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Southern's Last Run: Brighton

To commemorate over 40 years of service of 400 series stock on the Central, Eastern & South Western divisions Southern ran the final slam door train service on the main line on Saturday 26th November 2005. Three 4 Vep units were deliberately substituted for newer class 377 units on the 09.19 Brighton - Victoria & 11.06 Victoria - Brighton workings. Leading from Brighton the formation was 3490+3505+3535. This was not the originally intended order but as an unexpected bonus 3490 had been used for 05.55 Brighton - Seaford and 06.30 Seaford - Brighton services, coupling to 3505 and 3535 which had been in platform 4 since 03.00. Due to planned engineering work, the train was diverted via Lewes (as were all services between London and Brighton), which required a reversal there.

Even before 08.30 enthusiasts seeking that 'final ride' had started arriving at Brighton station although it was not until just after nine did the train start to rapidly fill with a travelling public many of whom were unawares of the train's significance. This was despite Southern's regular announcements both on-train and at stations en-route. Departure from Brighton was slightly late due to slow boarding. Racing through the South Downs the train made the correctly slow approach through platform 3 at Lewes and out beyond the junction with the lines from London to make the shunt move back into Lewes' platform 2 in readiness for the onward run to London. Although the train was respectably loaded the driver might have struggled to pass through the crowded leading two coaches which were described as being absolutely crammed with enthusiasts. As a consequence the reversal at Lewes took slightly longer than timetabled due to the driver having difficulty in walking through that part of the train.

The train departed Lewes 4 minutes late for Haywards Heath (platform 3) where many regular passengers let the adjacent Thameslink train leave in preference for the Vep stock. Perhaps their choice was not misplaced as the 09.19 was given the road at Copyhold Junction thus overtaking the Thameslink train. Gatwick Airport (platform 4) saw a prolonged stop leading to quite heavy loadings in the centre of the train with gangways becoming partially blocked with baggage whilst bemused airport passengers shuffled themselves along the train. This later led to difficulties with the refreshment trolley passing through the train but certainly drinks were available in the centre unit.

After using the Quarry Lines to Stoat's Nest Junction the train arrived at East Croydon (platform 1) with a station stop typical of the past four decades. Further slow loading at both East Croydon and Clapham Junction added to the cumulative delays resulting in a 9 minute late arrival at Victoria (platform 16). By the time Victoria was reached it was difficult to determine whether the regular travelling public outnumbered those out for a last slam-door ride or vice-versa.

The final up run awaiting departure The 12 Vep formation, headed by 3490, in platform 4 at Brighton, prior to departure. It is believed that the headboard was hasty amendment of that used on Southern's staff tour on November 12th.

photograph by Don Benn
3505 and 3490 coupled together A once familiar sight - Mk1 EMUs coupled together - will not be seen on the mainline again.

photograph by John Maskell
colourful wreath A colourful wreath had been placed in the guard's compartment of u3490. Many on the train were unaware of this. The inscription on the card reads " 3490 3505 3535 RIP 26 Nov 2005" .

photograph by Paul Bigland, used with permission