British Rail Class 309

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British Railways AM9
British Rail Class 309
Clacton Express
21.03.81 London Liverpool Street 309.625 (5958456051).jpg
Class 309 at London Liverpool Street in 1981
In service1962–2000
ManufacturerBritish Rail
Order no.
  • 30675 (75962-75968)
  • 30676 (61925-61931)
  • 30677 (70253-70259)
  • 30678 (75969-75975)
  • 30679 (75637-75644)
  • 30680 (61932-61939)
  • 30681 (69100-69107)
  • 30682 (75976-75983)
  • 30683 (75984-75991)
  • 30684 (61940-61947)
  • c30707 (69108)
  • 30871 (71107-71110)
  • 30872 (71111-71114)
  • 30893 (71277-71280)
  • 30954 (71569-71576)
  • 31001 (71754-71761)[1]
Built at
Family name1962 Express
ReplacedBR Standard Class 7
  • 1962–1963
  • 1973–1974
  • 1980–1981[2]
  • 1987[3]
Entered service1962[1]
  • 1992–1994
  • 2001–2004
Number built24
Number preserved2 (plus 1 additional vehicle)
Number scrapped22
SuccessorClass 321, Class 323
Formation2, 3 or 4 cars per trainset:
  • DMBSK+BDTS (309/1)
  • BDTC+MBSK+TRB+DTC (309/2)
  • BDTC+MBSK+TSO+DTC (309/3)
  • DMBS+TS+TC+BDTS (309/1 - modified, 309/4)[4]
  • BDTC+MBS+TS+DTS (309/3, modified)[5]
  • EB206, EB207, BR421 (61940-61947)
  • ED209, ED218, BR418 (61925-61931, 61932-61939)
  • BR426 (69100-69107)
  • BR495 (69108)
  • EE229, BR448 (75969-75975)
  • EE229, BR447 (75976-75983)
  • EF216, EF209, BR446 (75984-75991)
  • EF301, EF305, BR448 (75637-75644, 75962-75968)
  • EH206, EH229, BR471 (70253-70259)
  • EH207, EH227, BR469 (71107-71110)
  • EH209, BR476 (71277-71280)
  • EH220, EH227 (71569-71572)
  • EH228 (71754-71761)
  • EH306, EH309, BR462 (71111-71114)
  • EH309 (71573-71576)[1][2][6]
Fleet numbers
  • 309/1:
  • 601-608, later 309601-309608 (sets)
  • 61940-61947 (DMBSK)
  • 75984-75991 (BDTS)
  • 309/2:
  • 611-618 (sets)
  • 75637-75644 (BDTC)
  • 61932-61939 (MBSK)
  • 69100-69107 (TRB)
  • 75976-75983 (DTC)
  • 309/3:
  • 621-627, later 309621-309627 (sets)
  • 75962-75968 (BDTC)
  • 61925-61931 (MBSK)
  • 70253-70259 (TSO)
  • 75969-75975 (DTC)[5]
  • 108S (309/1)
  • 36F/112S/32U (309/2)
  • 36F/176S (309/3)
  • 24F/196S (309/1, modified)
  • 18F/194S (309/3, modified)[5]
Operator(s)Eastern Region of British Rail, Network Southeast, First North Western
Line(s) servedSunshine Coast Line, Great Eastern Main Line, Crewe–Manchester line
Car body constructionSteel[6]
Train length
  • 132 ft 9+14 in (40.469 m) (2-car)
  • 265 ft 8+12 in (80.988 m) (4-car)[5]
Car length64 ft 6 in (19.66 m) (over body)[5][6]
Width9 ft 3 in (2.819 m) (overall)[6]
Height12 ft 9.5 in (3.899 m) (overall)[6]
Wheelbase46 ft 6 in (14.173 m) (bogie centres)[6]
Maximum speed100 mph (161 km/h)[5]
  • 309/1 Total: 99 long tons (101 t; 111 short tons)
  • 309/2: Total: 168 long tons (171 t; 188 short tons)
  • 309/3 Total: 167 long tons (170 t; 187 short tons)
Traction systemElectric Multiple Unit
Traction motors4 × GEC WT401 of 210 kW (280 hp)[3][2]
Power output1,128 hp (841 kW)[5]
Acceleration0.41 m/s2 (0.92 mph/s)[citation needed]
Electric system(s)25 kV AC OHLE
Current collector(s)Pantograph
UIC classification
  • Bo'Bo'+2'2' (309/1)
  • Bo'Bo'+2'2'+2'2'+2'2' (309/1 modified)
  • 2'2'+Bo'Bo'+2'2'+2'2' (others)
Braking system(s)Air (EP/Auto)[5]
Coupling system
Multiple workingClasses 302–312[5]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
The front of a Class 309 train in blue/grey BR livery with original 'wrap around' cab windows at London Liverpool Street station
The front of a Class 309 train in blue/grey BR livery with modified front windows at London Liverpool Street station

