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Kent Coast Electrification Scheme

This major article written by Jeff Cousins appeared over 8 issues of Live Rail distributed to members between February 1983 and August 1985 and for the first time has been collected here into a single document. This is very long! In this item the author reviews in detail the major Southern electrification scheme which formed part of the 1955 modernisation plan of British Railways. Implementation of the Kent Coast scheme was in two phases which are clearly described here covering infrastructure, trains and services. The routes via Ashford are today those traversed by Channel Tunnel traffic but despite the intervening four decades, the 1990's Eurostar trains run along the 1950's 4Cep units.

Early Electrification Proposals

The first proposals to electrify the railways in Kent date from the early years of this century. At that time the advent of electric street tramways was proving a serious threat to suburban railways, so some of the companies sought to electrify their lines. Schemes which came to fruition included the London, Brighton & South Coast (LBSCR) overhead electrics, the third-rail scheme of the London & South Western Railway (LSWR) and schemes on the London & North Western Railway, the Mersey Railway and the Tyneside lines of the North East Railway. Other railways were not so successful with their schemes; among these were the South Eastern & Chatham Railways (SECR) managing committee.

The SECR had obtained powers in its Act of 1903 for electrical working and the generation of electricity but nothing seems to have occurred until 1913 when, spurred on by the neighbouringlbSCR scheme and the growth of road transport, consideration was given to electrifying their suburban lines. This course of action was not though advisable by the managing committee due to the capital cost involved.

After the First World War a scheme was drawn up which included the SECR's suburban lines and, if completed, would have seen electric trains reaching Gillingham, Westerham, Tonbridge (via Redhill, Swanley and Orpington) and Dorking (Town). The Oxted line would have been electrified to Crowhurst Jn. It was envisaged that the system would be 1500V dc with two conductor rails. Multiple units would have been employed, each comprising 2 third class motor coaches with an intermediate first class trailer. Aid was to be forthcoming under the Trades Facilities Act and permission was sought for the construction of a power station at Charlton; this was, however, refused.

The 1500V scheme disappeared with the formation of the Southern Railway (SR) on 1st January 1923. The SR decided that any future electrification would use the LSWR system - 600V dc with third rail. Suburban electrification was extended to ex SECR lines quickly, the lines from Victoria and Holborn Viaduct being converted on 12th July 1925, allowing electrics to run to Orpington via both Herne Hill and the Catford loop. On 21st September an electric shuttle service was introduced from Elmers End to Hayes, and on 28th February 1926 full electric services were introduced from Charing Cross and Cannon Street to the Mid Kent line, Bromley North and Orpington. The third stage of the South Eastern electrics began on 6th June 1926 and covered routes to Dartford. Full electric services were delayed until 19th July owing to the General Strike. On 6th July 1930 electric services were extended from Dartford to Gravesend Central.

The next extensions of the third rail on the Eastern Section were towards Sevenoaks. The first part of this scheme was the projection of electric trains from Bickley Jn to St Mary Gray on 1st May 1934. 6th January 1935 saw electric trains reach Sevenoaks from both St Mary Gray and Orpington, and the loops at Chislehurst Junction were also electrified from this date. Although much of this scheme obtained its power from the existing feeder station at Northfleet, an additional feeder station was opened at Tunbridge Wells at this time, clearly indicating the future aspirations of the Southern Railway. This fed sub-stations at Polhill and Sevenoaks.

The Eastern Section saw the last electrification scheme carried out by the SR which involved electrifying the lines from Gravesend Central to Gillingham, Strood and Maidstone West, Swanley to Rochester, and Otford to Maidstone FaSt Current was again obtained from the feeder station at Northfleet, and some 14 sub-stations were opened. All these lines carried electric trains from 2nd July 1939.

Evolution of the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme

One of the last acts of the SR was the production in November 1946 of a scheme to electrify many lines in Kent. These included all the lines subsequently covered by the Kent Coast scheme, together with those from Tonbridge to Hastings, Christs Hospital to Horsham and South Croydon to Horsted Keynes (via East Grinstead). (Although not part of the Kent Coast scheme, it will be necessary to refer to the Tonbridge - Hastings line at several points in this article.)

At this time certain important decisions were taken concerning any future electrification scheme. A new electrical control room would be needed - probably to be located at Canterbury; electric locomotives would be used to work Continental boat trains and freight and steam working would be abolished east of the Portsmouth Direct line, using diesel-electric traction to replace steam on lines not to be electrified.

Despite a 1948 report which recommended the adoption of 1500V dc overhead as the standard for future British railway electrification, it was recognised that since such a large area of the British Railways Southern Region (as the Southern Railway had become) had third rail installed it should not be affected.

In the British Transport Commission's 1952 Annual Report it was stated that approval had been given in principle for the electrification of the lines from Gillingham to Ramsgate, Sevenoaks to Dover, and Tonbridge to Hastings. Each section was to be examined on its economic benefits and in the context of an on-going programme. There was, however, no immediate progress.

The BTC published, in early 1955, its plan entitled "The Modernisation of British Railways". Although this is chiefly remembered for initiating the change from steam to diesel on the railway it also contained plans for 5 electrification schemes - one of which was the Kent Coast scheme.

At that time it was decided not to electrify the line from Tonbridge to St Leonards owing to the very restricted loading gauge of some of the tunnels on this route. Consideration was given to widening the tunnels but it was felt that this would have put too much strain on available resources. In addition, the condition of rolling stock then running on the Hastings line was such that it could not remain in service until electrification could be completed. In the circumstances new diesel-electric multiple-units were built for the service.

Final approval for the Kent Coast scheme was given by the BTC in February 1956, almost exactly a year after the publication of the Modernisation Plan. In addition to the installation of conductor rails and associated power supply equipment and the provision of new rolling stock, the scheme offered an opportunity to undertake comprehensive system improvement, which is often a feature of major electrification schemes. Certain stations were rebuilt and colour light signalling installed between Victoria and Ramsgate (via Chatham) and Hither Green and Dover (via Tonbridge). Considerable alterations were made to the track facilities available. Although electrification itself only occurred outside the suburban area, the inner area saw significant improvements in track facilities and signalling and the construction of a new depot for electric locomotives and multiple-units at Stewarts Lane.

The scheme was divided into two phases with the aim of completing Phase 1 by June 1959 and Phase 2 by June 1962. The cost of the scheme was estimated at £45 million (1959 price levels), of which £25 million was in respect of Phase 1.

The lines involved were:

Phase 1

  • Gillingham - Faversham - Ramsgate
  • Sittingbourne - Sheerness
  • Sittingbourne (Western Jn - Middle Jn) - Faversham - Dover Marine
  • Stewarts Lane area

Phase 2

  • Sevenoaks - Ashford - Dover - Ramsgate
  • Maidstone East - Ashford - Canterbury West - Minster junctions
  • Paddock Wood - Maidstone West
  • Folkestone Harbour branch

Although the scheme had initially included the line from Ashford to Ore, this section was not proceeded with and the scheme as executed covered 178 track miles in Phase 1 with a further 132 track miles in Phase 2 - a total of 310 track miles.

Track Facility and Station Improvements - Phase 1

Starting from the London end, the first major alteration in track layout occurred between Shortlands and Bickley, where the tracks were rearranged to pair them by usage instead of by direction. The major improvement was that trains from London via Penge no longer had to cross the paths of up Catford loop services at Shortlands Junction. This also had the effect of raising the line speed at Shortlands Junction from 40 mph to 60 mph This line speed applied through to St Mary Gray.

An extensive scheme at Bickley and Chislehurst junctions also allowed speed limits to be raised. Both up and down curves between Bickley Jn and Petts Wood Jn were realigned, as was the up loop from St Mary Gray Jn to ChislehurSt The speed restriction on the Bickley Jn/Petts Wood Jn curves was raised from 35 mph to 50 mph and on the up Chislehurst curve from 30 mph to 50 mph 180 000 cubic yards of soil was removed during the course of realignment, a third of which was used to fill abandoned cuttings. From Bickley Jn to Swanley Jn the line was quadrupled. It was not always possible to use conventional railway cuttings due to the presence of residential property, so over a half-mile section concrete retaining walls were constructed. Also on this section a 9 arch brick viaduct was built over the Gray River. In its construction over half a million bricks and 3 500 cubic yards of concrete were used. The works between Bickley and Swanley entailed moving 1 042 000 tons of sand and clay.

The next major civil engineering work to be carried out was between Rainham and Newington, where up and down loops were constructed to allow fast trains to pass stopping services, and more particularly for passenger trains to overtake freights. The work involved moving 94 000 cubic yards of material and the widening or reconstruction of 8 bridges.

The Sheerness branch had previously crossed the River Swale by a combined road and rail viaduct with a rolling lift span to allow shipping to pass. This had suffered damage from vessels on several occasions and it was agreed to construct a new bridge, to be financed jointly by the Ministry of Transport, Kent County Council , British Railways and the owners of paper mills in the vicinity. Work began in January 1958 on the new bridge, the centre span of which is 120ft, allowing a 90ft wide waterway. At the same time, doubling of the line was carried out from Sittingbourne to Swale (immediately south of the bridge) and on the curve from Western Jn to Middle Jn.

