Class 159

The BREL Derby works built class 159 is the latest in the illustrious line of rolling stock plying the former LSWR main line between Waterloo and Exeter. These diesel hydraulic multiple units introduced in 1992 follow in the tracks (pun intended) of - amongst others - class T1s hauling LSWR Ironclads, King Arthur Class hauling Maunsell coaches, Merchant Navy/West Country/Battle of Britain classes hauling Bulleid coaches, Warship diesel hydraulics hauling Bulleid coaches, class 33s hauling BR Mk 1 coaches, and class 50s and class 47/7s hauling BR Mk 2 a,b,c coaches.

When the time came to consider replacing the well-life expired (understatement) class 50s, 47/7s and early Mk2 coaches, BR gave consideration to a number of options:

* re-engineering and further life extension of the existing stock

* construction of new diesel locomotives (the proposed Intercity diesel class 48 was under consideration) and new hauled coaching stock

* new DMU stock, either the class class 158 already ordered and under construction for Regional Railways, or the proposed class 171 turbo (an air-conditioned and within standard loading gauge version of the class 165)

* electrification from Worting Junction to Exeter, using new and/or cascaded "heritage" EMUs

* use of cascaded Intercity 125s, in either 1+5 or 2+8 formation

The Department of Transport was in favour of the IC125 option, but the stock was unsuited to the route and the inflexible fixed formations would have resulted in running far too many empty seats west of Salisbury.

A study concluded that (remarkably) the electrification and new EMU stock or new DMUs were the two viable options. This writer would have loved to see the third rail stretching to Exeter, and descending down the 1 in 37 incline from Exeter Central onto the hallowed GWR ground at Exeter St Davids! However, since the cost of electrification had to bear electrical infrastructure as well as stock construction costs, whereas the DMU option only involved (mostly) rolling stock costs, DMUs it was to be. The Network SouthEast business unit was said to be in favour of the proposed class 171, however at this time the prevailing economic downturn had left Regional Railways committed to more 158s than it then had need for. The number of spare 158 cars (60 cars) were 9 cars short of the Network SouthEast requirement, but following negotiations, NSE agreed to pick up Regional Railway's share of the Paddington to Worcester route (shared with Intercity) which released sufficient 158 cars from RR to NSE. To run the acquired Paddington to Worcester route, NSE added a further 6 cars to its order for class 166s (the 171 proposal having by then been dropped).

159 Salisbury Traincare Depot is the home of the entire class. Pictured here on 2nd October 1999.

photograph by Colin Duff

159015 on the Brighton - Basingstoke service (via Shoreham, Havant, Fareham, Eastleigh and Winchester) waiting in platform 1 at Brighton, seen on 23rd September 1997. 159s on such services were replaced by new class 170 units at the end of 2000.

photograph by David Lawrence

159013 159013 pictured at Clapham Junction on 13th October 1999.

photograph by Colin Duff

159012 is pictured passing Worting Junction (west of Basingstoke) on 1st February 1998.

photograph by Dave Harris

159021 159021 passing Clapham Junction on 13th October 1999.

photograph by Colin Duff

The rear cab of an "up" service pictured at Yeovil Junction on 2nd October 1999.

photograph by Colin Duff


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This page was last updated 3 December 2002

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