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SR semi-fast units 2Nol 4Lav 2Bil and 2Hal

"Southern Main Line Semi-Fast And Slow Stock - some history and some questions" appeared in 3 parts in Live Rail. This article describes the history of unit types 2Nol, 2Bil, 2Hal and 4Lav which entered traffic through the 1930s for the Brighton, Portsmouth and Medway electrification schemes of the inter-war years. The pattern of services introduced in the Brighton line in the 1930s is described in Brighton Line Electric Services.

March 1995 saw the last public timetabled journeys of the remaining SR type 2EPB units in the 6301-6334 series. With the withdrawal of 6307/08/09/2/30/31/32, the last operational link with the Southern Railway's electric stock of the 1930s was broken. 6321 (note 1) in fact had a link even further back in electric history: the underframe of its motor coach, 14283 (note 1) had been constructed in 1934 for motor brake third 8047, which had originally been converted in June 1915 as LSWR motor third brake 6747 from steam third 1494 built in December 1908.

6301-6334 (which were "built" as 5651-5684, then facelifted with a few coaches substituted in the mid 1980's (note 1), were officially rebuilds with new bodies on reconstructed underframes and bogies from the 2Nol units of the 1930s. G.T.Moody. in "Southern Electric" recorded (incorrectly) that the SR converted fifteen 2Nol units for the Brighton-West Worthing service, thirty three more for the Eastbourne, Seaford and Hastings electrification and "the rest" for Windsor-Weybridge.

The 2Nols certainly were mainly associated with those lines, but the 2Nol story was more complex than that. It was closely tied in with those of the 2Bil and 2Hal units and, not so closely. with the 4Lavs. What follows is therefore a brief history of all four Southern Railway types. It all really started in 1930 when, with some parts of the suburban system still to he electrified, the SR announced electrification to Brighton. The all new main lime stock - twenty 6Pul; three 6Cit; three 5-Bel and forty (not thirty) 4Lav units was ordered in May 1930 and by mid 1931, work on them was in progress.

The 4Lav units were initially numbered from 1921 upwards in what was then a "straight through" unit number series for all dc types. They were for the semi-fast and stopping services between London and Brighton, Worthing, and also to Reigate. Three coaches - i.e. the two driving motor third brakes and one of the non-driving trailer composites-in each unit were all compartment. The other trailer composite had a side corridor, with a partition to separate firsts from thirds and a lavatory at each end. The partitions were removed in the 1950s. First class compartments were approximately 7ft 2in between partitions and thirds were approximately 6ft 3in. The guard's compartment was fitted with a periscope.

The 62ft (nominal) underframes and electrical equipment were of the same types used for suburban stock; electromagnetic control gear with line voltage current providing lighting by groups of 70V lamps in series. Heaters were also wired similarly across the line voltage This arrangement made it impractical to provide switched cab lighting and a driver who needed to consult his instructions at night had to open the back of the headcode box!

Lancing Works were to construct the underframes and Eastleigh were to build the bodies. The order was issued by Head Office (HO) on 16th May 1930 under number E569 Lancing assigned job number 3312 to the motor frames and 3313 to the trailer frames. Each frame had its own serial number as well as the job number. The evidence of the frame serial numbers, which so for as the 4Lavs were concerned were in the ranges 1 to about 50 and 67-80 for the motors and similarly for the trailers, is that the underframes for all forty units were constructed, except possibly trailers 74-80. Eighty motor frames and at least seventy three trailer frames are known to have been built. Sixty six of each were used for 4Lavs; the others were used for seven suburban three car units. If more trailer frames were completed, they could have been used for two-coach trailer sets.

Many of the 4Lav underframe numbers were recorded by enthusiasts in the 1950s, but the 1932 suburban units were withdrawn before frame numbers were "discovered" so what they were is a matter of elimination and approximation. It is probable that most of the frames had been built for the original order for forty 4Lavs by July 1931 when the order for the last seven units was cancelled. This was when part of the scheme for an hourly semi-fast service between London Bridge and West Worthing was dropped. If the London Bridge-West Worthing semi-fast service had gone ahead, then the Brighton-West Worthing local link would probably not have come about until the Littlehampton electrification. This leaves a question. Was the deletion of the London Bridge- Worthing semi-fast service and the provision instead of the local service simply an economy measure in the context of the 1930's depression, or was it a change of mind, in that it made sense to lay the third rail round the Holland Road curve, but that something else (the London Bridge service) had to be cut out? We may never know.

Some units were tried out in public service in the spring of 1932 on the Waterloo - Cobham - Guildford route, where the best known publicity shot was taken of an unidentifiable unit carrying headcode H with a bar above. 1921-1940 began Brighton line work in earnest in July 1932 between London and Three Bridges and 1941-1953 were completed shortly after. The coach numbers of 1921-1953 were: motor third brakes 10501-10566 (in pairs, in order), compartment trailer composites 11501-11533 (some not in order) and side corridor trailer composites 12001-12033 (some not in order). 10501-10566 were to coaching stock diagram 2106 and had: cab - van - seven compartments; and tared 41 tons. 11501-11533 were to diagram 2305 with five first and four third class compartments (derated to two first seven third in the late 1940s) and tared 28 tons. 12001-12033 were to diagram 2306 with lavatory, five firsts, three thirds and lavatory; and tared 29 tons. In the February 1937 renumbering of main line units, 4Lavs 1921-1953 became 2921-2953

The four 4Lav units were the first electric stock to conform to the SRs' route restriction 4. All suburban stock except the South London and Wimbledon-West Croydon units was restriction 0 until 1941. There were originally eight restriction groups for passenger stock (note 3). The restriction 4 between Charlton and Plumstead restriction was important for the 4Lav units, as every week or two one was sent to the Eastern section's Slade Green depot for electrical and mechanical maintenance and on such trips, had to be sent by the right route.

