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Here’s a look at yet another of the BR commissioned ‘new’ train fleets which were built to replace the 1st generation of diesel and electric trains back in the 1980s but that are now being retired themselves.

The single car Class 153s – or ‘Dogboxes’ as they’re nicknamed were originally 2 car Class 155s which were built by British Leyland at their Workington factory back in 1987-1988. 42 sets were built but only 7 remain in original form.

How they started out. 2-car set 155305 seen at Manchester Piccadilly before working to Cardiff Central on the 19th June 1991. Not the original ‘Sprinter’ branding and BR Double-arrow.

The other 35 sets were split and rebuilt as railcars by Hunslet-Barclay at their works in Kilmarnock between 1991-92. Squeezing a second cab into the bodyshell was a challenge which led to the new cab being very cramped, causing surprise that the rail unions agreed to such a restricted space. The cars were renumbered by changing the 523xxx numbered 155301 – 335 to 153301-335 and adding 50 to the numbers of the 573xxx cars to make them correspond to set number 153351-153385.

The 70 new railcars (each with 72 seats) were spread around the regional railways network. The depots that received an allocation were Newton Heath (Manchester), Tyseley (Birmingham), Heaton (Newcastle), Canton (Cardiff) and Crown Point (Norwich).

On privatisation the fleet was divided to became the property of rolling stock companies Angel and Porterbrook.

Over the years the trains have been operated by a wide range of TOCs which include former franchises Central Trains, Anglia, Arriva Trains North, Arriva Trains West, and Wessex trains. Later they were used by Greater Anglia, First Great Western (later GWR), East Midlands Trains (later EMR), London Midland, Northern Trains, and the Welsh Franchises which became Transport for Wales. Over the years they’ve been a familiar sight – from Penzance to Carlisle, across the Midlands and North-East and through Wales. The only places they’ve never operated in have been Scotland and the Southern 3rd rail Network.

In recent years the vehicles have suffered from the fact most of them are not PRM (Persons of Restricted Mobility) compliant. Add to this the reduction of services due to the Covid pandemic and their use has dropped dramatically. The majority of the vehicles are now stored with just two passenger operators using them. Transport for Wales retains 26 cars which are all PRM compliant for services across its network, although these are due to be made redundant by the arrival of new trains by 2023.

Scotrail – who never operated the trains before – received 5 units in 2019-20 which have been converted to carry bicycles. These hybrid (part bike, part seating) trains are coupled to Class 156s and used between Glasgow and Oban.

Apart from passenger service handful of sets have been taken over by Network Rail for departmental use.

In this blog I’m not going to try and give an exhaustive list of their movements as individual cars have swapped between franchises many times. Instead, I’m going to illustrate the wide range of liveries and places the trains have operated.

