British Rail Class 304

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British Rail Class 304
Hugh llewelyn 304 006 (7850836098).jpg
304006 at Manchester Piccadilly in 1992
In service 1960 - 1996
Manufacturer BR Wolverton
Order no.
  • 30429 (BDTSOL)
  • 30428 (MBSO)
  • 30430 (DTBSO)[1]
Family name 1959 EMU
Refurbishment 1980
Number built 45
Number scrapped 45
  • 4 cars per trainset (as built)
  • 3 cars per set (1980-)
  • EF203 (BDTSOL, 304/1)
  • EF204 (BDTSOL, 304/2 and 304/3)
  • ED215 (MBSO, 304/1)
  • ED203 (MBSO, 304/2 and 304/3)
  • EG202 (DTBSO, 304/1)
  • EG203 (DTBSO 304/2 and 304/3)[1][3]
Design code AM4
Fleet numbers
  • 304001-015 (304/1)
  • 304016-035 (304/2)
  • 304036-045 (304/3)[2]
  • 75045-75059 (BDTS, 304/1)
  • 75680-75699 (BDTS, 304/2)
  • 75868-75877 (BDTS, 304/3)
  • 61045-61059 (MBS, 304/1)
  • 61628-61647 (MBSO, 304/2)
  • 61873-61882 (MBSO, 304/3)
  • 70045-70059 (TC, 304/1)
  • 70483-70502 (TC, 304/2)
  • 70243-70252 (TC, 304/3)
  • 75645-75659 (DTBS, 304/1)
  • 75660-75679 (DTBS, 304/2)
  • 75858-75867 (DTBS, 304/3)[2]
  • 244 (304/1)
  • 234 (304/2 and 304/3)[2]
Operator(s) British Rail
Line(s) served
Train length 246 ft 6 12 in (75.146 m)[2]
Car length
  • 19.53 m (64.1 ft) (outer cars)
  • 19.36 m (63.5 ft) (inner cars)[1]
Width 9 ft 3 in (2.82 m)[2]
Height 12 ft 4 12 in (3.772 m)[2]
Articulated sections
  • 4 (new)
  • 3 (refurbished)
Maximum speed 75 mph (121 km/h)[1]
Weight Total - 151.85 long tons (154.29 t; 170.07 short tons)
Traction motors 4 × BTH[2] 155kW[1]
Electric system(s) 6.25 kV AC and 25 kV 50 Hz AC (OHLE)[2]
Current collection method Pantograph
UIC classification 2'2'+Bo'Bo'+2'2' (1980-)
Bogies Gresley[1]
Braking system(s) Air (EP/Auto)
Coupling system Buckeye[2]
Multiple working Within class and Class 310[2]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 304 electric multiple units were built for suburban use on the first phases of the West Coast Main Line electrification between Crewe and Manchester/Liverpool/Rugby. Originally classed as AM4 units, they later became Class 304 under the TOPS numbering system, and could be found in operation over most of the West Coast Main Line. The units conformed to the 1959-design for alternating current (AC) electrical multiple units, and were externally very similar to the Class 305, Class 308 and the 1,200 V direct current (DC) Class 504 units. No units survived into preservation, and all units were eventually scrapped.


The first fifteen units were delivered to Longsight Depot, Manchester from April 1960 as four-car sets, and were originally numbered 001-015. Built by British Rail's Wolverton Works, these units were an aesthetic improvement over the AM2 (Class 302) units previously built at York and Doncaster; they featured a new design cab end with a raked back upper area, following a Design Panel recommendation, and emerged in Multiple Unit Green livery, lined out with yellow. The units followed the two-car 1,200 V DC Class 504 units off the production line at Wolverton, a class which shared many design features with the first AM4 units. The units were arranged into four-car sets, consisting of: a Driving Trailer Brake Open vehicle with 82 second class seats (saloon) and a Guard's compartment; a Trailer Composite with 19 first class seats (compartment) and 60 second class seats (saloon), and two toilets; a Motor Brake with 96 second class seats (compartment) and a Guard's compartment; a Driving Trailer with 82 second class seats (saloon), two toilets, and battery equipment. One result of the Motor Brake vehicle having a compartment design was that the window layout on all vehicles was designed to suit, having a narrow window either side of each door. The units were tested on the Styal line prior to the start of electric services between Crewe and Manchester.

A further twenty units followed in 1961, numbered 016-035 and intended for the Crewe-Liverpool service which commenced on New Year's Day 1962, although as this local service only required three or four units daily they were principally used elsewhere, for services around Manchester and Birmingham. These units differed from the first batch by having a slightly different body design, with wide saloon windows replacing the narrow compartment-style windows. The Motor Brake vehicles had a different internal layout, with 72 second class seats in saloon layout. This improved layout was adopted for the final batch of AM4s,[5] as well as later batches of AM5 (Class 305) units and AM8 (Class 308) units. Some of this second batch were loaned temporarily to the Eastern Region for use between Liverpool Street and Shenfield/Southend-on-Sea during the conversion of this route from 1,500 V DC to 6.25 kV/25 kV AC, while Class 306 and Class 307 units were being rebuilt.