Instead, fourteen motor and seven trailer underframes which were to have been part of the 4Lav order were fitted with converted LSWR and LBSCR steam coach bodies. These seven three car suburban (note 2) units, 1795-1801, were to be allocated to local services between Brighton and West Worthing. (1801 was renumbered to 1600 in April 1934.) 1795-1801 were quite mean in their passenger accommodation. They were the result of converting whatever steam stock would have no useful work, rather than what was suitable for the new electric services. They were therefore dispatched to the London area and the Worthing local service was given eight of the 1914-1917 LSWR units which were superior internally to 1795-1801. Units 1211/12/23/24/35/36/47/59 went south in December 1932 and trundled up and down between Brighton and West Worthing until December 1934. Their motor composite brakes: 8755/56/61/62/67/68/73/80 were derated to all third and renumbered 8596-8602/04 while they were on the coast, but the units kept their own numbers.

We move on now to November 1933 when eleven three car suburban unit to Head Office (HO ) order 791, were ordered from Lancing Works for the Sevenoaks electrification, via Swanley and via Orpington. Four two coach trailer sets (1195-1198) were ordered to run with them, making a total of forty one coaches. On 28 March 1934 however, the order for the three car units was cancelled and replaced by two new orders: HO 803 of 23 March 1934 for five three car units (1595-99) and HO 804 also of 23 March 1934, for eleven of a new formation type; the 2Nol, or no-lavatory general purpose unit. The 2Nols were to he numbered 1813-1723 to follow on from the South London and Wimbledon-West Croydon units 1801-1812 (1901-1912 until April 1934). 1595-1599 seem to have had no definite budget chargeability; they were added to the suburban pool in July and August 1934 and used to cover part of the needs of the Sevenoaks lines in January 1935.

23rd March 1934 was also the date of the orders for the Eastbourne, Seaford and Hastings stock; seventeen 6Pan (SR built coaches under HO order 805 and ten 2Bil units (HO 806). The same day also saw HO 807 which was for 2Nol 1824-1855 and 1856-1862. Of these, more below. The semi-fast/stopping stock for the Brighton main line, the 4Lavs, were four car units. The four car formation was what Raworth, in charge of SR new works, had intended for the SECR electrification scheme and it was what the operating people wanted. Herbert Jones' (SR electrical engineer) trailer pairs, devised for the LSWR in 1920 and imposed on the ex-South Eastern lines in 1926 and just about manageable in the suburbs, would not have been suited to main line work. The 2Nol was therefore a departure from most existing electric practice, although there were a few very non-standard two car suburbans on the South London and Wimbledon-West Croydon routes, which had begun life as LBSCR ac electric stock. But it corresponded to the customary two coach steam rail motor set in capacity and suitability for lightly loaded local and branch services and it gave flexibility.

It is not known how the decision to use two car units on the coastal services was taken. The files have probably long since been destroyed, but it seems to have been taken early in 1934 shortly before the Eastbourne, Seaford and Hastings stock was ordered. The 2Nol comprised a driving motor third brake coupled to a driving trailer composite. Both vehicles had standard 62ft (nominal) suburban underframes and suburban bogies, with small outer end suburban buffers and a single central buffer between inner ends. Suburban traction equipment with Metropolitan Vickers type 339 motors, the same type as had been fitted to the 4Lav units, was installed. The designed end loading (collision) strength was 90 tons.

For the motor third brakes (body 64ft 3/8 in overall by 8ft ¾in wide, plus lookouts making overall width 8ft 7in), the SR used eight compartment bogie steam thirds, built with 48ft bodies. Some of them had began life as 2nd/3rd composites. One compartment (standard size 5ft 10 3/8in) was cut down to coupe' (4ft 2¾in) arid van space (7ft 7 3/8in) and cab (8ft 10in) were grafted on. The coach layout was thus: cab, van, coupe' and seven thirds. The driving trailer composites used six compartments of an eight compartment bogie third, or in two cases, part of a five compartment third brake, with three compartments of a 46ft six compartment bogie first at the trailing end and a driving cab grafted to the outer end. Thus. cab, six thirds plus three firsts.

Units 1813-1823 were completed in Nov/Dec 1934 at Lancing from LSWR steam bodies mounted on new underframes. The steam bodies dated from the period 1894-1902. The SR assigned coaching stock diagram numbers to all its stock for operational reasons (diagram numbers were not the same as drawing numbers). Number 686 was assigned to the motor coaches of 1813-1882 with 688 to 1883-1890, and 795 to the driving trailers with 795A to the driving trailers in their later all third class form. The motor coaches were given diagram number 684 after alterations to provide a larger van space (see below).

At this point the story gets complicated and there are some questions which may never be answered. The first complication is the way in which the EMUs were charged to the various electrification schemes, 1813-1823 were charged NOT to a Coastal project but to the Sevenoaks electrification of 1934/35. The reason was that although the 2Nols were seen as the new ideal for the Worthing locals and interchangeable with the rest of the Brighton area local stock, the Worthing line stock had already been paid for in 1932/33 and replacements for it had to be charged to some other current project.

1824-1855 (HO 807) were more straightforward. They were charged to the Eastbourne scheme and were completed at Eastleigh (with Lancing underframes) by April 1935. They were stored in various London yards and sidings, including the new Norwood Junction loco depot due to open that summer, before being sent to the coaSt 1856-1862 (also HO 807) completed at Eastleigh in April/May 1935 were "paid for" with Sevenoaks funds and nominally made up the Sevenoaks authorised stock to 44 coaches.

1813-1823 in fact never saw Sevenoaks at all so far as we know, although a couple of a later batch probably got there circa 1953/54. Instead they were sent to work the Brighton-West Worthing service at the end of 1934 allowing the LSWR three car units to return home to the London area of the Western section, with seven or eight units cascading onto the Eastern section for the Sevenoaks electrification, giving it 44 or 47 coaches in all. Roughly the right number!

About the time the Eastbourne scheme was announced, at least one railway journal, perhaps with advance information which was overtaken by events, reported that the new Eastbourne stock would include five new four car units. No four car units were built, but the Lancing Works job numbers for the first 50 2Nols (the Carriage and Wagon Department regarded the three HO orders for the 2Nols and for 1595-1599 as one contract) did have something odd about them.