The British Rail Class 309 "Clacton Express" electric multiple units (EMUs) were built by British Rail (BR) York Carriage Works from 1962–1963. They were initially classified as Class AM9 before the introduction of TOPS. These units were the first express 25 kV alternating current (AC) units to be built by British Rail and were their first EMUs capable of 100 mph.

Description and design[edit]

Twenty-four units were built in three different configurations:

  • 601–608 – Two-car units (309/1)
  • 611–618 – Four-car units containing a griddle car (309/2)
  • 621–627 – Four-car units (309/3)

Each unit had identical electrical equipment. The original concept called for increasing the power-to-weight ratio when strengthening trains from eight to ten cars in peak periods using the 2-car units, in order to make the peak timetable more resilient.

Due to problems that had been encountered with the BR1 bogie design then current for Mk1 loco-hauled coaches, the Class 309s were built with Commonwealth bogies, much heavier than the more modern design, but more robust.[7] The exception to this is vehicle E19608 which was originally a BR Class 123 Buffet Vehicle No. W59831. This was converted to a 309 griddle car but retained its B4 bogies, becoming the only vehicle in the class with this type. This vehicle also had 36 seats in the Buffet area compared to 24 in the other units.[1][8]

More unusual was the front end design, incorporating the drivers cab but retaining passenger access between units via a pullman gangway, particularly necessary to allow access to the griddle car from all coaches. The design was based on the front end of the Class 303 but with the gangway placed centrally and also incorporating a headcode box. Also notable was the curved wrap-around glass on the cab windows, but these proved expensive to replace and later an additional pillar was inserted so that flat glass could be used.[7] The units were originally class AM9 (AC Multiple Unit) pre-TOPS, and were painted in the BR standard coaching stock maroon livery lined black & yellow, with the driving end gangway doors painted warning panel yellow.

Units 605-608 were expanded to 4 coaches in 1973 by the addition of a Corridor Second (SK) and a Corridor Composite (CK) and reclassified 309/4.[4] In 1981 units 601-608 were again altered so that the formation became MBS-TC-DMS, and numbers 605-608 were reclassified back to 309/1.[9]


When built, units were originally planned to be used on the Original Proposed East Coast Main Line Electrification Scheme,[10] however, when this was abandoned the units were deployed on Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) express services from London Liverpool Street to Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze (also marketed as the Sunshine Coast Line)[11] which is what gained them the class nickname Clacton Express. Trains would be formed of three units in a ten-car formation (i.e. one two car unit, and two four car units). The train would divide at Thorpe-le-Soken, with one of the 4-cars units used on the Walton section, and the remaining six cars continuing to Clacton. The Clacton portion usually included the griddle car unit, and was always the second to leave Thorpe-le-Soken, being the rear (London end) portion of the coastbound train. The choice of building units with only two coaches may seem unusual, but these were intended only for use in strengthening pairs of four coach units at peak times to produce a ten coach train, and with this in mind they only had second class accommodation.[7]

The Class 309 units were considerably more powerful than the Britannia pacifics that they replaced with a typical 10-coach formation (2 x 4-car units plus 1 x 2-car unit) producing 3,384 hp for 428 long tons (435 t) tare. However, from 1971 it was found that additional capacity was required for the evening peak and the 17.40 departure from Liverpool Street station was increased to 12 coaches by the addition of a second 2-car unit bringing the power output up to 4,512 hp from a train of 521 long tons (529 t) tare.[12]

In the 1970s many of the units were reformed. The two-car units were augmented to four-car units. In 1973-74 units 605-608 with the addition of TSK with TCK converted former Mk1 SK and CK coaches which formed in to 4 car sets. In 1978 units 601-604 with the addition of TCK and TSOL converted former Mk1 CK and TSO coaches which formed in to 4 car sets. In the early 1980s units 611-618 had the griddle cars were taken out of use and replaced by TSOL from 601-604 and TSK from 605-608. 601-608 were augmented to 3-car units until refurbishment work in 1985-86 In 1986-87 refurbishment work required the addition of 8 Mk1 TSO coaches to be converted to TSO trailers for units 611-618 with the borrowed TSOL and TSK trailers all being converted to TSOL trailers and reformed back into 601-608.

