Built by Park Royal Vehicles as part of an order for twenty two-car sets placed with British United Traction in 1955, work was begun at the Crossly Motor works in Stockport, having body number B33860. Early in construction the factory closed, and the work transferred the Park Royal site at Abbey Road, London. It is unlikely that any parts were actually moved to Park Royal.
M56160 is a Driving Trailer Composite (Lavatory) weighing 26 tons 10 cwt and had 16 first class & 48 2nd class seats*, and a top speed of 70mph. It formed one half of a two car set. Allocated new to Longsight depot (Manchester) in June 1957, it moved to Ryecroft (Walsall) in November of that year and finally Chester in January 1967. This remained its home depot until February 1971 when it was withdrawn from passenger services, possibly as a result of collision damage to the drivers side of the cab. M56160 was then renumbered to DB975228 and transferred to British Rail's departmental fleet, becoming, with M50397 'Universal Viaduct Inspection Unit No1' It performed this role until July 1977 when it was finally withdrawn, and entered preservation later that year.
The class was withdrawn from passenger duties in 1983, and from Departmental work in 1991. M56160 formed the last passenger train by a class 103 in 1992. A two car set has also been preserved on the Helston Railway in Cornwall, but M56160 is the oldest of the three survivors, and has been described as being "of some importance" by the Carriage Survey Project
*The 'data panel' on Rob Barnes photo below shows 12 first and 51 second class seats!
Preservation Modifications 56160 was converted from a DMU into a coach in the winter of 1978-79. The cab controls and wiring were removed, the front MU jumpers and junction boxes were removed, the lighting circuit (which was modified to work from simple light switches) was wired directly to the battery charging socket and all control and fuses boxes below the vehicle were removed but the main front to rear control wiring trunking was retained, along with the MU jumpers at the rear and the main junction box beneath the cab desk, although all were isolated.
The cab was modified to improve forward view and prevent entry, the saloon to cab door was removed, the outer edges of partitions were replaced by handrails and glazing removed, the control desk was covered in laminate covered wood, and units built out alongside the cab doors, which had lower hinges, handles and locks removed and were sealed. The headcode box was removed and sealed, the remains of the winding mechanism and lighting, the remains of the cab ventilation system and the base of the driver's seat (which surprisingly still worked) were found beneath the sealed unit when it was opened in 2000, although having rusted by damp ingress into the sealed area.
The braking system was converted from that of a DMU trailer to that of a coach, the driver's control was removed and the pipe capped, the vacuum and AWS gauges were removed, and the piping beneath the control desk simplified to form a single circuit serving the emergency control only with the feed valves and piping nearby removed. A number of modifications were made to the brake mechanism beneath the floor - the vacuum reservoirs and piping serving them were removed. The communication chord release mechanism was retained and the handbrake mechanism was retained.
The railcar heating system (oil fired burners with air sucked in by side mounted blowers andblown past elements into vehicle) was removed and steam heating fitted to the rear and middle driver's side saloons. The driver's side rear windows were badly damaged by vandals so single panes of glass were fitted, the vehicle was fitted with tables and chairs in the second class in the place of the absent seats, although first class seats remained and wall - to - wall carpeting.
Preservation Information 56160 was stored at Plymouth (1972/73) Penzance Long Rock (1974) Didcot, Old Oak Common and Harwich until finally arriving into preservation at Shackerstone in 1978. The vehicle was pressed into service without overhaul in March 1979 and was repainted into coaching stock maroon livery.
56160 was converted from a DMU into a coach in the winter of 1978-79, see the section above for a comprehensive description of the modifications.
In 1986, 56160 appears to have been repainted, losing its lining at waist height and the roof guttering.
56160 soldered on until 1992 and then it was withdrawn after 14 years of service with worn out brake gear, never having cost more than a primitave conversion and a couple of repaints. It was used as a stores vehicle until 1994, the seats and tables having been removed. 56160 deteriorated, and having not been asbestos stripped, was increasingly regarded as beyond economic repair for the Battlefield line.
Sadly after leaving the Battlefield line, M56160 was subjected to further vandalism when it was abandoned at Dunstable in 2000, which exposed the asbestos insulating the body. Some of this was removed, along with all the internal panelling and ceilings.
Work has therefore concentrated on acquiring replacement parts (most of the under floor items having been acquired) removing the Battlefield's steam pipe; reglazing; refitting the MU jumper boxes; cab steps; etc. The buffer beams and sole bars have been repainted and lettered and new handrails cast. The drivers controls and gauges have been refurbished ready for refitting, and a replacement set of seats has been obtained. In the autumn of 2015 a further asbestos strip was undertaken to remove the floor and attached asbestos. During this work further asbestos was found in the 'clean' walls and this was removed/encapsulated.
M56160 (DB975228) stored at Penzance in April 1974. It was partnered with M50397 which can just be seen in its yellow departmental livery.
Photo Rob Barnes wwwtaillampphotography.com
Just visible at the site of Plymouth Laira's old steam shed, in the company of withdrawn Warships. Probably late 1972 or early 1973.
In use as an observation saloon at Shakerstone. Photo Chris Lings
M56160 being unloaded from it's low loader by the 119 Recovery Company, REME.