A 2-car set visited Strasbourg for an exhibition of aluminium rolling stock on June 20-25th 1960. The DTC vehicle was displayed as a shell, without any interior fittings or panelling whatsoever, so that the bodyside, roof and floor construction, and the layout of conduits and piping could be seen in full. It attracted much attention and led to lengthy discussions. The power car, 52045, was a completed vehicle. All the vehicles for the exhibition (a 16 ton mineral wagon, a 21 ton hopper wagon, an experimental aluminium container, a London Transport Executive District Line car and a British Railways box wagon loaded with aluminium components) were marshalled into a train and crossed the channel on the Dover - Dunkirk train ferry on the 11th June.
The first batch (2, 3 & 4-car sets) went to the NER. They were used on routes such as Scarborough - Whitby and Whitby - Middlesborough. All other cars (all 2-cars) went to the LMR.
Delivered May to September 1958 and were not in numerical order. The first three sets 50600/1/2 went to 53C (Hull Springhead) in May, followed by 50605/7 to 51A (Darlington) in June. July deliveries were 50606/8 to 53C, followed by 50599/50603/4/14 to 51A. All remaining deliveries were to 56G (Hammerton Street), August started with 50610/1/3 followed by 50609/12/8 then 506017/9, the last two 50615/6 added to the books on 04/09/58.
Sponsored by the Leeds Publicity Club a diesel excursion from Leeds traversed the entire Wensleydale branch on 6/9/58. The vehicles, in order, were: 50619/56210, 50615/56206, 56207/50616. They ran out via Harrogate and Northallerton remaining some hours at Hawes, and returning via Garsdale and Hellifield.
The first allocation changes were three of the Springhead sets (50600/1/2) moving to Hammerton Street at the end of August 1958. The two sets that remained, 50606/8 became part of Hull Botanic Gardens fleet at the end of November when Springhead closed, 50606 moved to 56G the following month. Five of the six Darlinton sets also moved to Hammerton Street in December 1958. The sixth set - 50607/56198 - instead moved north to South Gosford in January 1959 and then onto Hammerton Street in May 1959. At that point 56G had twenty of the twenty-one sets from this batch, the other being at Botanic Gardens (50608 + 56199).
It was March 1960 before any of these twenty sets departed from Hammerton Street, when 50607 + 56198 and 50618 + 56190 moved to Neville Hill. The following month the remaining eighteen sets were transferred from Hammerton Street to Manningham along with 50608 + 56199 from Botanic Gardens. In May/June the two sets that had moved to Neville Hill also moved to Manningham, meaning all twenty-one sets were together for the first time.
At 1965 50599/56190 were at 51A (Darlington) working to Richmond, Crookbank, Durham & Bishop Aukland. 50600/1/3-16/8/9 with 56191/2/4-207/9/10 were allocated to 55F (Hammerton Street) working Bradford Forster Sq. - Leeds City locals.
Delivered 10/58 - 11/58 to 53C (50629-3, 59386-9, 50642-5) and 53B (50624, 59390, 50646)
The RCTS ran the 'Talyllyn Scenic Diesel' railtour on Sunday 6th Sep '59, which took some 360 passengers to travel on the Talyllyn Railway, and took a scenic route through Wales. Vehicles 50644/59388/50622, 50616/56207, 50620/59386/50642 left Leeds at 09:32 and picked up at Huddersfield, Manchester and Warrington, then travelled via Chester, Ruabon, on to the Cambrian at Oswestry, through Welshpool and Machynlleth, then bearing northwards at Aberdovey for a pleasant run along Cardigan Bay before reaching Towyn. It returned via Barnmouth Jct, and the Ruabon line, getting back to Leeds City south at 23:24.
By 1965 these sets allocated to South Gosforth (52J), although 50624/42 were allocated to Darlington (51A), but noted as often on loan to 52J.
Delivered 10/58 to 52J (South Gosforth) (50630/6-41, 59245/8-50, 59380/3-5) and 53C (50632-5, 59246/7, 59381/2)
At 1965 South Gosforth retained the same sets, and the sets from 53C were now at 50C (Hull) working from Hull to York, Scarborough and Brough.
Delivered 12/58 - 2/59 to 5D (50625/7/8, 56211/3/4), 18A (50626, 56212) and to store at Chaddesden Sidings (50629, 56215)
At 1965 the allocations for these vehicles was to 6A (50625-7, 56211-3), workings unknown, and 8J (Allerton) (50628-9, 56214/5), working from Liverpool St - Chester General.
