British Rail Class 139

British Rail Class 139 is the TOPS classification[5] for PPM60 model lightweight[6][7][8] railcars built by Parry People Movers,[6] for use on the British rail network. The class were originally built in 2008 for operation on the Stourbridge Town Branch Line following an extensive trial with a prototype registered as a Class 999 unit.

British Rail Class 139 Parry People Mover
Parry People Mover 139001 at Stourbridge Junction Railway Station (geograph 6253739).jpg
West Midlands Trains 139001 at Stourbridge Junction in September 2019
The interior of a London Midland Class 139
In service2009—Present
ManufacturerParry People Movers
Family namePPM
ReplacedClass 153
Number built3
Formation1 car
Capacity20–25 seated, 30–35 standing[1]
Operator(s)West Midlands Railway
Line(s) servedStourbridge Town branch line
Car body constructionStainless steel frame
Car length8.7 m (28 ft 6+12 in) (139 012)
9.6 m (31 ft 6 in)[1] (139 001-002)
Width2.4 m (7 ft 10+12 in)[1]
Height3.2 m (10 ft 6 in)[1]
Wheel diameter610 mm (24 in)[1]
Maximum speed32 km/h (20 mph)[2] (as in service)
Weight12 t (11.8 long tons; 13.2 short tons)[3] (PPM50)
Traction systemFlywheel (1,000–2,600 rpm)[1]
Prime mover(s)Ford DSG423 2.3 L (140 cu in)[1][4]
Power output86 hp (64 kW)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge

The first newly constructed Class 139 was shown on 28 June 2008 at the Tyseley Locomotive Works Open Day. The full fleet of two units entered public service on the branch line in June 2009.


The Class 139 units are typical of the Parry People Mover concept, in that they utilise flywheel energy storage to recapture and supply the motive force for moving the vehicle.[9] The flywheel captures the vehicle's kinetic energy when the brakes are used,[9] and re-uses the energy for acceleration. This eliminates the need for a large diesel engine. The small onboard engine (fuelled by LPG) is used to initially bring the flywheel up to speed, to add speed to the flywheel after the vehicle is started in motion, and to provide power for the onboard systems.[9]


999 900 approaches Stourbridge Town, 12 March 2006.
139 002 approaching Stourbridge Junction.
139 001 on display at Tyseley, 28 June 2008.

The concept of using the lightweight[3][6][7][8] railcar dates from 2006, when a year-long pilot scheme began on the Stourbridge Town Branch Line on Sundays, using a PPM50 unit constructed in 2002 and numbered as 999 900 under TOPS. The success of this trial led to the provision of regular services using the technology in the franchise plans for the new West Midlands Franchise. Following the award of the franchise to London Midland, they placed an order for two PPM60 units with Parry People Movers, through Porterbrook leasing, with the service itself operated for them by Pre Metro Operations.

These two units are 139 001 and 139 002, composed of vehicle numbers 39001 and 39002 in the British carriage and wagon numbering and classification system. The vehicles are mechanically similar to 999 900, but are approximately one metre (yard) longer. They were intended to start operating on the Stourbridge Town branch in 2008.[10] In January 2009 it was confirmed that 139001 was still undergoing testing at Chasewater Railway and 139002 was still not completed.[11]

Despite the difficulties in the commissioning of the two Class 139 units, London Midland consistently outlined its faith that they would be ready to enter service. In March 2009, it was announced that the first unit had received its passenger certification from Network Rail, allowing it to carry passengers. London Midland stated that they would begin a phased entry into service, starting with weekend operation in April, leading up to a full service by the timetable change in May 2009.[12] Until then, London Midland temporarily returned a Class 153 to operating the branch service.[13] 139 002 officially entered service on 29 March 2009 as part of the type's phased entry. This unit had previously worked in full service, including all-day on Monday 11 May 2009 and previously had worked all morning services during February/March 2009.[14] In May 2009 the first unit, 139 001 was finally delivered to Stourbridge, with 999 900 removed at the same time.[14] Test unit 999 900 had been on the branch line between 2005–2009.[14] At the point of introduction, they displaced a single Class 153 DMU that was previously allocated to the branch line. By December 2009, the 200,000th passenger had been carried by the railcars.[4]

In 2010, a trial service was planned between the Mid-Hants Railway, a heritage line in Hampshire, and Go-Op, a planned open access operator, which would see the former 999 900 restored to its original designation as Parry Car No. 12, operate peak time trains between Medstead and Four Marks and Alton, intended to connect with South West Trains services to London in the morning and from London in the evening.[15] Problems with the vehicle during testing meant that this project was postponed. As a consequence, the vehicle, since purchased by Lightweight Community Transport,[16] underwent a major rebuild to bring it up to Class 139 standard, and was renumbered as 139 000, then later 139 012.[17][18]


