Class 121

55020 Heyford 20 February 2002

55020 (L120) arrives at Heyford station on 20 February 1982 with the 12:22 Oxford to Banbury local service. It is hauling one of the unpowered DTS vehicles that were built at the same time for use when a single unit was insufficient. Although 55020 is still in use (although not on this route), virtually everything else in this picture has changed. The substantial stone built station building was demolished a few years after this picture was taken and even the road bridge has now been completely rebuilt.

55020 Heyford 25 August 1987

55020 (L120) calls at Heyford on 25 August 1987 with the 2V60 18:33 Banbury to Oxford Network SouthEast service. A slightly more colourful scene than when I pictured it at the same location just over five years previously. Note the crude plywood addition to the platform, designed to increase it's height, at least for a single coach length!

55020 & L400 Iver 22 February 1990

55020 (L120) & Class 117 L400 (51374, 59484 & 51332) approach Iver on 22 February 1990 with the 2A28 08:50 Slough to Paddington Network SouthEast service. Both these classes of DMU are products of the Pressed Steel Company's Linwood factory in Scotland, with the 121 order following on from the 117s in 1960, and effectively being a 117 DMBS vehicle with an additional cab. Note the different liveries, with 55020 having a lighter shade of blue, and L400 having upswept white and red bands at the cab ends.

55020 North Lee 14 July 2003

In 2003 Chiltern Railways refurbished 55020 (121020) and painted it into this smart blue livery with silver banding. The work also included the fitting of secondary door locking, which made it exempt from the mass withdrawal of Mk 1 stock at the end of 2005. This work was done to release a Class 165 for refurbishment. On 14 July 2003, it is pictured passing North Lee with the 18:55 Princes Risborough to Aylesbury service. The single car unit was ideally suited to this short distance shuttle service.

55012 Little Kimble 24 May 2010

55020 (121020) passes milepost 45, as it heads through the trees near Little Kimble with the 09:17 Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Chiltern Railways service on 24 May 2010. Nearly fifty years old and still earning a living on the national network - not a bad record and something that a lot of modern units will probably never achieve. However, this vintage unit doesn't exactly have a demanding schedule, being confined to morning and evening peak trains on this quiet local line.

55020 Little KImble 24 May 2010

55020 (121020) approaches Little Kimble on 24 May 2010 with the 09:40 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service. This picture was taken two days after the final slam door EMU trains ran on the national network, and proves there are still doors to be slammed! Just a couple of Pressed Steel 121s soldier on lightly loaded branch services. The unit is just crossing over a farm occupation underbridge, the wooden gateposts for which have provided a nest site for a pair of blue tits. Obviously the trains passing within a few feet of the nest did not worry them.

55020 Ardley Quarry 7 October 2010

In order to move 55020 (121020) from its Aylesbury depot to the Severn Valley Railway for the following day's Diesel Railcar Reunion, the Chiltern Railways 'bubble car' worked north on 7 October 2010 as the 5M12 12:48 Aylesbury to Kidderminster ECS. Running exactly to time, and almost certainly traveling at its maximum speed of 70mph, 55020 is seen here passing the remains of Ardley Quarry Sidings. Virtually everywhere on the southern part of its route would have been heavily backlit, but this spot is about as good as it gets, plus the inclusion of the rusting siding in the foreground and the M40 motorway in the background make the location a little less bland.

55020 Fritwell 11 October 2010

55020 (121020) looks a little lost in the landscape as it passes Fritwell on 11 October 2010 with the 5M21 10:08 Kidderminster to Aylesbury ECS. It is returning from the Severn Valley Railway, where it had taken part in the Diesel Railcar Reunion over the previous weekend. Although this is a Chiltern Railways unit on a Chiltern Railways operated line, this vintage vehicle would not normally be seen this far north, as it is primarily used for peak hour shuttle services between Aylesbury and Princes Risborough.

55020 North Lee 10 August 2012

Over fifty years old, and still going strong! 55020 (121020) must be one of the oldest vehicles still in revenue earning service on the national network. Here it is still making money for Chiltern Railways on 10 August 2012, as it passes North Lee with the 2P82 08:58 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough service. Its normal daily work is a series of early morning and late afternoon trips on this quaint rural backwater, which frees up a Class 165 unit for other duties.

55020 North Lee 10 August 2012

55020 (121020) passes North Lee with the 2P83 09:50 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service on 10 August 2012. It is just about to pass over Apsley Manor level crossing, which as it names implies is an occupation crossing for Apsley Manor Farm. In the background a similar crossing giving access to Dodd's Farm can just be seen.

55020 Little Kimble 21 March 2017

With Bledlow Great Wood visible in the background, 55020 (121020) accelerates away from Little Kimble on 21 March 2017 with the 2A06 07:20 Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Chiltern Railways service. With the prospect of these characterful bubble cars finally being withdrawn from the national network, I was keen to get some more pictures, so a forecast of a sunny morning was too good an opportunity to miss.

55020 Little Kimble 21 March 2017

55020 (121020) approaches Little Kimble on 21 March 2017 with the 2P16 07:47 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service. At 56 years 6 months old, this and its slightly younger classmate 55034 are far and away the oldest multiple unit on the national network. However, all good things come to and end, and May 2017 will see these last two survivors withdrawn.

