BR Green Speed Whiskers
The British Rail Class 117 diesel multiple units (DMUs) were built by Pressed Steel from 1959 to 1961. When first introduced, these three-car units were all based with the similar Class 121 single carriage (railcar) units on British Railways Western Region for suburban work out of London Paddington. The units were largely based at Reading and Southall depots. The units remained here for many years working these services.
Withdrawal of other DMUs facilitated moves for some units from the Western Region to Birmingham and Scotland, prior to the delivery of new units to replace them. They were given refurbishments. The first shake up in ownership occurred in the late 1980s, when the Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Birmingham based units were transferred to Provincial Services, later Regional Railways, in the sectorisation of British Rail, while the Southall-based units transferred to Network SouthEast. They were replaced on the lines out of Paddington when the Class 165/1 ‘Network Turbo’ units came into service by 28 November 1992.
They remained in service on the former Western Region until replaced by Class 150 and Class 153 DMUs by 21 May 1993. An attempt was made to remove them from Cornish work using Class 142 “Skipper/Pacer” units, but these non bogie units proved to be a liability on the tight Cornish branchline curves, increasing rail and wheel wear, moving to the North of England instead. They were finally replaced with the advent of more Class 150s and Class 153s freed up from other areas. They continued to work in Scotland until 12 January 1998, where they were replaced with Class 156s.
For many years, passenger services on the Birmingham Cross-City Line were worked by elderly Class 117, along with Class 115, 116, 118 and 121 diesel multiple units, but all were withdrawn from service by 1995. In 2000, Class 150 Sprinter units replaced the Class 117 units on Silverlink, finally bringing to an end decades of service on Britain’s rail network in front line service.