It was usual for Lancing job numbers for EMUs to be one, two or three apart. One number for the motor coaches, another for the trailers, with the gap of one or two allowing for fabrication of bogies which appears on the basis of HO order lists to have been regarded as a separate job in its own right. The motor underframes for 1813-1862 (coaches 9861-9910) and also for the three car units 1595-1599 (9851-9860) were job 4151. The job number for the trailer composites of 1595-1599 is not known. In usual practice, the driving trailer underframes for 9940-9950 and 9961-9999 (allocated to 1813-1823, 1828/27/26/24/25/29-1862 respectively) should have been 4153, 4154 or 4155. In fact they were 4373, a job number which was the equivalent of three months in the carriage works calendar, the time lag as it happens between the completion of 1595-1599 and the 1813-1862 part of the contract. This suggests a change of plan and a cancelled job. Were the 2Nols perhaps conceived as four car units? Was The driving trailer job a late substitution? Once again, we may never know.

The "5 four car units" forecast by that railway journal eventually appeared as ten 2Bils, First was 1890, which became 1900 in January 1936 and 2010 in February 1937, and then 1891-1899, which became 2001-2009 in February 1937. 1890 was outshopped about February 1936 and 1891-1899 about March 1836. All ten had frame job numbers 4440 (motors) and 4448 (driving trailers); a slightly wider than usual gap between the numbers. This time perhaps caused by the delay while a memo went to Head Office asking it to confirm that driving trailers were indeed what they wanted! The first batch of 2Bils being for longer distance intermediate services, had side corridors and lavatories in both coaches, but by contrast with comparable steam coaches, had no gangways between coaches. In styling they corresponded to the fourth Maunsell/Lynes design variation, with ventilator bonnets on the doors, all doors opposite the compartments and cream painted panels in the corridors. They also had cab front ventilators and an equipment compartment for the electro-magnetic control gear under a raised section of the floor of the guard's van.

The motor third brakes, 10567-10576 (coaching stock Diagram 2111) tared 43 tons and had lavatory, seven compartments, van and cab, with the corridor on the left by reference to the driver's forward view. Corridor external doors were opposite compartments 1/2, four and 6/7. The driving trailer composites 12101-12110 (diagram 2700) tared 31 tons and had lavatory, four firsts, four thirds and cab with corridor on the right. 10567 and 12101 were for 1890 alias 1900 alias 2010, the others for 1891-1899 in order. Overall length was 129ft 6in. The 2Nols had the time honoured duckets or side lookouts for the guard, but the 2Bils were flush sided and fitted with two periscopes for the guard. one for each direction of running. With this came the luxury of two seats for the guard, one at normal floor level, the other on top of the equipment compartment. Traction motors, two per unit, were on the bogie under the van area and equipment was by Metropolitan Vickers using the standard suburban type 339 motor and gearing.

The authorised budgeted stock for the Brighton-Hastings etc. local services (excluding the Worthing local replacements) was ten 2Bil and thirty two 2Nol, forty two units in all. But 2Nol 1856-1862 also went to the coast, apparently overstocking the area by seven two car units. However looking at this in more detail, the total coastal local services requirement after July 1935, to within a unit or two, appears to have been as follows:

Number of Trains Required Total Number of Units Spares
Brighton-West Worthing three 6 car trains 9 2
Brighton-Hastings six 8 car trains 24 4
Brighton-Seaford two 4 car trains 4  
Seaford-Horsted Keynes two 4 car trains 4  
Brighton-Haywards Heath one 2 car train 1  
Total   42 7

This gives 49 units-approximately equal to 1813-1862.

The ten 2Bil units were not intended to be included in the workings summarised above because they were primarily for main line work. Although they were to be allocated initially to Haywards Heath-Seaford services, the intention was to work them to/from London as parts of Victoria-Brighton semi-fasts. It is probable that the through London-Seaford workings using 2Bils did not happen, but 2Bil units were used on some London-Brighton, with a portion for Reigate, services. However there were some 2Bils to spare and by 1936 four of them were on loan, by weekly turnover, to the Eastern section for a Sevenoaks-Cannon Street (am) and return (pm) peak hour duty. This lasted until about February 1939 when 2Hal units took over the Sevenoaks turn. This was the fast City electric, known to staff as the Waldron Smithers train. (Sir) Waldron Smithers was Member of Parliament for Orpington from 1931 to 1960 and lived at Chelsfield.

There was no identifiable work for 2Nol units elsewhere until the next batch of 2Nols arrived. These were 1863-1882, to HO order 874 of 7 June 1935, completed February-March 1936. Underframes were to job number 5369 (motor coach numbers 8596-8615) and 5372 (driving trailer numbers 9920-9939). These went straight to the Western section, appearing first on various suburban services and then, probably from the start of the 1936 summer timetable, to the Windsor line, replacing its three car units. To keep the accounts straight (again!) 1863-1882 were charged to the "Motspur Park and Leatherhead Extension", the original name for the plan which became the Chessington South branch.

The Windsor line had been worked with three or six car trains, using twelve units including spares. 1757-1768 were the budgeted stock. It continued to have six cars as a maximum and needed only eighteen two car units in lieu of the threes. The addition of the Stains to Weybridge line in July 1937 brought the last 2Nol batch, 1883-1890. These were authorised as part of the Portsmouth No. scheme, to HO 899 of 8 January 1936 and completed circa July 1936. Underframe job numbers were 5955 for motors 9781-9788 and 5958 for driving trailers 9913-18/l2/19

Units 1883-1890 proved to be the last conversions of old steam stock for main line electric use and almost the last for suburban work, except for three car suburban units 1579-1584 in September-December 1937. Thereafter all local stock was new. For the 1937 Portsmouth/Alton via Woking Scheme. 38 2Bil units were built. These were actually ordered in two lots; HO 898 on 8 January 1936 for 36 units and HO 903 on 27 January 1936 for another two.

Publicity never revealed it, but the plan had been to electrify only as far as Farnham. At the last minute, someone realised that Farnham could not deal with four London trains an hour in the peak and at the same time cope with steam push-pulls coming up from the Meon Valley and Winchester lines. There was also the Bentley-Bordon branch (for Longmoor) to be given reasonable connections from/to London. Alton was therefore added to the scheme, but with only half the peak hour electrics running through, the platform space would be available for the steam services terminating from the opposite direction.

The 2Bils appeared as 1911-1920 and 1954-1971 (remember that the 4Lavs were 1921-1953) but never ran thus. It was realised that unit numbers were getting out of hand and proper type series were needed. This batch of 2Bils became 2011-2048. 1891-1900 became 2001-10 occupying a number series used by some express units. 1000 was added to express unit numbers, thus 6Pul 2001 became 3001.

