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The history of First Generation DMUs

The Railcar website provides information on the British Railways first generation DMUs (a.k.a. diesel multiple units / railcars) introduced in the 1950s.

The six key sections of the website are:

  • Types - looks at each type of DMU in detail
  • Topics - features articles on differernt aspects of the vehicles and personal recollections
  • Technology - describes the technical details of how they work
  • Data - various lists of numerical details
  • Images - galleries featuring DMUs
  • Books - details the books and other printed materials made available over the years that have relevance

Details of railcars in preservation can be found on The Railcar Association website.

Vehicle / Set Data


DMU Images Wanted!

Do you have photos of First Generation DMUs? The more images we have the better we can tell the DMU story and make it more useful to visitors. Images can be loaded directly onto the site - just register as a user and upload! Alternatively if you have images on flickr or another website I can do the uploads for you - just let me know.


This website contains details about the First Generation DMUs. This includes the 4-wheel diesel railbuses, ACV / BUT railcars, the Battery Multiple Unit (BMU) and Blue Pullmans. It covers the period from their introduction to British Railways in the 1950s till their withdrawal and disposal from main-line use, but NOT preservation.

Because of the vast amount of data that this covers and the amount of information I have still to process I cannot include the DEMUs introduced on the Southern Region in the same era, nor Second Generation or later types.


January 12th

A look at the brief use of Derby Lightweights in Lincolnshire has been added.

January 5th

The minutes of the 89th Diesel Trains Committee meeting (December 1961) have been added.

December 25th

A look at the Derby Lightweights operating in West Cumberland has been added.

December 6th

Drivers Instructions for Wickhams, Cravens and Met-Camm Lightweights have been added.

December 4th

The minutes of the 88th Diesel Trains Committee meeting (November 1961) have been added.

November 18th

R14 gearbox promotional brochure, service manual and assembly instructions have been added.

November 2nd

The minutes of the 87th Diesel Trains Committee meeting (September 1961) have been added.

October 28th

Diagrams for the Swindon Inter-City units (later Class 123) from the mid-1960s have been added, courtesy of Mark Alden.

October 7th

The minutes of the 86th Diesel Trains Committee meeting (August 1961) have been added.

September 1st

The section on the Red Triangle Derby Lightweights has been expanded to include adverts, works photos and drivers instructions.

August 18th

Drivers Instructions for the Yellow Diamond Derby Lightweights have been added.

July 16th

Official photographs of the Class 116 Production Refurbishment (circa April 1977) have been added.

Latest Images:

New DMU photo

A Swindon Class 120 DMU at Cheltenham, probably in early 1982. fgrsimon.

New DMU photo

A TBS Met-Camm set departs Stroud station for Stonehouse, Gloucester and Cheltenham Spa. The area in front of the viaduct in the photo used to be the Stroud Brewery which burnt down in the 1960's and then became home to the HQ of the Stroud & Swindon Building Society. In the foreground are the remains of the Midland Railway's Stroud Branch from Dudbridge Junction and Stonehouse. The MR station was just to the right of the photo and survived into the 1990's as a Calor Gas shop. fgrsimon.

New DMU photo

C802 (presumably 51521 51449) departs Swansea, date unknown. fgrsimon.

New DMU photo

C317 (presumably 50858 59529 50911) makes a typically smoky exit as it departs Radyr station bound for 'the valleys' on a Glorious early 80's summer day. fgrsimon.

New DMU photo

A Class 120 repaint at Swindon Works in the summer of 1983. The BR logo and number are applied before painting (as was the white lines), these vinyl stickers are supplied with a masking layer which is removed after painting. The number appears to be M51578 or M51573 - although both of these were oval buffered vehicles? fgrsimon.


On This Day:

117 DMU

Class 117 DMBS 51368, set number B430, is seen arriving at New Street in GWR Chocolate and Cream livery on 18.01.1986. It was allocated to Bristol Bath Road at the time. Andy Cole.

117 DMU

Class 117 set B430 is seen arriving at New Street on 18.01.1986 in GWR Chocolate and Cream livery led by DMS 51410. It was based at Bristol Bath Road at the time but would eventually be transferred to Tyseley. Andy Cole.

Random Images:

103 DMU

Class 103 set CR219 at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Date unknown. Steve Davies Collection.

104 DMU

CH611 (53529 + 53451) at Kidderminster on the Severn Valley Railway. Date unknown. Tom Clift.

101 DMU

Class 101 DMBS SC51248 at Snailwell in July 1990. Surface Stock.

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