British Rail Class 483

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British Rail Class 483
Class 483 "Island Line" train - - 1407091.jpg
A pair of Island Line Class 483s in London Underground livery entering the Ryde tunnel.
483004 Interior.JPG
The extensively refurbished interior of an Island Line Class 483 EMU.
In service1938-1988 on London Underground
1989-present on Island Line
ManufacturerMetro Cammell
Family nameTube
Number in service4 trainsets
Formation2 cars per trainset
Capacity84 seats (2 car set)
Operator(s)Island Line Trains
Depot(s)Ryde depot
Maximum speed45 mph (72 km/h)
Weight55 t (54 long tons; 61 short tons) each 2 car set.
Power output500 kW (670 hp) total power per 2 car set.
Electric system(s)630 V DC 3rd rail
Current collection methodContact shoe
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The British Rail Class 483 electric multiple units were originally built as 1938 tube stock units for London Underground. They were extensively refurbished between 1989 and 1992 by Eastleigh Works, for use on services on the Isle of Wight's Island Line. This was despite having already worked for nearly 50 years on the London Underground. The units replaced the even older and life-expired British Rail Classes 485 and 486 units, which were introduced in 1967, but were originally built as 'Standard' stock units for the London Electric Railway in 1923.

The stock is 80 years old and still in service as of 2019, making it the oldest type in Great Britain to remain in regular service. The current operator, South Western Railway, have submitted a plan to the Department for Transport to replace the elderly stock with newer Class 230 units. These trains are also former London Underground Stock, formerly designated as D78 Stock.


Prior to Isle of Wight service[edit]

The trains were originally built by Metro-Cammell as 1938 tube stock for London Underground. An initial batch was withdrawn from service in 1973, and they were considered for use on the Island Line (which would not bear that name for another 16 years). However, the under-floor equipment was thought to be a problem, as extensive adaptations would be needed to Ryde Works to allow fitters to access it. It was also felt that the under-floor equipment would be vulnerable to salt water damage on Ryde Pier, especially in bad weather.[1]

The last batch of 1938 stock was withdrawn in 1985, except for five trains required on the Northern line between 1986 and May 1988 due to increasing passenger numbers. In 1987, Network SouthEast managers realised that the existing 1923-built Class 485 trains would not be economically serviceable beyond around 1990 and thoughts turned to the future of the line. After closure of the route was discounted, it was decided to purchase and refurbish 1938 stock.[2]

In April 1988, London Underground offered a total of 28 carriages in revenue-earning condition to NSE, joined by three further carriages in May 1989. In addition, between May 1988 and October 1990, four scrap vehicles and nine works vehicles, to be used for spare parts, were taken from LU's Ruislip depot. While the project's feasibility study suggested that three-car units would be preferred, it was thought that the alterations required to Ryde depot would be both difficult and expensive. It was instead decided that two-car units would be used, using a maximum of six coaches in any train formation.[3] Of the 31 coaches available, 20 were selected for use on the island. These were extensively refurbished between 1989 and 1992 by Eastleigh Works to ready them for service on the line. This was necessary as the trains had already worked for nearly 50 years on the London Underground.

Interior (left) and exterior (right) door open/close buttons retro-fitted to the BR Class 483 units.

As well as cosmetic and structural work, significant electrical works were required both to replace dilapidated wiring, and to allow the trains to work from the line's third rail electrical supply.[4]

Eight two-car units were initially refurbished between 1989 and 1990. These units were numbered 483001-008, although only the final three digits were carried on the cab ends. Units were painted in the new Network SouthEast livery, of blue with red and white stripes. The first unit was tested on the South West Main Line between Basingstoke and Eastleigh before travelling to Fratton ready for its transfer to the island. Testing and crew training on the remaining units took place on the Portsmouth Direct Line and Shepperton Branch Line.[5]

On the island[edit]

The first unit, 001, arrived on the Isle of Wight on 5 July 1989 following an overnight ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne. It was delivered by road to Sandown, then hauled to Ryde depot by one of the existing passenger trains. It began test running on the Island Line in the evening of 6 July, before a public launch on 13 July.[6] Regular passenger services using the Class 483 did not commence until October, while the last of the eight planned units did not enter service until July 1990.[7]

While it was originally planned to use only eight units, in 1992—two years after the rest of the fleet had entered service—the ninth unit, numbered 009, was also refurbished and transported to the island.[8] A 10th unit was also shipped to Ryde depot, although this was for spares only and was never used in passenger operation on the Island. This unit was unofficially given the unit number 483010.

Each unit was formed of two driving motor vehicles, numbered 121–129 and 221–229. The technical description of this formation was DMSO(A)+DMSO(B).

When the units were first introduced, the final digit of the unit number and the final digit of the carriage numbers corresponded, such that unit 001 was formed of vehicles 121 and 221. However, since then, a few rearrangements have taken place to the unit formations.

A Class 483 in the 'Dinosaur' livery at Ryde Pier Head

In 1996, with the privatisation of British Rail, the Ryde–Shanklin line became the Island Line franchise, which was won by the Stagecoach Group. Services continued to be branded as Island Line Trains. In the late 1990s several units were withdrawn from service as surplus to requirements. From 2000 onwards, the remaining units were overhauled, and most repainted into a new livery of blue and yellow, with pictures of dinosaurs. Two units, nos. 007 and 009, were later repainted into their original London Transport red livery, (albeit with yellow warning panels on the cab rather than the original red), and during 2007-2008, the rest of the fleet was painted into this livery.

