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Class 120 Swindon 3-car DMUs

Operations - Scotland 1958 to 1981

Allocation changes

51781 - New to 61A
51782 - New to 61A
51783 - New to 61A

51784 - New to 61A
51785 - New to 61A

51786 - New to 61A
51787 - New to 61A

59679 - New to 61A
59680 - New to 61A

59681 - New to 61A
59682 - New to 61A

59683 - New to 61A
59684 - New to 61A

51788 - New to 61A
59685 - New to 61A

51789 - New to 61A

51790 - New to 61A
51791 - New to 61A

51792 - New to 61A

51793 - New to 61A
51794 - New to 61A

51787 - Transferred to 66C
51788 - Transferred to 66C
59681 - Transferred to 66C

3w/e 02/04/60
51784 - Transferred to 66C
51786 - Transferred to 66C
51790 - Transferred to 66C
51791 - Transferred to 66C
59682 - Transferred to 66C
59685 - Transferred to 66C

2w/e 09/04/60
51782 - Transferred to 66C
51783 - Transferred to 66C
51785 - Transferred to 66C
51789 - Transferred to 66C
51792 - Transferred to 66C
51794 - Transferred to 66C
59679 - Transferred to 66C
59683 - Transferred to 66C
59684 - Transferred to 66C

4w/e 04/06/60
51785 - Transferred to 61A
51786 - Transferred to 61A
51789 - Transferred to 61A
51790 - Transferred to 61A
59684 - Transferred to 61A
59685 - Transferred to 61A

51784 - Transferred to 61A
51791 - Transferred to 61A
59682 - Transferred to 61A

51782 - On loan to 60A
51794 - On loan to 60A
59683 - On loan to 60A

3w/e 19/11/60
51781 - Transferred to 64H
51784 - Transferred to 64H
51786 - Transferred to 64H
51790 - Transferred to 64H
51791 - Transferred to 64H
51793 - Transferred to 64H
59680 - Transferred to 64H
59682 - Transferred to 64H
59685 - Transferred to 64H

3w/e 17/12/60
51782 - Ex-loan back to 61A
51794 - Ex-loan back to 61A
59683 - Ex-loan back to 61A

w/e 03/06/61
51781 - Transferred to 61A
51784 - Transferred to 61A
51786 - Transferred to 61A
51790 - Transferred to 61A
51791 - Transferred to 61A
51793 - Transferred to 61A
59680 - Transferred to 61A
59682 - Transferred to 61A
59685 - Transferred to 61A

4w/e 24/06/61
51783 - Transferred to 61A
51787 - Transferred to 61A
51788 - Transferred to 61A
51792 - Transferred to 61A
59679 - Transferred to 61A
59681 - Transferred to 61A

2w/e 12/05/62
51781 - Transferred to 66C
51790 - Transferred to 66C
59685 - Transferred to 66C

51781 - Transferred to 67A
51790 - Transferred to 67A
59685 - Transferred to 67A

3w/e 03/11/62
51787 - Transferred to 67A
51788 - Transferred to 67A
59681 - Transferred to 67A

4w/e 01/06/63
51781 - Transferred to 61A
51790 - Transferred to 61A
59685 - Transferred to 61A

3w/e 30/04/66
51787 - Transferred to 66C
51788 - Transferred to 66C
59681 - Transferred to 66C

4w/e 31/12/66
51785 - Transferred to 67A
51787 - Transferred to 67A
51788 - Transferred to 67A
51789 - Transferred to 67A
59681 - Transferred to 67A
59684 - Transferred to 67A

5w/e 04/02/67
51781 - Transferred to 60A
51782 - Transferred to 60A
51783 - Transferred to 60A
51784 - Transferred to 60A
51786 - Transferred to 60A
51790 - Transferred to 60A
51791 - Transferred to 60A
51792 - Transferred to 60A
51793 - Transferred to 60A
51794 - Transferred to 60A
59679 - Transferred to 60A
59680 - Transferred to 60A
59682 - Transferred to 60A
59683 - Transferred to 60A
59685 - Transferred to 60A

4w/e 02/09/67
51787 - Transferred to 60A
51788 - Transferred to 60A
59681 - Transferred to 60A