The Portsmouth No.1 2Bil units differed from the Eastbourne lot in having a larger guard's van without raised section of floor. The control equipment was electro-pneumatic and tucked away under the level floor. The larger van was provided by providing a coupe' compartment next to the van. The design change recognised that 2Bils carried an enormous amount of mail and goods traffic - e.g. chums of milk and boxes of fish. It also meant less passenger space: cab, van, coupe' third, six full third compartments and lavatory. The corridor was on the left hand side of the coach - i.e. behind the motorman's position. The driving trailer layout was unchanged with the corridor on the right. The Operating Department diagram numbers for the 2Bil units - were for 2001-10: motor brakes 2111, driving trailers 2700 and for 2011 upwards: motor brakes 2115, driving trailers 2701.

Externally, design moved into the sixth Maunsell/Lynes style. The fifth style, with its radiussed window and rivet heads, superficially like the later 2Hal units, was limited to a short run of loco-hauled coaches in 1935 and did not appear on electric stock. The sixth style featured aluminum window frames. frameless door drop lights. corridor external doors not located opposite the internal compartment doors and re arrangement of external trunking.

2011-2048, as 1901 etc. became, were completed at Eastleigh circa August 1936 (2011-2013). October 1936 (2014-2034), November 1936 (2035-2045), December 1936 (2046) and January 1937 (2047/2048). They were renumbered in February 1937 and began trial running soon after. The trials included operation on London local services. The motor third brakes, to Operating Department diagram 2115, were numbered 10577-10614 and the driving trailer composites. to diagram 2701, were numbered 12034-12071. The Lancing underframe job numbers for these were 5956 (motors) and 5958 (driving trailers).

Trains via Staines were still limited to six cars, so that even in rush hours, there must have been half a dozen 2Nol units spare, and 2Nols did indeed appear on Portsmouth arid Alton stopping line services from 1937. What this suggests is that once the dramatic effects of electrification on traffic growth were known new schemes provided in advance for substantially more rolling stock than the initial needs of the timetable. More was built, overall, than publicity indicated, especially where suburban stock was involved, SR publicity of the 1925-1939 period misled more than one writer trying to make sense of it all and assigning stock officially to one line and sending it to another must have been sufficient to confuse the SR Board as well! The SR thus ensured that it (nearly) always had enough stock for immediate needs and it ensured that for example, the Western section could add contra-flow race specials from as far out as Ascot to its evening rush hour workload without having to worry about whether they reached Waterloo early enough to be used for a down rush hour duty. It also - very vitally - covered emergencies.

1937 saw another batch of 2Bil units, this time for the Portsmouth No.2 scheme which went "live" in May-July of 1938. This covered the routes from West Worthing to Littlehampton, Bognor, Chichester and Havant and the link from Three Bridges via Horsham to Arundel and the coast lines. 2Bils 2049-2116 were for local services between Three Bridges, Littlehampton and Bognor. and Brighton-Portsmouth, but immediately became common user with the earlier units. The Operating Department diagram numbers were unchanged from the previous batch. The approximate completion dates were June 1937 (2049-2057), August 1937 (2058-2065). September 1937 (2066-2071), October 1931 (2072-2100). November 1937 (2101-2103) and December 1937 (2104-2116). 2049-2116 had motor coaches 10615-10632 and driving trailers 12072-12100/12111-12149. The Lancing underframe job numbers were 6603 for motors and 6605 for trailers. The general design was unchanged from the 2011-2048 batch, except that 2116 had, as an experiment, steel roof panels. It also had the heavy main line type outer end buffers introduced on the 1932 express stock.

The heavy buffers on 2116 went with a redesigned underframe. In 1937, whilst standing in the platform at Woking, a 2Bil had been run into by a steam train. The 2Bil underframe suffered partial collapse. It was decided to bring the end load strength for future construction up from 90 tons to 120 tons and all new. 62ft underframes were to this standard from mid 1938, including frames used in the second half of the rebuilding programme for the "original" LSWR units in the 1201-1284 series. The final 2Bil batch with the heavy buffers and strengthened underframes was built for the Virginia Water - Ascot - Reading/Aldershot scheme. Public services started on 1 January 1939. The motor brake thirds were one ton heavier at 44 tons and the driving trailers a ton heavier at 32 tons. The underframe job numbers were 7148 for motors and 7149 for driving trailers. Again the diagram numbers were unchanged. Approximate completion dates were August 1938 (2117-2123), September 1938 (2124-2136), October 1938 (2137-2145) and November 1938 (2146-2152).

An intriguing point about the Head Office orders for the Portsmouth No.2 and Reading batches was that they were issued on the same day. Although the Portsmouth No.2 scheme was to be completed six months before Reading, the Readings came first in the order book. 2117-2152 were HO order 948 and 2049-2116 were HO 949; both orders being issued on 6 November 1936, over two years before the Reading line service started. The 1938 electrification west of Worthing and from Three Bridges to Littlehampton and along the coast to Bognor and Portsmouth effectively made the coastal 2Nols common user with the 2Bil units. When the Reading line was electrified. the 2Nols found their way there too. It was here that the Railway Observer reported, but did not explain, some odd circumstances. Enough 2Bils were built for the Reading/Aldershot-Guildford service to run as six car trains from Waterloo, dividing at Ascot. But from 24 February 1939, until about April, peak hour trains were cut to four cars and became very crowded. What happened here? Was there something amiss with the new 2Bils which were the first to have stronger underframes? Or was there an electrical supply fault which blew the fuses if more than four cars were put onto the traction supply?

In 1938 it must have seemed as though there was no stopping the flood of new main line electric units, but most of the first wave of main line electrification had now been completed and construction of main line EMUs was to slow down as the Southern completed an arc of electrified routes round south London - perhaps on the basis of competition with the growing Green Line coach network. Little new electrification was planned to be carried out after 1941. Instead for the next ten years or so, efforts were to be directed at rebuilding or replacing the suburban fleet at the rate of about 160 coaches a year. The remainder of the Lancing/Eastleigh coach building capacity of about 300 a year was to include some new loco hauled coaches for the principal services to the Kent coast, Southampton, Bournemouth and the West of England. The coaches to be replaced would be cascaded to other services after only seven or at most ten years' use - a practice peculiar to steam operation and never followed on the electric side. The Southern also had plans for upgrading its steam loco fleet. Between 1939 and 1944, orders were placed with Eastleigh. Ashford and Brighton loco works for 180 engines. Work on these came to a halt when wartime controls, as it were, put the brakes on. The SR built a dozen or so of its own designs for itself and 130 LMSR type 2-8-0 locos for war freight use. The production of Southern carriages was halted completely.

