British Rail Class 144
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British Rail Class 144

British Rail Class 144 Pacer
Leeds railway station MMB 49 144006.jpg
Northern Rail 144006 at Leeds in 2014
144010 DMSO Internal.jpg
The refurbished interior of an Arriva Rail North Class 144
In service1986-2020
Order no.
  • 31015 (DMS)
  • 31016 (DMSL)
  • 31037 (MS)[1]
Family namePacer
Entered service1986
Refurbished2002-2004 and 2010, 2015 (became 144e)
Number built23 trainsets
  • DP240 (DMS)
  • DP241 (DMSL)
  • DR205 (MS)[1][2]
Fleet numbers
  • 144001-144023 (sets)[3]
  • 55801-55823 (DMS)
  • 55850-55859 (MS)
  • 55824-55846 (DMSL)[1]
Capacity99 or 157 seats per unit[4]
Operator(s)Northern Trains
Depot(s)Neville Hill[1]
Line(s) served
Car body constructionSteel underframe. Aluminium alloy body and roof.
Car length
  • 15.093 m (49 ft 6.2 in) (DMS, DMSL)
  • 15.186 m (49 ft 9.9 in) (MS)[2]
Width2.695 m (8 ft  in)[2]
Height3.725 m (12 ft  in)[2]
Floor height1.288 m (4 ft  in)[2]
DoorsTwin leaf pivot[3]
Articulated sections
  • 2 (144001-013)
  • 3 (144014-023)
Wheelbase9 m (29 ft  in)[2]
Maximum speed75 mph (121 km/h)[3]
  • 24.17 t (23.79 long tons; 26.64 short tons) (DMS)
  • 25.04 t (24.64 long tons; 27.60 short tons) (DMSL)
  • 23.5 t (23.1 long tons; 25.9 short tons) (MS)[2]
Prime mover(s)
Engine type6-cylinder 10-litre[5]
(originally 6-cylinder 11.1-litre) turbo-Diesel
Power output
  • Cummins: 225 hp (168 kW) at 2100 rpm[5]
    Originally Leyland: 205 hp (153 kW)[1] at 1950 rpm
TransmissionHydraulic, Voith (originally mechanical, SCG[1]
Train heating
  • Engine waste heat
  • Ducted warm air[2]
Braking system(s)Air[2]
Safety system(s)
Coupling system
Multiple workingClass 14x, 15x and 170[3]
Track gauge

The British Rail Class 144 Pacer diesel multiple units (DMUs) were built by British Rail Engineering Limited's Derby Litchurch Lane Works from 1986 to 1987. A total of 23 units were built,[7] replacing many of the earlier first-generation "Heritage" DMUs.[]

Class 144 units are in service with Northern Trains, but all units were due to be withdrawn by the end of 2019 as they do not meet new disability regulations.[8] Due to the late delivery of the new Class 195 and Class 331 trains, the 144s were to continue to operate in the South Yorkshire area until the middle of 2020,[9] but when services were reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic all the class 144 units were stored out of use at Keighley on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.[10]


At the beginning of the 1980s British Rail (BR) had a large fleet of ageing "Heritage" DMUs, built to many different designs in the late 1950s and early 1960s.[11] Some of the more reliable types were retained and refurbished. However, BR decided to replace many of the non-standard or unreliable types with new second generation units, built to modern standards. Two different types were pursued; low-cost "Pacers" built using bus parts and used on short-distance services;[] and "Sprinters" built for longer-distance services.[]

Twenty-three Class 144 units were built.[7] The units have a maximum speed of 75 mph (121 km/h) and are externally similar to the earlier Class 143 Pacers (they have a Walter Alexander body like the Class 143), built in 1985-1986. The first thirteen of the class, No. 144001-013 are 2-car units.[7] The remaining ten, No. 144014-023 are all 3-car units,[7] although all were originally built as 2-car units, the centre vehicle being added later. These ten Pacers are the only Pacers to contain intermediate vehicles.

Units are formed of two driving motors, one of which contains a toilet. The 3-car units have an additional intermediate motor. All vehicles have standard-class seating only. The technical description of the formation is DMS+(MS)+DMSL. Individual vehicles are numbered as follows.