55020 North Lee 21 March 2017

55020 (121020) passes North Lee on 21 March 2017 with the 2A12 08:23 Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Chiltern Railways service. I judged that there might just be enough room between the lineside bushes for this single coach train, but I was only just correct!

55020 North Lee 21 March 2017

55020 (121020) passes North Lee on 21 March 2017 with the 2P23 08:49 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service. Marsh Crossing, on the North Lee to Bishopstone road, can be seen in the background. Despite being well over half a century old, this vintage product of Scotland looks to be in excellent condition. It sounded in fine fettle too!

55020 & 55034 Monks Risborough 19 May 2017

55020 (121020) & 55034 (121034) pass Monks Risborough (the diminutive station can just be seen in the background) with the 2Z97 16:39 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service on 19 May 2017. This was one of a number a additional trains run on the line to mark the final day of first generation DMU operation on the national network. This train was unusual in that it did not call at either of the line's intermediate stations: Little Kimble and Monks Risborough.

55020 & 55034 Princes Risborough 19 May 2017

55020 (121020) & 55034 (121034) approach Princes Risborough is superb (and slightly unexpected) light on 19 May 2017 with the 2P65 17:26 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service. This was the final day of bubble car operation on the line, and therefore the final working of vacuum braked first generation units on the entire network. With over 56 years of sterling service behind them, these vintage Pressed Steel units must rank as one of the best buys of any rolling stock ever to run in this country.

55020 & 55034 Askett 19 May 2017

The penultimate first generation DMU service on the national network. 55020 (121020) & 55034 (121034) pass Askett on 19 May 2017 with the 2P70 18:28 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service. Unfortunately the earlier sunshine had now disappeared, and it was becoming very dark, with rain threatening.

55021 Hinksey 22 October 1985

55021 (L121) heads past Hinksey Yard with the 13:40 Oxford to Didcot service on 22 October 1985. Surprisingly this short distance journey was a non-stop service, ignoring the intermediate stations of Radley, Culham & Appleford. The waste ground behind the corrugated iron fence is the site of Oxford gasworks, the lack of vegetation being the result of industrial contamination of the soil. The white lattice steel bridge visible directly above the DMU allowed the works railway lines to cross the River Thames. This view offers a panoramic view of Oxford, from the Ice Rink (the structure on the extreme left) to the Castle (centre) and the nearby spire of Nuffield College.

55021 & 55031 Oxford 16 May 1990

Trains approaching Oxford station from the south are not easily photographed from the Osney Lane footbridge. In 1990 is just was possible to take pictures of trains on the down main (it certainly isn't now!), but things were much better for anything using the bi-directional line from Hinksey. The number of trains doing this however was very limited, being restricted to local services that would immediately head back south again, thus being able to use platform 1. On 16 May 1990, 55021 (L121) & 55031 (L131) trundle along the vintage bullhead track with the late running 2C62 17:20 Reading to Oxford Network SouthEast 'all stations' service.

55022, 59510 & 51400 Culham 27 May 1989

55022 (L122) is deputising for the DMBS (51358) of Class 117 unit L420, as it approaches Culham on 27 May 1989 with the 2C68 18:10 Reading to Oxford Network SouthEast service. The two remaining Class 117 vehicles are 59510 & 51400. This use of a 'Bubble Car' to replace a vehicle removed from a three car set was quite common at the time.

960014 Hatton North Junction 19 February 2008

960014 (977873 or the former 55022) is pictured at Hatton North Junction with the 5T51 Bicester to Stourbridge Chiltern Railways route learner on 19 February 2008. The drivers under instruction can just be seen in the cab, highlighted by the low winter sun. In 2008 over half this class of 'bubble car' are in departmental service as route learners or sandite vehicles, albeit with a number of vehicle stored. They must therefore be considered as one of the most successful and useful of the first generation DMUs.

960014 Hatton North Junction 19 February 2008

I don't normally take close up pictures of trains after taking the main picture, but this is such an interesting vehicle that I made an exception. Departmental 960014 (977873) passes Hatton North Junction with the 5T51 Bicester to Stourbridge Chiltern Railways route learner on 19 February 2008. The former 55022 is a real blast from the past with its faded blue and grey livery, even though in its later days in passenger service it was painted in Network SouthEast colours. The discrete Chiltern Railways logo and the radio pods on the cab roofs are the only give away that this is not a 1980s picture, and of course the two different departmental numbers carried on the front and the bodyside!

960014 & 960010 North Lee 6 December 2008

I had been meaning to photograph the 3S74 08:46 Aylesbury to Marylebone Rail Head Treatment Train for some weeks, so when a sunny day was forecast for Saturday 6 December 2008, an early morning trip was made to the Aylesbury area. As the sun would have only just risen when the train was due, it was a good job that I knew a spot that would be ideal, with nothing in the way to shade the train and the sun at the perfect angle. Of course this carefully laid plan was thwarted by a band of cloud that formed just where the sun was! 960014 (55022) & 960010 (55024) are pictured passing North Lee on time and in no light whatsoever! Much careful work in Photoshop has brought out the underframe detail and also retained the subtle tones in the sky. Without the use of layers this picture would either be excessively dark or have the all too common fault of railway pictures on websites - that of a completely blank sky.