The entire fleet was refurbished in the period 1985–1987, with the single-glazed wooden framed windows replaced by aluminium-framed double-glazed units with hopper ventilators. Another change was 2 + 2 seating in open saloons replacing the second class compartments, this change producing an increase in seating capacity.

The first refurbished units outshopped were painted in the bold new London and SouthEastern "Jaffa Cake" livery. However, this was soon superseded by the equally bold Network SouthEast livery, which was introduced in 1986. Coinciding with the refurbishment work, in 1985 electrification spread north from Colchester to Ipswich, and later to Harwich and Norwich. This meant the Class 309 units were soon introduced on fast trains to Ipswich and Harwich.

In 1989, new Class 321/3 units were introduced onto GEML services partially replacing both class 309 and Class 312 diagrams. The "Clacton Express" units however continued until May 1992 in main service and then a reduced fleet operated a few rush hour services until January 1994. The last units were withdrawn on 22 January 1994, despite their recent and expensive refurbishment. After working a final railtour (15 January 1994) and the week of normal services a final Saturday diagram was run with 309626/613/616 ending on the 1800 Liverpool Street - Clacton.[13] However, not all units were immediately scrapped, and seven were retained for possible reuse around Manchester on suburban trains. These units were stored at Blackpool.

In 1994, North West Regional Railways (NWRR) acquired the seven redundant units stored at Blackpool. The units, nos. 309613/616/617/624/626/627, were quickly put to use on suburban passenger services from Manchester Piccadilly to Crewe and Stoke-on-Trent. Six of the units were repainted in NWRR blue livery with a green stripe. The seventh, no. 309624, was repainted in a special blue livery to commemorate the opening a new railway line to Manchester International Airport in 1996. Upon privatisation, the units passed to the North Western Trains (NWT) franchise. This was later renamed First North Western (FNW) following FirstGroup taking 100% ownership of Great Western Holdings.

By the late 1990s, the seven units saw continued use around Manchester. They also saw some use on longer distance services, with one booked daily Manchester Piccadilly-Birmingham International service and return. On occasion, units were used on NWT's Manchester-London Euston service, deputising for a non-available Class 322 unit. At one point, it was planned to use the units on a new Crewe-Carlisle stopping service, but this did not happen. However, the end was in sight, because as part of their franchise commitment, FNW had to replace their slam-door rolling stock, including the Class 309 units. New Class 175 diesel multiple units were introduced in 2000, and FNW discontinued its Manchester-Euston service. This meant that the "Clacton Express" units were surplus to requirements. As a farewell gesture, three units were used on a final railtour from Manchester to their old haunt of Clacton-on-Sea via London Liverpool Street. Following this tour, all seven units were withdrawn in late 2000, and sent for storage at MoD Pig's Bay near Shoeburyness. Two of the units later saw further use in departmental service, whilst the remaining five were scrapped in 2004.

Further use[edit]

Following withdrawal from normal service, three units were transferred to Eastleigh works: numbers 616, 617 and 624.[14][page needed] In 2001, two of these units were converted to Class 960 departmental units for cab-signalling tests at the Old Dalby test track. They were reduced in length to 3 cars and painted in a blue and white livery. The new units' designations were 960101 (ex-309616), named "West Coast Flyer", and 960102 (ex-309624), named "New Dalby". They were withdrawn in 2004, following completion of the tests, and stored at MoD Pig's Bay, near Shoeburyness, Essex, until early 2009 when they entered preservation. The third unit, 617, was used as a spares donor and sat derelict at Eastleigh until it was scrapped in August 2004.[15]

Finally, one vehicle from 309623 survives, TSO purchased by West Coast Railways in 2003 for eventual spares use, however has been sat to this day unrestored at Carnforth MPD Still in its North West Regional Railways colours.[16]


Several attempts since their original withdrawal from the London to Clacton route in 1994 have been made to preserve a class 309 by a number of organisations that have never come to much more than attempts. Preservation actions have included trying to originally preserve 309605 and 309606 at Ilford in spring 1994, an attempt around their completion of First North Western services to preserve a unit (309623), then and at least one other time all not coming to any fruition. However, once no further work was found for them in test train use, units 309616 and 309624 were successfully preserved by AMPSRail Limited in 2009, and went to the Electric Railway Museum, Warwickshire. However, when this was forced to close in 2018, the sale of 624 was used to fund transport costs for 616, and the two sets were split up, both going to different homes.