Improvements were also made to stations and platforms were extended as required between Newington and Ramsgate and from Faversham to Dover , the requirement being that 12 car trains should be accommodated. At Chatham the work involved the removal of the up and down slow loops and erection of umbrella type roofing. At Dover Marine the platforms were extended by 114ft at the landward end. In all 35 stations were renovated to some extent, and at some electric lighting was installed.

Track Facility and Station Improvements - Phase 2

The civil engineering works for Phase 2 were not as extensive as those for Phase 1, but were substantial particularly in the Ashford area, and between Cheriton and Folkestone Central.

The track alterations at Ashford were the most complex of the entire scheme, and principally involved the conversion of the bay platforms at the country end of the station into the present through platforms 1 and 4. The lines through what became the down island were made reversible, whilst the existing through roads were retained. Reversible working meant that trains from Canterbury West, which previously had to cross to platform 3, could now use the down island platform, and so avoid having to cross the through lines twice. At the same time, the up slow line was extended by about ¾mile to give access to the new traction maintenance depot at Chart Leacon, on the up side of the Tonbridge line.

From Cheriton eastwards there had previously been 3 tracks to Shorncliffe (now Folkestone West), two down and one up, with 4 tracks through Shorncliffe station. An additional up line was provided, and the platforms at Shorncliffe extended to 810ft. The platforms were also cut back to meet the Railway Inspectorate requirement for a 10ft 6in gap between fast and slow lines. The additional line was provided to allow increased flexibility in dealing with boat trains. Folkestone Central station was rebuilt, and the previous up and down platforms with an up bay were replaced by two island platforms.

Improvements on a minor scale were carried out at Borough Green & Wrotham, Otford, Lenham and Headcorn. A down loop was provided at Borough Green and an up loop was installed between Otford and Otford Junction. New up and down loops were laid at Lenham and Headcorn. The additional lines at Borough Green and Otford have since been lifted.

In all, 43 stations were renovated under Phase 2, and at several of these platforms were lengthened and concrete footbridges were provided. Within the suburban area, the only significant work during Phase 2 appears to have been at Grove Park where track rationalisation kept the Bromley North shuttle service clear of the main lines. .It had been the intention to provide a third, bi-directional line between Pluckley and Ashford, but this work was never carried out.

Electrification - Power Supply and Control - Phase 1

The lines were electrified at 750V dc throughout. Current was taken from the National Grid at 33 kV 50Hz ac at 5 points in Phase 1 - Sittingbourne, Queenborough, Thanet, Canterbury and Folkestone - for distribution through oil-filled cables in concrete ducts for rectification to line voltage at 23 substations. The rectifiers were all of the mercury-arc variety, similar to many in use already in the suburban area. The area normally fed from each feeding station was as follows:

Sittingbourne fed the line from Gillingham to Graveney (between Faversham and Whitstable), the Sheerness branch and the Dover Priory branch as far as Selling
Queenborough was used to supply lines on the Isle of Sheppey in the event of power cables across the Swale being damaged;
Canterbury fed the Dover line from Selling to its junction with the Deal line; Thanet (situated near Margate) fed the Ramsgate line beyond Graveney.

In all, 7 substations were fed from Sittingbourne, 1 from Queenborough, 7 from Thanet, 6 from Canterbury and 2 from Folkestone. The substations were located at 3½ mile intervals. There were 13 on the Gillingham - Ramsgate section, two on the Sheerness branch and 8 on the Dover line. In addition there were 21 track paralleling huts, whose function is to improve the supply current characteristics, and provide additional points at which the power supply can be sectioned. The substations had a capacity of 2500 kW, save those at Queenborough, Broadstairs and Dover, which had double the normal capacity. (The number of substations fed from each grid feed has since altered.)

Conductor rails were 106lb per yard, except on the boat train route between Gillingham and Dover where 150lb per yard rails were used. They were laid in lengths up to 440 yards.

Electrification - Power Supply and Control - Phase 2

Equipment used for electric current supply was similar to that used in Phase 1 with supplies being taken from the National Grid at 4 existing supply points Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury West, Thanet and Folkestone. Tunbridge Wells supplied substations from Sevenoaks to Maidstone West and Headcorn. From here Folkestone became the supply point. Folkestone's area extended to Walmer, Wye (from Ashford), and Bearstead. Canterbury grid feed supplied the Wye - Minster section and Thanet supplied Sandwich and Betteshanger substations. The number of substations added to other feeds were: Tunbridge Wells 10; Folkestone 16; and Canterbury 6.

30 of the 32 substations had 2500kW mercury arc rectifiers similar to those used for Phase 1, while that at Folkestone had double the capacity. The substation at Hollingbourne was of an experimental type which became the standard for the later Bournemouth line electrification. Instead of mercury arc rectifiers, a 1500 kW silicon rectifier was installed.

The substations, together with 18 track parallelling huts, were controlled from a new electrical control room situated at Paddock Wood. Conductor rails on the lines electrified under Phase 2 were of 150lb per yard on the boat train routes (via Tonbridge and Hollingbourne) and 106lb per yard from Ashford to Ramsgate via Canterbury West and from Buckland Junction (north of Dover) to Minster Junction.

Signalling - Phase 1

Some 97 route miles were resignalled as part of Phase 1, comprising lines from Factory Junction to Ramsgate by both the main line and the Catford Loop, and including the Sheerness Branch. The section from Faversham to Dover was not resignalled. The scheme meant that 9 new power signal boxes were introduced, permitting the abolition of 31 cabins. Other modifications allowed 23 of those remaining to be manned on a part-time basis. Semaphore signalling on the resignalled section was replaced with colour-light, mostly 3 aspect, but with 4 aspect signals in congested areas where close headways were necessary.

The new power boxes were at Factory Junction, Shepherds Lane, Herne Hill, Beckenham Junction, Shortlands Jn, Chislehurst Jn, Rochester Bridge Jn, Rainham, Sittingbourne and Faversham. Existing boxes were retained at Swanley, Gillingham, Margate and Ramsgate. Push-button route setting was installed in all the new signal boxes and included plug-in relay apparatus, thus enabling the relay room to be reduced very much in size.

The Chislehurst Junction box, which replaced no less than 7 former boxes, controlled the very important junctions between the Chatham and South Eastern lines referred to above. At first it linked with semaphore signalling controlled from Grove Park and Orpington, until this was replaced by multiple aspect equipment under Phase 2.

The Sheerness branch was operated from Sittingbourne by the EDICT (Electronic Digital Indicating and Control Transmission) system. This was the first use of centralised traffic control on the Southern Region. Time division multiplex scanning was used, and 160 functions were interrogated during a 3.84 second cycle, the information being transmitted to Sittingbourne.

The new signalling allowed for a 3 minute headway on all lines, save on the slow lines between London and Swanley where a 2½ minute headway was installed to cater with the volume of inner suburban traffic.

The new signalling was introduced during the Spring of 1959 as follows:

8th March Factory Jn - Herne Hill, Brixton - Nunhead
22nd March Nunhead - Bellingham
12th April Herne Hill - Beckenham Junction
26th April Gillingham - Western Jn (Sittingbourne)
3rd May Graveney Crossing (Faversham) - Westgate-on-Sea
10th May Swanley - Gillingham
24th May Western Jn - Graveney Crossing, Eastern Jn and Western Jn - Sheerness-on-Sea
31st May Beckenham Junction/Bellingham - Swanley (including Chislehurst Loops)
19th July Westgate-on-Sea - Margate

Signalling - Phase 2

Phase 2 was similar to Phase 1 regarding signalling in that it extended from well within the suburban area to Dover, and left certain sections - Paddock Wood to Maidstone West, Dover to Ramsgate and Ashford to Ramsgate - unconverted. Indeed, signalling for Phase 2 seems to have been based largely on automatic signalling over long straight sections, with signals being controlled in junction areas. Route setting was achieved by push-button selection once again.

6 new power boxes were built for Phase 2; these were Hither Green, Orpington, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Ashford and Folkestone Junction. These replaced 41 mechanical signal boxes, of which 33 were abolished completely. An interesting point to note is that, although the lines through Tunbridge Wells were not electrified, the signalling nevertheless extends as far as Grove Junction (where the Hastings and Uckfield lines diverge). Indeed, Tonbridge controls an extensive area, from Sevenoaks to beyond Paddock Wood, Yalding (exclusive) on the Maidstone branch and Grove Junction (exclusive).

At Headcorn, the down main line and loop were normally under the control of Ashford panel, while Tonbridge controlled the up main line and loop. The existing cabin was retained for shunting freight trains to the goods yard, but that was closed soon after the resignalling. The box remained to take control of either the up or down lines in the event of failure of the automatic control. Sandling was the junction for a siding connection to the up line - the remains of the Hythe branch. The ground frame here was released from Westenhanger box when that box was open, otherwise it was released from Ashford Panel box.

