Following experience gained with the first batch of railcars that were built in 1954/55 to a lightweight design using aluminium, Derby Works developed a range of low density sets to a similar design albeit with steel, rather than aluminium, carriage ends to improve strength.
A large number of what later became known as the Class 108 vehicles were built and 56504 was a member of the final batch of trailer cars to be built in 1960 as part of lot number 30602. Members of this batch differed from those of earlier batches by having the large box on the roof to display a four-character ‘head code’ to provide information about the identity, nature and destination of the train.
54504 (original number 56504) is a Driving Trailer Composite with Lavatory (DTCL) vehicle, the classification indicating that it has a driving compartment, is unpowered, contains both first- and second-class seating and a toilet compartment.
The vehicle was delivered new to the London Midland Region in October 1960 and, although its initial placement cannot be established, it appears to have spent much of its main-line career working out of Chester depot before moving to Manchester’s Longsight depot where it formed set LO280 with power car number 53971. It was withdrawn from service in February 1993.
During 1983, 56504 was allocated a new number 54504 as part of a scheme to renumber all DMU trailer cars from the 56xxx series to the 54xxx series in order to avoid clashes with the numbers of Class 56 Diesel locomotives.
It is not clear when it was paired with its current partner (power car number 51933) although photographic evidence shows that 51933/52064 and 53971/54504 were stabled together at Longsight depot in June 1993 following their withdrawal from service.