960014 Bletchingdon 14 March 2011

In connection with Chiltern Railways taking over the Oxford to Bicester route from First Great Western in May 2011, 960014 (977873 or the former 55022) has been running crew training trips since the end of February. It is seen here heading north between Oxford and Banbury on 14 March 2011, passing the site of Bletchingdon station. A very tight location for a going away shot, but the other direction is much worse and impossibly backlit.

960014 Upper Heyford 23 March 2011

960014 (977873 or the former 55022) crosses the Oxford Canal near Upper Heyford on 23 March 2011 with an Oxford to Banbury crew training run in connection with Chiltern Railway's imminent take over of the Oxford to Bicester line. Not the most inspiring location and very backlit, but the bubble car just fits in the space available here!

960014 Wendlebury 4 May 2011

960014 (977873 or the former 55022) ambles down the Bicester to Oxford line on 4 May 2011 with the 08:40 Aylesbury to Oxford Chiltern route learner. This daily diagram is in preparation for Chiltern's take over of the route from First Great at the end of May. The location is a public footpath crossing near Wendlebury.

55023 Oxford North Junction 5 September 1984

55023 (L123) passes Oxford North Junction on 5 September 1984 with the 2V70 07:53 Banbury to Oxford service. This is one instance where the modern equivalent actually provides more accommodation than used to be the case. These trains are now at least a two car unit. Despite massively increased patronage, a lot of trains in the Oxford area are shorter than they used to be in the 1980s. This short vehicle allows an uninterrupted view of the Oxford North Junction pointwork.

55023 Oxford North Junction 11 February 1985

55023 (L123) heads away from the camera at Aristotle Lane, Oxford with the 10:07 Didcot to Banbury local service on 11 February 1985. This unit can still be seen today, not too far from this location, as it preserved at the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway. Directly behind the unit are the Trap Grounds allotments, which have been threatened with housing development for many years, the fact that they are on the wrong side of the railway with only a footbridge crossing has always being a stumbling block, along with the allotment holder's fierce resistance. In the distance is the snow covered expanse of Port Meadow.

55023 & 55027 Oxford North Junction 13 May 1987

A pair of 'Bubbles' at Oxford North Junction on 13 May 1987. 55023 (L123) & 55027 (L127) near journey's end with the 2V70 07:54 Banbury to Oxford Network SouthEast service. A number of the dedicated DTS vehicles had been withdrawn by this time, so where a two car unit was required it was often two DMBS vehicles, as here, rather than the originally intended additional trailer. The units are crossing the well used footpath crossing into the Trap Ground allotments.

55023, 59491 & 51340 Oxford North Junction 20 July 1990

55023 (L123) is deputising for 51381 of Class 117 three car unit L405, as it takes the Bicester line at Oxford North Junction on 20 July 1990 with the 2C66 17:35 Reading to Bicester Town Network SouthEast service. Obviously some work was required on 51381, so 55023 has been coupled up to L405's 59491 & 51340, to reform a three car set.

55023, 55020 & 55029 South Moreton 9 February 1991

Triple bubbles in the snow! 55023 (L123), 55020 (L120) & 55029 (L129) pass South Moreton on 9 February 1991 with the 2C23 09:15 Banbury to Reading Network SouthEast service. Class 121s often substituted for one of the driving vehicles of Class 101s, 117s, etc, and sometimes ran in pairs, or with their dedicated trailers, but to have three Class 121 DMBS vehicles running together is slightly different. Much the same capacity as the more normal Class 117 three car unit, but of course with no connection between the coaches. Plenty of power though, with 900hp available from the six Leyland engines.

55023 & L700 Kempston 2 November 1994

Smart looking 55023 (L123) & Class 117 L700 (51332 & 51374) pass Kempston on 2 November 1994 with the 08:40 Bedford to Bletchley service. 55023 had recently been repainted into original 1960s green, with extra embellishments that probably weren't commonplace in the 60s, such as white rimmed buffers.

55023 Kempston 2 November 1994

55023 (L123) approaches Kempston on 2 November 1994 with the 09:50 Bletchley to Bedford service. Now that the morning peak is over, it has no need of its Class 117 twin car addition (L700), which had been used on the earlier trains.

55023 Ridgmont 2 November 1994

Autumnal tints at Ridgmont on 2 November 1994, as 55023 (L123) arrives with the 11:50 Bletchley to Bedford service. A new bridge carrying the A507 Milton Keynes to Ampthill road crosses the line exactly at this point, making this view no longer possible. The bridge in the background is from the 1950s and carries the M1 motorway over the line.

55023 & 55027 Kempston 17 July 1996

55023 (L123) & 55027 (L127) pass Kempston on 17 July 1996 with the 19:40 Bedford to Bletchley service. They are displaying colour schemes from the two ends of the bubble car's long lifespan. 55023 was repainted a few years earlier into the original green livery, whilst 55027 carries the 1980s Network SouthEast livery.

