The reference for locomotives and railcars
British Rail Sprinter
later classes 150, 151, 153, 155, 156, 158 and 159
Great Britain | 1984 | 567 produced
150203 in Manchester-Victoria
150203 in Manchester-Victoria

In addition to the Pacers, the Sprinters were developed to replace the first-generation diesel multiple units. The name summarizes a family of several vehicles which were built between 1984 and 1993 by different manufacturers. They were designed for slightly longer distances than the Pacers and, in contrast to these, had four axles in bogies, which made for better driving comfort. The name was intended to draw public attention to the better running performance compared to the first generation.

Most variants had a Cummins diesel and a Voith T 211 r hydraulic transmission per car. The transmissions are characterized by the fact that they work as a torque converter up to nearly two-thirds of the top speed and the rated power can be called up regardless of the speed. Only in the upper speed range does it switch to more economical clutch operation, with the engine speed being proportional to the running speed. With the performance thus achieved, British Railways were able to set up new, faster timetables.

East Midland Trains 156414 in September 2009 in Peterborough
East Midland Trains 156414 in September 2009 in Peterborough
Peter Skuce

The first variant of the Sprinter was the British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) class 150, which prevailed against the Metro-Cammell class 151. They were created for commuter traffic on shorter routes and therefore have double doors. The top speed of 75 mph allows for good acceleration. After the two prototypes of the class 150/0, 50 production vehicles of the class 150/1 were built, each of which consisted of two cars, had five seats per row and had no gangways at the ends. In the 85 class 150/2 vehicles, there are only four seats per row and gangways.

From 1987, 42 British Leyland 155 class “Super Sprinters”, also two-car units, followed. Manufacturing methods used in the buses from this company were used in the construction of the car bodies. A total of 35 of these vehicles were converted into 70 class 153 vehicles by Hunslet-Barclay in 1991 and 1992 by separating the cars and retrofitting each with a second driver's cab. These were intended for routes with low passenger volume. The 114 two-car class 156 trains from Metro-Cammell, which basically correspond to the Class 155, were also referred to as “Super Sprinters”.

South West Trains 159011 in April 2010 at Salisbury
South West Trains 159011 in April 2010 at Salisbury

For longer distances, the class 158 “Express Sprinter” was built from 1989, which has a higher engine power and can reach a speed of 90 mph or 145 km/h. In contrast to all previous Sprinters, it also has air conditioning. There were 133 units with Cummins engines and 47 with Perkins engines. 17 of the units have an additional center car, which is also powered. The conversion of 22 Class 158 units in 1993 resulted in the three-car class 159/0 “South Western Turbo”, which also has a first class. Another seven followed in 2007, becoming the class 159/1.

The Sprinters brought many improvements, especially with their running performance, although the lack of air conditioning in most variants became a point of criticism quite early on. Thanks to their automatic BSI couplings, all Sprinters can not only be coupled to each other, but also together with the Pacer and the Turbostar. The class 150 units, which were used intensively in commuter transport, in particular, wore out quickly. Some were refurbished, others were replaced with new Turbostar and Coradia trains at the beginning of the millennium. The better-serviced class 158 and 159 trains are also being replaced by the new generation of multiple units since around 2020.

Variant150153156158 three-car
Axle config2-B+B-2 2-B 2-B+B-2 2-B+2-B+B-2 
Gauge4 ft 8 1/2 in (Standard gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Length131 ft 7 1/2 in76 ft 1 11/16 in151 ft 1 3/8 in228 ft 5 5/16 in
Wheelbase55 ft61 ft
Fixed wheelbase8 ft 6 in
Empty weight157,630 lbs90,720 lbs157,630 lbs250,005 lbs
Power sourcediesel-hydraulic
Top speed75 mph90 mph
EngineCummins NT855R5Cummins NTA855R1 oder Perkins 2006-TWH
Engine type2x 6-cyl. diese16-cyl. diesel2x 6-cyl. diese13x 6-cyl. diesel
Engine output570 hp (425 kW)286 hp (213 kW)570 hp (425 kW)1,050 hp (783 kW)
Power Plant
Calculated Values
last changed: 03/2023

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