British Rail Class 415

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British Rail Class 415
4EPB set at Wimbledon.jpg
4EPB set at Wimbledon
In service 1951-1995
Manufacturer BR Eastleigh
Number built Unknown
Formation power car + 2 trailer cars + power car
Operator British Rail
Specifications
Maximum speed 75 mph (121 km/h)
Prime mover(s) 4 x 250 hp EE507 traction motors
total 1,000 hp (746 kW)
Braking system(s) Electro Pneumatic Brake (EPB)

British Rail Class 415 (or 4EPB) was a suburban 750 V DC third rail electric multiple unit commissioned by the Southern Region of British Railways. Built between 1951 and 1957, it became the most numerous class on the region after the withdrawal of the 4Subs. The final trains were withdrawn in the 1990s, replaced by Class 455, 456, 465 and 466.

The British Rail designation Class 415 was applied to a group of four coach, 3rd rail electric multiple units constructed between 1951 and 1961 and in service from 1951 to 1995.

Construction[edit]

4EPBs in Blackfriars in Network SouthEast livery, with St. Paul's Cathedral on the skyline.

The 4EPB units (4-car Electro-Pneumatic Brake) were a development of the Southern Railway (SR) 4Sub design, but incorporating electro-pneumatic brakes, unit-to-unit buckeye couplings, roller blind headcode displays in place of the stencil holders used previously, and without external doors to the driver's cab. There were motor-generators for the lighting and current control whereas previous practice had been to use series lighting and a voltage divider for the control circuits.

The first units built were based on Southern Railway designs and utilised standard Southern railway jigs, being constructed using standard Southern Railway components such as doors and underframes and being built to a standard Southern body profile. The doyen of the class, unit 5001, was completed at Eastleigh in 1951. Further examples were built at Eastleigh up until 1957.

In 1960, the first British Railways design units appeared. Intended to replace the 1925 design Southern Railway suburban electric stock, these units were based on British Railways Mark One coaching stock with a different body profile and underframe length from the earlier Class 415 units. The first two units (5301/02), however, were composed of Mark One profile Driving Motor Brake Seconds and Southern Railway profile intermediate vehicles. Unit 5303 was the first to sport intermediate trailers of Mark One profile. Two units differed from the rest of the batch in featuring B5 (S) bogies to enable use on peak hour commuter trains to Eastbourne. Reformations over the years, following accidents and incidents, led to a few units becoming composed of a mixture of original design stock of Southern Railway outline and the later, Mark One based, British Railways stock.

In the earlier, Southern-style 5001-5260 series, most units (all of which were one class only) comprised a driving motor open saloon including brake at each end of the set, sandwiching a trailer open and a high-density (6 per side) trailer ten-compartment vehicle with access from the passenger doors; there was no gangway down the coach. A very small number of these 4-EPBs comprised either two open-trailers or two compartment-trailers. A small number of the trailers had been built as 'composites' - a mixture of First and Third Class - and were later fitted out as 9-compartment one-class vehicles but with the former 1st accommodation still identifiable with extra-wide compartments. In the mid-1960s, a number of compartments were marked as women-only, because of the density of cigarette smoke at rush-hour in the general compartments, but as these were not well-regarded they were withdrawn in the late 1960s in favour of non-smoking cars, marked by inverted red triangles om the windows. At first one car per set was allocated to non-smoking, but soon one driving unit and one trailer in each set were the norm.

The production vehicles in the BR series 5301-5370 had slightly higher capacity motor coaches, identical vehicles at each end of the set, with an internal partition splitting the saloon into two smaller ones, and a pair of identical trailers each comprising 5 compartments and a 5-bay open saloon, with the compartment end of each coach always back-to-back with its neighbour.

However, on Wednesday 23 March 1988, a woman was found murdered in a compartment EPB car on an Orpington/London Victoria working which led to Network South East reconfiguring the then-remaining unrefurbished SR-design 4-EPBs; as a result all compartment stock ran limited workings in busy periods and had a red stripe at the cantrail. This stock did not work in service after 8pm and was known as 4COM. These units, being heavier than the EPBs were retained for the winter of 1988/1989 to run overnight keeping the tracks clear of snow.