55023 Chinnor 21 April 2013

55023 basks in the early morning sunshine at Chinnor on 21 April 2013, prior to being used on the Chinnor to Wainhill shuttles during the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway's Diesel Gala. As the railway is currently without any steam locos, surely every day is a diesel gala!

55024 Wolvercote Junction 20 August 1987

55024 (L124) approaches Wolvercote Junction on 20 August 1987 with the 2M60 17:50 Oxford to Banbury service. In the mid 1980s a single car unit was quite sufficient for the local traffic on this route, but would certainly struggle today. 55024 has obviously not long returned to service after a repaint, with the exhaust stacks in particular being particularly pristine.

55024 Oxford North Junction 25 June 1988

55024 (124) traverses the single track line from Bicester and approaches Oxford North Junction with the 07:59 Bicester Town to Oxford service on 25 June 1988. This was the first up train of the day on the line and at the time was a non-stop service as the intermediate station at Islip was still a year away from re-opening. The curve that 55024 has just traversed is product of the 1970s track rationalisation of the area. Originally this former LMS line carried straight on parallel with the former GWR lines towards Oxford.

55024 Thame Junction 17 October 1999

The highlight of the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway's Diesel Gala on Sunday 17 October 1999 was the use of Railtrack Sandite unit 55024 (977858). It is seen here just having arrived on the line at Thame Junction, and accelerating away towards Chinnor. I chose a side view from the nearby field to show off the unique livery. Plenty of detail for modelers in this picture. Note that the condition of the roof hardly matches the immaculate condition of the rest of the vehicle!

55025 Shiplake 5 March 1988

55025 (L125) heads south from Shiplake, on the Henley-on-Thames branch with the 13:44 Henley to Twyford service on 5 March 1988. This is branch line operation in a barely updated form from GWR days, as the Class 121 'bubble cars' are a direct replacement for the Great Western's pioneering 1930s railcars. Unfortunately I took very few pictures of the branch before the arrival of the Turbo units in the early 1990s, but there was obviously so much happening on the railways in the 1980s that it had a low priority!

55025 Salisbury 12 December 1993

55025 (L125) sits in the bay at Salisbury station on a very wet 12 December 1993. The previous year it had been withdrawn from Network SouthEast passenger duties and transferred to the departmental sector, gaining the new number 977833 and the unofficial name Ben. It would later become even more colourful, being repainted into a strange lime green and blue livery and swapping the name Ben for Pandora! As 960011 it was fitted with large high power lights below the buffers for track video surveillance.

55026 Hallen Marsh Junction 15 August 1987

Hallen Marsh Junction, near Avonmouth is a location that has changed dramatically in the last few years. In 1987 the signal box controlled a forest of semaphore signals around the junction area, with well over a dozen signals in view here. Unfortunately all this steam age equipment has now been swept away. On 15 August 1987, 55026 (B126) passes the junction with the 17:36 Severn Beach to Bristol Temple Meads service. The lines leading off to the right went to Commonwealth Smelting and ISC Chemicals, while the lines branching off right in the background head towards Filton, and still see freight traffic today. Between the Filton line and the line to Severn Beach can be seen the rail served Chittening Estate.

55026 & B966 Standish Junction 22 August 1987

55026 (B126) & Class 108 B966 (53618 & 54202) approach Standish Junction on 22 August 1987 with the 2B49 15:43 Swindon to Cheltenham Spa service. Thirty years later this view is not quite so open, with the biggest change being the growth of lineside vegetation on the cutting side in the immediate foreground.

55027 & L842 Ufton Nervet 3 March 1990

55027 (L127) & Metro Cammell Class 101 L842 (53314, 59101 & 53327) pass Ufton Nervet on 3 March 1990 with the 2B23 10:42 Bedwyn to Reading Network SouthEast service. They are approaching the notorious level crossing, that was replaced by an overbridge in 2016.

55027 & 55021 Aynho Junction 28 April 1990

55027 (L127) & 55021 (L121) are pictured near Aynho Junction on 28 April 1990 with the 2C22 08:33 Oxford to Banbury Network SouthEast service. The two bubble cars are coupled with their brake compartment ends together. They are crossing what was originally the River Cherwell, but is now just a backwater, as the main channel of the river was diverted to run along the west side of the railway for about half a mile from this point. The meeting of the old and new channels is on the extreme right of this view. In the background, behind 55021, is the bridge over the Oxford Canal at Aynho Weir Lock, where the canal and the River Cherwell cross each other.

55027, 59514 & 51362 South Moreton (Didcot East) 11 December 1991

55027 (L127) is deputising for Class 117 DMS 51404, as it passes South Moreton (Didcot East) on 11 December 1991 with the 2C41 13:15 Banbury to Reading Network SouthEast service. The two remaining vehicles of set L424 (59514 & 51362) are coupled behind the bubble car, thus forming a three car set, albeit without a corridor connection.

55027 Bow Brickhill 16 July 1994

The platforms at Bow Brickhill station are staggered on either side of the level crossing. On 16 July 1994, 55027 (L127) arrives with the 09:50 Bletchley to Bedford service. Although this looks like a very rural location, there is in fact a large area of modern development just behind the trees on the right.