The length of the Elmstead Woods, Polhill and Sevenoaks Tunnels meant that signals had to be installed in the tunnels to maintain the required headways. (It should be noted that this arrangement did not apply on the slow lines through Elmstead Woods tunnel). The original proposal was to allow a train, if it had been stopped at the first signal after leaving a tunnel, to proceed at caution under the authority of a calling-on signal into the occupied section beyond. This arrangement was not approved by the Railway Inspectorate, and in the revised arrangement the signal controlling the entrance to the tunnel will only clear if either the signal in the tunnel or that beyond the exit (or both) are clear. thus a train is prevented from entering a tunnel unless the exit is clear.

The signalling for Phase 2 was introduced during 1962 as follows:

4th February Parks Bridge Jn - Chislehurst Jn, Hither Green - Sidcup
18th February Smeeth (west of Westenhanger) - Archcliffe Jn, Folkestone Harbour Branch
4th March Chislehurst Jn - Hildenborough, Otford Jn - Sevenoaks
18th March Hildenborough - Paddock Wood/High Brooms
25th March High Brooms Grove Jn
1st April Paddock Wood Headcorn/Yalding
8th April Maidstone East
29th April Hothfield/Headcorn - Ashford - Wye/Smeeth/Ham Street

The headway allowed was 2 minutes for fast trains between Hither Green and Sevenoaks, and 2½ for stopping trains on this section. Beyond Sevenoaks the headway was increased to 3 minutes, but these headways were reduced at Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Ashford and Folkestone to allow fast trains to close up and pass trains which were stopped in platform.

4-aspect signals were used from Parks Bridge Jn to Sevenoaks, at Tonbridge and Ashford, and between Cheriton and Folkestone Junction; elsewhere 3 - aspect signals were used.

Express Rolling Stock - 4Cep and 4Bep (later Class 411 and 410)

The Kent Coast electrification scheme involved the building of rolling stock to cover both express and semi-fast services, and motor luggage vans for use on continental boat trains. For all these the electric multiple-unit principle was adhered to. In addition, the scheme involved the construction of 24 electric locomotives.

The express rolling stock design was the culmination of the development of the 4Cor units introduced for the 1937 Portsmouth electrification but using electro-pneumatic brakes and BR standard carriage designs. The units were of two types, one incorporating a buffet car. Buffet units were designated 4Bep (originally 4Buf(EPB)), whilst the remainder of the fleet were designated 4Cep (originally 4Cor(EPB)). The designations stand for Buffet EP brake and Corridor EP brake. Prototypes of the new designs had entered service on the Central Division in 1956. These were 4Cep 7101-7104 and 4Bep 7001-7002.

The 4Cep had a Motor Brake Second Open (MBSO) with driving position at each end of the unit, with a Trailer Composite (TC) and Trailer Second (TS) as intermediate vehicles. In the 4Bep units, the Trailer Second coach was replaced by a Trailer Buffet (TRB). All units were gangwayed throughout. Weight and seating capacity of the coaches of the prototype units was as follows:

Coach Type Weight (tons) Seats
MBSO 40 56 second
TS 31 64 second
TC 31 24 first, 24 second
TRB 35 21 buffet

The motor coaches at each end of the unit differed slightly, in that only those adjacent to the TS (TRB in 4Bep) were equipped with motor generator sets and batteries these being the higher numbered coach in each unit. All vehicles were 64ft 6in long over bodywork, 9ft 3in overall width, and 12ft 9in high from the top of the running rail. Each unit was 265ft 8½in long overall, and was equipped with Mk 4 bogies.

The units used English Electric 250 hp EE507 traction motors, two being mounted on the nose end axle of each MBSO. The prototype units employed a contactor control system operating at 70V, incorporating field weakening. This system was also used to control the heating and lighting circuits, the buffet cars having their own motor generators providing a 200 watt output for supplying cooking equipment.

The motor coaches incorporated a 10ft long guards van, situated immediately behind the driving position, and able to accommodate up to 1 ton of luggage, mails or parcels. Situated to the left of the gangway was the motorman's (driver's) compartment, access to which was from the guards (conductors) van. The gangway connection were the first on the Southern to incorporate the headcode panel while still permitting passage between two units.

Accommodation in the MBSO was in a single 56-seat saloon, although there were glazed partitions between one pair of seat-backs adjacent to the centre doors. There were also doors at both ends of the coach. Seating was in 7 bays of 2+2 seating. The 64 seats of the TSK were arranged in 8 compartments, with doors on both sides of the coach at both ends of the car, and also at the centre of the car. A corridor ran the length of the vehicle. There were two lavatories at one end of the coach, one on either side of the gangway connection.

The TCK consisted of 4 first and 3 second class compartments, seating 6 in each first class compartment and 8 in the second class. A corridor ran the length of the vehicle, lavatories being located at either end of the vehicle, on the same side as the compartments. There was a dividing door in the corridor between the two classes of accommodation. There were 3 doors on the compartment side of the coach (at each end and in the centre) while the corridor side had 4 (at each end and two along the side of the coach). In both types of trailer coach there was a central vestibule; that on the TSK was adjacent to the centre pair of doors while on the TCK the compartment side centre door gave access to the vestibule from one side only.

The trailer buffet coaches of 4Bep had 21 loose seats for the use of those obtaining refreshment. These were arranged 2+1 in pairs facing across tables. The kitchen equipment in the cars comprised an electric cooker with grill and hot closet, a refrigerator and a freezer for keeping ice cream. A bottle cooler was situated under the buffet counter end. Water used for catering purposes was carried in a 120 gallon tank mounted on the underframe of the coach, and was raised to service taps at a pressure of between 5 and 12 psi. In addition to the motor generator for catering equipment, the underframes also carried condensing units for the refrigerator, ice freezer and bottle cooler.

The 6 prototype units were finished in wood panelling, but this was replaced by laminate in the production units. The colour scheme employed was steel blue, black and light grey panelling in the motor coaches, red plastic matt bodyside panels in the corridor second and green plastic matt panels in the corridor composite. The buffet coaches had white bodyside panels. with gangway entrances finished in stardust brown. All coaches employed sycamore framing. Prototype and phase 1 units were fitted with double glazing when built.

Apart from the differences in interior finishing, the production units differed from the prototypes in that they were equipped with electro-pneumatic camshaft control, and a series switch was incorporated. This ensured that the automatic acceleration equipment did not notch up from the series position whilst ascending the 1 in 30 gradient from Folkestone Harbour, while allowing the current limit relay to switch to the parallel setting and so increase tractive effort. (The prototype units could not, therefore, be formed at the head of a train from Folkestone Harbour.)

The Phase 2 units saw slight modifications to earlier designs. These included a reversion to single glass panes, since it was found that the double glazed units were not watertight, and subsequently were replaced by single pane windows. The final batch of units (7205-11) were fitted with small headcode panels and tapering windscreens.

Unit numbers were as follows:


Unit Numbers Comments
7001/02 prototype units
7003-12 main production Phase 1 batch
7013-22 main production Phase 2 batch


Unit Numbers Comments
7101-04 prototype units
7106-10 Initial production batch
7111-53 main production batch Phase 1
7154-202 main production batch Phase 2
7203/04 supplementary build
7205-11 supplementary build

Units 7205-11 were originally intended for operation on South Western Division services, but when introduced went to the South Eastern Division. All the vehicles were built at Eastleigh Works, using underframes constructed at Ashford. Coach numbers, and date of build, were as follows:

Unit Type Unit Numbers Date of Build Coach 1 Type Coach 1 Numbers Coach 2 Type Coach 2 Numbers Coach 3 Type Coach 3 Numbers Coach 4 Type Coach 4 Numbers
4Bep 7001-7002 1957 MBSO 61041-43 TCK 70041-2 TRB 69000-1 MBSO 61042-44
4Bep 7003-7012 1959 MBSO 61391-409
(odd numbers)
TCK 70346-55 TRB 69002-11 MBSO 61390-408
(even numbers
4Bep 7013-7022 1961 MBSO 61792-810
(even numbers)


TRB 69012-21 MBSO 61793-811
(odd numbers
4Cep 7101-7104 1956 MBSO 61034-61040 TCK 70037-40 TSK 70033-36 MBSO 61033-39
4Cep 7105-7110 1958 MBSO 61229-61239
(odd numbers)
TCK 70235-40 TSK 70229-34 MBSO 61230-40
(even numbers)
4Cep 7111-7153 1959 MBSO 61305-89
(odd numbers)


TSK 70260-302 MBSO 61304-88
(even numbers)
4Cep 7154-7202 1960-61 MBSO 61694-790
(odd numbers)
TCK 70552-660 TSK 70503-51 MBSO 61695-791
(odd numbers)
4Cep 7203-7204 1961 MBSO 61868-70
(even numbers)
TCK 70043-44 TSK 70241-42 MBSO 61869-71
(odd numbers)
4Cep 7205-7211 1963 MBSO 61949-61
(odd numbers)
TCK 70653-59 TSK 70660-66 MBSO 61948-60
(even numbers)

Semi-Fast Rolling Stock 2Hap (later Class 414)

In addition to the express stock, the Kent Coast electrification project required the building of a fleet of two-car outer suburban units known as 2Hap. The term 2Hap denotes an EP braked 2Hal (Hal itself standing for Half a Lav-atory). 2Hap's replaced 2Hal's which up to this time had worked the electric services to Gillingham, Maidstone West and Sevenoaks.

