Model Rail (UK)

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Model: BR Class 151 DMU Scale: ‘OO’ Proposed by: Ronald Craggs What is it?

By the 1980s, British Rail faced a pressing need to replace a huge fleet of aging (and asbestos-riddled) diesel multiple units (DMUS), which had been the saviour of many branch lines during the Beeching era. With fewer train builders active in the UK, and with BR under pressure from a Conservati­ve government to keep costs to a minimum, various budget-friendly options were considered. The infamous ‘Pacers’ duly emerged, but so too did a slightly more upmarket range of units, which led to the successful ‘Sprinter’ family of DMUS, which are still in use today.

One of the less well-known prototypes was created by Metro-cammell and evaluated by BR. The three-car Class 151 featured an aluminium body and a 285hp Cummins diesel engine beneath each car, driving the axles via a unique transmissi­on system. Non-standard bogies were employed, which gave a smooth ride on modern track, but didn’t fare so well on older, jointed rails.

In competitio­n with BR’S own prototype, the Met-cam ‘151’ came off second best, not least as BR’S Class 150 had been derived from an existing electric unit (Class 455), thus incorporat­ing a greater number of ‘standard’ fittings and equipment. Therefore, Class 151 remained limited to a pair of three-car prototype units. They were, however, used in passenger service between 1985-1989, most notably in the Derby and Midlands areas. What would make it viable? Interest in the 1980s British Rail era is at an all-time high, and multiple units offer a modeller-friendly option, especially to those with limited space. Looking quite different to anything else that had operated on BR, before or since, the ‘151’ would offer something unique. There are only two units and a single livery to choose from, so a model would have to be something of a bespoke affair, but if we’re getting one-offs like ‘GT3’ in made-up liveries, why not something that actually ran on BR, and which represente­d an important moment in Britain’s modern railway history? Can I see a real one?

No. Following withdrawal, both units were stored, pending conversion, before eventually being scrapped at Crewe in 2004.

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