The Leyland Experimental Vehicle (LEV)

The forerunner of all those nasty railbuses was the Leyland Experimental Vehicle, a joint venture between Leyland and BR  to combine the worst features of rail and bus. Here are some pictures of the various early railbuses with links.

The railbuses were powered by 200bhp 6-cylinder Leyland TL11 diesel engines, with fully automatic SCG  gearboxes and a Gmeinder final drive unit driving one axle. They were 12.3m long and consisted of a standard Leyland modular bus body on a chassis having suspension based on the HSFV series of experimental designs for freight vehicles but with flexicoil springing. This allowed for a double-ended body mounted at four resilient points on the underframe.

There were five single car railbuses built for trials on BR, including one built by Wickhams for export to USA. Amazingly, they have all survived - look here for more information and pictures.

bulletLEV1 – Owned by National Railway Museum to where it has recently returned from its restoration at North Norfolk Railway, UK
bulletLEV2 – Connecticut Trolley Museum, USA but understood to have been scrapped
bulletLEV3 or RB3 - Downpatrick & County Down Railway – 5’3” Gauge - NI
bulletRB004 – Privately Owned at Telford Steam Railway, UK but recently moved to the MRC at Butterley
bulletRB002 (”The Denmark”) – Reported to be at Riverstown Old Corn Railway (closed) near Dundalk, Eire about eighteen months ago in a poor state of repair.
bulletAny further information or photos of the elusive RB002 would be gratefully received.

Click on the picture for a bigger image- all photos are BR official unless otherwise indicated


The first LEV was un-powered and unbraked and is shown here in the sidings at the RTC in the summer of 1978 Outside EDU in June 1978

As part of the preliminary trials it was ride tested on the WCML in 1979, now fitted with power equipment and brakes, and is pictured here between two test cars at an unknown location.

Author's collection

At Carlisle probably on the same day

Author's collection

Another view at Carlisle - with a Leyland bus alongside - a coincidence I wonder?

Author's collection

The re-built LEV1 outside the Test Hall at the RTC c1979

J A Lower


Outside Stanton Tunnel on the Old Dalby test track in 1980

Ian Dinmore

LEV1 pictured at an unknown depot whilst on trial. Now known as the BR Leyland Motors experimental railbus and numbered RDB975874 - note that it is now fitted with the bulbous projection above the cabs

Pictured here near Woodbridge on the line to Saxmundham in early 1980 on test.

G R Mortimer

After extensive tests it eventually entered passenger service in East Anglia and is pictured passing through Ipswich station in the early 80's.

M J Collins


After trials in passenger service it was sent to the USA between December 1979 - January 1980 - note the grilles over the windscreen which were fitted for use in the States. It travelled widely before returning to UK. Here it is at Lowestoft on 24th October 1980

Look here for pictures of the unit in USA

Pictured in the C&W Works prior to departing for USA c1979

At Lowestoft in March 1983

Barry Francis

At Lowestoft in March 1983

Barry Francis

At Lowestoft in March 1983

Barry Francis


The driver's desk at Lowestoft in March 1983

Barry Francis

At Lowestoft in March 1983

Barry Francis

In 2009 it was undergoing restoration at the North Norfolk Railway - on loan from the NRM. Here it is outside Weybourne shed on 11th July.


Now up and running LEV1 is pictured at Weybourne 18th April 2010 at the NNR's Vintage Bus weekend

Tony Smith

LEV1 together with a Leyland bus pictured at Weybourne on 9th April 2011 at the NNR's latest Vintage Bus weekend

Neil Sharpe

On the road again LEV1 on the back of a low loader in a garage on the A46 near Lincoln en-route to NRM's Shildon site on 10th August 2012

Bryan Smith


LEV2 or R3 for USA

Confusingly referred to as LEV2 by British Rail, here is a view of the Wickham version of the railbus (which was a stretched version at 15.3m built specifically for the USA) at the Old Dalby test track in Sseptember 1980 - pictured on the straight between the Covered Way and Grimston.  Note the destination on the blind - 'Bus stn'. Also note the projecting steps.

It was commissioned at Old Dalby between Sept 22nd and 25th and had a few teething troubles with its Leyland autochange gearbox.

This was sold to Amtrak and exported to the USA and is still there today at the Connecticut Trolley Museum - look here and here and here for more information and pictures.

