The Class 151 Metro-Cammell DMU's

In early March 2000 it was announced that the two original Class 151 prototype 3-car Sprinter units, which had been stored out of service at the RTC sidings for a number of years, had been sold. Built by Metro-Cammell in 1985 they were intended as alternatives to the then BREL (later Adtranz now Bombardier) prototypes known as Class 150, which were chosen by BR as the fore-runners to the extensive Class 150 range. The units underwent extensive testing on various routes from Derby during 1985 and 1986 and also saw service alongside the BREL units on the Matlock branch.


A side elevation of the driving vehicles

From Modern Railways May 1985

The two Class 151 DMU's were built about the same time as the BREL Class 150 prototypes and 151001 was delivered to Derby in Spring 1985,151002 following in the summer. Both units had the same Cummins NT855 285HP engines as fitted to the present day Class 150 series of Sprinters combined with Twin Disc 1330 hydraulic 'hot shift' gearboxes giving them a maximum speed of 75 mile/h.

Here are a few pictures of the 151's in their early days under test and in traffic. 

Click on the image for the bigger picture - All photos are the author's unless otherwise stated.
Washwood Heath In June 1985 a BR/Sulzer Class 25 Bo-Bo locomotive prepares to leave the Washwood Heath works of Metro-Cammell with unit 151 002 in tow on its delivery run to the RTC at Derby.
Etches Park In August 1985 the two Class 151 units were working together and were pictured in Etches Park sidings at Derby between diagrams.
Wing The first unit 151 001 stands at an adverse signal outside Wing Tunnel just south of Manton. This alternative route to the Midland main line ran from Syston Jcn via Melton Mowbray and Oakham to Manton then Glendon Junction to Kettering. It was often used at that time for this sort of acceptance tests. Pictured in April 1985.
Mickleover During its early trials problems were experienced with the 'hot shift' transmission on unit 151 001. It subsequently spent a number of weeks on test at BR's Mickleover test track where many adjustments were made to the gearbox control software in order to minimise the shocks to the train. 151 001 is pictured at the Mickleover workshop and control centre in March 1985.

Unit 151 001 rests outside the workshop at Mickleover during its shakedown running at the test track. The original GNR station can be seen in the left background. The test track is now closed and the track lifted.

Matt Harrison

Each of the three vehicles of the units were powered and had Twin Disc 'hot shift' gearboxes with Gmeinder final drives fitted to the inner bogies. The engine drove the leading axle of the innermost bogie via the gearbox with a short cardan shaft connecting to the trailing axle in the same manner as present day Sprinters.

The vehicle bodies were unusual being made from aluminium extrusions and left in the natural colour with the livery of a broad light blue waist stripe. Being lightweight they were very quick off the mark when in service.

The Driving Motor Second Lavatory (DMSL) had 68 seats the Motor Second (MS) 84 and the Driving Motor Second (MS) had 80. However the 3 +2 seating left a lot to be desired by the standards of the day, being more like the bus seats fitted to some of the original Class 142's. 

The units had one or two unusual features including hydraulically-driven alternators and cooling fans. The main cooler group and radiators were fitted in a pod on the roof of each vehicle. The bogies were non-standard and this combined with several other unique features lead ultimately to their premature withdrawal but not before they were re-numbered 003 and 004. Before being purchased by Railtest (later Serco Railtest) the units spent a number of years stored at Llandudno Junction carriage sheds.

St Pancras

Running in a reduced 2-car formation for test purposes, unit 151 001 stands outside London's St Pancras station awaiting a path back to Derby in April 1985. Sheffield A two-car version of unit 151 001 rests in the bay at the south end of Sheffield station en route from Derby to Manchester and Buxton in March 1985.


Earlier in the month a 3-car unit 151 001 rests in the sidings at Bedford after another test run from Derby Cricklewood For reasons lost in the mists of time 151 001 in 2 car formation was pictured inside Cricklewood Depot in early 1985. This depot was home to the Class 317's for a while but subsequently closed and although still standing is used by a road haulage firm now.
Glendon South Junction On a line no longer in existence 151 001 stands at adverse signals at Glendon Junction on the Midland main line. This is where alternative route to Nottingham left the main line, north of Kettering. The route ran through Corby, Manton, Melton Mowbray and then to Nottingham over what is now the Old Dalby test track. Nottingham  Unit 151 001 sits in Nottingham Midland station after a short demonstration run from Derby in 1985
Buxton A 2-car 151001 attracts admiration from the local railwaymen as it sits in Buxton Station after a run from Derby via Sheffield and Manchester in the spring of 1985 RTC Yard Loop Newly-arrived from Metro-Cammell, unit 151 002 stands on the top loop in the yard at the Railway Technical Centre in June 1985.
Gorsey Bank LC On Whit Monday 1986 151 001 is pictured approaching Gorsey Bank crossing on the Wirksworth to Duffield freight-only Branch. This line was subsequently closed and was completely abandoned, and this scene was totally overgrown until the beginning of 2001. However Wyvern Rail volunteers have now cleared the undergrowth and are running trains in their plans to open the line to passenger traffic once more. For more info about the Wirksworth specials look here
Kidderminster On one of its brief excursions in passenger service other than on the Matlock line, unit 151 002 stands at Kidderminster station on 12th February 1986 (before the opening of the Severn Valley Railway station) awaiting a return path to Birmingham New Street. The SVR Goods Shed can be seen in the background.