The sets consisted of a driving motor brake second (MBSO) and a driving trailer composite (DTCL) weight and seating of which are:

Coach Type Weight (tons) Seats
MBSO 40 84 second
DTCL 32 19 first, 50 second

In the composite, the first class accommodation is situated at the outer end of the coach, there being two 6 seat and one 7 seat compartments. The latter is adjacent to the driving cab and the full width of the unit. The second class accommodation is provided in a fifty seat saloon with 3+2 seating (a 6 seat bench being provided at the coach end). The composite has two lavatories, side by side in the centre of the vehicle, that on the left hand side (facing the driving position) being accessible from the first class, the other providing facilities for the second class. There is no through communication between the two classes of accommodation.

The motor coaches are identical to those used in 2EPB stock, seating being in two open salons. Two 250 hp English Electric EE507 motors are fitted to the outer bogie of these coaches, which differ from their EPB stock counterparts in having express gear ratios.

42 2Hap units were built as replacements for two car units, and these were followed by 63 units for Phase 1 of the Kent Coast scheme, and 41 for Phase 2. A final batch of 27 units were built, these being originally intended for the CD and SWD but were introduced on the SED. Units with dates and coach numbers were

Unit Numbers Date of Build Coach 1 Type Coach 1 Numbers Coach 2 Type Coach 2 Numbers
6001-6004 1957 MBSO 65393-96 DTCL 77115-18
6005-6011 1958 MBSO 65397-403 DTCL 77119-25
6012-6042 1958 MBSO 61404-34 DTCL 77126-56
6043-6105 1959 MBSO 61241-303 DTCL 75361-423
6106-46 1961 MBSO 61446-88 DTCL 75700-40
6147-73 1963 MBSO 61962-88 DTCL 75992-76021

Motor Luggage Vans

In addition to the passenger carrying stock which has already been described, it was necessary to provide for the conveyance of luggage accompanying boat train passengers. To allow for this, 10 Motor Luggage Vans (MLV) were built, in which luggage and mail could continue to be carried to the Channel ports under Customs seal.

The use of ordinary vans was ruled out, since this would have reduced the power-to-weight ratio of boat trains, which in turn would cause slow running and consequently delay following services. In addition, since the vans were traditionally marshalled at the London end of boat trains, no driving position would be provided at the front ends of up trains. Finally, there was the problem of the 1 in 30 gradient on the Folkestone Harbour branch.

The MLV was thus developed, each powered by two English Electric EE507 250 hp traction motors. The vans can also work on non-electrified sections, power being supplied at 200V from traction batteries which are re-charged when the van is running on electrified sections via an auxiliary generator. The vans are capable of hauling tail loads of up to 100 tons gross (50 tons on the Folkestone Harbour branch) and are equipped with vacuum brakes for this purpose.

The vans (which can be considered as single-vehicle EMUs) have one small guards compartment, and driving cabs at both ends. The rest of the van is divided into two luggage compartments, one 27ft 7¾in long and the other 18ft 6in. The guards compartment is situated between the larger luggage compartment and the driving cab at that end. The total carrying capacity of the vehicle is 132 cubic yd, split 80:52 between the two sections.

The vehicle is 64ft 6in long and weighs 45 tons empty, with 7 tons for luggage capacity, and is mounted on Mk 3 bogies. Unit numbers are not carried, vehicle numbers (without regional prefix) appearing in the usual unit number position on cab ends as well as on bodysides (with the 'S' prefix). Two vans, 68001 and 68002 were introduced for Phase 1 in 1958, whilst the remainder are Phase 2 vehicles dating from 1960/61. All 10 vehicles became Class 419, there being no subdivision between the two batches.


Although the units described in earlier sections provided the vast majority of trains in Kent after electrification, there were exceptions. The Tonbridge to Hastings line was operated by diesel-electric multiple units, and a fleet of electric locomotives was constructed, principally for use on freight services, but including the "Night Ferry" and "Golden Arrow" workings.

To cover these requirements, an initial order was placed for 13 2500 hp electric locomotives, this number being subsequently increased to 24. Design requirements called for a dual purpose locomotive, able to maintain the schedule of the "Golden Arrow" in a timetable with close headways, and yet be able to haul a 900 ton freight train up a gradient of 1 in 100. The design was based on the experience gained through 15 years of operation of the Southern Railway designed locomotives 20001-20003. Improvements in design allowed the new locomotives to weigh only 77 tons and develop 2552 hp; comparable figures for 20001 being 1470 rated hp and a weight of 99 tons 14 cwt.

An interesting feature of the new locomotives was that pantographs were fitted to their roofs which enabled them to work off a simple catenary which was erected in a number of Kentish yards for the purpose. Such a system overcame the need for conductor rails to be laid in yards or sidings where they could be a danger to staff. (With the later introduction of electro-diesel locomotives trains could be moved from yards or sidings onto electrified running lines on diesel power, thus rendering overhead wiring obsolete.)

The locomotives were equipped with the booster system which was developed on the earlier locomotives. This system enables the locomotives to work for short stretches off the conductor rail, and prevents a locomotive becoming 'gapped' across short breaks in the conductor rail. To supply the current in these locations the locomotives are equipped with booster motors and a generator wired in series with the traction motors and line supply. The booster motors thus add or subtract from line voltage in order to maintain a constant current supply to the traction motors.

The locomotives were fitted with 4 English Electric EE532 675 hp motors, and a single booster which controlled all 4 motors. Motors were connected to the booster generator as two parallel pairs in series. Having a booster system eliminated the need for resistances to be installed in the motor power circuit, and in operation can be though of as the predecessor of the thyristor equipment. Another new feature was the provision of electric train heating equipment only, at a time when there was a shortage of coaching stock equipped for this.

The locomotives were numbered E5001-24 (SR type HA), the first being introduced into service in February 1959. They were built at Doncaster Works, and were 50ft 7in long, 8ft 11in wide over the body. They became Class 71, save for those which were converted to electro-diesels in 1967, these becoming Class 74 (SR type HB).

Maintenance Depots

Although these days it is the depot at Ramsgate (coded at various times 74B, RMGT and RE) which is regarded as the home of the Kent Coast electric units, other depots seem to have had the spotlight at the time that the work was undertaken. Chief among these was Stewarts Lane depot, which was the centre for driver training, and Ashford, where the new Chart Leacon depot was constructed on the south side of the Tonbridge line, ¾ mile west of the station. Ashford was an obvious choice for the depot, since 4 electrified routes (and one other) converge at this point, and a steam locomotive works had existed here since 1867. The new depot would thus provide a source of employment for railway staff who would otherwise be made redundant.

Access to the new depot was planned in conjunction with the widening of the running lines through Ashford station, connection being made from the up passenger loop at the east end of the depot, and to the up Tonbridge line at the weSt

Some 9 roads enter the repair shop from the eastern end, the shop itself being 496ft long, 220ft wide and 36ft tall at eaves level. Two of the centre bays are extended out for a further 116ft 8in forming a covered wheel shop on the eastern side of the building. The central portion of the depot is taken up with a bogie maintenance area, and the movement of bogies between bays is facilitated by the use of 12 electrically-operated turntables, placed at both ends of the 4 central running roads, and also the bogie repair roads. All of these are connected via the turntables by cross roads at either end of the bogie overhaul area.

Two 15 ton electric overhead travelling cranes are installed over the two centre bays, and these assist with the movement of traction motors, compressors and motor-generator sets when these are required to be overhauled. To the north of the main repair shop lies a 4 road inspection shed, measuring 320ft by 69ft 6in. The 4 roads are each equipped with a pit for underside inspection, each being 292ft long.

In addition to the under cover accommodation, there are 5 reception sidings at the east end of the depot, which can be used for units either awaiting attention or return to traffic. A further 2 roads, situated between the inspection shed and the Tonbridge line, are home to the breakdown crane and de-icing units, etc.

Apart from Chart Leacon, other depot improvements occurred. At Hither Green, a new depot was opened to cater for continental fruit and vegetable traffic which entered Britain via the Dunkerque - Dover train ferry. A 1000ft building was erected to provide unloading facilities for 50-60 continental wagons. Nearby at Grove Park, a 820ft long carriage shed, consisting of 6 roads, was erected on the down side of the main line, north of the station. Considerable improvements were made at the time to Stewarts Lane depot, where a new electric locomotive shed was built. Measuring 375ft by 75ft, it contains 3 shed roads. The existing carriage shed was extended to provide 14 roads, and an additional 8 berthing sidings were provided in the open.

Ramsgate depot itself consists of two buildings, (each of which contains 4 electrified roads), and a further 7 berthing sidings, on the site of the original steam locomotive depot.

As mentioned above, the new electric locomotives were equipped with pantographs to enable them to work from an overhead power supply. The areas equipped were Hither Green Yard, Sittingbourne, Bricklayers Arms, Plumstead sidings, Angerstein Wharf, Hoo Junction, Faversham, Shepherds Well, Dover Town, Snowdown Colliery, Maidstone West and Deal. All of these systems had fallen into disuse by 1975.

