(Image: Tony Williams; British Rail Class 100 51118/56097)
Diesel multiple unit, or DMUs, may not stir the imagination like the great steam engines of old, or indeed the heavy diesel locomotives that followed them, but there’s no denying their place in the annals of railway history. From urban commuter routes to quiet country branch lines, these adaptable, low cost trains form the backbone of numerous rail fleets.
In the UK, many ageing DMUs remain in service today. But of those that have been retired, some have fared better than others. One of the more endangered diesel multiple units is the Class 100. Of 80 cars (40 sets) produced, just three survive. Among them is the forlorn set photographed by Tony Williams in August, 2011 (above). A fourth car was scrapped earlier this year.
(Image: Dave Hitchborne; defunct Class 100, 56097 closest the camera)
The British Rail Class 100 diesel multiple unit was produced between 1956 and 1958 by Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company Limited. DMUs were designed to be versatile and cheap to operate, incorporating an engine into one or more passenger carriages and removing the need for a separate locomotive. Additional units could also be added to meet passenger demand.
Class 100 DMUs in particular were designed with lightweight and good acceleration in mind. But their tenure was relatively short. Retirement began in 1969 and the last Class 100 service ran in 1988. Of the seven cars saved for preservation, only three have lasted into the present day. Among them is the only complete set, 51118 (top, front) and 56097 (top, rear), pictured above. A set was made up of two cars serving different purposes. 51118 is the Driving Motor Brake Second (DMBS) and 56097 the Driving Trailer Composite with Lavatory (DTCL).
Pictured awaiting restoration, 51118/56097 is preserved on the old Midland Railway at Butterley, Derbyshire, now a heritage line. As Tony Williams, whose atmospheric photograph (top) is aptly titled “A Sad and Lonely Train”, wrote on Flickr: “The train’s whole demeanour gave the impression of a tired and exhausted piece of machinery which was once happily working the rails.”