All sets seem to have been delivered in an unlined green (some apparantly in a dark and slightly bluish green) with white cab dome. The application of whiskers varied. As far as I can tell, all batch one and three vehicles were delivered with whiskers, but batch two vehicles were delivered without. The four marker lamp first batch had the whiskers join at the lower edge, on batch three these were spread apart to go around the route indicator. In the image a batch one set headed by W50057 is seen at Yardley Wood in 1959. Michael Mensing.
At least some of, if not all, batch two were delivered without whiskers. Batch one and batch two were delivered with handed roudels (batch three I'm not sure). The image shows a batch two set led by W50878 on the 2.05pm to Stratford-on-Avon arriving at Birmingham Snow Hill, 29th November 1957. Michael Mensing.
From about 1963 the small yellow panels appeared. As this vehicle (W50100) still has a right facing roundel it suggests that the vehicle hasn't had a full repaint since new, just the yellow panel applied. The roof has lost the white cab dome. Taken at Grimes Hill and Wythall in April 1963. Michael Mensing.
The application of lining seemed to be very random, some gained it, some didn't. This batch one vehicle W50115 has a left facing roundel (it would have been delivered with a right facing version), so it's had a full repaint at a time early enough to still be in the whisker period. Seen leaving Acock's Green on the 12.50pm Birmingham(Snow Hill) - Lapworth, 31st January 1964.
A lined example carrying the yellow panel, this being W51153 at Barry Pier station, circa 1966. John Woodward. All the images I've found with this combination have the left facing roundel and appear to be the darker loco green, so they've had a full repaint.
From the late '60s vehicles were painted into plain Rail Blue livery, and at a few vehicles had a small yellow panel, red buffer beam, umber underframe / bogies and white cab roof dome. In this image the BR logo and no wrap-round yellow is a sign that this vehicle is carrying this short-lived variation. Probably taken at Birmingham Moor Street circa 1969. Stuart Mackay Collection. Another example of a vehicle in this livery (W50854) can be found on page 61 of Hugh Longworth's book.
Another very short lived early blue variation had the yellow extending around to cover the cab doors. Some examples of this and the yellow panel variation can be found in this RM Web thread.
The standard corporate Rail Blue application became full yellow ends, black buffer beams, solebars and bogies and roof coloured cab domes. Seen carrying this is Tyseley set TS 539 - formed of 51146 59443 51133 - sitting in its home depot on 20 June 1976. Robert Frise. On the centre TC vehicles a prominent yellow stripe was carried at cantrail height over the first class section.
When refurbished sets received all over white relieved by a twelve inch deep rail blue band below the side windows running the length of the vehicle, the inner ends of vehicles were rail blue. The first Cardiff are set in this livery was C 346 (50858 / 59366 / 50911) in Jan. '76. This is sets C302 and C318 at Barry Island on the 1st July 1978. Ian Francis.
West Midland sets carried the WM logo on the blue stripe under the first passenger window on the drivers side. Two examples can be seen in Tyseley depot in 1980. Ian Francis.
In 1981 Tyselety set TS541 (presumably 50835 + 59334 + 50888) in refurbished livery was given additional adornments to commemorate the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles. It carried a Union Jack on the front, in between a thin 'V' marking reminiscent of whiskers. There was a thin white line along the centre of the blue stripe, and a union jack on every third door. The front was also given red buffer beams and there was red white and blue tinsel around the cab windows! The British Railways Board image shows in on July 28, 1981.
The refurbished livery did not last long, often being quoted as it too difficult to keep clean, and was superseded around 1979 by blue and grey - as seen in this image of 51128 (C330) at Coryton Halt (Cardiff) in 1983. Nicky Reason. Not all of the Class 116 vehicles were refurbished, and a small number remained rail blue well into the 1980s, though by this date most cars whether refurbished or not were at least repainted blue and grey. By 1986 only one 3-car set remained in all over rail blue livery, this unit was made up of cars, 53867/59372/53920. Originally allocated to Plymouth carrying set number LA322, then moving to Cardiff, Stratford, Tyseley and finally Manchester Newton Heath by 1988, being scrapped later that year.
The Scottish units were all eventually painted blue and grey and most carried the Greater Glasgow double ‘G’ symbol and the branding, ‘Trans-Clyde’ on one side of each driving car. The order of these markings would vary, the GG was normally first (or not carried) but as seen in this image of SC53823 at Falkirk Grahamston it was sometimes reversed. Circa 1986. Andrew McConnell. Set numbers applied to the ScR units initially took the form of a black stencilled three digit number carried on the cab front similar to those on the WR, this had been the practice in southern Scotland since 1966. These were subsequently revised in 1981 to also identify the vehicle class becoming six digits in the same way as the EMU vehicles operating in Scotland, a set numbering system that was subsequently adopted on other regions.
A set carrying the WM logo at Llandrindod in the late 1980s. It seems that at some point the logo was dropped and Birmingham sets reverted to the BR arrows. Even later still, Birmingham sets could be found with no logos. David Rowe.
In January 1985 Tyseley set TS611 appeared in this unique variation, with the grey extended to meet the black cab window surrounds. Note the power cars 53055 / 53116 had the roof vents removed. Seen passing Malago Vale with a summer Saturday service from Weston-super-Mare to Birmingham New Street on the 14th September 1985. Mike Dean.
The odd set appeared carrying a white WM on the cab, such as 51130 / TS624 seen at Buxton on the 13th October 1985. Chris Lings.
In February 1985 C334 became the first set to be adorned with Valley Trains markings. This involved a red Welsh dragon under the centre cab window inbetween a thin red line forming a V, which then went horizontal under the other cab windows. Under the first passenger window on each side was a small BR logo and a white Welsh dragon. On the non-driver side these were accompanied by the text 'Tren y Cym', Welsh for 'Valley Train' which was carried on the passenger side. The example image shows set C312 arrives at Cardiff Central headed by W53843 on the 8th May 1987. Shayne Lewis. There were several 'incomplete' applications noted in traffic - a front dragon with no 'V', and a 'V' with no dragon (or side text). Also at least one set also had a White roof dome applied.
A Class 116 / 117 hybrid set at Slough on 30/10/87, formed of Class 116 DMBS 53820 and Class 117 TC / DMS 59484 / 51374. Malcolm Clements.
The class survived long enough for some to receive NSE livery, including 53083 and 53820. The image shows the hybrid L210 set (Class 116 53083 / Class 101 DTC) at Oxford on 16-4-91. Mike Cooper. This livery, and the unique WM livery, appear to be the only applications of the black window surrounds to the Class.
Details about preserved Class 116s can be found here.
Thanks to Mac Winfield, Ian Fleming and John Thomlinson for much of the information on this Class.