The third and final batch of AM4 was another ten units, numbered 036-045, which were almost identical to the second batch and intended for use on the Crewe-Stafford section.

Surprisingly, the AM4s were the only AC units of the 1959 design to wear the lined-out version of Multiple Unit Green livery, with Classes 305 and 308 emerging in comparatively drab plain green. This pleasant appearance was lost, however, when repainted into all-over Rail Blue. The units spent their whole careers operating between Crewe and Altrincham via Stockport or Styal and Manchester, Crewe and Liverpool, Crewe and Birmingham, and Birmingham - Rugby - Northampton. Units were occasionally operated to London Euston (notably at the very beginning of electric services, before all the AM10 units were delivered) or Preston, but only rarely. Because of their operation on much of the West Coast main line, the units attained substantial mileage at their 75 mph maximum speed each day on their workings, unlike those employed on suburban services elsewhere.


In the early 1980s, a refurbishment programme was carried out on the units. This included the removal and scrapping of the Trailer Composite vehicles, reducing the units to three-car formation, and the conversion of the Motor Brake vehicles of the first batch (Class 304/1) to saloon layout, reducing seating capacity to 72. Unlike other EMU refurbishment programmes, the work carried out on Class 304 units did not include the fitting of inter-vehicle gangways, or the complete replacement of internal fittings. This meant that original 1960s seats and trim remained in most vehicles, retaining something of their original character. The units were also repainted into blue and grey livery. The loss of one vehicle meant that the power-to-weight ratio of the units increased, thereby improving their performance.


In the 1980s the units gradually received the Class '304' TOPS prefix to their unit numbers, and by 1992 several later series units had even received Regional Railways livery. By this time, however, more recently refurbished Class 305 units had become available, displaced from the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway by Class 317s, and with the imminent arrival of brand new Class 323s, the Class 304s began to be withdrawn. The end came in March 1996 when 304002 and 304033 ran a series of farewell specials in Birmingham. Known amongst enthusiasts as "Dinosaurs", due to their advancing age, Class 304s followed their namesakes to extinction.

Preservation attempts

304021 was purchased for preservation in 1998 and was stored in sidings in Crewe. During this time, many windows were smashed, which, as a consequence of the cost of replacing them, led to the abandonment of the project. The long period of storage was due to the difficulty in finding a home on a preserved railway for EMU coaching stock, and so it became the last of its class to be scrapped in November 2000.[6]


A Class 304 in BR Blue and Grey livery
  • British Railways Green[7] (1960–c.1967)
  • BR Blue (c.1967–c.1983), with a yellow rectangle on the cab front (Chromatic Blue),[8] then all-yellow cab front.[9]
  • BR Blue and Grey (c.1980–1996)
  • Regional Railways[10] (c.1992–1996), "aircraft" blue over white, with a light blue stripe at waist level.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Fox 1994, p. 9
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Class 304". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Vehicle Diagram Book No.210 for Electrical Multiple Units (including A.P.T.)" (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. BRB Residuary Ltd. ED203, ED215, EF203, EF204, EG202, EG203. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  4. ^ Fox 1987, p. 51.
  5. ^ "The All Time Guide to EMU Classifications" (PDF). Modern Locomotives Illustrated. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  6. ^ "Preservation - 1998". The AC Locomotive Group. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Electric Multiple Unit Stock". Goods & Not So Goods. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  8. ^ "Class 304 007 Crewe 030667 CD007". Rail Photoprints. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  9. ^ "001 Crewe 24Jul77". Flickr. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  10. ^ "1993-06-21 @ Manchester Piccadilly: Class 304 front 75868 61873 75858, rear 75455 61422 75436, Class 142 no. 142077 [slide 14263]". Flickr. Retrieved 1 February 2016.


  • Fox, Peter (1987). Multiple Unit Pocket Book. British Railways Pocket Book No.2 (Summer/Autumn 1987 ed.). Platform 5 Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0906579740. OCLC 613347580.
  • Fox, Peter (1994). Electric Multiple Units. British Railways Pocket Book No.4 (7th ed.). Platform 5. p. 9. ISBN 9781872524603.
  • Swain, Alec (1990). Overhead Line Electric Multiple Units. British Rail Fleet Survey No.11 (1st ed.). Ian Allan. p. 38.

Further reading

  • "Last-minute rescue bid for West Coast '304' EMU". RAIL. No. 315. EMAP Apex Publications. 8–21 October 1997. p. 67. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • "Class 304 EMU plan is floundering". RAIL. No. 322. EMAP Apex Publications. 14–27 January 1998. p. 64. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  • "Wolverton firm steps in to rescue Class 304 EMU". RAIL. No. 328. EMAP Apex Publications. 8–21 April 1998. p. 66. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
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