The Met Cam Class 101 “Eastern Set” or “101681” has been on the North Norfolk Railway since 2003. Originally bought by the NNR, it transferred into Society ownership in April 2020, as part of the package of financial support provided by the Trustees to help the NNR manage the fall-out from the Coronavirus emergency which had seen services suspended from March 2020.
This was an important acquisition for the Society. ‘Met Cam’ units feature large in East Anglia’s rail history during the second half of the 20th Century, first in the form of the visually similar Met Cam “lightweights” and then the Class 101s.
The misleadingly named “Met Cam Lightweights” used the same construction as their sisters, the Class 101s, and their weight and appearance were virtually identical. Introduced in 1955, at a similar time to BR’s own “Derby Lightweight” sets, they were well-regarded, leading to a large order being placed for the later sets. Thirty six power-trailer sets were built, seven going to the London Midland Region and the remainder to East Anglia. Use of the non-standard “yellow diamond” multiple working code led to their premature withdrawal from traffic by 1969.
Construction of Class 101 sets began in 1956 and continued until 1959, with over 600 cars of various types built at Metropolitan Cammell’s Washwood Heath plant in Birmingham. They were one of the largest and most successful of BR’s first-generation DMUs. Initially concentrated in the East of Scotland, the West Midlands, West Yorkshire and the North East, during their long careers they were used across much of the network, other than on the Southern Region, where use was only seen on some inter-regional trains.
Their close association with East Anglia began in 1970, when a batch were allocated to Norwich, and from then on shared duties with other classes on services out of Norwich, including on the Sheringham line. In their final two decades, two and three car sets based at Norwich and Cambridge saw regular local use.
The Class 101 was the last large first-generation DMU class to survive in traffic in any number; the final withdrawals not taking place until the end of 2003. It is unsurprising therefore that a total of 51 survived into preservation, although some only as a source of spares. The current number of surviving Class 101 vehicles is 42 (May 2020) and five of these are based on the North Norfolk Railway: Driving Motor Brake Second [DMBS] 51188 on loan from the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, the National Railway Museum’s DMBS number 51192 and Driving Trailer Second with Lavatory [DTSL] number 56352, referred to as “the Midland Set”, as it spent most of its career on the LMR, and DMBS 51228 and Driving Trailer Composite with Lavatory [DTCL] - DTSL following refurbishment - number E56062.
Staff on the NNR usually refer to 51228/56062 as “the Eastern Set” to distinguish it from the NRM’s ex LMR set, also resident on the line. In two senses this is a misnomer. 51228 and 56062 never worked together as ‘a set’ during their BR careers with each having quite different histories. Furthermore 51228 never worked on the Eastern Region during its BR service and 56062 spent only eight of its forty-four years on the “old” Eastern.
Trailer E56062 entered traffic in August 1957, spending much of its life in the North East. It moved South to Norwich in the 1980s, and finally to Manchester. Power car 51228 began life as Sc51228 in Scotland, paired with Sc56386, where it remained for 30 years before moving South of the Border to the Midlands and finally also to the North West. It was refurbished for use by Regional Railways and formed part of Manchester Longsight’s set 101681.
On arrival on the NNR the newly formed set underwent a brief overhaul and repaint into BR blue livery before entering traffic in June 2004 and for the next six years was the mainstay of the off-peak and out of season services on the line, covering up to 10,000 miles a year during this period.
In 2010 it was repainted into BR green, at the same time being “back dated” to as close to original condition as possible. It was taken out of traffic for major overhaul at the end of the 2012 season, only to return in 2018. During this time, the NRM-owned set was brought in to take over its duties, sharing them with the “Eastern Set” when this returned to traffic in 2018.
Power car 51228 – a life history
May 1958 entered service with Sc5386 at Dundee West depot
June 1959 reallocated to Leith Central for Edinburgh services
Aug-Dec 1960 loaned to Darlington
Jan 1960 returned to Leith
June 1961 reallocated to Hamilton
May 1968 moved back to Dundee West
June 1974 reallocated to Eastfield depot Glasgow
Oct 1979 returned to Dundee West
Apr 1981 went through the BR DMU refurbishment programme and painted in BR Blue & Grey. Lost many of its original interior features such as the tungsten lighting and vestibule Formica wall panelling.
