Meet a 101. Specifically, a Class 101 small diesel train. It was in use from 1956 to 2003 by which time the oldest units were an impressive 47 years old.

Originally they looked like this preserved one:


And wound up like this with the hi vis yellow front that became compulsory on UK railways:

The 101 had 150 bhp engines under each car (none of your turbos then) to which were attached Pneumocyclic semi automatic gearboxes as used on buses at the time. Yes, the driver had to change gear.

We see the power lever on the left with a dead man’s knob on the end, horn lever in the middle, gear lever to the right and the brake on the far right. The lever is still in the Satchel so we just see a drum.


You want to know how to drive one, don’t you? Let an instructional film guide you, noting that it employs what seems to have been the Standard Voice for films at the time. Our first step is to be assigned the Satchel.


The Satchel contains the keys, and unexpectedly the brake and reversing levers. I’m guessing this is for security and to avoiding having the brakes on at one end and off at the other.


Having been equipped with our Satchel, we can set off to prep our train, start it and get underway.

You can see our driver changing gear at around 8 minutes in.

For a modern view, see a guy called Jon Hopper who’s taking a busman’s holiday as he usually drives mainline trains.