There were plans to repatriate the vehicle but it was eventually scrapped on site

BR official

Somewhere in USA with steam loco


The sorry state into which the vehicle deteriorated before being scrapped


R3 BR version

Built in 1981 by BREL at Derby, this experimental railbus was tested on BR where it was not a success. It was bought by NIR and re-gauged for use on the Coleraine – Portrush line. Too small to cope with the number of daytime passengers it was relegated to evening trains and then passed to the Civil Engineer’s Dept for inspection etc duties.

It is now preserved at Downpatrick Station.

It is shown here when new in the C&W works at Derby. It was given a Departmental number RDB977020 and its data panel referred to R3. RDB977020 pictured at the Control Centre at the Old Dalby test track in the early 1980's

Alan Rimmer

At Sea Mills on the Severn Beach line on 26th November 1980


Approaching Bristol TM on 3rd April 1982 with a service from Severn Beach. For other photos on the branch at Sea Mills and at Clifton Down look here and here

John Turner

RDB977020 at Plymouth Laira depot on 25th April 1982

Note the strange secondary windscreens that were fitted. It was felt by various ASLEF and NUR that the original windscreens were not strong enough for rail use, hence the internal framing and inner windscreens.

It was eventually sold to NIR in late 1982 and converted to 5' 3" gauge.

Frank Cox - see his excellent site here

In Northern Ireland it conducted a few railtours. Pictured here passing Cultra on Sunday, 8 August, 1982  

Albert Bridge

The railbus running empty from Belfast to Belfast Central to start a railtour on Sunday 8th August 1982.

Albert Bridge


Stabled at Belfast old York Road station

Albert Bridge

Pictured at the Downpatrick & County Down Railway Centre in August 2019

Neil Watson

RB002 Demonstrator - 'the Denmark'

Another BREL-Leyland product from c1984, it was exported as a demonstrator to the USA and Canada and spent a considerable time there.

Here it is at the RTC

Railphoto Archive

On 30th May 1986 RB002 was being test run by NRC and VIA between Thompson and Pikwitonei and is pictured here at Thompson.

With a three panel stronger windscreen this looks much more like a class 141 than the earlier railbuses.

Pat & David Othen

The vehicle in New Orleans

Ian Corfield

On the Newtown Branch in USA



Somewhere in Canada


At Thompson Manitoba in June 1986

Mark Perry

It also went to Denmark and Sweden as a demonstrator and is shown here near Essen (on the Dutch-Belgian border) on 17th June 1985 on its way to Zeebrugge from Denmark 

Gerrit Bethuyne

RB002 delivery for evaluation at the Østbanen (ØSJS). Hårlev in 1984 

Niels Munch 

At  Hårlev in 1984 

Dave Horsley

Brake testing out of Storlian Station, the highest station in Sweden on the Norwegian border at approx. 2000ft elevation.

Dave Horsley

At Storlian Station

Dave Horsley



It returned to UK and was used as a classroom/office by BREL for a while and somehow it too ended up in Northern Ireland

There are a couple more pictures here . Its present location is believed to be at the now closed    4' 8½" gauge Riverstown Old Corn Railway near Dundalk in Eire but it is understood to be in a poor state of repair.



Another version,  RB004 was built at Derby in 1984. The body was built at the Leyland plant at Workington and BREL Derby C&W were responsible for the underframe and final assembly.

It is shown here at the Mickleover test track.

Basil Hancock

RB004 is preserved and is currently being restored at the Telford Steam railway. Look here for a picture of the unit at Shildon NRM

Basil Hancock

RB004 at Swanwick Junction at the Midland Railway Centre on 29th August 2011


Later 2-car demonstrator

Extract from an article in the Railway Magazine March 1984:-

First of the three BRE-Leyland demonstration railbuses, a metre gauge two car unit painted red, white and blue, left Britain by sea for Thailand on February 6. Built as an “economy version” of the class 141 railbuses being built for British Railways, it has longitudinal seats facing inwards for 120 passengers, with standing room for a further 140.
Length over body ends of the complete two car unit is 30,5m maximum body width 2,5m  Estimated weight is 40 tonnes unladen and 56 tonnes laden. It had one car powered using the Leyland  TL11 200BHP engine

After evaluation on the State Railway of Thailand the unit went to Malaysia for further trials, and also ran in Indonesia. Its whereabouts today is unknown

Image from the State Railway of Thailand site @ courtesy Tristan Houser

Pictured at Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia on 21st August 1985

Malcolm Wilton Jones

Another view of the railbus at Butterworth.................

Malcolm Wilton Jones

.............and again

Malcolm Wilton Jones


Back to R&DD index

Back to Railbus page

Back to home page