2w/e 13/01/68
51785 - Transferred to 60A
51789 - Transferred to 60A
59684 - Transferred to 60A

4w/e 30/06/68
51781 - Transferred to 66C
51789 - Transferred to 66C
59685 - Transferred to 66C

51781 - Transferred to 60A
51789 - Transferred to 60A

4w/e 05/07/69
51787 - Transferred to 66C
51791 - Transferred to 66C
59680 - Transferred to 66C

51781 - Transferred to 66C
51787 - Transferred to 60A
51788 - Transferred to 66C
51791 - Transferred to 60A
59680 - Transferred to 60A
59684 - Transferred to 66C
59685 - Transferred to 60A

5w/e 06/09/69
51784 - Transferred to 66C

4w/e 01/11/69
51781 - Transferred to 60A
51788 - Transferred to 60A
59684 - Transferred to 60A

w/e 04/07/70
51781 - On loan to 66C
51788 - On loan to 66C
59684 - On loan to 66C

51781 - Ex-loan back to 60A
51788 - Ex-loan back to 60A
59684 - Ex-loan back to 60A

51784 - Listed at 60A

p/e 09/06/79
51784 - Stored U. ZC

4w/e 01/03/80
51787 - Transferred to AY
51789 - Transferred to AY

51794 - Transferred to AY
59680 - Transferred to AY

4w/e 01/03/80
59685 - Transferred to AY

2w/e 22/03/80
51781 - Transferred to CF
51782 - Transferred to CF
51783 - Transferred to CF
51785 - Transferred to CF
51788 - Transferred to CF
51790 - Transferred to CF
51792 - Transferred to CF
51793 - Transferred to CF
59681 - Transferred to CF
59682 - Transferred to CF
59683 - Transferred to CF
59684 - Transferred to CF

2w/e 10/05/80
51786 - Transferred to CF
51791 - Transferred to CF
59679 - Transferred to CF

51784 - Withdrawn

51787 - Transferred to DY
51789 - Transferred to DY
51794 - Transferred to DY
59680 - Transferred to DY
59685 - Transferred to DY

The second batch of vehicles (51781-7, 59679-85, 51788-94) were for many years associated with the Aberdeen to Inverness line, and until 1970 were also used on summer services to Oban.


In the summer of 1958 a 3-car set with buffet, was loaned to the ScR from the WR and operated experimentally for a few weeks between Aberdeen and Inverness. Beginning on the 28th July, W50676 / 59283 / 50720 ran on the 7.47am (or 8.05?) Aberdeen to Inverness and 12.45 return. The ScR distributed questionnaires to gain the views of passengers, particularly those who lived or worked between the two cities. A senior BR representative traveled on the train daily to discuss the diesel service with passengers and find out their reactions. An image of the WR set at Inverness can be found on the GNRSA website.

On Wednesday 6th August the set worked a special excursion from Aberdeen at 7.15pm to Keith & back, giving other members of the public an opportunity to travel on this type of train.

On Monday and Tuesday August 11th/12th 1958 the set ran to Oban, to see if this type of unit could in due course provide the passenger services on the Oban branch. Again, a questionnaire was organised and a representative carried. The set operated the 11.40am from Edinburgh Princess St, which united with Met Camms 51231 / 56389 and 56406 / 51248 at Stirling, which were the 12.00 noon from Glasgow Buchanan Street. The return working was the 5.15pm from Oban, splitting at Stirling. The 3-car set was noted as arousing widespread public interest.

The set then returned to Cardiff by the end of August.

New Vehicles

On paper all of the twenty-one vehicles (seven sets) from the second build were delivered to Aberdeen's 61A Kittybrewster depot between November 1959 and January 1960. As was the norm with vehicles built at Swindon the vehicles were not delivered as sets. The DMBCs came first, followed by the centre cars, the DMSs were last. Between February and April 1960 six sets were transferred to 66C Hamilton, leaving just one set (51781/59680/51793) at Kittybrewster.

Hamilton 1960

120 DMU

Amongst the workings they did from Hamilton included two sets on a special 'Land Cruise' diesel excursion from Queens Park and Cathcart Circle stations to Largs and Ayr which ran on Monday 18th April 1960. A few weeks later, on the 14th May, a set worked on one of the ScR's regular 'Six Lochs Land Cruise' tours. The image shows an Oban bound excursion on the 17th May. Michael Mensing.