According to an article in the October 2005 issue of Rail Professional magazine, at that time Island Line was paying "an eye-watering £140,000 a year" to lease the trains, meaning that "[s]ince privatisation, HSBC Rail has pocketed over £1m for leasing these relics that are effectively worthless."[9] In March 2007, South West Trains purchased the rolling stock outright from the leasing company HSBC Rail for £1.[10]

Further that year, the Island Line franchise was amalgamated with South West Trains as part of the new South Western franchise. There are no official plans to replace the rolling stock on the Isle of Wight, although Island Line once claimed to have interest of introducing Piccadilly line rolling stock in the future.[11]


The Class 483 trains were last refurbished during 2007;[citation needed] work on the six-vehicle fleet included:

  • an exterior repaint into London Transport maroon with cream window pillars
  • a retrim of the seat moquette into the same moquette that the London Underground A60/62 Surface Stock received during their refurbishment between 1993–98

When South Western Railway took over the franchise in 2017, the trains received a fresh coat of paint, and currently bear its logo, along with 'Island Line' written on the side.


As the Class 483s continue to age in the high salinity and humidity of the Isle of Wight's climate, the question as to what will replace them has frequently been speculated on, with potential replacements including 1973 tube stock, trams, and purpose-built battery or flywheel-powered trains.[12] In July 2018 Rail Magazine reported on speculation that the Class 483's may be replaced by the Vivarail Class 230, however their ability to fit into the confines of Ryde Tunnel is disputed.[13] Any new trains bound for the Isle of Wight must fulfil two unique requirements as a result of features on the line; they must be able to fit through Ryde Tunnel, as the raised trackbed there prevents normal height stock from passing through, and they must be able to stop at the curved platforms of Ryde Esplanade railway station without fouling the platform.[14]

Fleet details[edit]

Four of the nine units remain in service, the majority of the others having been taken out of service in the late 1990s.

Key: In service Stored Scrapped
Unit No. Vehicle Nos. Delivered to LPTB Livery Status
483001 121 ex-10184 225 ex-11142 19 Aug 1939[15] 27 Feb 1939[16] NSE Scrapped at Ryde St Johns Road, June 2006.
483002 122 ex-10221 222 ex-11221 13 Nov 1939[15] 13 Nov 1939[16] London Transport Red Stored at Ryde St Johns Road since 2008, being stripped for spare parts.[17]
483003 123 ex-10116 221 ex-11184 10 Jan 1939[15] 19 Aug 1939[16] NSE This unit was stored in a siding near Ryde St. Johns Road for spare parts and was broken up in April 2000
483004 124 ex-10205 224 ex-11205 10 Oct 1939[15] 10 Oct 1939[16] London Transport Red In service.
483005 125 ex-10142 223 ex-11116 27 Feb 1939[15] 10 Jan 1939[18] NSE Scrapped at Ryde in April 2000
483006 126 ex-10297 226 ex-11297 1 July 1940[18] 1 July 1940[16] London Transport Red In service.
483007 127 ex-10291 227 ex-11291 17 Jun 1940[18] 17 Jun 1940[16] London Transport Red In service.
483008 128 ex-10255 228 ex-11255 26 Feb 1940[15] 26 Feb 1940[16] London Transport Red In service.
483009 129 ex-10289 229 ex-11289 10 Jun 1940[18] 10 Jun 1940[16] London Transport Red Stored at Ryde St Johns Road since 2019, being stripped for spare parts.[19]
(483010) - ex-10139 - ex-11172 20 Feb 1939[15] 13 Jul 1939[16] Blue undercoat Most of 483010 was gutted out at Ryde St Johns Road for spares in 2001. The unit has since been scrapped.



  1. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 38.
  2. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 60.
  3. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 62.
  4. ^ Hardy 2003, pp. 64-65.
  5. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 65.
  6. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 66.
  7. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 92.
  8. ^ Hardy 2003, p. 68.
  9. ^ Randall, Chris (October 2005). "The Rail Professional Interview: Haydn Abbott - Angel Trains" (PDF). Rail Professional (103): 17. ISSN 1476-2196. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
  10. ^ "'Wagons Roll' Towards Island Line Independence". Island Pulse. 28 March 2007. Archived from the original on 23 December 2007. Retrieved 18 September 2007.
  11. ^ "RailUK Forums - View Single Post - 1973 tube stock for Isle of Wight". Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  12. ^ "Self-powered train could replace old Island Line locomotives".
  13. ^ Rail Magazine July 4–17, 2018 Page 16
  14. ^ Anon (26 March 2018). "Third Ryde Tube: Transfer Troublesome". London Reconnections. London Reconnections. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Hardy 2001, p. 78.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hardy 2001, p. 80.
  17. ^ Anon (26 March 2018). "Third Ryde Tube: Transfer Troublesome". London Reconnections. London Reconnections. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  18. ^ a b c d Hardy 2001, p. 79.
  19. ^ Marsh, Phil (February 2019). Milner, Chris (ed.). "DfT decision on Island Line future deferred for three months". Headline News. The Railway Magazine. Vol. 165 no. 1415. Horncastle: Mortons Media Group (published 6 February 2019). p. 6. ISSN 0033-8923.


  • Hardy, Brian (2001). Underground Train File: Tube Stock 1933-1959. Harrow Weald: Capital Transport. ISBN 1-85414-235-6.
  • Hardy, Brian (2003). Tube Trains on the Isle of Wight. Harrow Weald, Middlesex: Capital Transport. ISBN 978-1-85414-276-4.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Island Line cuts 'tube' fleet to just six two-car units". RAIL. No. 326. EMAP Apex Publications. 11–24 March 1998. p. 13. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.

External links[edit]