Delivered 1/59 - 10/59 to 6G (50938-41/85, 56221-4/68), 2D (50942-4, 56225-7), 6K (50945/6/57, 56228/9/40), stored at Warwick (50947-52, 56230-5), stored at 6K (50953/8/9, 56236/41/2), 5B (50954-6, 56237-9), stored at Chaddesden Sidings (50960-2/76/7/9, 56243-5/59/60/2), 24F (50963/7-74, 56246/50-7), 9E (50964-6, 56247-9), 26A (50975/8/80-4, 56258/61/3-7), 6G (50985, 56268) and to 14E on loan (50986/7, 56269/70)
The entire service between Cambridge, Bedford, Bletchley and Oxford was expected to turn over to DMUs in January '59. Bedford men were learning the road to Oxford, in November 1958.
The passenger service on the Oxford- Bedford - Cambridge line had been due to be withdrawn, but in Aug. '59 it was given a reprieve for a two year period with plans for it to be dieselised.
The modified diesel service between Bletchley and Bedford started on the 2nd Nov. '59, and a 108 twin was on trial at Bedford in Oct. '59. The twin sets were expected to replace the auto-trains, but at 10/59 there was no information as to what would operate the Oxford - Cambridge trains. The ground level halts between Bedford and Bletchley were all rebuilt in record time, with manual height platforms, in preparation for the change.
Early in Nov. '59 the Bedford Park Royal railbuses went to Wolverton, so the local services to Hitchin and Northampton were worked by Bletchley 108s, and a Bedford one. There were now just two steam passenger workings each way, the early morning from Cambridge and the last one from Oxford. There was one new train each way between Cambridge and Bedford, and some were adjusted to give better connections with the Oxford trains at Bletchley. Two of the railbuses returned about Feb. '60, but the 108s and steam autos were still used wherever possible.
In August '60 there were again proposals to withdraw the diesel service from the Bedford - Northampton line. It was mentioned that a lot of potential traffic was lost due to the protracted 'teething problems' of the Park Royal Railbuses.
Four twin units (50947/56230, 50948/56231, 50951/56234 & 50952/56235) were stored on delivery at the closed steam shed at Warwick in Feb. '59, and all officially allocated to Warwick (2C) on the 23rd Feb. pending re-allocation. These transfers and similar transfers at Coventry (2D) and Rhyll (6K) appeared to be only for book keeping purposes until the sets enter revenue earning traffic.
A large influx of Class 108s was noted at Llandudno Jct., in mid-March '59. Noted were 50941/56224, 50945/56229, 50953/56236.
Sets were also stored at Coventry. The three 2-car sets were dispatched to the Birmingham area on the 9th April '59. Six 2-cars were now stored at the closed MPD in Warwick. It was believed that these stored sets were for the Birmingham - Redditch - Evesham service, due to start in April '59. Contemplated was an hourly service to Redditch and a two-hourly to Evesham, with Evesham - Ashchurch to be closed.
On the 12th June '61 Class 108s took over most services between Birkenhead - Helsby, Birkenhead - Chester and Chester - Lime St. This scheme provided more trains and faster timings, and involved sixteen power trailer sets, costing over £0.5m, An average of 8 mins was clipped of Birkenhead - Chester times, and 10 mins of Birkenhead - Helsby times. As far as possible a regular interval pattern timetable was introduced. Trains between Chester & Birkenhead left hourly at 8 mins past the hour from Chester calling at Upton-by-Chester, Hooton and Rock Ferry, and at 25 mins past the hour from Birkenhead. Some trains called additionally at Capenhurst. The service between Birkenhead and Helsby was also hourly, stopping at all stations and connecting with the Birkenhead - Chester trains at Hooton. The trains left Helsby at 8 mins past and Birkenhead at 15 mins past the hour. There were six additional trains between Chester and Lime St on Sundays. All the sets for these services were based at Chester West diesel depot, which was due to be in full operation shortly afterwards. A preview trip (a picture shows the set included DTC 56249) carried Mr HA Mugliston, Divisional Traffic Manager, Merseyside & North Wales Division and the Mayor of Birkenhead and the president of the town's Chamber of Commerce.
At the end of 1964 the distribution of these vehicles was as follows:1E (Bletchley) had 50938-46 with 56221-9 to work from Bletchley - Cambridge & Oxford. 8J (Allerton) had 50947/73-7 with 56230/56-60 for working from Liverpool Central to Chester General. Longsight (9A) had 50948-61 with 56231-44, covering duties from Manchester Central to Chester General. Also in Manchester were 50962-4/79/84/6 & 56245-7/62/7/9 which were at 9D, Newton Heath. They were working Manchester Victoria - Oldham - Rochdale services. Chester (6A) had 50965-72/8/80-3/5/7 with 56248-55/61/3-6/8/70 for working Cheshires line traffic from Chester Northgate.
The Bletchley sets moved to Chester (6A) in January (seven sets) and March (two sets) 1965, their duties on Oxford & Cambridge services were taken over by the earlier Derby Lightweights moved from Llandudno and Walsall.
