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Class 124 Swindon Trans-Pennine 6-car DMUs



Unfortunately the bogies fitted to the new units were of the same pattern to those fitted to the Swindon 79xxx / Class 126 'Inter-City' units which, sometimes, did not give a good ride on the many tight curves which are a feature of the Trans-Pennine route. Buffet car patrons were vociferous with their complaints and more than one customer had their coffee or beer tipped over them when the unit was cornering at speed! The competition from the M62 and the falling standard of the sets saw patronage fall and the buffets were the first to go. In 1971 59774/5/80/1 were stored unserviceable, and five car sets began to appear regularly. The summer '73 timetable from the 1st May actually increased the buffet car diagrams. With a requirement of 5 cars (allowing for one under maintenance), 59775 was reinstated. At about this time the lighting in the remaining buffets were improved, and just before that, the original green curtains were replaced with the standard orange ones (as fitted to the other vehicles) The three stored cars were condemned on 6/8/72 and were scrapped at BSC, Rotherham. The buffet revival reintroduced the Griddle service which had been discontinued some years earlier, and the gas cookers required to be renovated. The service did not take off and the remaining cars were withdrawn in 1975 and scrapped at A. King & Son Ltd's plant at Snailwell.

1970s handbill

Pictured is a 1970s handbill, courtesy of Richard Farish.

The Final Years

The Trans Pennine service gradually declined through the '70s. The sets continued to give good service but the new M62 started to make the journey times particularly slow, and there was a widening gap in service quality between the Trans Pennine timetable and trains and Inter City services elsewhere which were benefiting from reductions in timings and new air conditioned stock. Mechanical failures became more frequent as the route and age took its toll. The occasional replacement of a car with a Met Camm or Cravens vehicle also reduced the service quality, as the gangways were not compatible so there was no through access. In '77, BR carried out passenger surveys on the line, causing it to rethink the timetable. It was realised that there was little hope of significant increases in line speed without massive investment. So the alternative was to improve the service quality.

The survey also showed that the traffic flows had changed substantially. Most passengers now travelled between the north-east and Manchester, and the York-Leeds and Leeds-Manchester sections being particularly busy with 325,000 and 200,000 journeys respectively during a period of a week. There were 225,000 passenger journeys between Manchester and Liverpool, but the number of passengers between Hull and Manchester had fallen to just 40,000.

The timetable was transformed for the summer '79 service, being as dramatic as the 1961 revision. The Hull - Liverpool services went over to loco hauled trains from York - Liverpool, with Hull passengers making a connection via a Hull - Leeds shuttle. More Hull - Sheffield trains were extended to Manchester Victoria using the Hope Valley Line and more through trains were introduced between South Humberside and Manchester. The previous DMUs on this last route were no longer favoured by the public, and would not do for a revamped service. The reliability and availability of the Class 124s was at an all time low despite the valiant efforts of Botanic Gardens staff. It was clear that there would not be sufficient vehicles for the new Hull-Manchester/South Humberside services (this became known as the South Trans Pennine route). However, the WR had redundant Class 123s in store.

Class 123 / Class 124 Hybrids

During April 1977, the ER Chief Passenger Manager approached the regional CM&EE with the proposal to move the Class 123s from the WR to integrate them with the Class 124s and so offer an improved level of comfort - the Class 123s being fitted with B4 bogies and having the same traction equipment. Agreement was reached in this respect in May 1977 and on June 5 of that year, the first of three 3-car units, were transferred, the first being W52092, W52097 and W59820. Indeed, E51964 was inadvertently re-upholstered in second class moquette! At the same time the small six seat 'saloon' in the DMCs were downgraded to second class.

The combined classes became the normal power on the Hope Valley route over the Pennines on workings from the North West to Yorkshire such as those from Manchester Piccadilly through to Cleethorpes via Sheffield and Doncaster and Barnetby. They also putting in daily appearances on services on the Leeds, Keighley, Skipton and Morecambe axis and on various other services in North West England. The units also worked the Manchester to Cleethorpes trains on selected services. There were no accelerations to the timings from Hull-Manchester, same may actually have been slower, but the benefit was in the increased number of services: the '78 tally of five through trains from Hull and two from Manchester, but from '79 there were ten each way. Through trains between Cleethorpes and Manchester Piccadilly were increased from one each way to three.

