Southern Railway multiple unit numbering and classification

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The Southern Railway created classification and numbering systems for its large fleet of electric multiple units, perpetuated by the Southern Region of British Rail until the early 1980s, when the impact of TOPS was felt. Some stock is still allocated Southern-style classifications in a semi-official manner.


The early AC electric multiple units were referred to by a two-letter code. This was adapted for the DC third-rail system that was adopted by the Southern Railway, with units being given a three-letter code (sometimes two letters) prefixed by the number of cars in each unit, e.g. 4SUB for a 4-car suburban unit.

The Southern Region perpetuated this, and the same principles were adopted for diesel-electric multiple units but with single-letter codes. The last type to be officially allocated a designation in this series was the PEP stock of the early 1970s. Some types built since have been given semi-official designations in this style.

This is different from the system used by British Rail (adopted from the LNER) to indicate the type of non-powered coach — see British Rail coach designations.

AC EMUs[edit]

SR Designation Meaning
CP Crystal Palace
CW Coulsdon & Wallington
SL South London

DC EMUs[edit]

SR Designation BR Class Meaning
GLV 489 Gatwick Luggage Van
MLV 419 Motor Luggage Van
TLV 499 Trailer Luggage Van
2BIL 401 Bi-Lavatory[1]
2EPB 416 Electro-Pneumatic Brake
2HAL 402 Half Lavatory[1]
2HAP 414 Half lavatory with electro-Pneumatic Brake[2]
2NOL - No Lavatory[1]
2PAN 402 Parcels and Newspapers
2PEP 446 Prototype Electro-Pneumatic Brake
2SAP 418 Second-Class Only Hap
2SL - South London
2WIM - Wimbledon
3COP 421 Coastway Open Plan
3SUB - Suburban
3TC 492 Trailer Control
3TIS 486 Vectis (Isle of Wight)
4BEP 412 Buffet Electro-Pneumatic Brake
4BIG 422 Buffet Brighton[3]
4BUF 404 Buffet
4CAP 413 Coastway Hap
4CEP 411 Corridor Electro-Pneumatic Brake
4CIG 421 Corridor Brighton[3]
4COR 404 Corridor
4DES 450 Desiro
4DD - Double Deck
4EPB 415 Electro-Pneumatic Brake
4GRI 404 Griddle Car
4JOP 458 Juniper Outersuburban Porterbrook. Unofficial classification.
4LAV - Lavatory
4PEP 445 Prototype Electro-Pneumatic Brake
4REP 432 Restaurant Electro-Pneumatic Brake
4RES 404 Restaurant
4SUB 405 Suburban
4TC 438 Trailer Control
4TEP 412 Temporary BEP
4VEC 485 Vectis (Isle of Wight)
4VEG 427 VEP Gatwick Express
4VEP 423 Vestibule Electro-Pneumatic Brake
4VIP 423 VEP Intermediate Plan
4VOP 423 VEP Open-Plan
5BEL 403 Brighton Belle
5DES 444 Desiro
5TCB 438 TC and Buffet
5WES 442 Wessex
6CIT - City Limited
6PAN - Pantry
6PUL - Pullman
6REP 431 Reformed REP
6TC - Trailer Control
6JAV 395 JAVelin. Unofficial classification, also referred to as 6HIT (Hitachi).
7TC - Trailer Control
8DIG 422 Dedicated Brighton
8GAT 460 Gatwick Express. Unofficial classification.
8MIG 421 Miniature Buffet and CIG
8VAB 480 Vestibule Autobrake Buffet

Diesel-electric multiple units[edit]

SR Designation BR Class Meaning
3D 207 Oxted
3H 205 Hampshire
3R 206 Reading
3T 204 Hampshire and added Trailer
6B 203 Hastings Buffet
6L 202 Hastings Long underframe
6S 201 Hastings Short underframe

Unit numbering[edit]

Unit numbers were allocated from 1001, following the 1-1000 set numbers of semi-fixed formations of hauled coaching stock. Different types of unit were given numbers:

1001–1200 Unpowered trailer units for working with 3SUB stock (this series was later expanded to include 989-1000)
1201-1800 3SUB (ex-LSWR units with 1200 added to their original numbers)
1801–1999 Two-car inner-suburban (e.g. 2NOL)
2001-2899 Two-car outer-suburban (e.g. 2BIL)
2901-2999 Four-car outer-suburban (4LAV)
3001-3999 Four, five and six-car express (e.g. 4COR, 5BEL and 6PUL)[4]
4001-4999 Four-car inner-suburban (4SUB and 4DD)
5001-5599 British Railways four-car inner-suburban (4EPB)
5601-6999 British Railways two-car (e.g. 2HAP)
7001-7999 British Railways four-car outer-suburban (e.g. 4CIG)
8001 Temporary eight-car (8VAB)
S1-S101 Departmental (non-revenue earning)

This series was perpetuated by the Southern Region with modifications, as older set numbers were reused for the following different types:

001-099 Parcels and departmental (Sxxx units renumbered)
301-999 Trailer Control (first digit indicated number of cars, e.g. 301 = 3TC)
1001-1499 Diesel Electric Multiple Units (e.g. 6S)

2PEP reused number 2001, 4REP from 3001 and 4PEP 4001/4002. This series was abandoned in 1983, when units were renumbered to fit in with the TOPS classification system, which had nominally been in use for a decade. Even then, many units displayed only the last four digits, dropping the first two digits - e.g. unit 412 301 would have the number "2301" applied. Only with later units and 2xx series DEMUs were the full numbers shown, e.g. Classes 456, 465 and 466, and some Class 455 sets, carry full 6-digit numbers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ian Allan ABC, 1968 British Railways Motive Power Survey, p.15 "2NOL, 2HAL and 2BIL ... no lavatory, half lavatory and both lavatory, depending on whether toilet facilities were provided in either one or both coaches of a two-car set or not provided at all"
  2. ^ Ian Allan ABC, 1968 British Railways Motive Power Survey, p.15 "The 2HAP provides similar accommodation to a 2HAL, but is fitted with electro-pneumatic brakes"
  3. ^ a b Ian Allan ABC, 1968 British Railways Motive Power Survey, p.15 "the letters IG (4CIG, 4BIG), the old LBSCR telegraphic code for Brighton"
  4. ^ The three 5BEL units were originally numbered 2051-3, but later renumbered 3051-3 to conform with the general scheme (Southern Electric by G.T. Moody, Ian Allan Ltd., various dates).