But before that happened, there was the Medway scheme to complete. For the Medway scheme the lines from Gravesend to Gillingham, from Strood to Maidstone West and from Otford to Maidstone East - the Southern departed from its customary high standards of passenger comfort in new coaches and produced the very basic, utilitarian 2Hal. Whilst the 4Lavs, the 2Bils and even the 2Nols had deep comfortable cushions in the third class compartments, 2Hal passengers had to make do with over firm, meanly padded bench type seats, many of them in six a side non corridor motor third brakes. The third class upholstery trim was a depressing brown and fawn pattern. The first class was by contrast quite generously provided for, with lift out cushions trimmed in oriental patterned tapestry. The major visual change for the passenger was that instead of the time honoured Victorian style teak and mahogany interior woodwork, wooden surfaces were cream or grey painted with panelling trimmed in cotton fabric.

Structurally the 2Hal was the transition between wooden and steel bodywork. The body had a wooden frame (as before) with plywood partitions (new idea), galvanised steel sheet sides and boarded canvas covered roof (as before), but with a welded steel driving cab (new techniques). The underframe was still the standard 62ft type and the traction motors were English Electric type 339. Overall unit length was 129ft 5in.

The Medway 2Hals-76 of them and about 10 or 12 units more than were necessary for the services offered-were the largest single batch of main line semi-fast stock ever built by the SR. They were built at Eastleigh to HO order 1023 of 29 April 1938. The motor third brakes, 10719-10794, to diagram 2116 and with Lancing underframes to job no. 7253. had driving cab, a 13ft van, seven 6ft 2in (approximately ) compartments with no side corridor and tared 44 tons. The driving trailer composites were to diagram 2702, with Lancing underframes to job 7254 and had driving cab, four thirds, four firsts and lavatory, with a corridor on the left and tared 32 tons. Their carriage numbers were 12186-12231 and 12801-12830, the original blocks of numbers worked out around 1931 were beginning to fill up and become untidy. On the basis of contemporary reports, the completion dates appear to have been: January 1939 (2601-2610). February 1939 (2611-2626), March 1939 (2627-2636), April 1939 (2637-2644), May 1939 (2645-2659), June 1939 (2660-2667) and July 1939 (2668-2670). Official records indicate that 2668-2676 were completed by June 1939. The public service began on 2 July 1939, but some 2Hal units had already been run in on Central section suburban duties.

Completion of the Medway 2Hals came as the SR was involved in emergency work as the war clouds loomed. Emergency work had in fact begun late in 1938 and no doubt was the reason why the volume of HO orders (i.e. orders for work other than routine maintenance and repairs) fell away and why rolling stock orders had no specific schemes noted as relating to them. The Medway 2Hals were thus followed by a further batch of sixteen 2Hal units and by two 4Lav units. Neither batch had any assigned project heading in the order book. They were ordered on 28 November 1938 and later described in Committee minutes as "to meet additional traffic and maintenance requirements". But they were ordered before growth on that scale could have been forecast or become apparent. Moreover, as we have noted, the orders for electric stock for new schemes were very generous throughout the 1930s. A further curious point is that although spare motor bogies had been ordered from time to time, no separate orders had ever been placed for units for the maintenance spares element in the fleet, which was about one unit for every six in daily use.

The 2Hals 2677-2692, were identical with the Medway batch, except that the third class upholstery reverted to the jazzy blue and beige suburban pattern of 1938. The HO order number was 1058, the Lancing underframe job numbers were 7621 (motors) and 7622 (driving trailers) and the carriage numbers were 10795-10810 (motor third brakes) and 12831-12846 (driving trailer composites). Approximate completion dates were November 1939 (2677-2682) and December 1939 (2683-2692). Official records claim early 1940 as completion for 2689-2692, with 2692 "on the books" from March. What happened to them was not quite expected - as we shall see.

The two 4Lav units, 2954/2955 were to HO order number 1057 and the frame job numbers were 7775 (motors) and 7777 (trailers). The carriage numbers were: motor third brakes 10497-10500; compartment composites 11534-11535; corridor composites 11999-12000. 2954 was completed about February 1940 and 2955 about April or May (official figures say June, but probably reflect a delay in reporting). Internally, 2954/2955 retained the 1932 layout but were painted and trimmed 2Hal style. They settled down on the London-Brighton line and were rarely seen anywhere else.

Whilst the two 4Lavs seem to have been genuinely extra stock, we might look, not too seriously, for some other purpose behind the construction of 2677-2692. No forward announcements had been made about further electrification and the uncertain political situation after October 1938 must have been one reason. But the SR was also locked in a political battle. Sir Herbert Walker, General Manager until 1937 and then a Board member, favoured electrification to Hastings via Tunbridge Wells, so did most of the other senior managers - perhaps even OVS Bulleid who was actively interested in emu body design and whose interest in steam traction was in improving it rather than keeping it in use where other forms of traction were more appropriate. But the Tunbridge Wells route had the coaching stock gauge problem which was to bedevil it for another half century and Raworth, in charge of electric stock, was not prepared to operate a fleet of electrics or different body widths, with 8-footers on the Hastings line and 9-footers elsewhere. This meant expensive tunnel alterations which worried the finance department and some of the Board members. But not to do anything meant continuing with an awkward semi-fast steam operation in the suburban area.

The way to get rid of this would have been to extend the third rail a few miles on from Sevenoaks with an hourly electric service to Tunbridge Wells, speeding up the through steam trains to Hastings and, within another two or three years confronting the Board with the need to replace the already outdated Hastings steam stock with - what? One can guess that tunnel works and electrics to Hastings and Bexhill would have followed because the Tunbridge Wells electrics would already have changed the financial projections for the rest of the line. So - and it may forever be only a question with no answer - were 2677-2692 the first part of this sequence of events, scheduled for January 1940, with a stock working diagram involving three off peak six-car trains. two eight-car peak extras and a couple of spare units. with the "Waldron Smithers" train (already 2Hal worked) becoming part of the schedule?