In March 1969 eleven Class 100 sets moved from Chester to Longsight, which allowed 50950-64 and 56233-47 to move to Carlisle and replace the 79xxx Lightweights.
Delivered 10/59 - 1/60 to Wrexham Central (50924, 51561), 6G (50925/7-32, 51562/5-9), Wrexham on loan (50926, 51563) and 6D (50933-5, 51570-2)
From 4/1/60 diesel trains commenced running between Wrexham (Central), Chester (Northgate) and New Brighton. They replaced the steam services between Wrexham, Chester and Seacombe, now closed. The services were considerably improved, not only was the frequency increased but 11 mins was cut from the journey time between Chester and Wrexham, now it was 49 mins. The new Chester (Northgate) to New Brighton time was 47 mins for stopping trains, and Wrexham to New Brighton was 68 mins. Twelve power twins were allocated to Wrexham (Central) for these services (50924-35/51561-72), which allowed for four spare, eight being required in service.
At 1965 all these vehicles were allocated to 6A (Chester), and were working Chester Northgate - Wrexham and New Brighton services.
Delivered 2/60 - 3/60 to 3C (51416/7, 56271/2), 3E (51418/9, 56273/4), 14A (51420-2, 56275-7), 26A (51423, 56278) and to 64H on loan (51424, 56279)
The 25th Apr '60 saw the start of the suburban diesel service from Redditch. Trains each weekday were increased from nine to nineteen in each direction, with steam augmenting in the rush hour. Class 108s in the 51416 / 56271 series were allocated to Walsall for the new services.
At 1965 Leicester (15A) had 51416/56271, working Leicester - Birmingham New St. Chester (6A) had 51417-21/4 with 56277/8, working Cheshire lines traffic from Chester Northgate. The other two sets 51422/3 with 56277/8 were allocated to 8J (Allerton) for working Liverpool Central - Chester General.
Delivered 3/60 - 7/60 to Reddish (51901-4, 56484-7), 18A (51905/7-11/3/4, 56488/90-4/6/7), 9E (51906, 56489), 3C (51912, 56495), 6G (51915-21, 56498-504)
At 1965 these were distributed as follows: Longsight (9A) and 51901-8 with 56484-91 for working Manchester Central - Chester General services; Allerton (8J) had 51909-21 with 56492-504 for working local services from Lime St.
All delivered 7/60 - 6/61 to 26A except 51944/52059 which went to 9E
A few 108s were delivered to the ScR. The winter 60/61 DMU ABC and the combined volume featured a Class 108 set working with a Gloucester twin on a North Berwick train. In this volume 52060-25 are prefixed Sc, although their partners were listed with M. By the next issue six months later they were all M prefixes.
At 1965 these power twins were split between Allerton (8J), 51922-31 & 52037-46 for working local services from Liverpool Lime St; and Newton Heath (9D) which had 51932-43/5-50 with 52047-65 for working from Manchester Victoria to Bolton. The other power car, 51944 had been withdrawn from 9D in 11/64.
The class was known to visit Skegness on summer Saturday workings from the Midlands.
Heavy snow on January 8th 1981 caused a set to be stuck in 15ft snowdrifts near Tonfanau on the Cambrian Coast line. Several unsuccessful rescue attempts were made by rail, including the use of a snowplough, but eventually the three crew and four passengers were rescued by helicopter 20 hours later, leaving the DMU to be recovered later.
Initially there was no cross migration of units between the ER and LMR between which all Class 108s were allocated, but by 1984 wholesale withdrawals of other DMU types had begun and Class 108s became dispersed to areas where hitherto they had not penetrated. In 1987 the delivery of Pacers to Yorkshire and Humberside allowed some ER vehicles to be moved to Edinburgh (Haymarket), some to the LMR, but most went to the WR where Bristol (BR), Cardiff (CF), Plymouth (LA) and Swansea (LE) gained sizeable allocations. Llandore cars were usual on the Central Wales line and in West Wales. LMR 108s also migrated, Carlisle (KD) based units moving to Newcastle (HT), Newton Heath (NH) units moved to Buxton (BX), Chester (CH), and then to Longsight (LO). Cardiff (CF), Swansea (LE) and Plymouth (LA) also acquired LMR 108s. By 1989 the Haymarket allocation had moved back south.
During the early '80s high intensity headlights were fitted to certain Class 108 vehicles. The first of these appeared on Chester based units M51947/M52062 followed by M51950/M52065 which were used for journeys over the Central Wales line where headlights were required. These lamps were bracket mounted immediately beneath the central cab window. Later when Class 108s were allocated to Swansea Landore (LE) to replace Class 101s all the vehicles concerned were fitted with high intensity headlights of the type fitted to locomotives. these were mounted to the front panel between the marker lights. Most of the Cardiff (CF) 108s were also fitted.