616, still in the care of AMPSRail, Ended up at the Tanat Valley Light Railway in Oswestry. Here it has remained as a static exhibit with the interior now used as a Cafe and tea room, titled "The Clacton Cafe"[17]

624 was sold to the Lavender Line and arrived in 2018. Minor conservation work was carried out but due to changing priorities at the railway the set was put up for sale in 2021. In March 2022 the Clacton Express Preservation Group purchased the set and have started a restoration to working order. It is to remain at the Lavender line.[18]



  1. ^ a b c d Longworth 2015, pp. 72, 135–136, 150–151, 157, 168, 170–171, 181, 186–187
  2. ^ a b c d Fox 1994, pp. 13–14
  3. ^ a b Swain 1990, pp. 47–48
  4. ^ a b Mallaband & Bowles 1976, p. 116.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Class 309". The Railway Centre. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 26 February 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Vehicle Diagram Book No.210 for Electrical Multiple Units (including A.P.T.)" (PDF). Barrowmore MRG. BRB Residuary Ltd. ED265, EE160, EE273, EH288, EH289. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Glover, John (2003). "British Railways, Great Eastern Suburban and LT&S". Eastern Electric. Hersham: Ian Allan. pp. 78–80. ISBN 0-7110-2934-2.
  8. ^ Mallaband & Bowles 1978, p. 79.
  9. ^ Marsden, Colin J (1984). British Rail Motive Power Combined Volume 1984. Shepperton: Ian Allan. p. 130. ISBN 0-7110-1367-5.
  10. ^ "Class 309 | Clacton Express Preservation Group". CEPG. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  11. ^ The Sunshine Coast Line
  12. ^ Allen, Cecil J (November 1971). "Steam, diesel and electric exploits". Railway World. Vol. 32, no. 378. Shepperton: Ian Allan. p. 470.
  13. ^ Gensheet Class 309 history page
  14. ^ Longworth 2015.
  15. ^ Train Control System Testing
  16. ^ "BR 5058 Mk 1 Tourist Second Open (later Class 309 EMU) built 1963". Retrieved 30 December 2021.
  17. ^ "Clacton Cafe". Tanat Valley Railway Shop. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  18. ^ Chairman, CEPG (26 March 2022). "We've Done it!". CEPG. Retrieved 26 March 2022.


  • Fox, Peter (1994). Electric Multiple Units. British Railways Pocket Book No.4 (7th ed.). Platform 5. ISBN 978-1-872524-60-3.
  • Longworth, Hugh (2015). British Railways Electric Multiple Units to 1975. Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-86093-668-8. OCLC 923205678.
  • Swain, Alec (1990). Overhead Line Electric Multiple Units. British Rail Fleet Survey. Vol. 11. Ian Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-1902-7. OCLC 315344213.
  • Mallaband, P; Bowles, L J (1976). Coaching Stock of British Railways 1976. Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. ISBN 9780901115393.
  • Mallaband, P; Bowles, L J (1978). Coaching Stock of British Railways 1978. Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. ISBN 978-0-901115-44-7.
  • Mallaband, P (1980). Coaching Stock of British Railways. Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. ISBN 978-0-901115-50-8.
  • Mallaband, P (1981). Coaching Stock of British Railways. Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. ISBN 978-0-901115-51-5.
  • Mallaband, P (1982). Coaching Stock of British Railways. Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. ISBN 978-0-901115-56-0.
  • Fox, Peter (1985). Locomotives & Coaching Stock. British Railways Pocket Book. Platform 5. ISBN 978-0-906579-45-9.
  • Fox, Peter (1987). Locomotives & Coaching Stock. British Railways Pocket Book. Platform 5. ISBN 978-0-906579-67-1.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]