Exactly a month after the 2Hals and 4Lavs were ordered, on 28 December 1938. came HO order 1160 for the first thirty 4Sub units, 4101-4130. The intention for these was equally cryptic: "for further requirements". Little extra was actually in prospect for the suburban area. There was to be a new station at Lullingstone, between Eynsford and Shoreham (Kent) for a speculative housing scheme which never came. (The station was built but never opened and it looked rather like Bishopstone on the Seaford branch.) The SR was trying to encourage a South-of-the-Thames equivalent of Southend at Allhallows and might have electrified the branch, needing just one suburban unit. The extension of the Chessington South branch towards Ashtead had been quietly shelved. The congested state of suburban trains on the Orpington routes and elsewhere was to be dealt with by simply running higher capacity trains, for which 4101-4130 were intended, as replacements for older stock which would be scrapped. But that is another story and we return to the main line.

The major event in the lives of the 4Lavs, 2Nols, 2Bils and 2Hals was, of course, the 1939-1945 war. The Railway Observer (March 1940) reported that "numerous" 2Hal units, including eight of the Medway', batch (2601-2676) and some of the then new 2677-2692 batch were working the Brighton-Ore and Horsted Keynes services. In June 1940 it reported that all 2Nols "except 1851" had been displaced from those routes by 2Hals 2677-2692. This allowed only seventeen units for what had been a thirty three unit allocation, but the Brighton-Hastings coast was a "restricted area" with no major industrial movement and only residents allowed in and out, so passengers must have been few.

Censorship, of course, prohibited the RO from saying what had happened to the 2Nols except perhaps by a casual report of appearances around the suburbs. If the whole lot were parked in a yard somewhere. it could not say so, less still give the reason why. It is therefore possible that either (a) the 2Nols had no blackout fittings, whereas the 2Hals did and so could not be seen half way across the Channel at night, or (b) they were held in reserve for mass troop movements as non corridor steam stock actually was. So is there someone reading this who remembers coming ashore from Dunkirk at Hastings, or Newhaven and being taken to Aldershot by a train of 2Nols? All we know with certainty is that the Coastal 2Nols were in general use, wherever 2Bils ran, by 1941. This was something of a key year in our study, because it was the year of the first Ian Allen ABC and a time when enthusiasts could once again move around parts of the rail network and see what was happening. It was also the year when life seemed to become comparatively more eventful for the 2Nols than for the 2Bil and 2Hal types.

Until October 1941, when the "Windsor" 2Nols were downgraded to all third class in common with other suburban stock, any 2Nol could in theory turn up anywhere. In practice 1855-1890 and probably 1853-1854 were allocated to Windsor/Weybridge line services. These were still 6 car trains, dividing at Staines and a "scatter" of 2Nols were by this time in use away from their earlier haunts. By this time also, 2Hal units 2677-2692 had left the coastal scene and were almost entirely on Waterloo-Aldershot workings, mostly via Ascot, but also via Woking. This allowed the Reading/Aldershot trains to be strengthened to 8 cars to deal with the massive armed services traffic to and from the Aldershot area.

Unusually for the war years, alteration work was authorised and carried out on some of the 2Nols. Between April 1943 and September 1944, the coupé compartment in units 1813-27/29-46 was stripped out and merged with the van space. Why this was done is not known with certainty, but it made the 2Nol vans up from the suburban 7ft nominal to about 11ft-nearly as large as in the 2Bils and 2Hals-so that was probably the reason, That and the remarkable quantity of perishable goods traffic that went by passenger train. The Waterloo-Reading service, for example, carried boxes of fish, churns of milk and from Broadmoor prison garden came huge cabbages for Covent Garden Market.

In April-December 1948, more were altered, 1859/61/63-61/72/77/79/80/82. 1847-50 were also done in November 1948. After that the alteration programme was abandoned. Units 1883-1890 already had the larger van space as outshopped in 1936. Their driving cabs were correspondingly smaller there being no equipment cupboard behind the driver in these units, which like 2Bils 2011 onwards had electro-pneumatic control gear under the floor instead of large, hot electro-magnetic installations behind the driver.

A few incidents and working details of this period have come down to us. Driving trailer 9961 of 1828 was war damaged at Fratton on 25 June 1941 and written off. Its motor brake survived in suburban work in unit 1799, then 4254, to be finally withdrawn in 1956 and rebuilt as 14488 (4EPB unit 5244). 1825 was war damaged (but survived) at Chertsey in July 1941. 1855 was badly damaged in a blackout collision at Staines on 24 November 1941 and 9992 was loSt Again the motor brake survived and was used in 1679, then in 4251 and was withdrawn in 1953 to become EPB coach 14350

1847-1890 were derated to all third class on 6 October 1941 (as were all suburban units and sets) which implies that 1847-1850 had been moved from the coast to London then or earlier. These four spent some of the war years and after on the Crystal Palace Low Level - Beckenham Junction and Crystal Palace High Level - Nunhead shuttle services, both lines using headcode 03. 1851-1852 are believed to have been elsewhere in London until 1946. There appears to have been a surplus of 2Nols at this time as the Railway Observer reported in December 1943 that they had been taken off the Windsor/Weybridge services and were running elsewhere on the Western section.

What actually happened was never fully reported in railway magazines, but the use of the 2Nols as trailer sets, without shoes and with fuses removed, is said by one source to have begun by about 1941. Which units were involved is not known, but 1856-1890 remained in use on the Windsor/Weybridge line until 1943 when they were replaced by newly augmented 4Sub units. In 1946-1947 some, perhaps all, the "Windsor" 2Nols ran without shoegear in place of two car trailer sets. There was an acute shortage of traction equipment at the time and it is possible that 2Nol equipment was removed and used to mobilise new 4Sub units in the 4355-4377 series, which are known to have spent their early days in sidings at Eastleigh and Micheldever because there were no new traction motors for them. Using 2Nols in place of trailer sets also eased the logistics of operation during the three to four car augmentation programme. This state of affairs seems to have lasted until sometime in 1948 when 1853-54/56-90 returned to the Windsor line. By this time new traction equipment was being delivered and from September 1948, two car trailer formations were no longer required. By the mid 1950s the 2Nols were officially listed as having had their original Metropolitan Vickers traction motors replaced by English Electric equipment. This prompts the question: did some of the 4355-4377 series go into traffic with (unofficially) Metropolitan Vickers traction motors assembled in the 1930s?