Driver Training

The training of motormen for the Kent Coast electrics was undertaken at Stewarts Lane, where a new school for instruction on electric locomotives and EMUs was opened in November 1958. The school was situated in a new building, situated behind the motive power depot, and consisted of 3 classrooms. Two were devoted to training on the multiple-units, and the third for locomotives.

Training classes comprised 12 drivers, all of whom had previously passed as a driver or fireman on steam locomotives. The course lasted for 3 weeks, and a typical syllabus would begin with a general introduction and description of the vehicles on the first day. The second day would be taken up by studying the basic principles of electricity following which the remainder of that week would be taken up by a study of such items as the traction motors and generators, the booster sets, auxiliary generators, motor controllers and compressors. Emphasis was placed on possible sources of failure. The first half of the second week was taken up with a study of the brake equipment, whilst the remainder of the week included work on preparation and disposal duties.

The third week consisted of practical instruction, with 2 trips each day. The morning working was to Sevenoaks via Swanley, returning via Orpington, while that in the afternoon went to Maidstone EaSt There were 3 trainees in each cab of the locomotive, the instructor travelling in the front cab. Each of the trainees in the front cab took his turn at handling the locomotive, while those in the rear were able to learn by studying the instruments on the control panel. When training on the EMU, less time was spent in the classroom. The training was conducted on running-in trips on the coastal line to Hastings. Also, the practical section of this course included route learning. In the suburban area there were enough services to permit trainee drivers to ride in the cabs during off-peak hours, but outside the built-up zone it was necessary to arrange special trains. These became known as 'Enginemen's Excursions'.

The course commenced with an introduction to the routes, and a description of such features as the colour light signalling and the location of gaps in the conductor rail. The route of the training run was Gillingham - Ramsgate (R) - Faversham (R) - Ramsgate - Gillingham for Phase 1; the details for Phase 2 are not known. In addition, a daily training trip was operated from Gillingham to Dover Marine - this line beyond Faversham retained its semaphore signalling. For the classroom sessions on multiple-units, an interesting feature used was the 'power board', which demonstrated the operation of traction motors. The board reproduced the working of the motors, including the operation of the controller in notching-up. In addition, the 'power board' permitted the demonstration of such features as a train becoming gapped', and the paddling up of collector shoegear.


With such a large operation as the Kent Coast Electrification, it is of vital importance the travelling public is kept informed of what is happening, both to satisfy the curiosity which is aroused by the sight of engineering work and new equipment, and also to explain the reason for any delay which may result from the operations.

The principal public relations vehicle was a 2 page newsletter entitled "South East Report". This first appeared in February 1959, with monthly issues up to June of that year, and further editions in October 1959 and June 1960. These news sheets included interviews with local mayors, reports by Mr P A White (the Line Traffic Manager), and comments from the travelling public. The articles served to explain both the delays which were occurring and the reason for the temporary timetables which were then in use, and also to give background information on the works. Diagrams of changes to track layout in the Bromley, Ashford and Folkestone areas were incorporated.

Among other literature produced by the Southern Region was a fully illustrated 29 page booklet entitled "Extension of Electrification - from Gillingham to Sheerness-on-Sea, Ramsgate and Dover" which described the various facets of Phase 1. Other leaflets included "Transforming the Railway on the South East" which opens with the sentence "Frankly, this railway, the South Eastern Division of the Southern, should have been modernised years ago" and was an overview of the scheme. Also "Kent's new Electric Trains" was issued for the commencement of Phase 1 services and described both the express stock and the 2Haps.

As part of the preparation for Phase 1, towards the end of May 1959 the new electric locomotives and stock were exhibited to the public at certain of the stations. A locomotive, 4Bep and 4Cep were exhibited at Margate, Herne Bay, Ramsgate, Dover Priory, Canterbury West and Faversham, while a locomotive and 4Bep formed the display at both Whitstable and Sittingbourne. At Sheerness, a 2Hap formed the exhibition. Each exhibition lasted for 2 days, except that at Margate, which lasted for 3 days.


Previous sections have described the various forms of engineering work electrical, civil, mechanical and signalling - which were necessary to accomplish the Kent Coast electrification, and the aim of this section is to give some indication of timescale.

Powers for the Kent Coast electrification scheme were obtained under the British Transport Commission Act 1956, and work started as soon as Royal Assent had been granted. By March 1957, the first 300ft lengths of conductor rail had been laid ready at Teynham, between Sittingbourne and Faversham. June of that year saw the completion of the first 2Hap at Eastleigh, and units 6001-6004 had been delivered by August The first diagram that the units worked was 0809 Sevenoaks to Cannon Street and 1730 return. In addition, the summer of 1957 saw the contract for the new Swale Bridge being advertised.

By the end of the year 2Hap units up to 6012 had been delivered. Although the original intention was for these units to work on the Victoria - Gatwick Airport service, this idea was not pursued, and with effect from 13th April 1958 all 2Haps were on the South Eastern Division. By this time, considerable progress had been made with the civil engineering work on Phase 1, including the rearrangement of tracks between Shortlands and Bickley, the new junction alignment at Chislehurst, new viaduct construction at St Mary Cray, and the widening between Rainham and Newington. The new signalboxes were taking shape, as were the new carriage maintenance facilities at Grove Park.

2Hap units up to 6042 were complete by August 1958, and that month saw completion of the first production series 4Cep - units 7105 and 7106 - at Eastleigh. The laying of conductor rails had continued, and by this time the third rail had reached almost to Ramsgate, save for a short stretch between Gillingham and Faversham, and on the Dover line through to Canterbury, with sections also in place at Bekesbourne and Adisham On this section, all platforms had been lengthened to take 12-car trains. By the autumn, the Canterbury substation was under construction on the trackbed of the former spur which linked the 2 lines which cross in the city.

Progress continued with the delivery of 4Ceps, and by November units up to 7119 were in stock. The 4Ceps were run-in on Victoria - Eastbourne services. Delivery of 2Haps had reached unit 6058 by February 1959, and the following month saw the entry into service of the first of the 2500 hp electric locomotives. Deliveries by March these had reached 2Hap 6065, 4Bep 7004 and 4Cep 7145, and by July unit numbers had reached 6083, 7012 and 7153.

This work now enabled Phase 1 of the electrification to be commissioned, and on Thursday 9th June a special electric train worked through to Ramsgate. The following Monday, the 15th, saw full electric services being introduced via Gillingham to both Ramsgate and Dover Marine (via Canterbury East), and from Sittingbourne over the Swale Bridge to Sheerness-on-Sea.

The introduction of Phase 1 was not without its difficulties, and during the period 25th - 29th May diesel-electric units were used on the Faversham - Dover services owing to difficulties with the commissioning of the new signalling at Faversham. For the record, it will be noted that the last steam locomotive to work on the Chatham line was Ll 4-4-0 31753, which worked the 0852 Victoria - Dover Marine on Sunday 14th June.

The Motor Luggage Vans had also made their appearance by this time, the first two being delivered in May. Electric locomotives had taken over the working of Continental Boat Trains from 8th June.

With the completion of Phase 1, attention naturally turned to Phase 2, and by the end of 1959 the signs of work were considerable, with the new depot under construction at Chart Leacon, Ashford. Additionally, conductor rail was in position from the country end of Sevenoaks Tunnel to Headcorn, and from Folkestone Junction to Ramsgate - this latter section being complete and the substations 'live'. One change from the original plan was the abandonment of the proposal to provide an additional running line between Headcorn and Pluckley.

Delivery of 2Haps reached 6105 - the last of the Phase 1 units - in September, but Phase 2 4Ceps were being delivered by this date, with 7154 (first of the batch) almost complete at Eastleigh on 3rd AuguSt Delivery was at a rapid rate, reaching 7169 by October, and it was possible to run the first electric service from Ramsgate to Dover, on Thursday 3rd November 1960. By this time, sections of conductor rail had been laid on the Paddock Wood - Maidstone West branch.

Regular electric services, to steam timings, began between Ramsgate and Dover Priory on Monday 2nd January 1961. That month saw driver training in preparation for 'main line' Phase 2 services. By the end of the month unit deliveries had reached 4Bep 7013, 4Cep 7185 and MLV 68006 - the last of the MLV's arriving the following month. By July 2Hap's to 6125 were in stock, and the 4Cep fleet was 100 strong; only two 4Beps were still outstanding. Electric services, still to steam schedules, began between London and Dover via Tonbridge, and between Paddock Wood and Maidstone West on Tuesday 6th June. Electric trains began to operate over the remaining sections of the scheme, from Maidstone East to Ashford, Canterbury West and Minster, on Monday 9th October.

All the 4Beps had by now been delivered, and 2Haps and 4Ceps had been delivered to 6138 and 7204 respectively. As mentioned previously, spring of 1962 saw the commissioning of the new signalling on the main line from Hither Green to Dover, and with this complete full electric working commenced on Monday 18th June 1962.