During their acceptance testing in the summer of 1985 the Twin Disc 1330 gearboxes proved to be rather troublesome. Their 'hot shift' characteristic imparted unacceptable longitudinal shocks to the train and hence to the passengers and made for an uncomfortable journey.

This problem was addressed by the company the first unit spending a few weeks at BR's Mickleover test track near Derby where the Twin Disc engineers carried out numerous adjustments until an acceptable gear change characteristic was achieved. However it was never really very smooth during the life of the 151's. There were plans to fit a David Brown gearbox to one car but these never materialised.

However a Twin Disc box was fitted to one car of the upgraded 150 002 BREL prototype unit (later known as the Class 154) during its various guises and with a new control software performed quite acceptably. Unfortunately it was too late for both Metro Cammell and Twin Disc as neither the units nor the gearboxes had any further development.

Lickey incline Unit 151 001 in 2-car formation is pictured approaching Bromsgrove on 17th April 1985. The unit is just about to cross over to the Up line prior to entering the (then) single platform.

Andrew Royle

Matlock Unit 151 001 sits in the platform at Matlock in the summer of 1985 after a run from Derby whilst engineers investigate a brake problem. It was on this route that the 151's were to spend most of their early life.
Swansea Unit 151 001 pictured on a wet day in Swansea. On 21st September 1985 the unit was shuttling between Swansea station and Landore depot as part of the GW150 celebrations.

Derek Evans

An HST passes 151 001 at Landore depot on its way down into Swansea in September 1985

Ian Walmsley

Matlock Another picture at Matlock on 1st October 1985 shows 151 002 in passenger service having arrived from Derby about 2 p.m.

Dave Sallery

Kidderminster Another view of 151 002 at Kidderminster in early 1986
Way and Works Sidings RTC 151 001 is pictured on Way & Works sidings at the RTC in the company of 154 001 - the former 150 002 - sometime in 1986

D Bower

Derby Unit 151 002 in 3-car form sits in Platform 2a at Derby. 

D Bower

Near Belper An unidentified 151 drifts down the main line between Ambergate Jcn and Belper on a Matlock-Derby service Derby

Unit 151 001 in 3-car form sits in Platform 2b at Derby with the Matlock service in 1986

Author's collection

Derby A close up of vehicle 52203 at Derby on a Birmingham New Street service

D Bower

Derby London Road Junction By way of a change here's a view from a Class 151 unit as it swings round London Road curve at Derby passing a newly re-furbished Class 20 with ECS.
Image may contain: tree, sky, train, night, plant and outdoor 151001 passes St Mary's yard North of Derby with a Matlock service with 20104 & 20132 on the right in the yard. 21st July 1986

John Goodale

Wetmore 151 001 passing Wetmore near Burton on 18th October 1987

Martin Loader - see Martin's  excellent site here

Milford 151002 is pictured after leaving Milford Tunnel, between Duffield and Belper, on its way from Derby to Matlock on 6th February 1988. 151002 passes Findern on 4th November 1986

John Goodale

The units were renumbered by 'Regional Railways' around 1987 to 151 003 and 151 004 to avoid confusion with the prototype sprinters 150 001 and 150 002. If you wish to see these prototypes in action then have a look at the Class 150 or Class 154 pages.

However their life was extremely short and they were withdrawn from traffic in March 1989 due no doubt to their being non-standard. Thoughts were given to replacing the bogies with the standard 'Sprinter' type but this was not practical. The units were stored in the old LNWR Carriage sheds at Llandudno Junction for a number of years until being moved to Blackpool. They were then bought by Serco Railtest with a view to their conversion to test vehicles at some time in the future. However that time never came and they languished in the Way and Works Sidings, adjacent to the Derby to London line for many months until their rescue by Endeavour Rail in summer 2000.

Since Endeavour Rail purchased the two units they were stabled at Crewe LNWR Sidings where it was planned that they would be re-furbished by Pete Waterman's company and made fit for traffic. Once completed the parent company were hoping to hire them out to TOC's who may have required additional resources. However four years since they left Derby they were dumped at Crewe LNWR Sidings stored outside, vandalised and covered in graffiti.

151 llandudno4.jpg (188275 bytes) The class 151 units were stored at Llandudno Junction carriage sheds for a time in the late 1980's

Larry Goddard

A close up at Llandudno Junction carriage sheds 

Alan Hayward

Here's 151002 at RTC on Way & Works Sidings in 1998

Author's Collection

Crewe summer 2003 The 151 sets pictured at outside the LNWR site at Crewe on 2nd June 2003. The photo reveals the units to be vandalised and graffiti covered and looking unlikely ever to see traffic again.


In the spring of 2004 the two units were scrapped having being cut up on site at Crewe.

If anybody has any photos of the Class 151's in former days especially the interiors and would wish them to be included then let me know - all credited to the photographer of course!  


Back to main index