This huge trade fair began at premises next to Castle Bromwich station in 1920 (it had been running in London since 1915). Its theme was demonstrating the wonders of British products, attracting visitors from around the world. Held for two weeks each year, at one point it was officially the most visited attraction in the country.
Railways were part of the fair, with exhibits inside and a chance to showcase vehicles in use on the special shuttles that ran from Birmingham. DMUs were used for this from 1955. However by the 1950s, many of the exhibitors were travelling to trade fairs abroad rather than expecting foreign buyers to travel to the UK, and the declining number of exhibitors meant the final fair was held in 1957. The site became the Castle Vale housing estate.
Three drivers and four twin diesel units were sent from Derby, the units arriving on April 18th. The shuttle ran between May 2nd - 13th, they made nine trips a day between Birmingham and Castle Bromwich. The services were worked by E79030/E79622 + E79031/E79623 but on Saturday, 9th May, and when some special parties were conveyed, E79032/E79624 were added to make a six car unit. As far as known the fourth set was not used, and remained for the whole of the period in Saltley Carriage sheds.
The first image shows two 2-car sets at Birmingham New Street on the first day of services on the 2/5/55, with pleny of staff admiring them. Michael Mensing.
The second image shows two sets at Castle Bromwich. Stuart Mackay Collection.
Local company Met-Camm (who constructed their units in Saltley) requested that their units be used for the shuttles during the April 23rd - May 4th opening. The Eastern Region agreed that units being built for them could be used there first, which resulted in E79061-3 with E79277-9 being used. Afterwards they were sent to Derby.
At the end of 1956 the B.I.F. organisers requested that a 63'6" unit be exhibited at the 1957 fair. Derby would be building the suburban sets for the Westerm Region (Class 116s) at the time, these were considered unsuitable for exhibition. Instead thoughts turned to the Rolls Royce engined set 50000/56000, to which the ER agreed. However with just weeks to go the organisers then decided that on account of site difficulties displaying a unit in the exhibition would not be practicable, and the vehicles were exhibited at a Rolls Royce Exhibition from 6th to 11th May 1957 instead.
Late in 1956 there were huge problems with fuel oil supplies, and the LMR was considering not using diesel units for the 1957 shuttles. Luckily by the start of April 1957 the situation had improved, so the decision was taken to go ahead, using the Rolls-Royce engined Met-Camm units.
Longsight sets 50134/56090, 50136/56092 and 50137/56093 were used on the Birmingham New St. to Castle Bromwich shuttles from the 6th to the 17th May. On the Saturday (11th) additional services were worked by 101s 50207/56059 and 50208/56090 fresh from Saltley. The 111s were back in Manchester by the 19th.
The first image shows M50136 (and 56092) in platform 9 at Birmingham New Street waiting to leave for Castle Bromwich on the 6th May 1957, the second image shows them departing at 5.39pm - from left to right are 50137, 56092 and 50136. Michael Mensing.