The first set was introduced in late 1958, when W51083 was photographed in Trains Illustrated for December 1958, with 4 DMS vehicles being taken into stock in September that year. Delivery of the remaining sets seems to have been at the rate of just over one per month, so that 51074, 59433 and 51102 were taken into stock in September 1959 and the last, 51078/9, 51106/7 and buffet cars 59436/7 were on stock by December 26 of the same year.
The first image shows a page from a manufacturer's brochure.
The Gloucester RCW Cross Country sets appear to have been associated with the Bristol-Weymouth workings from their introduction. However, their use was widespread throughout the old Western Region and on services in the Midlands sourced by Tyseley Depot. There are photographs of a set on the Bromyard branch and on the Cambrian coast line, for example. Shortly after their introduction, sets were transferred from Cardiff to work the outer suburban services to Oxford. These were as 7 car sets, with the addition of Hawksworth composites adapted to run as DMU trailers. As all three preserved vehicles were late in the production sequence, it is possible that they were amongst those transferred.
The image shows set P588 at Exeter St. Davids with 51107 closest. April 1975. Robert Frise Collection.
Sets worked over most of the Western Region, notable early use being the last passenger train over the Plympton branch. Minehead, Calne and Bridport branches that have since closed were also served by the sets, which also covered main line services in company with the Swindon Cross Country sets.
As with most asbestos contaminated stock, there were heavy withdrawals, but a number were rebuilt internally after the asbestos, which had been sprayed on to a depth of an inch, had been removed. These had new panelling and fluorescent lighting, new seat covers and linoleum to the standard BR blue/grey pattern. The rebuilt sets were concentrated on Reading and the Reading-Gatwick link. Sets visited Skegness from Tyseley and provided the last conventional DMU service to the resort.
A book on the Central Wales line also suggests that one set was used while the line was severed at Glanrhyd, while stock redundant from Reading went to Tyseley for further service in the Midlands and a set from Cardiff went to the North East, as shown in the Brian Morrison book. 51104 is photographed in Rail on a driver training diagram that took it via Peterborough to Norwich, after which it was sent to Penzance to cover the services to St Ives, but was withdrawn along with 51073. 51074 had been withdrawn some time earlier and stored at Old Oak Common, surplus to requirements.