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New Street station

Birmingham New Street Station: lnwrbns_br4326

A pair of Derby DMUs, M79146 and M79666, pass No 1 Signal Cabin as they enter the station

A pair of Derby Lightweight Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs), Driving Motor Brake Second (DMBS) M79146 and Driving Trailer Composite with lavatory (DTCL) M79666, pass No 1 Signal Cabin as they enter the station with a local service from Sutton Coldfield circa 1957. They were the first such trains to be built en-masse for British Railways. The units were built at BR's Derby Works from 1954 to 1955. The units were built in various formations, including 12 power-twin 2-car units, 84 power-trailer 2-car units, and four 4-car units. The two single car units were originally built as a two-car unit and then split two years later when demand for such a configuration arose. The first units were introduced on services around the West Riding of Yorkshire, namely Leeds to Bradford and Harrogate services from 14 June 1954. Subsequent units were introduced onto services in West Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Newcastle to Middlesbrough, Edinburgh to Glasgow and, later, Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield, Bletchley to Buckingham and Banbury, and East London lines services.

These units were an outstanding success, helping to reduce the operating costs of branchlines. Initially they also attracted many more passengers. Between February and October 1956 on the London Midland, they carried 800,000 more passengers than steam in the same period of 1955. The largest increase was 434% (4,772 passengers) on the Buckingham-Banbury line (from 13th August), followed by Birmingham-Lichfield 178% (from 5th March), Bury-Bacup 152% (from 6th February), Llandudno-Blaenau Ffestiniog 39% (from 5th March) and Manchester-Buxton 38% (from 8th October). As such, British Railways ordered many more DMU vehicles from various builders over the next decade, thus helping to eliminate steam locomotives. However, as these units were non-standard compared to other later DMU vehicles, they were subject to early retirement. The last units were withdrawn from normal traffic in 1969.

Photograph courtesy of John Turner