  • 55801-55823 - DMS
  • 55850-55859 - MS (units 144014-023 only)
  • 55824-55846 - DMSL

The Class 144 units have BSI couplers. This allows them to work in multiple with Class 142, Class 150, Class 153, Class 155, Class 156, Class 158 and Class 170 units, as well as units of the same class.[]


The class were built specifically for local services sponsored by the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (since rebranded as Metro). As such, the fleet was painted in the crimson/cream West Yorkshire Metro livery, although three units (nos. 144011-013) were later repainted into Regional Railways livery. Units are used on services such as:

They can also be found operating the Leeds-Morecambe services, services between Scunthorpe and Adwick to Sheffield and Lincoln. More recently from 2008, they have been working between Manchester Victoria and Leeds (usually via Brighouse) amongst others.[] Prior to 1994, they were also used on Leeds/Bradford-Ilkley and Leeds/Bradford-Skipton services. These lines were electrified in 1994, and passenger services were operated by Class 308 electric multiple units. Due to their similarities, services booked for a Class 144 can often be replaced by a Class 142, and vice versa.[]

Since privatisation, the fleet has been operated by several franchises. The first operator was Northern Spirit, which was later taken over by Arriva Trains Northern who refurbished the fleet between 2002 and 2004,[12] with units emerging in a new silver and red Metro livery complete with refurbished interior. In December 2004, the fleet was transferred to the then-new Northern rail franchise. Northern Rail replaced the silver and red Metro livery with Northern Purple and Blue. During 2009, 144001-013 were all repainted. As of April 2010, all Class 144s have been repainted.[7]

Northern Rail carried out a refurbishment programme to their fleet of Class 144 trains. 144006 was the first unit to be so treated and this was also the first one to be refurbished in the joint Arriva Trains Northern/WYPTE Metro programme in 2002.

The refurbishment features the following enhancements:[13][14]

  • Installation of 'easy to mop' flooring
  • The bike area at one end has been extended by removing the bulkhead wall and extending the perch seat from three to four
  • Repainted hand grips and stanchions
  • New dado side panels and repainted wall ends
  • Retrimmed seats in the purple Northern Rail moquette
  • Repainted ceiling
  • Repainted driving cab

The units more recently transferred to Arriva Rail North in April 2016 and then Northern Trains on 1 March 2020.

The Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008[15] required that all public passenger trains be accessible by 1 January 2020. No Pacer train (except the prototype Class 144e) met this requirement. Porterbrook proposed an extensive refurbishment of the Class 143 and 144 units in an attempt to meet this requirement, although this would reduce the number of seats.[16][17] All were to be withdrawn by December 2019. Northern ordered the Class 195 and Class 331 units to replace the Pacers, as well as taking on spare stock from other operators.[18][19] However, due to the late delivery of the new trains, the 144s will continue to operate in the South Yorkshire area until the middle of 2020.[9] In 2019, Northern received a dispensation to allow some of the class to be used until 31 August 2020, with use only permitted on specified routes.[20]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many railway passenger services were curtailed with passenger numbers down by 95% in some areas.[21] Northern Trains stored 18 units on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway with the other five stored at Heaton TMD.[22][23]


Six units have been saved for preservation, five units being two-coach units and the sixth being a three-coach unit.


Set number Vehicle numbers Livery Preserved at Notes
144003 55803 - 55826 Northern Rail unbranded Great Central Railway (Nottingham) Currently stored and awaiting transfer into preservation.
144004 55804 - 55827 Northern Rail unbranded Aln Valley Railway
144006 55806 - 55829 Northern Rail unbranded Cambrian Heritage Railway Moved to Cambrian Heritage Railways on 22 May 2020.
144007 55807 - 55830 Northern Rail unbranded Cambrian Heritage Railway Moved to Cambrian Heritage Railways on 22 May 2020.
144011 55811 - 55834 Northern Rail unbranded Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Currently stored and awaiting transfer into preservation.
144017 55817 55853 55840 Northern Rail unbranded Appleby Frodingham Railway Preservation Group Currently stored and awaiing transfer into preservation.
To be a static display at the AFRPGs Scunthorpe Headquarters.[24]

Non Railway Use

Not all of the preserved Class 144s are to see operational use on heritage lines. A number of class members are intended to see uses elsewhere as expansions for businesses or for training purposes.

A number of organisations took part in a Department for Transport competition called "Transform a Pacer" where ideas are put forward for what they wish to do with a Pacer unit. One entrant intended to keep a Pacer running and update it to meet disability regulations.[25] The three winners were later announced on the 22 January 2020 episode of The One Show.[26] The chosen Pacer units are not yet confirmed.

Set number Vehicle numbers Livery Preserved at Notes
1440XX 55XXX 55XXX 55XXX Northern Rail unbranded Platform 1, Huddersfield Station Won from Porterbrook's "Convert a Pacer" competition. To be used in a project to expand the society to attract more members.
1440XX 55XXX 55XXX 55XXX Northern Rail unbranded Fagley Primary School Won from Porterbrook's "Convert a Pacer" competition. To be converted into a science lab to promote STEM learning.
1440XX 55XXX 55XXX 55XXX Northern Rail unbranded Airedale NHS Trust Won from Porterbrook's "Convert a Pacer" competition. To be converted for mixed use. To aid improvements in the children's unit alongside for visiting patients.