This image shows a set at Doncaster on 10th November 1979. Graham Turner (

The combined fleet was made up into seventeen typically mixed 4-car sets, plenty to cover the twelve diagrams. An example set formation in 1980 could be: Cl 123 DMBS; Cl 124 MBS; Cl 123 TC ; and a Cl 124 DMC. In a formation like this with three power cars they had almost 9hp/ton, or if only two then it was 6.3hp/ton.

In '81 the engine removal scheme began, although this did not have any effect on timings.

The Hull - Leeds - Manchester trains were withdrawn in Oct. '81.

Around the same time the sets were reformed to eliminate where possible mixed power car sets, which also avoided too many sets having two brake vans and a loss in seating capacity. They were now formed of: nine Cl 123 (DMBS, TC, Cl 124 TS, DMS) giving 24 1st + 196 2nd class seats; five Cl 124 (DMS, TBS, Cl 123 TS, DMC); a unique Cl 124 set in which the Cl 123 TS was a downgraded TC, these six sets gave 30 1st + 196 2nd class seats; and two Cl 124 (DMC, 2x TBS, DMC) which each gave 30 1st + 180 2nd class seats.

The first Trans-Pennine Class 124 was condemned in October 1977, this being No. E51959 which was severely damaged in the collision at Farnley Junction with the York- Aberystwyth train and E51959 was cut up on site.

While in the '70s they were looked upon as being unreliable, when working with the Class 123s they were regarded as being one of the more reliable DMUs on BR. In the early '80s they were scheduled to do approximately 100,000 miles annually, about the double the average for other ER DMUs.

Unusually, records were kept of each of the Class 124 vehicle's, although just to May 15th 1982. They would cover approximately another 150-200,000 miles before withdrawal.

Vehicle   Mileage on May 15 1982
E51951   1477430
E51952   1519180
E51953   1544540
E51954   1470060
E51955   1561120
E51956   1427640
E51957   1611660
E51958   1380670
E51959   condemned (had done approx. 1130000)
E51960   1501850
E51961   1482200
E51962   1418450
E51963   1414830
E51964   1369620
E51965   1522340
E51966   1492330
E51967   1558290

The last vehicle to receive a C1 repair was No. E51955 in December 1981 and with the end of the class in sight, careful arrangements were made with a view to making the classes last without undue expenditure before the introduction of replacement locomotive hauled (Class 31/4) services on May 14 1984.

E52089 was the final vehicle to receive a new engine and gearbox on May and although it was only scheduled to be in service for a short period, the engine and all other re-usable engines were sent to Bletchley for further use on the Class 115 DMUs which had the same equipment.

Several vehicles were condemned as they became due expensive repairs - worn tyres and tatty internal condition - and on March 19 '84, two of the Trans-Pennine diagrams were turned over to locomotive hauled substitutes. These were forecast by the CM&EE as it was unlikely that all 12 sets could be kept in working order until May 13 '84. The two replacement services were deliberately rostered for the Leeds to Hull section so as to permit easy run-round at Leeds and so avoid operating difficulties.

The last working of each of the diagrams on the final Sunday (13/5/84) was as follows.

22.00 Manchester to Sheffield.
19.45 Manchester to Hull.
22.31 Liverpool to Manchester.
15.38 Sheffield to Hull.
17.45 Manchester to Hull.
19.15 Leeds to Hull.
20.45 Manchester to Hull.
16.45 Manchester to Cleethorpes.

E52098/52100 were the power cars on the last booked working. However, E52090/96 worked the 06:35 Cleethorpes to Doncaster on the Monday morning, May 14.

Some vehicles were stored at Sheffield Darnall depot after withdrawal.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway planned to obtain a three-car set, which was well publicised. Unfortunately the railway had a change of policy at the last minute.


No Class 124s were preserved.

Thanks to Ian Fleming for additional information.

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