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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.


February 3rd

The minutes of the 90th Diesel Trains Committee meeting (January 1962) have been added.

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

E56396 + E50231 on Scotswood Bridge, October, 2nd, 1982, just before closure of this route. Here Tyne Valley trains crossed from the north to south bank of the Tyne (or vice versa) for the last/first few miles to/from Newcastle. The condition of this bridge was the reason given for sending all trains on the route along the south bank through Dunston. Although with Europe's largest shopping complex opening in the mid 1980s presumably trains would have diverted that way anyway. Despite it's 'condition' the bridge still stands, apparently conveying various utility pipelines. John Carter.

New DMU photo

On September 12, 1981, E51301 + E56464 depart Darlington with the 11:55 to Hartlepool. Until the mid 1980s there was an hourly service between Darlington and Hartlepool which used to carry a lot of students to Stockton and Billingham tech near Billingham station. Due the shortage of trains with the shortcomings of the new Pacers, the Hartlepool service was replaced by buses. The service was never reinstated apart from a token two trains each way on a Sunday. John Carter.

New DMU photo

E50200 + E56072 / E56378 + E50221, Darlington, August 22, 1981. Darlington based Class 101s were always smartly turned out, contrasting with their Heaton based counterparts. John Carter.

New DMU photo

Left: E50293 + E59070 + E50139, right: E50210 + E56410; at Thornaby on July 16, 1981. Thornaby was refuelling and stabling DMUs at this time and the nearest set is doing the shunt moves necessary to get on the depot. Thornaby station buildings were demolished soon after, becoming a windswept platform with only a bus shelter for passenger accommodation. Although now much improved with a ticket office and waiting room it is a shame the original buildings hadn't been renovated. John Carter.

New DMU photo

E51430 + E51497 with the 16:02 to Huddersfield at Clayton West on March 17, 1982. John Carter.


On This Day:

120 DMU

Swindon class 120 DMU, set No C558 at Newport, 20th Feb 1982. Closest is 51588, the other power car is presumably 51579. Paul James.

120 DMU

Swindon class 120 DMU, set No C558 at Newport, 20th Feb 1982. The furthest power car is 51588, closest is presumably 51579. Paul James.

119 DMU

Class 119 set L 575 at Redhill on 20th February 1987. Ian Buck.

121 DMU

55026 rolls into Stapleton Road from Severn Beach on the 20th February 1989. Ian Buck.

107 DMU

107436 (presumably 51997 + 59784 + 52024) approaches the terminus with the 14.45 Kilmarnock - Glasgow Central train on 20-02-1988. Gordon Thomson.

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