It is noteworthy that one depot, namely Buxton, applied white cab roof domes to most of its allocation of Class 108s during the early '80s, this was something of a tradition at this depot, having earlier treated its Class 104s similarly. On closure of Buxton depot its vehicles became dispersed but in general the white cab roofs remained on its vehicles and could be seen during the late '80s at depots such as Chester, Tyseley and Swansea (Landore).
After these reallocations most units had lost their original working partners, but a few units remained correctly paired. Two notable original pairings were that of power twin M53928/51565 and power/trailer M51907/54490 both of which were acquired for preservation.
When the Class 123/4s were withdrawn in 1984 a large number of Neville Hill's 101s moved to Botanic Gardens to take their place. When Botanic Gardens 4-car 108s were made into 3-cars in summer ‘85 some of the displaced Class 108 TSLs were added to Class 101 (and 108) power twins.
When Class 108 59247 was condemned due to accident damage Class 101 TBS 59113 was provided as a replacement for its set.
By Feb. '91 there were no 101s working with 108 trailers, and there were only three TBSLs remaining in traffic - 59245/8/50.
The 3&4-car sets spent their early years at South Gosforth, until the mid-late '70s when most of South Gosforth's Derby Lightweight sets were transferred to Neville Hill, where they became regular performers on the Leeds to Morecombe route as well as local services in Yorkshire. Refurbishment commenced in 1976 and included all centre cars except 59388. The last done was 59383, outshopped from Doncaster in 1981. Prior to refurbishment, it had spent many months dumped out of use at Valley Road Sidings (near Bradford Forster Square) and was in a near derelict condition. In summer '82, Neville Hill's three car lightweight sets were reduced to 2-car formations, and 59386-90 were transferred to Newton Heath, where they were added to five Class 108 power twins for use on the Manchester - Blackpool route, allowing the withdrawal of several Class 104 trailer cars. Two years later, the five sets were moved to Buxton, where they replaced more 104 sets. At the end of summer '85, the 4-car sets, now at BG, became 3-cars. Three of the displaced TSLs were retained at BG and added to 101 or 108 power twins. 59380-2 were transferred back to NL where they were added to three Calder Valley sets, which became known as 110 lightweights. In Feb. '87 59382 became the first Class 108 centre car to be allocated to the WR when it moved to Cardiff Canton. It became part of set C591 with Class 119 power cars 51059/51102. Later in 1987, 59380/1/3-5 also moved to the WR. These six remained there, allocated to Landore, Canton, Bath Road and Laira, until withdrawal. TBSLs 59245/6/8/50 were transferred to Heaton in May '87. As 59247 had been cut up at BG in Nov. '85, this left only 59249 there. 59245/8 never did get to HT though, they were actually placed in store at Cowlairs in Glasgow, and officially allocated there in Oct. '87. About this time 59386/7 also moved to Scotland, as parts of sets T901/2 after a short spell at Tyseley. Also in Oct. '87, 59246/9/50 returned to Neville Hill, where they were formed into Hybrid sets. The introduction of Class 150s on the Manchester - Buxton route saw 59388-90 move to Chester in Mar. '89, and about a year later 59388/90 moved back to Manchester, this time to Longsight. Scotrail lost its four trailers, 59386 going to Laira, 59387 to Neville Hill & 59245/8 to Cardiff, although 59245 went via a short spell at Chester during the summer.
Glenn Aylett recollects: "The class 108 DMU was the principal DMU used on the Cumbrian Coast Line from 1960 to 1991, when it was finally pensioned off in favour of the awful Pacer and the single car Class 153 Sprinter. On many journeys in the seventies and eighties I recall the Class 108 with fondness, even if it did become noisy in later years, although it seemed to be fairly reliable and breakdowns were rare even near the end of its working life on Carlisle to Barrow services.
Best thing I recall is when first class, which always seemed to be empty and mustn't have generated any revenue for BR, was scrapped in 1984, I think. I often used to sit in what was first class, as I could see into the driver's cab, and laughed at the fact people used to pay far more just to have a door to divide them from the riff raff in second (sic) and a bit of extra legroom, although the seats were very comfortable and finished in a black material that wouldn't be out of place in a top of the range car.
Other things I found nice about the 108 was the huge guards van, which was so spacious it accomodated two motorbikes and a heap of luggage one day, and the old round interior lights with their ornate metal shades around them. When British Rail replaced these with horrible fluorescent strip lights that wouldn't be out of place in a bus, I was outraged as the old lights looked far classier. However, I did appreciate it when the boring rail blue was replaced by blue and white as it made the trains look more upmarket.
On the whole, even if the trains were nearing the end of their lives, I was sad to see the Class 108 withdrawn as the Pacers that replaced them were just like buses on rails with no comfort and no character. Things have picked up when the class 153s came, which look a bit more Inter City inside, but I do miss the character of the 108s that used to ply their trade on my local railway line."