The first batch, ordered in April 59, was for the NER and was allocated to Bradford Hammerton St. and Leeds Neville Hill. The second batch was for the LMR, allocated to Newton Heath in Manchester. Before delivery the sets were tested along the Midland Division lines to Derby, and at least one also travelled the Wirksworth branch where some of the official publicity photographs were taken. For the Bradford based sets, driver training took place over the Queensbury lines, much to the annoyance of the locals, as it had recently lost its passenger services. Performance tests showed an unladen set reaching 30mph in 45secs from a standing start on a 1 in 261 ruling gradient, 40mph in 70secs, 50mph in 124 secs, 60mph in 177 secs, and 70mph, the maximum allowed speed in 246secs. From a standing start on a 1 in 45 a speed of 25mph in third gear was reached in 42 secs.
The 1st January 1962 saw the sets enter service, mainly centering around the Sowerby Bridge - Manchester line. Destinations included Leeds Central, Bradford Exchange, Manchester Victoria, Liverpool Exchange, Blackpool Central, Southport Chapel Street, York and Wakefield. The sets replaced all but two weekday steam turns, both of them in the small hours, as on Sundays all but a single Liverpool - York service running via Bolton, Heywood and Rochdale.
The biggest improvement on introduction was the combination of Leeds and Bradford portions, doing away with the need to split and combine trains at Low Moor. Including the extra run via Bradford this cut the fastest journey time (the 16:06 from Leeds) from 90mins to 82 mins for the 50 miles. An hourly interval service was introduced, leaving Leeds at 6 mins past the hour from 09:06 to 21:06, and Manchester at 25 min past the hour from 09:25 to 21:25. Seven trains ran to/from Liverpool, and the majority were extended past Leeds to/from Harrogate.
On the Normanton route, better connections at Sowerby Bridge with Leeds allowed the through trains from York and Liverpool to be reduced. The fastest York - Manchester timings over the Calder Valley were reduced from 2hr 6 min to 1 hr 51 min (by the mid-'80s this journey time had crept up to 2 hr 35 mins!)
The sets increased power allowed many other steam timings to be cut. The 10 1/2 mile section from Manchester to Rochdale was cut from 18 min to 14 min, which included a 1 in 59 - 151 from a standing start up Cheetham Hill and then climbing all the way with a peak of 1 in 63. However the most noticeable reductions were in the Sowerby Bridge to Bradford sections, which included sections of 1 in 156 and 118, with a short, sharp 1 in 91 on the climb up from Milner Royd Jct. The timings were cut from 30 to 20 min, giving a net reduction of 16 min over steam timings, after allowing for the removal of the 4 min pause at Low Moor to detach the Leeds portion.
Differences in operating procedures between the Regions when new caused a few problems. The NER allocated a set of keys and driving controls to each set which the driver was to leave in the cab in the special storage bracket. The LMR allocated keys and driving controls to drivers which had to stay with them at all times. In situations when NER drivers took over from LMR men they were left with no controls, resulting in cancellations or delays while another set was found. After several months the LMR changed their procedure, leaving keys with the units.
When introduced, booked diagrams took the sets as far afield as Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool, but as the years went by they were to become even more widely travelled, regularly reaching Morecambe, Sheffield, Doncaster, Hull, the East Coast resorts, and even the North East. One would regularly work the 07:35 York to Blackpool North over Copy Pit and a regular Sunday turn for a Newton Heath set in the early '60s included a Church Fenton - York - Market Weighton - Bridlington train. In the late '70s there was a Class 110 diagram along the GN&GE Joint line from Doncaster to Cambridge.
The units operated the West Riding - Blackpool and Southport services when these were reintroduced after withdrawal, while through Liverpool workings were gradually wound down, with only one remaining in the mid-'80s. Services on the Normanton route to/from York were withdrawn in May 1970.
In the mid '70s several sets had an additional trailer, from Class 104s, for a short spell. The image shows an example of this, the third vehicle being a Class 104 trailer identifiable by the lack of window frames. The formation is seen at Dringhouses, York, on the 8th August 1974, led by DMCL E51845. 53A Models of Hull Collection.