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Southern Electric History and Infrastructure Part 3 - British Railways Southern Region

The post­war nationalisation of Britain's "Big Four" companies ­ the Southern Railway, the Great Western Railway, London Midland & Scottish Railway, and the London & North Eastern Railway ­ into British Railways in 1948 saw all of the Southern Electric fall into British Railways Southern Region. The British Railways Southern Region organisational structure of the three divisions, South Eastern, South Western and Central, continued to reflect the pre­grouping South Eastern & Chatham Railway, the London & South Western Railway and London Brighton & South Coast Railway companies which had been little altered by the Southern Railway. The first rolling stock development was the evolution of Sub into EPB, together with the standardisation to using the electropneumatic brake. EPB followed the experiment with the 4DD double decker suburban units. The 4DD concept was aimed at continuing to operate trains of just eight coaches length and although the two prototype units remained in traffic until 1971 no production series followed. Instead, on the South Eastern Division platform lengths were extended for ten car operation by EPB stock. Sub and EPB stock with slam doors at every bay typified the Southern Electric post­war suburban scene for almost fifty years. Examples of Sub EPB and DD coaches are all preserved.

The 1955 Modernisation Plan for British Railways initiated the replacement of steam traction. The major project for British Railways Southern Region at this time was the Kent Coast scheme extending the third rail beyond Gillingham and Orpington to Dover, Folkestone, Ramsgate and Margate. Four car Cep and Bep corridored express units based on the standard British Railways Mk I body were introduced together with two car Hap non­gangwayed units for stopping services. Other forms of motive power were ten single car MLV luggage cars provided with traction batteries for short trips away from the third rail, and 24 HA electric locomotives. The HAs, later British Railways Class 71, E5001­5024 were also fitted with the flywheel­booster control system and with pantographs for use at low speed on a few freight sidings equipped with trolley wires. The MLV vehicles were primarily designed to provide additional luggage accommodation on 12Cep boat trains, while the HA locomotives were also used on important Continental boat train workings. The Pullman Golden Arrow service, and the Night Ferry's through Wagons Lits sleeping cars were handled by these locomotives.

1963 saw the introduction of Cig and Big express units. These were an important technical development beyond their Cep and Bep predecessors in that whereas the Kent Coast units were formed with two driving motor coaches (each with only the outer bogie motored), the new trains had a single intermediate non­driving motor coach with driving trailers at the outer ends. Both Cig and Cep stock were still in total powered by four EE507 250 hp traction motors. The 1963 batch was first used on the Central Division to displace the early 1930s trains while a later 1970 built batch was destined for the South Western Division to replace the last 1930s built Cor units. The Southern Electric Group's 3142 was one of the trains withdrawn at this time. The express Cig trains, and the technically similar Vep outer suburban trains continued to be built to Mk I standard while similar locomotive hauled trains utilised Mk II bodies. This legacy of producing Mk I stock so long was that by the end of the century this type of train was judged to not meet adequate safety standards. There was particular concern about the crash­worthiness of this type of coach in even low speed impacts, though this has to be considered in perspective of how safe the railways were even with such stock compared to road transport.

1967 saw the completion of the last major Southern Region third rail electrification operated by outwardly conventional trains. However, the Bournemouth line 4Rep and 4TC trains were very different technically. Through services beyond the limit of electrification at Bournemouth to Weymouth were retained and a novel form of push­pull working was devised. From the London (Waterloo) end of the train, one 4Rep tractor unit would push two 4TC trailer units to Bournemouth. Here, the 4Rep would simply un­couple from the rear while a push­pull equipped diesel locomotive would couple to the front end. The diesel would pull one or two (depending upon demand) 4TC units to Weymouth (and push on the return to Bournemouth). The 4Rep waited for the next arriving train from Weymouth, with the diesel detaching from the rear, and pulled the 4TC units back to London. The 4Rep were the first deviation away from the EE507 traction motor being fitted with the more powerful EE546. One 4Rep had eight such motors totaling 3200 hp, to allow it to push or pull two unpowered 4TC sets with no loss of performance. In many ways a Rep was the most powerful "locomotive" in Britain at the time and could be relied upon for a very lively trip on the rare occasions they worked without TCs! This system was replaced in 1986 when new Mk3 based Class 442 trains were introduced.

In 1971 three prototype sliding door high density suburban units were delivered to the Southern Region. These resulted in the production class 313/315, 507/508 series units. The Southern Region initially had a fleet of class 508 units as a stop gap until Mk3 suburban based class 455 units were built. The class 508s were transferred to the Merseyside suburban system as 3 car units, leaving one trailer in the south to be re­cycled into class 455/7 units. These are distinctive by one car being of significantly different design to the other three.

Network SouthEast was created with the responsibility of running inner and outer suburban and local passenger services in a region approximately 100 miles radius of London. The origins of Network SouthEast lie in the organisational changes from 1984 when British Rail started to move from a regional production­led system to business sectors. Originally this sector was known as London & South East and devised a beige and orange livery which was applied only to CEP and some phase 1 Cig stock on the Southern Electric. NSE encompassed routes and services from the Southern, Western, London Midland and Eastern Regions and introduced the bright red, blue and white "toothpaste" livery for its trains. Possibly the most significant NSE led development affecting the Southern Electric was the introduction of the Networker Class 465 and 466 units. These incorporate 3 phase traction motors in the first move away from the traditional dc motor. The Networker was conceived as a "family" of commuter units ultimately for all NSE services, however the concept was halted almost before it had begun with the class 365 being the only other Networker type ­ and then very much a financially expedient compromise.

Network South East was, despite its livery, a much­loved pioneering operation, known for cascading rolling stock to meet changing demand and introducing innovative services such as Thameslink through the re­opened Snow Hill Tunnel. It was a tough act to follow.