This is one of three survivors of a total of 40 class 100 power cars built for the Scottish and London Midland Regions by the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Co. in 1957.
When British Railways commenced building diesel multiple units in 1954 lightweight construction had to be employed due to the limited power available from contemporary diesel engines. BR’s own units extensively used aluminium to keep down weight but when outside contractors were invited to construct units to a roughly similar outline other solutions were offered.
The GRCW cars were constructed to a semi-integral design in which some of the load was taken by the steel structure of the coach sides and by the floor, thus enabling the elimination of a conventional chassis and lighter construction. The method of construction was unique to these cars whichhad a quite distinctive appearance and were readily identifiable due to their sharply raked in bottom body sides and unusual roof arrangement. Two batches of 20 each of these vehicles were built and our example is from the first batch, having only one marker lights in the centre above the cab windscreens, an arrangement which meant that it always required an oil tail lamp to be used on the trailing cab.
By the time these vehicles were delivered BR had refined its own “lightweight” design and did not order any further vehicles to this pattern. Over time the Gloucester vehicles suffered from corrosion problems, particularly under the windows, which were prone to admitting water into the body sides and were one of the classes slated for withdrawal as line closures accelerated during the late 1960s.
Our Gloucester trailer car, 56097, has had a remarkable history; 15 years in main line service followed by 18 years on heritage railways and finally a further 21 years in storage. Its restoration is currently ongoing and subject to finance.
Gloucester Co records show that 56097 left the works in plain green livery with cream stripes on June 21st 1957 as Sc56097 and was paired with power car 50342.
Although destined for the Scottish Region, it was at first temporarily loaned to the London Midland Region and based at Longsight Depot in Manchester. It was then moved to to 64A Edinburgh St Margaret's where, from February 1958 it was used for the launch of diesel services on the suburban system, starting with the Corstorphine-Waverley-North Berwick route and the Galashields-Peebles-Waverley service. Services were extended to the Princes Street-Leith and the Mussleburgh routes later in the year.
With its power car it moved on to 61A Kittybrewster, Aberdeen, by 1962 and appears to have been only Gloucester set allocated there. While in the Aberdeen area the set was noted as being used on the Ballater branch when the usual battery-electric set was out of traffic.
By 1965 it had joined other Gloucester sets at 66C Hamilton and then moved on to 64H Leith Central in 1966 where by this time most of the remaining sets were allocated. 56097 spent the rest of its service life at Leith Central and was withdrawn from there in October 1972.