Leyland’s successor to the Class 140 – 144 railbuses
Being as Leyland’s National buses didn’t quite sell in the great numbers they wished for, their Workington plant also became the birthplace of the Pacer units. Besides them, there was also the Curious Incident of the Mark I Pacer Carriage (more in a future post within East of the M60). Another one of their projects was the Class 155 DMU, which later spawned the Class 153.
The Class 155
No history of the Class 153 is complete without reference to its two-car brethren. Launched in 1987, they were the medium to long distance replacement for British Rail’s first generation DMUs and loco hauled trains. Whereas the Class 150 Sprinters were hailed as replacement traction for latter journeys, there were some shortcomings which made them an inferior substitute for the Mark 1s and Mark 2s. Firstly, there were no tables. The 3+2 seating layout and airline style seating made for a cramped ambience. On the Class 150/0 and 150/1 sub classes, seats were poorly aligned with the window frames.
With the Class 150s finding their feet on local routes, British Rail’s medium to long distance Provincial Sector services were catered for by Class 155s and Class 156s by 1987. By 1988-9, Express services were catered for by more plush Class 158s.
Today, only seven two-car Class 155s remain in use. All seven units are operated by Northern Rail, frequently appearing on the Manchester Victoria – Leeds/Bradford Interchange services. They entered service in the maroon and cream of Metro West Yorkshire PTE, before being repainted into Northern’s purple and dark blue swirls.
The Class 153
Converted in 1991 from Class 155 units, the ‘runaway carriages’ became a natural successor to the Class 121 ‘bubble car’ DMUs by Pressed Steel. Today, they form the mainstay of most lightly used or short distance routes throughout the UK. In urban areas, they are often used to augment two car units where extra capacity is needed.
The original Class 155 units, whence they came from, were built with the same lightweight Leyland National bodies seen on the Pacer units. In 1991, they were converted by Hunslet Barclay.
For all you Top Trumps fans here:
- Maximum Speed: 75 mph;
- Seats: 72 or 75;
- Engine: Cummins NT855R5 285hp;
- Number built: 70 (from 35 two-car Class 155s);
- Bodywork: British Leyland, Workington/Hunslet Barclay (conversion).
The Class 153 journey experience:
I have often found the Class 153s and their older brethren a better alternative to the Pacer units on short-medium distance services. Most of my journeys aboard the 153s have been as the third carriage added to a two-car 150/156 unit. In terms of ride quality, they lack the bounce of the Nodding Donkeys and glide along the rails just as well as the Class 156s.
Most of the seating is of the airline style with retractable tables, apart from 32 table seats at the front, rear and middle of the carriage. The best places to sit down in by far are the table seats in front of the centre partition, closely followed by the front and rear table seats. On recently refurbished units, choose your airline seat wisely; some have the DVT-tastic legroom which makes for a journey experience akin to a Merseyfailer. As with the Pacer units, the Leyland National windows make for a generally good view.
- Smoother than a Pacer unit in terms of ride quality;
- Table seats and full height ones at that;
- Bright interiors, Chapman seats on Northern Rail units good for medium distance journeys.
- Narrow doors and cramped vestibules make for slow loading and unloading (especially for buggies and wheelchairs);
- Not enough table seats;
- Narrow drivers’ cab at one end.
The Class 153’s role in Greater Manchester
Based in Newton Heath depot, Manchester’s Class 153s are seen reinforcing two car units in peak hours. This has been their main function since 1991 – 92. On some occasions, they have been seen on short distance local services and the (infamous) Ghost Train from Stockport to Stalybridge. Prior to the Metrolink works, some off-peak services on the Oldham – Rochdale Loop Line saw Class 153s in use.
Its sister vehicles, the Class 155s are operated from Neville Hill depot, Leeds.
Love them or loathe them?
Feel free to comment away on the runaway carriages. Whether you’ve endured the overcrowding from a Class 153 or found it an uneventful yet desirable journey, post away.
S.V., 11 March 2011.