After 1948, 1813-1850 contrived to spend most of their time on the Hastings-Brighton and Brighton-West Worthing services but, even though 1851-1862 were no longer on the coast there were still too many of them and 1813-1850 could be found anywhere that 2Bil units ran. Along the coast to Portsmouth, up the main line to Waterloo and out to Alton and Reading. Although the 1st/3rd class 2Nol units could appear on main line services, they appear to have been regarded as of non main line status for maintenance purposes. Even allowing for the disruption caused by the war years, the interval between their major body overhauls was nearer the ten years of suburban stock than the seven of main line and the biennial varnishing of the coastal units was done alongside suburban units at Selhurst paint shop.

Mishaps continued to occur. 1819 collided with loco 31891 at Eastbourne in January 1951 and 9946 was written off and replaced in 1819 by 9975 from 1838, the victim of another incident about May 1951. 9986 of 1838 was scrapped. In November 1952 a solo 2Bil ran away out of control at Guildford and collided with a light engine. The cause was brake compressor circuit failure; two car units had only one compressor. compared with two on a 4Sub so there was no back up for failure. Until brake compressor protection circuits could be fitted (1953), 2Nol, 2Bil and 2Hal units were prohibited from running solo and the London area 2Nols were taken off the Windsor/Weybridge diagrams and confined to four car diagrams where they would not be used solo in error. Units 1819 and 1833 wrote each other off at Lover's Walk (Brighton) depot in June 1958.

Most of the London units then went back to the Windsor/Weybridge line, but a few turns were run with 4Subs allowing 2Nols to act as spares for the ageing 2SL and 2Wim units 1801-1812. A couple of 2Nols also appeared briefly on Charing Cross/Cannon Street suburban lines about this time, probably running into Sevenoaks for the first and last time! It was during this period, on two December 1955, that 1853 collided with a goods train in the Barnes disaster and was destroyed. In 1956 the "Windsor" 2Nols, by now showing signs of body fatigue, were again scattered round the south western suburbs and most of them were withdrawn in 1957. The bodies were demolished and burned at Newhaven Town sidings, a redundant quayside area on the up side west of the station. The underframes were rebuilt at Lancing and mostly used in 1958 for the SR type 2-Hap units 5601-2636. Most of the coastal 2Nols were sent to the London area in 1958, replaced on the coast by 2Hal units cascaded from the Medway lines by Hap units of both SR and BR standard varieties. In 1958/9 the coastal 2Nols were withdrawn for their underframes to be used for 2EPB units 5651-5684. The last 2Nols to run in service were almost certainly 1826 and 1830, withdrawn in August 1959 and cut up in September 1959.

1957: 1851-52/54/56-64/66-69/72-76/79-89
1958: 1819/23/33/35/43/65/90
1959: 1813/18/2-22/24-27/29.32/34/36-37/39-42/44-50

A few underframes from earlier withdrawals were used for 4EPB rebuilds. One motor frame (ex-8604 in 1871 was used under a non driving 4-EPB trailer (15430) and two driving trailer frames, 9934/9935 from 1877/1878 similarly became 15447/15437. 140 2Nol frames were used for 2EPB and 2Hap units, the frame job numbers being 4870 (for 14521-14590) and 4872 (for 16001-16036 and 16101-16134) These were, appropriately the last frame job numbers to emerge from Lancing after which all carriage underframes for Southern Region stock came as new BR standards from Ashford.

So far we have looked at the 2Nol units in some detail in the war years and after. We must now look at the consequences of the war for the Lav, Bil and Hal stock. Most important, of course, were the outright losses by war damage. No Lav or Hal coaches were lost, but a total of ten Nol, Bil and SL coaches (one by accident rather than war damage as such) had been lost by mid-1944, so the construction of three 2 coach main line units (to replace 2014, 2102 and 2131) and two 2 coach suburban units (to replace 1807 and one coach from each of 1828 and 1855) was authorised, probably in the autumn of 1944. 2014 had been lost at Brighton on 25 May 1943; 2102 and 2131 at Portsmouth Harbour on 12 August 1940; 1807 at Peckham Rye in September 1940; 1828 (driving trailer only) at Fratton on 25 June 1941; and 1855 (driving trailer only) in a collision at Staines on 24 November 1941.

The carriage builders were about to be ordered to get on with the work, but almost immediately, another Bil, 2119, was lost somewhere in the London area, almost certainly in December 1944. A photograph of the wreckage of 2119 over an inspection pit with depot power jumper cables hanging in the ruins with a 1401 series unit alongside, has been published in recent years captioned "At Angerstein Wharf". A July date has also been quoted for the incident, which would have involved a VI flying bomb or V2 rocket. The problem with the photo caption is that Angerstein Wharf never had any electrified-with-pit facilities. Indeed, the third rail never went there; electrification was limited to 750V overhead wires around 1959. Slade Green is a "possible" but there is no mention of such an incident in the Slade Green biography published in 1994. Other possibles were Selhurst (but we know of no V1/V2 incident there) and Wimbledon (but damage was in the yard and mainly involved Portsmouth express stock) with Peckham Rye (although that depot was not regularly involved with Bil maintenance) a possibility.

The order for 5 replacement units was quickly amended, first to 5 main line and 2 suburban units. The survivors of 1325 and 1355 had been transferred from main line to suburban stock, so the loss in accounting terms was 1507 and 1855 suburban, and 1828, 2014, 2102, 2119 and 2131 main line. The order was then amended again to seven main line units, probably to avoid building two small non-standard batches. The seven were ordered by the end of the war, as H0 3230 for three units amended to five, and HO 3232 for two units.

These emerged. after delay, as all-steel stock; units 2693-99 were completed at the end of 1948. For some years they ran on the Eastern Section but in May 1958 they were "dedicated" to the new Victoria-Gatwick Airport service-an odd operation which ran semi-fast between Victoria and Gatwick, detaching the rear unit and then running all stations and halts to Littlehampton via Horsham.

