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Pressed Steel Class 121 DB977976 (former W55031)

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Class 121 W55031 was built by Pressed Steel at their Paisley Works in 1958 to Lot No. 30518, diagram 512. Sporting 65 2nd class seats, the vehicle was allocated to the Western Region for the first 25 years of its passenger life where it was mainly used to strengthen services as required by being attached to other units.

The vehicle was outshopped in British Railways lined green livery and went through the usual changes to green with small yellow panels, BR blue with full yellow ends, as well as BR Blue/Grey livery. In 1993, quite far into the Network SouthEast era, 55031 received the corporate Network SouthEast livery and operated services around the London area based at Bletchley.

At privatisation, 55031 went with classmates to Silverlink where it remained in the obsolete NSE livery. Based at Bletchley depot, they were mainly used on lines such as the Bedford to Bletchley line and the Gospel Oak to Barking line. In the late 90s, 55031 spent some time on loan with new Train Operating Company Great Eastern to operate services on the Sudbury branch. When the vehicle returned to Bletchley, they spruced up the paintwork but it remained in the same livery. Interestingly, whilst based at Bletchley the vehicle was named "Leslie Crabbe".

Upon the conclusion of this work in the London area in 2001, 55031 was selected, along with classmate 55027, for conversion into special Severn Tunnel Rescue vehicles. The modifications were extensive. Now wearing the departmental number of 977976, all but the cab windows and the guards door windows were removed and in their place a large opening ramp was installed to allow easy boarding if there was an emergency in the tunnel. The guards van had a generator unit installed which provided 240v ‘hotel power’ to the vehicle with strip lights providing solebar level lighting and 16amp sockets were also provided at the same level to allow for equipment to be plugged in to the vehicle. Internally, the vehicles featured equipment for dealing with injuries as well as areas for passengers to ride standing up.

Retired from this work in the mid 2000’s painted in Network Rail’s corporate livery of bright yellow, the vehicle stood dormant. Eventually it was decided that the vehicle would become a source of spares to keep the ageing Chiltern Railways fleet operational. Eventually though, in the heavily modified and stripped state, the vehicle passed into preservation and moved to the Barry Island Tourist Railway in early 2014.

The vehicle was offered for sale once again in June 2014 and was acquired for use as a support vehicle. There are no plans to operate this vehicle at the present time.
Builder: Pressed Steel Built: 1958
Class or Type: 121 Works No: 30518
Weight: 37.5t Running No: 977976
Brake Type: Vacuum Operational Status: Not Operational
Owner: Privately Owned Arrived: 25th September 2014
Remarks: ex-W55031
WyvernRail PLC, Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. Wirksworth Station, Coldwell Street, Wirksworth, Derbyshire. DE4 4FB. 01629 823076. © 2017