched. If the vehicle was lucky enough to be reupholstered a second time during the 1980's, the backs (which were only a sheet of plywood in any case) were replaced and upholstered thus eliminating the hole. No Class 104's survived with ashtrays still fitted into preservation, however remarkably around a dozen ashtrays have been found over a 20 year period (sometimes on railway trade stalls etc), enough to fit out a single passenger saloon (for historical interest only). At the time of writing it is intended for these to be fitted to the centre saloon of M56182 at the North Norfolk Railway.
First class seating was laid out inside the vehicles in a 2+2 arrangement, with each first class saloon seating 12 passengers. First class was always behind the driver (DMCL & DTCL), or on centre (TCL) vehicles in the same end saloon had there been a cab.
There were more variations within second class, however all vehicles still followed the same pattern of 3+2 seating, the final row of seats reducing to 2+2 where the extra gangway space was required at the doorway into the next saloon. Seats faced the same way within a saloon, known as "airline style", the exception being the first two rows which were arranged facing each other in a bay, this was to avoid seats facing the end bulkheads, although the "facing bay" offered more legroom and was far more social for parties of more than two, so these bays naturally became favoured positions for passengers. Due to the large windows permitting a view out of the front on second class driving vehicles (DMBS), the front saloons did not have the "facing bay".
Seating was arranged to predominantly face towards the front the vehicle in driving vehicles (DMBS, DMCL & DTCL). Strangely centre cars (TBSL, TCL & TSL) were not a copy of their equivalent driving cars, with the middle saloon of seats reversed 180 degrees, most seats facing "backwards" towards the "rear", or toilet end, of the vehicle. This was a strange build choice, the reasons for which are unknown, that resulted in a bodyside pillar being located right in the centre of the previously described "facing bay" partially blocking the outside view.
Rear saloons, which also included the toilet compartment in the corner, were all second class and laid out similar to the larger middle saloons. Opposite the toilet was where the Eastern Region specified an extra luggage rack for larger items was to be situated. This changed the seating layout slightly, the additional rack taking the place of a twin seat, with the triple seat opposite reduced to a twin, resulting in a seating reduction of three when compared to the original (London Midland) vehicles.
Careful study of the diagrams will show all of the described seating arrangements.
The "moquette" (a type of material) changed over the years, with some fleet wide changes applied to all vehicles, whilst others received individual attention.
As Built - London Midland Region Vehicles
The original 1957 fitted seating was, in first class, an attractive blue "floral shaped" pattern arranged in vertical stripes, with contrasting blue Vynide panels on the "boomerang" side and back panels.
Second class was a maroon moquette, with a similar but slightly less opulent pattern (reportedly a fawn/buff/light brown colour), also arranged in vertical stripes, with contrasting grey/green Vynide panels on the
"boomerang" side and back panels. The same Vynide was also stitched into the seat backs to act as vertical dividers.
The same moquette had previously been used in the "West Riding" and "West Cumberland" batches of the Derby Lightweight class in 1954. BRCW also used the material again in the eastern region allocated Class 110 sets in 1961, but only in the first class.
No material of this type is known to have survived, or indeed any colour images.
As Built - Eastern Region Vehicles
The 1958 fitted seating for the later (eastern region) 104 sets differed to the first sets. First class was a blue moquette with "scallop shells" in a geometric pattern.
Second class was an identical pattern but a green version rather than blue. The second class had seat dividers in a similar fashion to the midland region vehicles, the Vynide panels on these may have been light green.
This "scallop shell" moquette was more widely used
on other comparable railcars being constructed during the late 1950's, and was fitted to Derby Lightweights, Metro Cammells (including class 101's), eastern region BRCW 110's*, Derby 116's* and possibly also Derby 108's (* second class only).
Mid Life Overhaul
As the 104 fleet grew older the original seating material required replacement. Considering there were over 300 class 104 vehicles British Rail did a surprisingly good job in the 1970's in sticking to a standard, and almost the entire fleet were reupholstered at least once into their new standard scheme. This was done gradually during works visits, in many cases at the same time as the vehicles were undergoing heavy mechanical overhauls. As could be expected for those times, the materials selected were far less busy and sophisticated than the elaborate 1950's designs they replaced. Although BR had several moquettes available at their disposal, most DMU's received the same two designs, and the reupholstering process was greatly simplified, with many of the contrasting panels and seat dividers of previous designs being dispensed with.
For first class seating, the "Charcoal Check" was selected, a coach design that had first appeared in 1967. This was a black material with the pile running in different directions, which when woven created squares and stripes of different textured blacks and greys. There was no contrasting material used for items such as side and back panels, the same material being used on all components of the seating.