55027 Lidlington 16 July 1994

This is one occasion where a 'going away' shot really is essential. 55027 (L127) leaves Lidlington station on 16 July 1994 with the 12:40 Bedford to Bletchley service, and the crossing keeper wastes no time in closing the gate behind it. All is now history. Not only have the delightful manually operated gates been replaced by automatic barriers, with the consequent removal of the crossing keeper's cabin, but the heritage Class 121 'bubble car' has been replaced by more modern units. In addition to this, the grassy bank behind 55027 is now the site of Lidlington's up platform, which was moved from its conventional position, to reduce traffic congestion at the level crossing.

55027 & 55029 Woburn Sands 29 August 1998

55027 (L127) & 55029 (L129) approach Woburn Sands on 29 August 1998 with the 08:50 Bletchley to Bedford service. Two coaches was the order of the day at the time on this route, either a pair of 'bubble cars', as here, or a Class 117 unit, which after their move from Thames Valley services in the early 1990s, generally lost their centre trailers, becoming two car units. L702 (originally Western Region three car set L419) worked the following service on this occasion.

55028 Hungerford Common 3 September 1984

55028 (L128) passes Hungerford Common on 3 September 1984 with the 2A08 15:22 Reading to Bedwyn service. This is a rare example of when the 1980s seating provision was actually less than it is today, but of course that's only because there are no single coach Turbo units!

55028 & L420 Broad Marston 22 June 1985

55028 (L128) & Class 117 set L420 (51400, 59510 & 51358) passes Broad Marston on 22 June 1985 with the Branch Line Society 08:55 Paddington to Hereford 'Cotswold Line' railtour. It will shortly be arriving at Long Marston, the second of the normally freight only branches it would visit during the day. It had already visited the delights of the Appleford waste terminal, and would later visit freight terminals at Hereford, the MoD line to Glascoed, and the stub of the Highworth Branch at Swindon.

55029 & L414 Hinksey 12 February 1985

L129 (55029) & fellow Pressed Steel Class 117 L414 (51350, 59502 & 51392) pass the snow covered Hinksey Yard on 12 February 1985, as they head towards the capital with the 14:02 Oxford to Paddington 'all stations' service, a journey that would take well over two hours (double the fastest loco hauled time). This was running exactly to time, as seemingly adverse weather had less effect on the railway then than it does now, although there obviously hasn't been enough time to change the destination blind!

55029, 59486 & 51415 Lyneham 19 May 1986

Heritage DMU versatility. 55029 (L129) brings up the rear of the 2B50 06:04 Reading to Worcester Foregate Stret service at Lyneham on 19 May 1986. It is deputising for the DMBS vehicle out of Class 117 unit B435, the other vehicles of which are 59486 & 51415.

55029 Waltham St Lawrence 8 April 1990

An interesting DMU combination at Waltham St Lawrence on 8 April 1990, comprising three Class 121, and three Class 117 vehicles. 55029 (L129) leads the ensemble, followed by an unidentified Class 121 trailer, 55027 (L127), and with Class 117 L428 (51366, 59518, 51408) bringing up the rear. The train is the 2F29 09:40 Paddington to Reading Network SouthEast service.

55029 & L207 Pangbourne 28 April 1993

The introduction of Turbo units was well under way by 1993, but heritage DMUs could still be seen in the Thames Valley, alongside the new stock. Three classes of unit can be seen in this picture, taken from the top of the chalk cutting at Pangbourne on 28 April 1993. 55029 (L129) is working in multiple with Class 101 twin set L207 (54396 & 51221) on the 2C68 18:01 Reading to Oxford Network SouthEast 'all stations' local service, while in the background, a Class 165 passes non-stop through Pangbourne station, and is about to overtake the heritage combo, as it works the 1F62 17:20 Paddington to Banbury.

55029 Woburn Sands 16 July 1994

55029 (L129) calls at Woburn Sands station on 16 July 1994 with the 10:50 Bletchley to Bedford Network SouthEast service. Virtually everything here has changed. Although the station is still open, not only the 'bubble car', but also the quaint wooden station shelter and semaphore signals are no more. At this time NSE were tarting up their Class 121 units for use on what became known as the Marston Vale line, giving them red buffer beams and white cab roofs.

55029 Ridgmont 16 July 1994

In 1994 the Network SouthEast liveried 55029 was smartened up with the addition of a white cab roof (which the class originally carried when they were in green livery), red buffer beams, and silver buffers and exhaust stacks. It is seen here leaving Ridgmont on 16 July 1994 with the 11:40 Bedford to Bletchley service. At the time the Bedford to Bletchley line was something of a time warp, not only with classic traction, but semaphore signalling and hand operated level crossing gates.

55029 Lidlington 16 July 1994

55029 (L129) arrives at Lidlington station on 16 July 1994 with the 12:50 Bletchley to Bedford service. I would not normally take going away pictures of DMUs, even if they do look the same from both ends, albeit with red tail lights to give the game away. However, not only would the foreground grass ruin a more conventional shot at this location, but also the photographic composition of a train on the far track is much better here. Note how quickly the signalman has returned the signal to danger.