Timetables - Phase 1

In considering the service timetables for the Kent Coast electrification scheme, it is convenient to deal with each phase of the scheme separately.

Considering the pre-electric services for those lines electrified in Phase 1, the public timetable for the period September 1958 to June 1959 shows that, at most hours of the day, there was an xx35 departure from Victoria to Ramsgate. These services had a variety of stopping patterns, and operated from 0835 to 1535 (with the exception of 1335), and then again during the evening from 1935 to 2135. The fastest service of the day was the 0835, which took 2 hours 21 minutes to reach its destination.

The only through services to Dover via Faversham at this time were at 0548 and 1824 (both from Cannon Street), and departures at 0835 and 1435 from Victoria. At other times an irregular service was run to Dover, depending on the time of the arrival of the Victoria train at Faversham, and a similar arrangement applied from Sittingbourne to Sheerness. In the evening peak the through services from Victoria to the Kent Coast ceased from 1535 to 1935, with the exception of a 1717 working to Sheerness. Fast services left Cannon Street for Ramsgate at 1644 and 1714, taking 2 hours 13 minutes and 2 hours dead respectively, with a slow train at 1631.

Following electrification, the service pattern was completely revised and in the down direction there was an xx40 departure from Victoria each hour from 0740 to 2240 (the only difference in the pattern being that the 1740 left at 1744). These fast trains split at Gillingham, with the front portion proceeding fast to Whitstable and reaching Ramsgate in 1 hour 54 minutes from London, whilst the rear portion, after stopping at Sittingbourne, Faversham, Canterbury East and then all stations (except Bekesbourne and Snowdown) reached Dover Priory in 1 hour 54 minutes.

In addition to this fast train, there was a slow train which left Victoria at xx15, which took 1 hour 30 minutes to reach its destination at Sheerness, and an xx40 slow train from Charing Cross, stopping at Woolwich, Dartford, Gravesend, Strood and then all stations to reach Ramsgate in 2 hours 25 minutes. A slow service, between Sheerness and Dover, acted as a feeder in both directions to the Charing Cross - Ramsgate slow trains. Leaving Sheerness at xx36, it arrived at Sittingbourne 8 minutes before the train from London, and then proceeded to Dover Priory, taking 1 hour 8 minutes from Sittingbourne and facilitating cross-platform interchange with the Charing Cross train at Faversham.

Peak hour services were such that the basic pattern of services was maintained, and to this was added departures from Cannon Street at 1644, 1714, 1744 and 1814 (all for Ramsgate), and at 1824 for Dover Priory.

A similar pattern applied to services in the up direction. Trains left at xx10 from both Dover and Ramsgate to combine at Gillingham and continue to Victoria, taking 1 hour 55 minutes. In addition, there were slow services at xx40 from Ramsgate to Charing Cross, and also at xx40 from Dover to Sheerness, with cross-platform interchange again being provided at Faversham. Finally, there was an up slow from Sheerness at xx02, taking 1 hour 36 minutes to reach Victoria. The effect of these service patterns was to provide approximately 30 min. service frequencies between Victoria and Gillingham, Whitstable and Ramsgate, Faversham and Dover and Sittingbourne and Sheerness in both directions.

Timetables - Phase 2

For the Phase Two services, it is appropriate to select the timetable commencing 15 September 1959 as typical of pre-electrification services and that dated 18th June 1962 as the typical electric service.

The 1959 schedules are dominated by through services from Charing Cross to Ramsgate, leaving at 8 minutes past the hour to 1508, and then later at 1908 and 2108. The timings of these services varied, but the fastest service of the day to the Kent Coast was the 1610. During the evening business period from 1656 to 1821 all main line services operated out of Cannon Street. This station served as the London terminus for all trains arriving in the capital from Paddock Wood and beyond between 0839 and 0950, except the 0733 from Ashford, which reached Charing Cross at 0904. On the line from Maidstone East to Ashford, a service was provided from Victoria at 16 minutes past the hour, taking a minimum of 1 hour 51 minutes to reach Ashford. Certain of these trains continued through to Dover Priory and Ramsgate. This service continued through the rush hours.

The down off-peak service following electrification was based on the departure at xx00 from Charing Cross of a fast service taking 63 minutes to Ashford, where it split following a non-stop run from Waterloo. The front portion then proceeded via Dover to Ramsgate, taking 2 hours 14 minutes for the journey from Charing Cross. An earlier arrival at Ramsgate, 1 hour 45 minutes after leaving London, was possible by the rear portion, which made just one intermediate stop between Ashford and Ramsgate, at Canterbury West A further service left Charing Cross at xx10 each hour, dividing at Tonbridge. The front portion ran fast from Paddock Wood to Ashford, then stopped at all stations via Dover Priory to reach Margate in 2 hours 50 minutes from Charing Cross. The rear portion formed the local service from Paddock Wood to Ashford, arriving there in 1 hour 28 minutes.

The Maidstone East services continued to be based on Victoria, there being a semi-fast departure at xx49 and a slow train at xx14. The fast train ran via Canterbury West to Ramsgate, forming the local service on the line beyond Ashford, whilst the slow stopped at all stations between Otford and Ashford. The service pattern in the off-peak over the newly-electrified lines was completed by a departure at xx08 from Paddock Wood to Maidstone West, this having a 4-minute connection out of the rear portion of the xx10 from Charing Cross.

The services were so devised to permit cross-platform interchange at Ashford between the xx49 fast from Victoria and the front portion of the xx10 semi-fast from Charing Cross, which overtook the Victoria service at Ashford. The full pattern of workings in the down direction in a typical hour, including the Hastings and New Romney diesels, was as follows:

Train Description

Ashford Forward To Arriving


Arrive Depart Destination Route
xx00 Charing Cross fast xx03 xx05 Ramsgate Dover xx14
xx07 Ramsgate Canterbury xx45
xx49 Victoria semi-fast xx18 xx27 Margate Canterbury xx29
xx10 Charing Cross semi-fast xx24 xx25 Margate Dover xx00

Connects with

xx27 Hastings (diesel) xx10
xx10 Charing Cross slow xx38        

Connects with

xx43 New Romney (alternate hours) xx23
xx14 Victoria slow xx54        

Similar arrangements applied in the up direction.

The evening peak services to the newly electrified lines via Tonbridge were still heavily concentrated on Cannon Street, there being no main line electric departure from Charing Cross on weekday evenings between 1620 and 1828.

It must be remembered that Tonbridge's other fast London service was the xx40 from Charing Cross to Hastings. Interestingly, the diesels were given the same 42 minute schedule to Tonbridge as the electric service (which made additional stops at Orpington and Hildenborough).

Continental Services

Although travellers to the Continent could make use of the regular express electric services to the ports of Dover and Folkestone, special provision was made for travellers to/from London in the electrification scheme. Mention has already been made of the motor luggage vans (MLVs) built for this traffic, and in 1968 these were joined by 6 trailer luggage vans, or TLVs.

The TLVs were 6 former BG (full brake) vehicles, numbered 80915/18, 80922/25/42/51, which were converted to work in multiple with the MLVs, the normal formation of a boat train being, from the London end, MLV-TLV-Cep-Bep-Cep. The TLVs were not provided with driving equipment. The vehicles were numbered in series 68201-06 and, like the MLVs, carried no unit -lumbers. They provided additional luggage space to deal with an increasing level of traffic to the Continent, whilst avoiding the problems which had occurred when services had been operated using 2 MLVs. (The latter arrangement was wasteful in itself, giving an unnecessary power-to-weight ratio, and when such a formation started from rest close to a sub-station, the circuit breakers therein came close to 'tripping out'.)

The TLVs did not have a long life, since they became the subject of an industrial dispute - EMU drivers considered the vehicles to be hauled vehicles and objected to carrying out coupling and uncoupling duties. Shunting personnel, on the other hand, did not like dealing with what they considered to be EMU vehicles. In consequence, the TLVs were withdrawn early in 1975, and stored at Chart Leacon depot. Official withdrawal occurred in May of that year.

During the winter months, from the start of the Kent Coast electric services, 3 boat trains were provided from Victoria to Dover departing at 1000, 1030 and 1500, and to Folkestone departing at 0900 and 1530. In the summer, from June to September, additional services were provided to Dover, departing Victoria at 0800, 1430 and 2300.

In addition there were 2 Continental services of special note, these being the all-Pullman "Golden Arrow" and the "Night Ferry", both of which were hauled by the new electric locomotives. The "Golden Arrow" for Paris usually consisted of 8 Pullman Cars, leaving London for Dover Marine at 1100, the connecting service reaching Paris at 1750. The through "Night Ferry" service ran to both Paris and Brussels via the Dover - Dunkerque train ferry and, until the advent of the Channel Tunnel, was the only through international service to operate in Britain. The service left Victoria nightly at 2000, arriving at Brussels Midi at 0858 and Paris Nord at 0900, the service running as 2 trains from Dunkerque. The "Night Ferry" comprised Wagon-Lits International sleeping cars and French luggage vans built specially to British loading gauge, together with ordinary coaching stock on either side of the Channel. Only the sleeping cars and luggage vans operated through from London to the Continent. Similar services operated in the reverse direction, of course. Both the "Golden Arrow" and "Night Ferry" are now trains of the past; the last "Golden Arrow" having run, on 30th September 1972 and the "Night Ferry" being withdrawn on 31st October 1980.