Parry People Movers are using London Midland's purchase of the Class 139 for the short Stourbridge line to promote the PPM concept for other lines that are short and essentially separate from the main railway network as a means of reintroducing rail travel to areas that have seen it curtailed.[19] PPM indicated that they intended to use a variation of the PPM60 model, to be known as the PPM220, to bid for the contract to build a small fleet of experimental tram-trains for use on the Penistone Line, and for the new generation DMUs intended as part of the Government's rolling stock plan. This will entail an articulated unit, with a pair of PPM60 variants at either end of a fixed passenger unit—the whole unit will be capable of accommodating up to 220 passengers and travel at up to 60 miles per hour (100 km/h) on railways or 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) on tramways.[20] The Penistone trial however was cancelled before a bidder was selected, and was replaced in September 2009 with an electric Rotherham-Sheffield trial.[21]

Unit 139012 is planned to be used as a technology demonstrator following its upgrade, with testing planned initially for the Chasewater Railway, a 2-mile (3.2 km) long heritage line in Staffordshire, before further tests on the much longer, double track Great Central Railway in Leicestershire.[22] The intention then is to transport the vehicle to test a more frequent service on the Ellesmere Port to Warrington Line between Ellesmere Port and Helsby.[22]

In cooperation with Lightweight Community Transport, Parry People Movers are developing a new, four–axle bogie vehicle with a more powerful diesel engine and greater passenger capacity that it plans to market as the flagship product for use on branch lines, which it is classing as 139/1 (with the original, two axle units being 139/0). The success of the Stourbridge units has led to more interest in using such vehicles elsewhere by train operating companies, with at least one pre-qualified franchise bidder in the 2012 round including the procurement of Class 139s in its franchise bid.[23]

Fleet detailsEdit

Class Operator No. built Year built Cars per set Unit nos Notes
Class 139/0 Lightweight Community Transport 1 2002
2011 (rebuild)
1 139012[24] Formerly 139000, and originally 999900
West Midlands Trains 2 2008 139001 – 139002


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "PPM 50/ PPM 60 Specification". Parry People Movers. Retrieved 14 October 2008. Dimensions: Length [..] 9.6m [..] Width 2.4m [..] Height 3.2m (high floor) Maximum speed: 65km/h on suitable trackwork [..] Passenger accommodation: Typical capacity 20-25 seated plus 30-35 standing [..] Flywheel energy storage: Effective speed range 1,000-2,600rpm [..] Self-powered vehicles: Engine Ford DSG423 2.3L LPG fuel)
  2. ^[bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ a b "Clean, Green & Quiet - Lightweight Railcar Operation Scores Success and Acclaim in Passenger Service". Parry People Movers. 30 November 2006. Retrieved 29 June 2010. the 12-tonne PPM 50 vehicle
  4. ^ a b "Eco-friendly tram celebrates 200,000th passenger". Stourbridge News. Birmingham, United Kingdom. 15 December 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2010. revolutionary gas powered tram ... Its official title might well be the Class 139 LPG powered light rail vehicle but to everyone local to this area it is the Parry People Mover
  5. ^ Today's Railways UK. No. 74. p. 59. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ a b c Tift, Duncan (1 August 2007). "Green light for PPM to pioneer new rail policy". Birmingham Post. Archived from the original on 25 September 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2010. Parry People Movers ... based in Cradley Heath, supplies lightweight rail and tram vehicles.
  7. ^ a b "£700,000 oredr for two lightweight railcars". TransportXtra. 14 July 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Class 153s temporarily return to the Stourbridge Branch as a description" (PDF). Railway Herald. No. 170. 16 March 2009. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2010. However, problems introducing the new lightweight railcars,
  9. ^ a b c "PPM Technology". Parry People Movers. Archived from the original on 28 December 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2010. The rotating flywheel is a store of kinetic energy that is used to power the vehicle. ... flywheel allows the direct capture of brake energy ... A two-litre engine to transport fifty passengers. ... on board LPG-fuelled automotive engine is used.
  10. ^ "Parry People Movers for Stourbridge branch line". Archived from the original on 17 May 2008.
  11. ^ Rail Express. January 2009. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ "Stourbridge railcar receives its passenger licence". London Midland. 26 March 2009.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Trains return to the Stourbridge Line - including Sundays". London Midland. 12 March 2009. Archived from the original on 19 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2009.
  14. ^ a b c "Latest News". Parry People Movers. 19 June 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2009.
  15. ^ GOCO Mid-Hants Link trial set for action - The Go! Co-op Newsletter, January 2011, p. 4
  16. ^ Lightweight Community Transport
  17. ^ A brand new railcar is being built for Mid-Hants... Archived 26 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine - Lightweight Community Transport, 21 October 2011
  18. ^ Stourbridge Railcars continue giving good performance - PPM Newsletter, March 2012, p. 6
  19. ^ "Parliamentary Light Rail Group hears case for reopenings" (PDF). Parry News. Parry People Movers. March 2008. p. 3. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  20. ^ "Worldwide Scope for Tram-Trains" (PDF). Parry News. Parry People Movers. November 2008. p. 4. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  21. ^ "City tram-trains trial unveiled". BBC News Online. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  22. ^ a b "139000 takes shape" (PDF). Lightweight Community Transport Newsletter. September 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  23. ^ Parry People Movers Newsletter No 63
  24. ^ "Light Rail (UK)" (PDF). Light Rail (UK). Retrieved 19 September 2021.

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