Most British Rail Class 415 units were withdrawn in the mid-1980s, owing to their partial replacement by newer stock such as the British Rail Class 455 units and the fact that many units contained asbestos. However, a significant number of the units were "facelifted". The asbestos was removed and the units' interiors were improved. This resulted in some re-numbering of stock, so that the earlier units built in the style of the Southern Railway became the 54xx series whilst the British Railways style units became the 56xx series. Some of the 56xx series units received express gear ratios to allow them to work services between London and Kent Coast destinations. Although all the non-refurbished BR Class 415/2s were withdrawn, three Class 415/1s of Southern Railway outline survived until the final withdrawal of Class 415 stock in 1995. These units included 5001, the first unit constructed, and 5176. Both of these units were repainted into liveries previously carried by the class, 5001 receiving British Railways green livery with yellow warning panels and 5176 receiving British Rail blue livery with full yellow ends.

Interior fittings[edit]

A refurbishment in the late 1970s/early 1980s started converting the six-seat compartment stock to 3+2-seat open saloons. At the same time, the red-brown horsehair seating and metal-framed cord overhead luggage racks were replaced with standard Mark 2 seats and metal racks. 2 x 25w. ceiling bulbs lit each compartment, and the partitions were initially painted in light cream: three publicity panels about 15 cm x 40 cm filled the space on the compartment walls between the top of the seats and the luggage racks - the central panel was originally a mirror, but as these proved dangerous in service they were soon replaced with normal advertising. The other fittings were a chain alarm-cord in a recess above and to one side of the door, and the door-lock itself, a simple spring-loaded slide: the slam-doors could be opened at speed, albeit at considerable risk to the passenger doing so. The door window could also be opened full-length into a recess in the door panel beneath, initially supported at the bottom by a leather strop, which was soon replaced by a metal friction-bar at the top, bearing on the side-rails - in general they were either closed or with a one- or two-inch opening. The flooring was a strong linoleum on wooded baulks: the linoleum was not present in the guards compartments, which together with the cabs were painted in a dark green. A mirror to a roof periscope facing along the length of the unit was fitted centrally to the guard's side of the rear compartment partition, together with a handle for the sweep=arm cleaner of the roof glasa. Underneath was a small worksurface about 2'x1', a swivel-chair screwed to the floor, and variously a short ladder for evacuating coaches, sometimes a medical cabinet, and a rail-shorting bar would be fixed to the side of the compartment. The driver's cab was fitted with one flap-down seat on each side: the driver occupied the left-hand position.

Summary of sub-classes[edit]

  • 415/1 - unrefurbished 4EPB stock of Southern Design.
  • 415/2 - unrefurbished 4EPB stock of BR Design.
  • 415/4 - refurbished 4EPB stock of Southern Design (from 1980), numbered in the 54xx series.
  • 415/5 - Consolidated compartment 4EPB stock of both designs, numbered in the 55xx series.
  • 415/6 - refurbished 4EPB stock of BR Design, numbered in the 56xx series.
  • 415/7 - refurbished 4EPB stock of BR Design, with express gearing to 90 mph. These units retained *56xx series numbers.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 4 July 1958, a unit of the class was in a head-on collision with an empty stock train at Maze Hill, London after it overran signals. Forty-five people were injured.[1]

Preservation[edit]

One unit, Class 415/1 unit 5176, survives. One of the two "heritage" units (along with 5001), it was repainted in British Rail blue in the early 1990s and survived until the end of EPB workings in 1995. After spending several years in storage, in 1999 the unit was split, with three vehicles going to the Northamptonshire Ironstone Railway Trust and one intermediate trailer vehicle to the Electric Railway Museum, Warwickshire near Coventry. Class pioneer 5001 was also stored following withdrawal in 1995 but no buyer could be found and the unit was stripped and sold for scrap in 2004.

Unit number
(current in bold)
DMBSO TSO TSO DMBSO Built Livery Location
- 5176 - 14351 15354 15396 14352 1954 Eastleigh BR Blue Northampton Ironstone Railway and Electric Railway Museum

References[edit]

  1. ^ Earnshaw, Alan (1990). Trains in Trouble: Vol. 6. Penryn: Atlantic Books. p. 37. ISBN 0-906899-37-0.