Final ‘Bubble Cars’ bow out


The oldest DMUs still in regular use have finally been withdrawn by Chiltern Railways after nearly 60 years in traffic.

CHILTERN Railways has withdrawn its last two Class 121 ‘Bubble Cars’, which were the oldest diesel units still in regular main line passenger service and the final ones to operate with vacuum brakes.

The final day for Nos. 121020 (55020 in blue livery) and 121034 (55034 in green livery) was due to be May 19, the final weekday before the summer timetable came into force. The heritage slamdoor units had been retained for use on the Aylesbury to Princes Risborough shuttle during the morning and evening peaks, when the TOC’s more modern units were needed elsewhere.

The Branch Line Society ran the ‘Bubble and Squeak Tracker’ on April 9 from Aylesbury to Marylebone and Oxford. It featured green-liveried No. 121034, the 57-year-old unit contrasting with the modern infrastructure at Wembley Stadium en route to London. Richard Allen

Class 121 DMUs were introduced in 1960, with 16 being built by the Pressed Steel Company followed by 10 trailer cars with a cab at one end. They were built for use on Western Region branch lines, such as those in Cornwall and the Thames Valley – outliving the similar Gloucester RC&W Class 122 ‘Bubbles’, which were built for the London Midland Region but all withdrawn by 1995.

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Chiltern acquired No. 121020 from Network Rail in 2003, then No. 121034 arrived from Tyseley in 2011. A third ‘Bubble’ No. 121032 was bought from Arriva Trains Wales in 2013, but this was sold into preservation in 2015.

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