Traffic Levels

The electrification scheme produced a major increase in traffic on the lines covered. During the 9 months following the introduction of Phase One services, traffic levels as measured by numbers of tickets sold increased by 32%. Certain stations showed quite spectacular increases in ticket sales - at Canterbury West, for example, sales increased by 49.5% comparing the first 9 months of electrification with the previous 9 months, whilst at Teynham the corresponding figure was 155%.

Developments Since Electrification

As stated at the start of this article it is intended to look at developments since 1962 to bring up to date the story of the development of railways in "The Garden of England" and so set the scene for a short glimpse into the future.

Firstly, the position regarding signalling. The following sections of line retained their semaphore signalling following electrification:

  • Faversham - Canterbury East - Dover
  • Otford - Ashford
  • Ashford - Minster via Canterbury
  • Buckland Junction (Dover) - Ramsgate
  • Paddock Wood - Maidstone West

Of these sections, the only one to have been converted to colour light signalling is that from Otford to Ashford, where a new panel has been installed in the old box at Maidstone East This scheme was commissioned during 1983-84 and provided for the abolition of the boxes at Barming, West Malling, Bearsted, Hollingbourne, Charing and Lenham. An intermediate box still remains at Hothfield, between Charing and Ashford, to control access to the Tarmac stone terminal there.

No resignalling schemes have appeared for the other sections mentioned above, although all semaphore signals at Minster were replaced with colour light signals from 5th April 1982 after remodelling work. The commissioning of the new Dartford power box in 1970/71 had a minor effect on the lines electrified in the Kent Coast scheme, just meeting those lines at Rochester Bridge Junction.

The major works of resignalling on the Victoria - Ramsgate and Charing Cross - Dover lines have, in both cases, taken place at the London end of the lines. The London Bridge scheme affected the main line from Charing Cross and Cannon Street to Elmstead Woods, and in particular was designed to increase traffic flow through the bottleneck of Borough Market Junction west of London Bridge where only one up and one down line give access to/from Charing Cross. Of those boxes built under Phase Two of the Kent Coast scheme, only Hither Green was superceded by the new panel. The scheme was commissioned between January and May 1976, as far as the main line was concerned.

The establishment of the new Victoria Area Signalling Centre at Clapham junction principally affected Phase One lines, and of the boxes built at that time Factory Jn, Shepherds Lane, Herne Hill, Beckenham Jn and Shortlands Jn were abolished. The Eastern panel at Victoria was Commissioned between May 1979 and June 1983.


Having discussed the alterations which have taken place on the signalling front, it is now convenient to turn to rolling stock developments. The short history of the TLV has already been mentioned, and the MLV are still operating as they have done throughout their lives, and indeed look like continuing to do so for the foreseeable future.

The principal developments concerning the passenger-carrying vehicles during the period since electrification have been the comprehensive refurbishment of the 4Cep and 4Bep units, withdrawal of buffet facilities from South Eastern Division services, and progressive reduction and eventual elimination of the 2Hap fleet from Kent. Replacement 4Vep units displaced 2Hap's to other parts of the Southern, and their conversion to 2Sap and 4Cap.

4Cep Refurbishment

The refurbishment of the 4Cep fleet is undoubtedly the largest single scheme to have affected the railways of Kent since electrification. The project originated in the mid-1970s when, owing to the financial difficulties then facing British Rail and the overall rolling stock situation, it became apparent that the Cep/Bep fleet would have to have their working lives extended beyond the book life of 25 years, to around 40 years. It was considered most unlikely that finance for replacement stock would be made available before the turn of the century.

At the same time, consideration had to be given to the fact that the units had Mk 1 interiors. Mk 2 stock had been in service in other parts of the country since 1965, and a 4Cep was often the first BR vehicle which visitors from the Continent encountered on arrival. There was thus an urgent need to improve the units' standard of accommodation.

In 1975 unit 7153 was chosen as the prototype for refurbishing. This was to allow for the development of methods and techniques for dealing with the other units. The exercise also permitted financial forecasting to predict the cost of refurbishing all the units, and to see whether revised designs could reduce maintenance costs.

The work on 7153, which was carried out at Eastleigh Works, was extensive. The interiors of the vehicles were modified so that all varnished wood or painted surfaces were replaced with damage-resistant surfaces of plastic laminate, which can be easily cleaned. Glass reinforced plastic was used for false ceiling panels, and aluminium for floor edge coverings. The InterCity 70 seat was used, this being the seat which had been used in Mk 2e/f hauled stock introduced shortly before. Seats had loose covers; orange in first class and green in second. Cleaning of such seat covers is very simple.

Fluorescent tubed were employed to bring the illumination in saloons up to current standards. For ease of cleaning, the lamp installations were integrated with the ceilings. No diffusers were fitted over the tubes. Incandescent lamps were retained in compartments.

Double glazed windows were fitted in the passenger accommodation, but sliding ventilators were retained. An improved heating system was installed and glass fibre used to improve thermal insulation of the vehicles. Public address was fitted.

Modifications to individual vehicle types were as follows:

  • MBSOs became MSOs (motor second open), with the guard's van being converted into an extra 8-seat bay; a vestibule at the outer end gave access to the driving cab.
  • TSK became a TSOL (trailer second open lavatory), with the seating now in one saloon, rather than in compartments.
  • TCK became a TBCK (trailer brake composite side corridor with toilet), with the 2 inner most second class compartments being replaced by a guards van, and the remaining second class compartment became 'unclassified', being fitted with first class seats but available to second class passengers. There was less leg room than in a standard first class compartment.

Modern gangways were provided at unit ends and Commonwealth bogies replaced non-powered Mk 4 bogies. Control equipment was modified to be similar to 1963-stock and improvements were made to the driving cabs. These included provision of electrically-heated, impact resistant windscreens, improved heating and higher intensity instrument illumination.

7153 was displayed to the Press at Waterloo on 10th November 1975 and, after a period of tests (particularly concerned with lighting problems), began public service in February 1976. Finance for further refurbishing was not immediately available. Work on the £21m. programme (1977 prices) began in 1979, the work being carried out at Swindon Works.

There were various differences between production refurbished units and 7153, the most noticeable being the provision of hopper ventilators. Internally a revised style of false ceiling and lighting were adopted, and internal gangway doors were removed. Second class seats have orange grey striped seat covers in place of green, but first class retains orange, although some units recently have received a dark red striped pattern. Windscreen washers were provided for the driver's windows.

Units with 1951-type control equipment retained this, but modifications to the heating circuits resulted In differences between the motor coaches in each unit which are now designated No.1 and No.2 within each unit, as with the 1957 stock.

The units were renumbered as they passed through Swindon, the original intention being that 6-figure unit numbers would be used, to conform with CM&EE national policy. The units would have been numbered 411501 to 411608. The renumbering would be carried out in the order in which units were refurbished, as follows:

New Unit Numbers Comments
411501-411505 prototype units ascending order
411506-411561 Phase 1 units ascending order
411562-411608 Phase 2 units ascending order

The 6-figure numbers were only applied to the earlier units of the main batch to be returned (411501/02/06-19 and 411598-608), other units having just the last 4 digits, to conform with standard SR practice. No provision was made for the renumbering of 7153 which retained that number. While refurbished units were in the minority they were shown in certain operating documents as 4Cep(R). This was so they could be diagrammed to work particular services, notably boat trains.

Refurbishment of the 4Beps was delayed while catering policy was decided. With the withdrawal of South Eastern Division (SED) catering services from September 1981 it was decided to retain just 7 4Beps, to replace 4Bigs on South Western Division (SWD) services between Waterloo and Portsmouth which would in turn replace 4Beps from the Central Division (CD). 12 loco-hauled Mk 1 TSOs were converted for multiple-unit working and refurbished to replace buffet cars. These vehicles, together with various spare vehicles, enabled 4Ceps 1609-21 and 4Beps 2301-07 to emerge from Swindon. The retained buffet cars are all Phase 2 vehicles which have been renumbered. The first 4Bep entered service on the SWD in the autumn of 1983. (Refurbished 4Bep units never operated in normal service on the SED.

4 of the refurbished 4Ceps (units 1556-1558/1560) were further reformed In autumn 1983, into 4Teps (temporary 4Bep). These comprise 3 refurbished coaches and an unrefurbished 4Bep buffet car in place of the TSOL. Numbered 2701-04 4Tep were based at Brighton to cover for 4Big units which were undergoing a programme of asbestos removal. The 4Bep buffets in these units were thus the last unrefurbished main line Kent Coast electrification vehicles to remain in traffic.

While the 4Ceps look assured of a long future, stretching into the next century, 2Hap units have a different story to tell and are no more as far as the railways of Kent are concerned (although reformed as 4Cap they are still to be found on some SED services). During the past 10 years these units have been subject to transfer to both CD and SWD, downgrading of accommodation in certain units, reformation to 4Cap, replacement by newer stock and withdrawal.