Aberdeen - Inverness Announcement

In mid-June 1960 the Scottish Area Board of the BTC announced at a special meeting in Aberdeen that diesel multiple units would be introduced between Aberdeen and Inverness from July 1st 1960 to test the demand for a high-speed service between the cities.

1960 Timetable

The 108 mile journey would have a time of 2 1/2 hours with four stops, at Nairn, Forres, Elgin and Keith Junction. The previous best timing was 3 hours 18 minutes (with 13 stops!). There were to be two DMU services in each direction, leaving Aberdeen at 8.45am and 5.30pm, and Inverness at 8.30am and 5.15pm. Cheap day return fares were introduced to stimulate tourist traffic. The timings allowed a full day in either city without starting too early in the morning or getting back too late at night. Timings from Nairn were 25 mins to Inverness and 130 mins to Aberdeen, from Forres to Inverness it took 40 mins, to Aberdeen 115 mins, from Elgin it was 58 mins to Inverness and 98 mins to Aberdeen, and to Inverness from Keith was 81 mins and Aberdeen was reached in 70 mins.

Colonel Donald H. Cameron of Locheil, Chairman of the Board also stated at the meeting that if successful the trains would be re-introduced the following year.

Services Start

To operate the services four sets were transferred back north, three - 51784-6 + 59682/4/8 + 51789-91 - to Kittybrewster, the fourth went on loan to 60A Inverness (51783/59683/51794). Two formations were required for traffic, this allowed six-car sets to be used if needed with one spare.

Although originally introduced as an experimental summer service till the 10th September, the success of the trains, with their mini-buffets selling light refreshments, saw them extended till the end of the year to test the demand outside the summer months. That August a traffic survey showed that a large portion of the passengers were tourists or locals on holiday, but it was hoped that the existence of the fast service in winter, when motoring in north-east Scotland could be unpleasant and dangerous, would attract business and local residents who would otherwise have traveled by other means.

120 DMU

This scheme was extended again till the end of the winter '60/'61 timetable (till June 10th 1961), and the sets were gaining a good reputation for punctuality - during March 1961 this was recorded as 98%. The image shows the 8.45am Aberdeen to Inverness leaving Keith on the 31st March 1961. Hamish Stevenson.

By the end of 1960 The set on loan to Inverness was returned to Kittybrewster. Three sets moved south to Leith where they were noted on Edinburgh - Glasgow services, and near the end of their time there one set spent ten days on the Fife diesel services with the buffet out of use. The extended trials were obviously a success, as from the next timetable on the 12th June 1961 the ScR doubled the number of DMU expresses to four daily each way. For these extra service all the sets were allocated to Kittybrewster. It was hoped that they would attract more businessmen and tourists to the north-east of Scotland. Some services had an additional stop added at Huntly, although the 2 1/2 hr timing was maintained. There were improved connections with the south at Aberdeen and north at Inverness, and the timings would allow a businessman an afternoon in Inverness before returning to Aberdeen at 5.30pm. The fares were increased from 18s 6d to 24s, quite a jump, although the new rate worked out as 1.17d a mile (up from 1.05d a mile) which was still very low and the passengers were getting fast clean and comfortable trains with snack meals available.

The services now left Aberdeen at 7.50am, 11.45am, 1.50pm and 6.00pm, and Inverness at 8.30am, 10.45am, 2.30pm and 5.30pm. The westbound 7.50am and 1.50pm and eastbound 10.45am and 5.30pm stopped additionally at Huntly.

The sets made use of a tablet catcher fitted the guard's van door on either side, the only DMUs to have such a feature. The mechanisms made it impractical to have these in the driving cab. After exchanges the Guard would confirm to the driver by buzzer that the correct tablet was on board. It was not unknown for the exchange to fail, requiring a hurried stop and a walk back down the tracks to find the tablet.

120 DMU

Sc51783 leads the 2.30pm Inverness - Aberdeen service at Inveramsay, being worked by a 6-car Swindon Cross-Country formation on 14/7/64. Michael Mensing.

There is a photo feature on the Aberdeen - Inverness line.