The first of the Class, 153301 seen between duties at Darlington on the 24th April 1997. MTL Holdings had taken over services in the area just a few weeks before on the 2nd March 1997. The unit’s still in full Regional Railways livery and branding.
153302 is the first of the 153s which has been cut up. It’s seen here when it was operated by East Midlands Trains. On the 12th July 2018 it was calling at Market Rasen with a service from Grimsby to Newark North Gate. In 2020 it was transferred to Transport for Wales who stripped it for spares to keep other units in service. The shell of the unit went for scrap in June 2021.
Sporting Arriva Trains Wales livery and branding 153303 is pictured at Cardiff Bay on the 24th September 2012 when it was working the shuttle service from Cardiff Queen St.
Northern Rail’s 155304 on jacks at Leeds Neville Hill depot on the 21st January 2014. At the time, Northern had 18 of the railcars based at Neville Hill for operating services across their empire, along with other sets at Heaton and Newton Heath.
Here’s as far West as you can get on the UK rail network! 153305 in full First Great Western livery is seen at Penzance on the 10th August 2009. Based at Exeter, this was one of 12 153s operated by FGW which worked services across the Devon and Cornwall branches and sometimes further afield. This unit is now in Scotland having been converted into a bike carrier for use on the Glasgow – Oban line.
153306 wearing the base Anglia livery but with the added National Express white stripe and branding, seen at Norwich on the 22nd July 2010. It was one of 5 such units operated by the TOC, all of which were based at Norwich Crown Pont and used on Norfolk and Suffolk services plus the Marks Tey – Sudbury branch.
An unidentified Anglia 153 crosses the Great Ouse at Ely whilst working the 14.54 Ely to Ipswich on the 22nd March 2003. Several years later this bridge collapsed and the replacement is far less photogenic.
Former First North-Western 153310 seen after transfer to Arriva trains Wales at Llanwrtyd Wells on the ‘Heart of Wales’ line on the 26th June 2007.
The 153s see regular service in Pembrokeshire working trains on some of the more lightly used branches. Here’s 153312 calling at Tenby en-route to Pembroke Dock on the 18th June 2019.
A few years earlier on the 22nd March 2003 153314 in a version of ‘ONE’ livery but with Anglia branding is seen at Ely with the 13.54 to Ipswich.
On the 26th July 2003 Arriva Trains Northern liveried 153315 sits at Doncaster with a service for Scunthorpe. This franchise was merged with the North-Western franchise to become Northern in December 2004.
Post Covid with the railways reducing capacity on the order of the Government more 153s found themselves surplus to requirements now that trains no longer needed strengthening. Here’s former Northern unit 153316 in store at Porterbrook leasing’s site at Long Marston on the 17th June 2021.
Here’s 153317 in more productive times, when it was covering services on Northern’s isolated outpost in Lincolnshire otherwise know as the Barton-on-Humber branch. Seen on the 18th May 2017.
Here’s Wessex trains 153318 seen at Exeter depot on the 31st July 2004, sporting ‘Heart of Wessex’ advertising livery. This franchise operated 13 of the units between and 1st October 2001 and the 1st April 2006 when it was absorbed by First Great Western who took over the 153s.
Arriva Trains Wales operated 153320 crosses the Knucklas viaduct on the ‘Heart of Wales’ line on the 27th June 2007.
On the 17th July 2003, 153322 in full Anglia livery is pictured at Bury St Edmunds whilst working the 13.19 to Peterborough.
153323 bearing Arriva livery and Welsh branding is stabled in the carriage shed at Cardiff Canton on the 18th November 2008.
On the 24th May 2000 Regional Railways liveried (but First NorthWestern branded) 153324 sits in the bay at Llandudno Junction in the days when First NW ran services along the North Wales coast.
Here’s 153353 in a revised version of the Arriva Trains Wales livery, seen departing Cardiff Queen St on the shuttle service to Cardiff Bay. 24th July 2017.
London Midlands 153s were regulars on the Bedford to Bletchley branch shuttles. Here’s 153356 at the pretty station at Ridgemont (visit the lovely tea room in the old station building) on the 3rd July 2014.
Here’s Northern’s 153360 being used to strengthen a service on the glorious Settle and Carlisle line, seen arriving at Garsdale on the 2nd April 2009.
Another of the first Class 153s to go for scrap (this time only recently) 153364 is seen in Regional Railways livery working a service out of Birmingham New St bound for for Coventry on the 29th of March 1997.
Still in Central trains livery but now working for London Midland here’s another of the first units to be scrapped. 153366 arrives at Birmingham New St on the 28th November 2007.
Here’s 153366 again several years later on the 19th May 2011. Wearing London Midland livery it’s very ‘off-route’! It was on loan to Northern at the time and it’s seen coupled to one of what it used to be – a Class 155 at Huddersfield.
First Great Western liveried 153372 approaches Freshford en-route to Bristol Temple Meads on the 6th May 2008
Here’s 153376 at Lincoln on the 17th July 2009. Still sporting Central trains livery but East Midlands branding having been inherited from the former franchise operator in December 2007. The difference in the size of the two cabs is very noticeable in this shot. EMT had 17 of these units on its books at the time, all based at Nottingham’s Eastcroft Depot.
153380 pictured at journey’s end at Looe on the scenic Cornish branch line on the 12th June 2006. Thanks to the community rail movement these branches have seen massive growth in passenger numbers which outstripped the capacity of the 153s.
It’s the 31st January 2020 and who knew what craziness was about to befall the railways due to a global pandemic? Former GWR 153380 still wearing the company’s green livery but minus branding is stood in Sheffield station after being transferred to Northern. It didn’t stay long before moving to Scotrail who had it converted into a hybrid bike carrier.
First Great Western’s 153382 crosses the viaduct at Penryn on the Falmouth Harbour branch from Truro on the 11th August 2009.
Here East Midlands Trains 153385 and 153376 near Hubberts Bridge on line to Skegness seen on the 27th July 2018.
153369 and 153962 sporting Transport for Wales and East Midlands Trains livery are pictured at Liverpool Limes St on the recently introduced service to/from Chester on the 18th April 2021.
The same train with the renumbered ex-EMR vehicle leading.

Here’s a few internal views to show the difference between different TOCs (or not).
Here’s GWRs well loaded 153370 operating on the Falmouth branch on the 7th March 2013. At this time the franchise operated 14 Class 153s after the fleet had been strengthened with arrivals from Arriva Trains Wales and London Midland.
Here’s the interior of Northern’s 153351 seen on the 7th March 2013. The same design of seats as GWR are in use.
This is East Midlands Trains 153308 seen on the 20th September 2016. The general layout is the same but the seat type is different.

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