Multiple Units in the BR Blue TOPS Era

Under the TOPS scheme, loco classes are numbered up to 98, ships are class 99, with multiple units numbering from 100 upwards.


1-69  Diesel locos
70-79 DC Electric locos
80-96 AC Electric locos
97    Departmental locos
98    Steam locos
99    Ships
100+  Mechanical (and hydraulic) DMU
200+  DEMU
300+  AC (and multivoltage) EMU
400+  SR DC EMU
500+  Non-SR DC EMU
600+  Diesel or other fuel multiple units*
700+  Extends 300+*
750+  Bi-mode*
800+  High speed (>120 mph) sets*
900+  Departmental

The TOPS scheme was adjusted in 2011, and saw the introduction of those categorioes marked *, as well as the 400 and 500 ranges being merged together. The range for diesel locos has been extended to 79, excluding 73 (as the class 73 is the only remaining DC loco). This has been necessary as new units are introduced and the existing numbers ran out.

Most sections are further subdivided.

100+ Diesel-Mechanical and -Hydraulic Multiple Units


200+ Diesel-Electric Multiple Units

200-207 First gen
210-249 Second gen
250+    Express

The first generation DEMUs were all on the southern region. There were built as EMUs – using standard parts as far as possible – with diesel engines and generator in compartments in the end coaches, rather than picking up power from the third rail. Class 201, 202 and 203 were built with narrow bodies for the Hastings line, and withdrawn in 1986, when the lines were electrified and singled through the narrow tunnels. Class 204 and 205 were used on unelectrified lines in Hampshire, class 206 on the North Downs Line, class 207 on the Oxted line.

The second generation are a motley bunch. The class 210 was in service just 7 years; two prototype set were built, with the diesel engine above the floor, taking up half of one carriage. Classes 220, 221 and 222 were Voyagers (221 are the tilting Super Voyagers, 222 are Meridian). The class 230 were converted from London Underground D78 stock.

There was no 250. The 251 is the “Blue Pullman”. The Blue Pullman service began in 1960, from Manchester Central to St Pancras, with two six-car sets. Later three eight-car sets were built for services out of Paddington. Originally they were run by the Pullman Company, but after that was nationalised in 1962, it was run by BR, but still using the brand. In 1965 the WCML was electrified as far as Manchester, giving a more competitive alternative, and the two units were transferred to the WR. The original Nanking blue livery with white windows surrounds had yellow ends added in 1966, and some units had a reverse blue-grey livery from around 1969. They were withdrawn in 1973, as travel in standard Mark 2 coaches was becoming just as good, and maintenance on non-standard units was an issue.

Blue Pullman is considered a precursor to the HST. The 252 is the prototype HST, 253 and 254 the production HST, 253 being the WR version with seven coaches, and 254 the ECML with eight coaches. Later this numbering was abandoned, and the power units were considered class 43 locos, as there were issues when sets were broken up for servicing and not necessarily then running with its twin. Class 255 is a semi-official classification for short HST trains.


300+ AC (and multivoltage) Electric Multiple Units

The early EMUs were designated AM1 to AM11. These were renumbers as class 301 to 311 in order.

The class 301 was actually withdrawn in 1966, before getting the TOPS code. They were used on the Lancaster/Morecambe/Heysham route, until it closed.

List of pre-1990 EMU classes

Class Route
301   Lancaster/Morecambe/Heysham
302   London, Tilbury and Southend Railway
303   North Clyde and the Cathcart Circle lines in Strathclyde
304   between Crewe and Manchester/Liverpool/Rugby
305   Lea Valley lines out of London Liverpool Street to Chingford
306   Great Eastern Main Line between Shenfield and London Liverpool Street
307   Great Eastern Main Line
308   Great Eastern Main Line
309   "Clacton express"
310   Euston outer suburban (1965)
311   Glasgow Central to Gourock and Wemyss Bay (1967)
312   Kings Cross outer suburban (1975)
313   Kings Cross inner suburban (1976)
314   Argyle line and North Clyde line (1979)
315   Lines out of Liverpool St (1980)
317   London St Pancras to Bedford (1981)
318   Ayrshire Coast Line (1986)
319   Bedford to Brighton (1987)

The class 310 was the first to be based on Mark 2 coaches. The class 312 was based on the class 310, despite being built ten later, while the class 313, just a year later, was of a very different design, the first EMU without slam doors (and is still in use today). Classes 314, 315, 507 and 508 are all based on the 313.


400+ SR DC Electric Multiple Units



500+ Non-SR DC Electric Multiple Units

Outside the southern region, electrification was quite a hotch-potch of different systems, and the DC EMUs represent that situation

Class Route
501   North London Line and Euston to Watford
502   Liverpool Exchange station to Southport and Ormskirk
503   Wirral & Mersey lines
504   Bury line
505   Altrincham line
506   Manchester, Glossop and Hadfield
507   Merseyrail (1978)
508   Merseyrail (1979)

Several classes were withdrawn when the infrastructure was updated to other system. Class 504 units were all withdrawn in 1991 when the Bury line became part of the Manchestrer Metro. Class 505 units were withdrawn in 1971 when the Altinham lines were converted to AC, with the WCML electrification. After the closure of the Woodhead route, it was not long before the Manchester, Glossop and Hadfield was converted to AC, and class 506 was withdrawn in 1984.

Class 501 units were withdrawn by 1985, replaced by the similar looking class 416 (2-EPB) from the southern region. Classes 502 and 503 were replaced by class 507 and 508. The last examples disappearing in 1980 and 1985 respectively.


600+ Diesel or other fuel multiple units*


700+ Extends 300+*


750+ Bi-mode*


800+ High speed (>120 mph) sets*


900+ Departmental