After 1952, the Bil and Hal fleets survived, with occasional accidental damage, until well into the 1960s. The years after 1960 saw the Lavs, Bils and Hals running steadily into old age. The Lavs rarely ventured off the Central Section except to visit Lancing or Eastleigh works for repairs or body overhaul or to make periodical trips to Slade Green shops for electrical and mechanical maintenance, just as they had from their earliest days, one unit went across most weekly usually on a Monday, via London Bridge Low Level platforms.

Even on their home territory, the Lavs were not adventurous. Daily trips between Brighton and Hastings were a feature in the 1960s, but if Littlehampton and Bognor ever saw them other than on a Bank Holiday, the event seems to have gone unrecorded. The Bils and Hals continued to work over all the Western and Central section "main" lines and occasionally filled in for suburban units. Sundry mishaps (the railway word for an accident which does not necessarily lead to a formal enquiry) led to the writing-off of 12079 (2056) in 1946; the body of 12121 (2088) in 1950, (fire at Littlehampton); 12092 of 2069 in August 1951 (Ford collision); the body of 12133 (2100) also at Ford in August 1951; and 12166 (2133) in November 1952 at Guildford.

To make up the numbers, more all-steel bodied replacements were built, the first of these being driving trailer 12854 (part off HO 3618 of 2 November 1949 using underframe No.6651-21 salvaged from 12121; this was turned out at the beginning of 1951 and balanced the books against the loss of 12079. Four more appeared early in 1955; these were numbers 12855-58, to HO 4009 of 2 July 1953. Two new underframes were built for 12857 (2100) and 12858 (2069). but with true Southern economy, two salvaged frames were used. 12855 was the more remarkable of the two; its frame came from the war loss 12037, bombed at Brighton in May 1943. It somehow survived. unreported and unloved, probably being used as a carriage works "dolly" (temporary support for carriage bodies) until spotted by a talent scout!

12855 was used for the last, and oddest 2Hal 2700, which had a suburban saloon for its motor third brake. This was 12664, new in April 1950, and then formed into the curious hybrid unit 4590, which had been an augmented Sub of LBSCR steam origin. (When 4590 lost 12664 circa June 1954, it gained a further year of oddity with an LSWR "wedge-end" motor brake.) 12856, by contrast, had simply survived the Guildford accident, despite being the colliding coach, and went to reinstated 2133. All then went quiet on the Lav/Bil/Hal front. apart from the mass transfers of Hals from the Eastern section tines in 1958/1959 as the new Kent Coast stock arrived; there was, however, a change of policy in that the SR design of underframe was no longer acceptable for major reconstruction, so that any coach suffering severe damage was likely to be completely scrapped.

By 1963 the Southern was looking to overcome a passenger comfort problem. After the delivery of nineteen diesel electric multiple units (1301-1319 later Class 207) for services on the Oxted to East Grinstead and Uckfield lines in 1963, the Central Section was left with a small number of diesel electric locos would only "heat electric", and some loco-hauled coaches which could only he steam-heated. The object was to provide EH-fitted coaches at minimum cost; the financial constraints of Dr Beeching were abroad, so there was no money for new loco-hauled coaches for peak-hours only use, and there were no surplus electrically heated coaches elsewhere.

In 1963, therefore, Bil unit 2006 was appropriated, and made up to seven coaches with five suburban steel-sided trailers left spare after the withdrawal of the 4300-4354 series of augmented units. One of them had been built 1st/3rd composite design and for the only time in its life was given first class upholstery. Electrical controls were suitably altered to allow the set to he hauled by diesel electric locos (pull and push operation was not envisaged) and - vitally - heated by them. The locomotives' power supply was also used to work a lighting motor generator installed an one of the trailers. The set was numbered 900 following the original 1923 Southern Railway pattern which fitted electric trailer sets in between steam sets and electric multiple units. In the revised numbering scheme which resulted from the almost complete disappearance of loco-hauled sets from the Southern, 900 became 701 (as a seven coach set; the solitary six coach set formed from Portsmouth stock was 601). 900/701 continued in use until 1967; by that time there were surplus electrically heated Mk,1 coaches elsewhere on BR .and when 701 suffered a fire in one of its Bil coaches its fate was sealed

By 1965 the 2Lav, 2Bil and 4Hal fleet was life-expired and from then on, even moderate accidents resulted in withdrawal. The fleet shortfall was allowed to build up until all three classes began to be replaced by 4Vep units in 1968. Of the 4Lavs, 2941 went in 1967 and most of the class in 1968 with the last six, 2923/24/28/39/49/50, in 1969. For some months Blackheath carriage sidings (now built over - they were on the down side, west of the station) were a mournful graveyard of Lavs awaiting removal to the scrap yard. Except for the earlier losses. most of the 2Bil and 2Hal units were withdrawn from passenger traffic in 1969-1971. The last in passenger traffic were 2695/98/99, withdrawn in July 1971. A few vehicles were adapted for non-passenger use and survived a while longer; but that is outside the scope of this article.


  1. 6321, facelifted 9 August 1984 ex-unit 5678; motor 14584 was written off late in 1986 (accident damage) and replaced by 14283 ex- 5142 - refurbished 27 November 1986.
  2. Not "3Sub" in diagram book and working notices, but simply "3" "Sub" as a designation came much late with the 4Sub units.
  3. 6: ex-Plymouth and Devonport stock.
    5: LBSCR "Balloons".
    4: SR with 9ft wide body, not to work via Battle, nor between Tunbridge Wells Central and West; and, until mid 1938, through Crystal Palace tunnel; nor until mid 1939 were restriction four coaches allowed to work between Charlton and Plumstead, or between Dartford and Strood.
    3 and 2: certain LSWR types.
    1: Not to work via Battle (or more precisely, through Mountfield tunnel)
    0: allowed over any line.
    The eighth group, which disappeared about 1911, was the special low roof stock for the Canterbury and Whitstable branch.

2Bil unit 2090 survives today into preservation and it part of the National Railway Museum collection. A number of Hal and Lav vehicles survived into the 1990s in departmental use as de-icing units but all of these have been scrapped.