For second class, "Bournemouth Blue" was used, also of 1967 vintage, so named as its first use was on vehicles introduced onto the newly electrified Southampton-Bournmeouth route. This was a horizontally striped pattern featuring blues and greens, with similar contrasting weaving patterns to charcoal check running vertically. Unlike the first class however, an accompanying plain blue material in a vertically striped corduroy style was utilised for side and rear panels. This corduroy was sometimes replaced with a "wipe clean" vinyl equivalent (of a similar colour), presumably due to greasy heads making the headrests harder to keep clean.
It was these BR moquettes that would dominate the lives of the class 104 fleet, most vehicles were withdrawn and scrapped still carrying this design, with many London Midland vehicles being upholstered twice in the same colours before being condemned. When being reupholstered a second time, variations on the spec crept in, with the blue corduroy material sometimes being used on headrests, or being replaced by a "wipe clean" vinyl equivalent (also dark blue). There are also some cases where the blue material was dispensed with altogether, with the main "Bournemouth Blue" material being used to cover all the panels on the seat.
Several class 104 vehicles received upholstery in material that, whilst common on the railway in general, were highly unusual or unique for a class 104.
The first known variation to the norm was powercar E50554 which was recorded in 1978 as having had its first class material replaced by "Square Grid - gold". This was a black material marked with squares in different colours depending on whether the area was smoking or non smoking, gold being the smoking variant. The material was devised in the early 1960's, intended for electric units and loco hauled stock. It is thought that E50554 required out-of-course upholstering and was therefore treated as a coach.
The next design of material is thought to have been put into the highest number of class 104's (of all the oddities). So far it is thought that power car M53464, driving trailer car M54179 and at least one Eastern Region powercar had all by the early 1980's been recovered in "Trojan", which ironically was a design as old as the original 104 materials, being of 1958
vintage. It is another black based material, with many small squares in different colours being arranged in rows. Highly successful in coaches and particularly electric multiple units all over BR, it is likely that the seating in these vehicles was in such poor condition that some old Trojan was used to tidy them up. Although used in some suburban DMU's, the material was fairly rare in low desnity diesel fleets such as the 104's. M54179 had been "de-classified" by this time, so both the first and second class seats were done in the same material.
Also in the 1980's, centre car M59183 was reupholstered with "Provincial Blue", a 1980's era material being used extensively at the time by the
sectorising railway, formed with lots of black bordered squares in gradual shades of blues and purples. Very common in coaches, particularly the Mark 2's, again it was a rare sight in first generation railcars. Similar to M54179, M59183 had had its first class section declassified, so the Provincial Blue was rolled out throughout the vehicle irrespective of the seat design. As a side note, some first class seats from M59183 were saved for preservation to replace missing examples from M53494 (based at the East Lancs Railway), although they will be reupholstered losing the Provincial colours before they see service again!
The final BR colours to grace a class 104 came with the revolution that was Network SouthEast. They were masters of re-branding and giving outdated stock a dust down and new look, in order to hold their own alongside new stock whilst further investment was waited for. They had a commendably large programme of reupholstering stock that was too old to be considered for recovering by earlier management. Their colours were purple in first class and dark blue in second class, both with diagonal chevron patterns. The latter was named "Blue Blaze". Given the amount of 1960's rolling stock that was reupholstered in this material, it is perhaps surprising that only two class 104 vehicles received it: power car 53540 and centre trailer 59163 (there was a second NSE trailer, 59206, but we currently have no photos showing if it was re-upholstered under NSE or not). Although the vehicles were lost, the seating from 53540 was saved for preservation and much has been used inside driving trailer M56182, which lost all of its original seating when stripped out in
departmental use. Unfortunately because M56182 has a slightly larger number of seats than 53540, there were not enough "blue blaze" examples to make up a full matching set, so despite many being in good condition they were reupholstered into a different colour prior to use.
The final example shows that oddities continue even after the working lives of the fleet are over. Several years ago now, the Llangollen Railcar Group, who have M50528 on long term loan, wanted to reintroduce some nicer materials into the first class sections of their railcar fleet including M50528, as part of a project to charge a small supplement to raise funds for the activities of the group. M50528 was duly upholstered in a very smart 1950'sblue material containing angled squares, this material being originally used by Wickhams in their Class 109 sets and remade as part of the Class 109 restoration in the late 1990's/early 2000's. The material sits well in M50528 and is similar to the material used in the late 1950's on eastern region 104's when first built.