55029 Aspley Guise 16 July 1994

Someone is keen to get off 55029 (L129) as it arrives at Aspley Guise on 16 July 1994 with the 15:40 Bedford to Bletchley service! This is nothing, in the old days Southern Region commuter trains often arrived at stations with most of the doors partly open as people prepared for the mad dash to work.

55029 Ridgmont 2 November 1994

55029 (L129) calls at Ridgmont station on 2 November 1994 with the 11:40 Bedford to Bletchley Network SouthEast service. Unfortunately there were no passengers either alighting or joining. 55029 had been spruced up earlier in the year with some non standard white paint.

55029 & 55027 Kempston 8 July 1996

55029 (L129) & 55027 (L127) pass Kempston in glorious evening light on 8 July 1996 with the 19:40 Bedford to Bletchley service. Although both units carry the later version of Network SouthEast livery, 55029 has been spruced up with a white roof, black window surrounds and a red buffer beam. Although an ideal photographic vantage point, this is not a very pleasant spot to wait for any length of time, as it is on the Bedford bypass, and the traffic is both heavy and constant.

55029 & 55023 Forders Sidings 17 September 1996

55029 (L129) & 55023 (L123) approach Forders Sidings on 17 September 1996 with the 09:40 Bedford to Bletchley service, although it still says Bedford in the destination blind! With the 1960s retro green livery and the white cab roofs added to the Network SouthEast colour scheme, the DMUs on this line were certainly colourful prior to the introduction of the Class 150s.

55029 & 55027 Millbrook 29 August 1998

55029 (121029) & 55027 (121027) approach Millbrook on 29 August 1998 with the 11:46 Bedford to Bletchley service. Just visible in the background are some of the numerous brickwork chimneys that once were such a feature of this route. After running for several years in a spruced up NSE livery, towards the end of its working life 55029 even acquired white rimmed buffers.

55030, 59115 & 53265 Iver 22 February 1990

55030 (L130) is substituting for a missing Class 101 vehicle on 22 February 1990, as it passes non-stop through Iver station with the 2F39 12:15 Paddington to Reading Network SouthEast service. Class 101 set L831 has had DMBS 51211 removed, and to add a driving cab to the unit, 55030 has been coupled to the remaining two vehicles (59115 & 53265).

55031 Oxford (Walton Well Road) 24 April 1984

The well known Oxford railway photographic vantage point of Walton Well Road bridge is shown off to advantage in this picture of 55031 (L131). It is working the 2V60 17:12 Banbury to Oxford service on 24 April 1984. Note the smaller arch on the right, which formerly accommodated the LMS tracks that paralleled the four GWR lines into Oxford, from the point of divergence near the Aristotle Lane footbridge (just visible in the background). This picture is taken from a now impossible position, up against the fence near the bridge over a backwater of the River Thames.

55031 West Drayton 22 June 1991

An odd combination at West Drayton on 22 June 1991 that proves the usefulness of the first generation DMUs. 55031 (L131) has been made into a three car set with the addition of a Class 101 DTCL and a Class 117 DMBS. It is pictured on the up fast line with the 12:10 Reading to Paddington Network SouthEast service. This train is an all stations service as far as Slough, from where it becomes non-stop to Paddington. Due to the closure of the relief lines just east of this point for engineering works, this Class 121/101/117 DMU lash up has been let out onto the main line to rattle its way to the capital at 70 mph in a gap between the HSTs!

55032 Marshfield 28 April 1984

Unfortunately I never did make the effort to photograph the Arriva liveried Class 121 unit during its period of operation in the Cardiff area. Years ago I regularly visited South Wales, but by the time 55032 (then running as 121032) re-entered passenger service with Arriva Trains Wales in 2006, the monopoly of Class 66s on freight had curtailed my interested in travelling long distances for a day's photography. However, I do have one picture of 55032 in South Wales. On a sunny 28 April 1984, 55032 (C132) passes Marshfield with the 10:17 Cardiff to Gloucester service. As there only seems to be two passengers, the provision of just a single car unit seems entirely sensible!

55032 Droitwich 27 April 1991

The keen guard already has the door open and is looking out as 55032 approaches Droitwich Spa station on 27 April 1991 with the 09:41 Barnt Green to Worcester Foregate service. Although no longer rail served, the coal yard on the right was still in use at this time, although remarkably still unfenced off from the railway. It has since been replaced by the inevitable car park.

55033 Towersey 29 June 1986

55033 finds a small patch of weak sunshine, as it passes Towersey on 29 June 1986 with the Hertfordshire Railtours 14:50 High Wycombe to Thame 'Thame Phoenix' railtour. This one of a series of trips along the branch, bringing passenger trains back to the line after a gap of over 20 years. Unfortunately this did not herald the start of the line's renaissance, as a few years later the oil depot at Thame, which was the reason's for the line's retention, closed. The track was lifted shortly afterwards, and this location is unrecognisable today, being part of the Phoenix Trail cycle route. On second thoughts, perhaps the railtour's name did predict the route's future!