March 1982 returned to Eastfield
May 1982 moved to Haymarket (Edinburgh). Later formed into a 3-car set and gained its first "set number", 101306.
Oct 1990 moved to Tyseley (Birmingham) with introduction of second generation DMU's
July 1991 moved to Manchester Longsight depot. Power-twin with 53243 LO603
1992 received major life-extension work and repaint into Region Railways livery. Worked as a power-twin with 51506 as 101681
Mar 2001 withdrawn from traffic and stored at Shoeburyness - the first time it spent any time at all on the “old” Eastern Region!
2003 bought by the NNR and moved to Sheringham in summer 2003 and formed as a set with 56062 in August
Trailer car 56062 – a life history
May 1957 entered service at Sunderland depot on the North Eastern Region.
June -Aug 1957 on loan to Buxton (LMR)
Aug 1958 moved to South Gosforth (Tyneside)
Feb 1965 reallocated to Darlington
Sept 1978 moved to Heaton (Newcastle)
Feb 1979 Reallocated to Hull Botanic Gardens
Aug 1979 mid-life refurbishment and repaint into BR Blue/Grey livery
April 1983 renumbered 54062 – to avoid conflict within the TOPS numbering system
May 1984 moved to Norwich depot where it ran in 2-car set numbered "78".
1984-91 allocated to Norwich and Cambridge. Platform 5 “combines” show it at NC in Jan 1985, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91 and 92 and at CA Jan 1986, although moves possibly occurred in-year. Between 1989 and 1991 54062 worked in sets with three different partners: 1989 53201 (NC78), 1990 53292 (68), 1991 51185 (85)
1991 (?) Regional Railways life extension work and repaint. First class removed and so became DTSL. Part of set 101655.
Oct 1992 moved to Manchester Longsight depot running with 51428
Mar 2001 withdrawn from traffic and stored at Shoeburyness
2003 bought by the NNR, moved to Sheringham in summer 2003 and formed into a set with 51228 in August
Although both vehicles were allocated to Longsight between 1992 and 2001, they never ran together as a set.
Summer 2003 arrive at Sheringham
2003 -June 2004 in works. 51228 was returned broadly to its original condition but 56062 had to remain in its "refurbished" state through lack of time. The set was repainted into BR blue.
June 2004 set enters traffic - needed to replace the mechanically unreliable Class 117 unit which had left the railway. It was the only DMU on the Railway and so almost continually in traffic.
July 2007 an engine and gearbox were swapped, and work on the final drives completed.
2009/2010 the set taken out of service for more extensive repairs. Most of the work was concentrated on 56062; its interior was backdated to near original condition.
June 2010 the set returned to traffic in BR green.
June ‘10–Nov ‘12 in traffic
Nov ’12-Aug ‘18 major overhaul of 51228 – bogies, engines, gearboxes and final drives plus extensive restoration work on electrical and air systems, reupholstery, attention to bodywork and repainting.
NRM unit, 51192/56352 came to the NNR to cover. 56062 had odd periods in traffic during this time but was mainly in store awaiting 51228's return.
Aug 2018 51228/56062 returned to traffic
Aug 2018+ In regular service, shared with the NRM set, allowing maintenance to be undertaken when required.
2019 tests were undertaken to run the two sets in a four-car formation.
April 2020 Purchased by the M&GNJRS
A note for modellers
As is to be expected from such a numerous, ubiquitous and long surviving Class, the 101 has been the subject of several models over the years. The earliest OO model dates from Triang in 1958. Lima produced a version in the 1980s which passed to Hornby following their acquisition of Lima. The latest version appeared from Bachmann in 2014. The Lima, Hornby and Bachmann models were produced in a variety of liveries. Graham Farish produced a model in N gauge in the 1990s. This is now part of the Bachmann range.
Fox, Peter; British Railways Locomotives & Coaching Stock (Platform 5) - various editions
Harris, Roger The Allocation History of BR Diesel Multiple Units Part 1 (2011), Part 2 (2016)