In the Summer of 1962 there was a new Oban Tourist Train on Mondays - Fridays. It was operated by Class 120s and ran from the 18th June till the 7th September. It departed / returned at the following times:
Glasgow Queen Street 9.35am - 8.30pm
Craigendoran 10.10am - 7.48pm
Crainlarich Upper 11.20am - 6.41pm
Loch Awe 11.57am - 6.01pm
Connel Ferry 12.31pm - 5.29pm
Oban 12.50pm - 5.15pm

The buffet car was operational, and the service was also known as the "Oban Flyer". The Lord Provost of Glasgow,  Mrs Jean Roberts, and her husband, Mr Cameron Roberts, travelled on the first train from Glasgow to Oban, via Loch Lomond rather than Callender. At Oban Provost Neil Cameron and Mr JG Mathieson, County Convener, greeted the party.

As well as giving the choice of viewing some of Scotland’s most scenic granduer from the windows of the three-coach multiple unit train, the passengers would get to Oban in 3 hours 15 mins, the quickest ever time. The previous fastest time from Glasgow to Oban was 3 hours 32 minutes (a Saturday only service), and the regular time taken to travel to Oban by train was 4 1/2 hours.

Accompanying the Lord Provost on the train were Mr R.A. Long, Asst. General Manager BR-Scotland, Mr R.B. Reid, District Passenger Manager, Glasgow, and Mr W.A. Nicholson, Manager and Secretary of the Scottish Tourist Board.

51781/59685/51790 had been transferred to Hamilton to work this service, and when it came to an end in September the set moved to Corkerhill. It was joined there in October by 51787/59681/51788. From there they would work on some of the South Glasgow routes such as to Kilmarnock. 51781/59685/51790 would return to Kittybrewster in May 1963, 51787/59681/51788 remained at Corkerhill until moving to Hamilton in April 1966.

In 1963 photos show that a "Glasgow - Oban" sideboard was carried. In July 1966 one of these working was noted as a hyrid set formed 101 DMBS / 120 TSB / 120 DMC. Other forays onto the West Highland line were to Mallaig, when a 3-car set made a test run north on the 19th October 1966, and south the following day. BR used the trip to produce a performance curve for the DMU on the line.

120 DMU

The Oban summer service continued annually until 1970. This images shows a set in Oban station that final year. Mike Cooper Collection.

Aberdeen - Inverness

On this line tail traffic was far from unusual, nor was the attachment of a Class 122 when they were allocated to Inverness. All the Kittybrewster sets were transferred to Inverness depot in January 1967. At Aberdeen the would now be serviced and stabled at Ferryhill depot.

120 DMU

A set departs Aberdeen for Inverness during the demolition of the platform canopies and north footbridge in February 1973. John McIntyre.

The line was not exclusively Class 120 worked, as an image on the GNSRA website shows. Availability issues with the 120s meant that a 3-car Met-Camm set (51243/59303/50234) was allocated to IS in June 1978 and the following month. Met-Camm buffet car 59574 also spent time at Inverness between 1978 and 1980.

Scottish DMUs differed from the rest of the country by laterly receiving yellow stripes for first class while still in green livery. When corporate blue arrived the ScR decided to paint the Class 120 units plain blue unlike the rest of the Class 120 fleet which became blue /grey. In 1978 the blue / grey livery started to appear.


On the 12th May 1978 a road vehicle hit a railway bridge at Oyne, knocking it out of alignment. The first train past was the 07:43 from Aberdeen to Inverness, the first two vehicles derailed slipping down the embankment, power car 51784 falling on it's side. More details. This DMBF was stored, withdrawn and languished for several years in Glasgow Works before being cut up.

The End

120 DMU

In early 1980 the Inverness - Aberdeen service became loco-hauled. Five of the Class 120 sets moved to Cardiff Canton, the other five vehicles moved to Ayr (51787 / 51789 / 51794 / 59680 / 59685). In October 1981 they moved to Derby when Ayr received a batch of 101s from Dundee.

In the last full year of operation set 301 is seen with a Met-Camm centre car, probably 59574. It is working the 15:50 from Aberdeen at Insch on the 10th March 1979. Hamish Stevenson.

Thus ended twenty-two years of continuous service of the Class 120 on the Scottish Region. The Class would return in 1986.

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