55033 Blackwell 25 May 1992

55033 emerges from the fog at Blackwell on 25 May 1992 after having just climbed the Lickey Incline whilst working the 07:26 Bromsgrove to Barnt Green service. This is the only photo I have of this unit in its Midline livery, but note that it has had a door replaced with one from a standard blue and grey unit! Also the Tyseley set number (TS013) seems to have been hastily applied on top of its former designation (T133). I presume it is supposed to read TO13 but it actually shows TO133!

55034 & 54289 Shipton 5 May 1984

55034 (L134) & 54289 (L129) accelerate away from Shipton station on 5 May 1984 with the 2B06 08:10 Saturdays only Oxford to Moreton-in-Marsh service. Even at this time there was talk of the Class 121s (and other first generation units) nearing the end of their life, and needing replacement. In fact, 55034 was not even half way through its very long life. Although 54289, along with all the other Class 121 driving trailers, was withdrawn long ago, 33 years after this picture was taken 55034 was unbelievably still in revenue earning service!

55034 Princes Risborough 15 December 2014

An hour before sunrise at Princes Risborough station on 15 December 2014. 55034 (121034) waits in the bay prior to working the 2A03 07:18 Chiltern Railways service to Aylesbury. Plenty of passengers are about to sample some good old fashioned DMU rattling on the short trip to Aylesbury, but otherwise the station seems temporarily deserted.

55034 Monks Risborough 15 December 2014

55034 (121034) arrives at the diminutive Monks Risborough station on 15 December 2014 with the 2P28 08:47 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service. As can be seen, there were no passengers waiting to board, and nobody got off either. The totally inappropriate Machynlleth destination blind is just one of a series of comic destinations that have been displayed recently, which have also included: Pwllheli, Shirley and Oxenhope!

55034 Saunderton 9 April 2017

55034 (121034) approaches Saunderton on 9 April 2017 with the Branch Line Society 1Z20 09:42 Aylesbury to Marylebone 'Bubble and Squeak Tracker' railtour. After becoming used to the Chiltern Railways Class 121s pottering slowly between Aylesbury and Princes Risborough, it was like the good old days to witness this running at what appeared to be full speed of 70mph. This tour was organised to mark the forthcoming end of Chiltern Railways bubble car operations.

55034 Bicester South Junction 9 April 2017

New railway, very old train! 55034 (121034) traverses the curve between Bicester South Junction and Gavray Junction on 9 April 2017 with the Branch Line Society 1Z34 11:26 Marylebone to Oxford 'Bubble and Squeak Tracker' railtour. This short steeply graded chord, linking the Chiltern Line (seen in the background) with the Oxford to Bicester Line, opened in 2015. The bubble car predates it by over half a century, entering service in 1960.

55034 Charndon 9 April 2017

55034 (121034) passes Charndon on 9 April 2017 with the Branch Line Society 1Z65 14:22 Oxford to Aylesbury 'Bubble and Squeak Tracker' railtour. It would shortly be reversing at Claydon Junction, before proceeding to Aylesbury via an hour's stop at Quainton Road. Note the rusty track. This is the first train on this section of line for several years.

55034 Calvert 9 April 2017

55034 (121034) passes Calvert on 9 April 2017 with the Branch Line Society 1Z65 14:22 Oxford to Aylesbury 'Bubble and Squeak Tracker' railtour. With over 56 years of service, this must be one of BR's best buys. I doubt if the Class 172s (for example) will still be going in 2066!

55034 Calvert 9 April 2017

55034 (121034) passes Calvert on 9 April 2017 with the Branch Line Society 1Z65 14:22 Oxford to Aylesbury 'Bubble and Squeak Tracker' railtour. I couldn't resist this going away shot, as it shows the old overgrown island platform, and in the background, the unloading gantry for the Calvert landfill site.

55034 Waddesdon Manor 9 April 2017

55034 (121034) passes the site of Waddesdon Manor station (closed in July 1936) with the Branch Line Society 1Z65 14:22 Oxford to Aylesbury 'Bubble and Squeak Tracker' railtour on 9 April 2017. I particularly like the way the blackthorn bushes seem to mirror the unit's white roof.

55034 North Lee 19 April 2017

With just a month to go before it is finally pensioned off, after well over half a century of service, 55034 (121034) passes North Lee on 19 April 2017 with the 2P16 07:47 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service.

55034 North Lee 19 April 2017

55034 (121034) passes North Lee on 19 April 2017 with the 2P23 08:49 Aylesbury to Princes Risborough Chiltern Railways service. Note the comedy destination blind, although it is slightly more plausible than what it was displaying when I photographed it a few years earlier!

55034 & 55020 Monks Risborough 19 May 2017

55034 (121034) & 55020 (121020) approach Monks Risborough 19 May 2017 with the 2A46 17:00 Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Chiltern Railways service. This was on the final day of Class 121 operation on the line, which explains the highly unusual use of both of Chiltern's single car units. The displayed destination seems a bit optimistic! Photo taken from a public footpath crossing.

55034 & 55020 Princes Risborough 19 May 2017

Dramatic lighting at Princes Risborough on 19 May 2017, as 55034 (121034) & 55020 (121020) start their journey along the single track line to Aylesbury with the 2A50 18:06 Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Chiltern Railways service. This was on the final day of Class 121 operation with Chiltern Railways, which explains the use of both of their units. Throughout the day 55034's destination blind had been turned to various comedy locations. It would be a very long journey from here to Machynlleth!