Class 144e

The Class 144e (Evolution) was a proposed refurbished variant of the Class 144 which would bring it up to the requirements of the Persons with reduced mobility-Technical Specifications for Interoperability accessibility regulations.[17] The demonstrator Class 144e unit (144012) featured a number of upgrades such as the addition of new 2+2 style seating, a fully accessible toilet, two wheelchair spaces and spaces for bicycles and luggage.[17][27] as well as Wi-Fi and media screens.[17] The demonstrator unit was expected to re-enter traffic in April 2015,[28] but this was delayed until later in the year.[17]


A Northern Rail 3-car Class 144 unit caught fire near Smithy Bridge in Rochdale on 21 November 2013.[29][30]

Fleet details

Twenty-three units were built in total, originally all were formed as in 2 coach sets (144001 - 144013). In 1988, a third car was added to the last ten sets (144014 - 144023).

Class Operator Year Built Number Unit nos Cars per Set Notes
Class 144 Preserved 1986–1987 2 144006–007 2
Stored 11 144001–005, 009–013, 021 2 008 stored with centre coach from 021.
10 144008, 014–020, 022–023 3

Named Units

One unit has received a name :[31]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Fox 1987, p. 42
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Vehicle Diagram Book No. 220 for Diesel Multiple Unit Trains (Railcars) (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. Derby: British Railways Board. 1982. DP240, DP241, DR205.
  3. ^ a b c d "Class 144". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 9 March 2005.
  4. ^ "The Northern Interim Franchise Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Diesel Multiple Units 2010. Platform 5. 2010. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-902336-75-6.
  6. ^ "System Data for Mechanical and Electrical Coupling of Rail Vehicles". Rail Safety and Standards Board. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d e "The Junction Fleet List". Retrieved 2010.
  8. ^ Devereux, Nigel (19 April 2017). "Northern 'Pacer' withdrawals scheduled to begin in 2018". The Railway Magazine. Retrieved 2019.
  9. ^ a b Clinnick, Richard. "Pacers to continue running in South Yorkshire into next year". RAIL. Retrieved 2019.
  10. ^ "How 23 Pacers in storage could save this Yorkshire heritage railway from collapse". Retrieved 2020.
  11. ^ Boyd-Hope, Gary (December 2018). "Nodding Along - the Pacer Story Part 3". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 164 no. 1, 413. Horncastle: Mortons Media. p. 28. ISSN 0033-8923.
  12. ^ Boyd-Hope, Gary (December 2018). "Nodding Along - the Pacer Story Part 3". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 164 no. 1, 413. Horncastle: Mortons Media. p. 27. ISSN 0033-8923.
  13. ^ "Interior of refurbished Class 144 No. 144006". Retrieved 2010.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Interior of refurbished Class 144 No. 144006". Retrieved 2010.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "The Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Interoperable Rail System) Regulations 2008".
  16. ^ "Class 143 & 144 Diesel Multiple Units" (PDF). Porterbrook Leasing Co. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 March 2014.
  17. ^ a b c d e "Porterbrook unveils Pacer DMU life-extension demonstrator". Railway Gazette International. 29 June 2015.
  18. ^ "Northern to replace Pacers with '21st Century' trains".
  19. ^ "Northern Invitation to Tender" (PDF). Department for Transport.
  20. ^ Wilkinson, Peter (4 December 2019). "The Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011 - Northern Class 144 - 2020 accessibility deadline" (PDF). DfT. Retrieved 2020.
  21. ^ Paton, Graeme (20 April 2020). "Rail passengers could be limited on return to work". The Times (73, 138). p. 2. ISSN 0140-0460.
  22. ^ Newton, Grace (21 April 2020). "End of the line is near for fleet of disused Pacers". The Yorkshire Post. p. 11. ISSN 0963-1496.
  23. ^ Milner, Chris, ed. (May 2020). "'Pacers' stored at Worth Valley". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 166 no. 1, 430. Horncastle: Morton's Media. p. 6. ISSN 0033-8923.
  24. ^ RailbusMemories (23 March 2020). "". @RailbusMemories. Retrieved 2020.
  25. ^ Organisations in running to get a pacer train
  26. ^ Pacer competition winners announced
  27. ^ "Class 144 Evolution" (PDF). Porterbrook. Porterbrook. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  28. ^ "Porterbrook's rebuilt Pacer set to enter traffic in April". Rail Magazine. Retrieved 2015.
  29. ^ "Manchester to Leeds train catches fire in Rochdale". BBC News. BBC. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  30. ^ "Commuters evacuated from train after it catches fire in Rochdale". Manchester Evening News. Trinity Mirror. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  31. ^ "DMU FORMATIONS". AbRail. Retrieved 2015.


  • 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.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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