By the summer of 1972 unit 6001 had been transferred to Wimbledon. In 1974 units 6001-21/24-42 had their first class accommodation downgraded to second and became 2 Saps. Units 6043-52 were similarly downgraded in 1977. The units were renumbered 5901-51 (in order) and operated principally on Waterloo - Weybridge/Windsor service. They had their first class facilities reinstated in 1980 and resumed their original numbers. 2Hap's 6022/23 were being used for coupler tests and were thus not dealt with.

To replace the transferred and reclassified units, new 4Vep outer suburban units were used. This type of unit was introduced in 1967 as part of the Bournemouth electrification scheme, and the final batch of units, numbers 7863-94, were allocated to Ramsgate depot, delivery being from July 1973 to May 1974. This original allocation of 32 units has been augmented by the transfer of units from earlier batches, there being 41 units allocated to Ramsgate In 1977, rising to 56 in 1983.

In May 1980, 110 2Hap units remained at Ramsgate, with 45 allocated to Brighton for working Coastway services. May 1982 saw the beginning of the end for the 2Haps with 25 units being withdrawn and a further 48 being reformed as 4 car units, 4Cap (Coastway Hap), these later being allocated to Brighton. The reformation was carried out by semi-permanently coupling pairs of units together with the brake vans in the centre of each unit. Some equipment was removed from the now-unused driving cabs, and one brake van was designated for mails and parcels only, the other being for the guard's use.

Ramsgate retained 77 2Hap units, but this had been reduced to 58 by May 1983, and just 6 a year later, when the 4Caps were reallocated to Ramsgate. 25 other 2Haps remained in service, being based at Wimbledon. In October 1984 the remaining 2Haps were transferred to Wimbledon and by spring of 1985, of the 171 original units, only 71 remain; 48 in the guise of 4Caps and 23 as 2Hap's, together with a few units in departmental service).

Timetable Changes

Up to 1981 the timetable on the Kent Coast routes were still dominated by the splitting of services at points such as Ashford and Faversham. Minor amendments to services had been made in 1966, when certain trains from Victoria to Ashford were cut back to Maidstone East, and local stations beyond Maidstone were served by the xx49 departure. A further change, in June 1967, saw the ending of the Sheerness - Dover local services, and as a consequence the xx40 from Charing Cross, which had previously split at Gillingham, divided at Faversham with the rear portion calling at all stations from Faversham to Dover Priory.

In May 1971 the services from Victoria were again modified in respect of semi-fast and slow services, giving an xx14 departure from London to Sheerness; this conveyed a Maidstone East portion which was detached at Swanley. Further revisions occurred in 1973 with the pattern of departures from Victoria becoming:

  • xx10 slow service to Canterbury East, detaching Maidstone portion at Swanley;
  • xx40 fast service to Margate splitting at Gillingham, with the rear portion calling at Sittingbourne, Faversham and all stations to Dover Marine;
  • xx45 to Maidstone East, then all stations to Margate via Canterbury WeSt

Sheerness was served by a shuttle service from Sittingbourne, except for a peak service to/from London.

May 1974 saw the xx10 extended from Canterbury East to Dover Priory. In May 1975 certain of the xx10 semi-fasts from Charing Cross to Ramsgate via Dover were extended to Margate. The following year saw the Charing Cross services revised, as follows:

  • xx30 fast to Ashford, Folkestone Central and Dover, then all stations to Ramsgate;
  • xx03 Sevenoaks and all stations to Ashford;
  • xx30 Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Paddock Wood and Ashford, where the train split. Front portion for all stations to Margate via Dover, rear for Canterbury West, Ramsgate and all stations to Margate.

May 1978 saw the addition of a xx14 stopping service to Faversham from Victoria.

In May 1982 the Victoria services were completely recast, with the new off-peak pattern becoming:

  • xx23 fast train to Ramsgate;
  • xx25 St Mary Cray, and then all stations to Ramsgate via Margate;
  • xx53 fast train to Dover Western Docks;
  • xx55 St Mary Cray, then all stations to Dover Priory via Canterbury EaSt

Cross platform interchange was provided between a fast train and the proceeding slow train at Faversham. On the Maidstone East route the services became an xx06 stopping train to Maidstone East and a xx36 running semi-fast to Maidstone East, then calling at all stations to Margate via Canterbury WeSt

May 1984 saw a complete recast of services on the Charing Cross via Tonbridge line, and the end of splitting trains on Kent Coast services. Trains from London during a typical off-peak hour are:

  • xx05 to Ashford, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and then all stations;
  • xx25 semi-fast to Dover Priory;
  • xx55 fast from Waterloo (E) to Ashford, then Folkestone and all stations to Ramsgate.

The Future (as seen in 1985)

So what of the future for the railways of Kent? Probably the next section of route to be resignalled will be that from Faversham to Dover, but the timing of such work will depend on the availability of adequate finance. Early in 1983, following the publication of the Serpell Report, it was expected that many lines on BR would be likely candidates for being singled to reduce maintenance costs. In Kent the routes suggested for this treatment were Maidstone West - Paddock Wood, Ashford - Wye - Minster and Dover - Minster. These are, of course, lines which have not yet been resignalled.

On the rolling stock front, the refurbished 4Ceps, together with the 4Vep, MLV and some 4Cap should continue to dominate the Kent scene for several years to come. It has recently been announced that 4Cap will be used on the East Grinstead - London service when this is electrified from late 1987. New stock for main line services is, in the current financial climate, most unlikely to appear before the end of the century. Plans to refurbish the 4Veps exist, but these are very much of a long-term nature. It is expected that 4Caps will receive some form of facelift treatment before being used on the East Grinstead line, and it is hoped that units remaining in Kent will receive similar treatment.

Mention must now be made of two projects. The first of these is the Hastings electrification scheme, covering the 31 miles of route from Tonbridge to Bopeep Junction (St Leonards) for which Government approval was announced in October 1983, and completion of which is scheduled for May 1986. The estimated cost of the scheme is £23.93 million. The scheme includes the singling of 3 tunnels to permit the passage of normal width rolling stock and resignalling of the whole line. It is expected that the service will be worked mainly with 4Cep's.

The second project, and one which is no less topical than the Hastings line electrification, is the scheme for a fixed link to be provided between Britain and the Continent. The choices at present comprise road/rail tunnels of various descriptions, a straightforward bridge, and a proposal for a combined road-rail bridge-tunnel with offshore islands. A joint party of officials from Britain and France was set up in November 1984 to prepare guidelines for the market, and firm proposals have to be submitted this October. It is quite clear that no public money will be injected into the scheme (from Britain at least). British Rail has pledged its support to any scheme which will involve provision of a rail link. If and when such a link is built (which could be as soon as 1992/93) the effect on the railways of Kent could be considerable.

The future for the railways of Kent will undoubtedly be interesting. Perhaps one day ALL the railways of the "Garden of England" will be electrified, including the line from Ashford to Hastings.

The Kent Coast Electrification Scheme (subsequent notes and amendments)

4Cep units

7001/02 and 7101-04 were new with Mark 1 bogies; these were modified about 1960 by provision of hydraulic dampers and other minor alterations. These units had conventional single glazing until first general overhaul (i.e. for about 8 years). Mark 2A bogies were later altered to Mark 4. The motor bogies of 7154-7204 were BR3B. 7154-7211 were ex-works new with AWS (automatic warning system) brackets and wiring conduits. Dates new (corrected): 7111-53 in 1958159, 7205-11 in 1962/63. 7189-95 looked odd when new; they had rectangular section (about 1½in by 1 in) external drain pipes at each end of each bodyside. These were removed after about 2 years.

2Hap units

Although 6001-42 were all allocated to the SED for convenience, construction was not entirely for the purpose of the Kent Coast project but as follows: 6001-04 accident replacements for 2Nol/2Bil/2Hal units; 6005-11 additional stock for general main line use; 6012-42 additional stock budgeted for the CD Gatwick Airport service. (What happened here was that the Three Bridges - Littlehampton service was suddenly extended semi-fast to London; the 2Hap units went to the SED in exchange for the same number of 2Hals to the CD. Dates new: 6043-6105 in 1958159; 6106-46 in 1961162 (corrects published information.) 2Hals did not generally work to Sevenoaks; only one Sevenoaks train each way, Monday to Friday rush-hours, known at one time as the Waldron Smithers train, was 'Eel' formed; it served Cannon Street. In May 1974 2Haps 6001-21124-44 became 2Saps 5901-42. In May 1977 6045-53 became 5943-51. 5951 reverted to 6053 in October 1977, the others reverting during the first half of 1980. 4Cap - Pairs of 2Haps were not bolted together - the buckeye pin was fixed into place.


Since this article was published, the former BR Southern Region SED services pased through Network South East to Connex South Eastern to South East Trains to Southeastern Trains. The Channel Tunnel is open and boat trains are all but a thing of the past, although the Venice-Simplon Orient Express currently operate a (non daily) service via Folkestone West station. Slam Door units have been withdrawn