55034 & 55020 Southcourt 19 May 2017

Friday 19 May 2017 was a significant date in UK railway history, with the last run of a first generation DMU on the national network. In near darkness, and pouring rain, 55034 (121034) & 55020 (121020) pass Southcourt (on the southern edge of Aylesbury) with the very last working, the 2A55 19:30 Princes Risborough to Aylesbury Chiltern Railways service. There is just over a mile to go before the train arrives at Aylesbury station, bringing to an end over half a century of vacuum braked multiple unit working.

55035 Fairwood Junction 11 March 1986

55035 (departmental ADB975659) approaches Fairwood Junction with a westbound crew training run on 11 March 1986. The L103 number carried on the front end would later be changed to L135. Unfortunately the misty conditions are virtually obscuring Westbury's famous white horse hill figure, which can just be seen on the hill in the background.

55035 Bathampton 20 April 1988

Although I managed to photograph all the Class 121 DMBS 'bubble cars', I only ever saw 55035 twice. Withdrawn from revenue earning stock in 1978, it survived in departmental use as route learner ADB975659 until 1992. Initially it carried the set number L103, but by 1988 this had changed to L135. On 20 April 1988 it is pictured approaching Bathampton, between the River Avon and the Kennet & Avon Canal with a Southampton to Bristol route learning trip. Luckily it just managed to beat the approaching clouds!

54280 & 55027 Culham 4 July 1990

54280 (L280) & 55027 (L127) head through the rain near Culham on 4 July 1990 with the 2C31 11:15 Banbury to Reading Network SouthEast service. 54280 was withdrawn the following year, and scrapped shortly afterwards. 55027 was luckier, and is now being restored at the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.

54283 & 55031 Oxford North Junction 25 June 1988

54283 (283) is propelled by 55031 (131) towards Oxford on 25 June 1988 whilst working the 07:58 Banbury to Oxford service. They are pictured approaching Oxford North Junction with the up relief line (which runs from Wolvercote to Oxford) prominent in the foreground. Although both vehicles carry Network SouthEast livery, note the slight differences in livery between them, with slightly different widths to the grey bands and what appears to be a red rather than orange cantrail stripe on 54283. While in common with most Class 121 DMBS vehicles 55031 survives in departmental use, unfortunately the same cannot be said of 54283, which like most of the DTS vehicles has since been cut up, in this case at Gwent Demolition at Margam in 1992.

54285 & 55024 Hinksey 3 March 1984

Driving Trailer Second 54285 (L285) is pushed by Driving Motor Brake Second 55024 (L124) on 3 March 1984, as they work the Saturdays only 2V90 13:46 Banbury to Didcot service, which on this occasion was running 15 minutes late. The location is Hinksey Yard, just to the south of Oxford, which in the early 1980s was not yet enveloped in trees. The lack of vegetation is because BR were still maintaining the lineside, although the absence of anything green in the field on the right is because the ground was contaminated due to the former presence of the Oxford gasworks!

54286 & 55027 Combe 21 August 1982

In addition to the 15 single car Class 121 DMBS vehicles, 10 additional unpowered DTS vehicles were also built. These were normally used with a Class 121 to form a two car unit, or as a spare vehicle for a Class 117 three car set. 54286 (L286) is seen here approaching Combe station on the Cotswold Line, being pushed by 55027 (L127) on 21 August 1982 whilst working the 06:10 Moreton-in-Marsh to Oxford local service. The very high occupation bridge in the background is Grintleyhill Bridge, while on the left the piles of timber are on the premises of the Blenheim Palace Estate timber mill and workshops.

54287 & 53155 Radley 14 March 1991

During the early 1990s, Reading allocated set L211 was formed from this Class 121 & 101 combination. Class 121 trailer 54287 is coupled to Class 101 DMBS 53155. The Pressed Steel / Metro Cammel combination is seen approaching Radley on 14 March 1991 with the 2C45 14:48 Oxford to Reading Network SouthEast service.

54289 & 55027 Kingham 4 June 1983

54289 (L289) is propelled towards Kingham station on 4 June 1983 by 55027 (L127). The pair are working the 2A87 09:55 Moreton-in-Marsh to Oxford local service. No way would this view be possible today, as full grown trees now border the line along this stretch. 54289 is one of the few unpowered Class 121 trailers to survive into preservation. It now resides on the East Lancashire Railway (carrying its original 56289 number), where it normally operates with Class 122 55001.

L289 & L403 Blackbird Leys 11 June 1988

L289 (54289) & Class 117 L403 (51336, 59488 & 51378) pass Blackbird Leys on 11 June 1988 with the RCTS 'Chinnor Railtour', returning from Morris Cowley. The tour, which had started from Paddington also visited Brentford, Chinnor, Milton Trading Estate and Park Royal. None of which explains the destination 'Redhill' visible on the destination blind! Disappearing into the undergrowth on the left is the long headshunt, which once served part of the car factory visible in the background.