Class 33 – ‘ Crompton ‘ – The Southern Diesel

As far as freight operations go in the South of England, there was only really one workhorse during the 1960’s 70’s and 80’s – the Class 33 “Crompton”.  The nickname came from the electrical equipment manufacturer used in the loco – “Crompton Parkinson”.  Very similar in looks to the class 26, the only difference being the inclusion of a 2 digit headcode indicator between the cab windows.

Originally for sole use in the South East of the region, Kent and Sussex, they rapidly became used throughout the southern region.  They were even used as passenger locos, most memorably on the Weymouth Harbour line.

These passenger services to Weymouth would be in a “push pull” configuration, starting at Bournemouth going down to Weymouth through the streets to the harbour, an example of this is seen below:

33119 - weymouth hbr - aug 1981

(c) Max Batten – Click Here for more.

The Class 33 has a top speed of 85 Mph, and frequently would work in pairs as “Double Headers” to facilitate longer freight trains.  In Kent, its speciality was primarily hauling freight, although it occasionally rescued failed passenger units.  Because of this, a few were stationed at some locations in the region.  Indeed, when the siding was still at Rainham (Kent), a ’33 could be seen stabled there during the 1970’s.  The loco’s would also provide freight runs further afield, notably cement trains from Cliffe in North Kent, up to Lanarkshire.

In this photo, taken by RMWeb member “eastwestdivide”, two 33’s are seen approaching Strood from the south with a Rake of empty stone carriers from ARC at Allington :

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 (c) eastwestdivide – link Here

These locomotives, along with the British Rail 411 Unit (4 Cep) and variants “Slam Door” were the first trains I saw as a youngster, and the sight of a Class 33 would be extra special.  The noise and smell of these locomotives would fuel my passion for the railway, and as such I have a great fondness for them. They were superseded by the Class 66 in the late 1990’s.

Currently a few remain at Heritage centres around England, and three are owned by the West Coast Railway Company , who provide railtours in the UK.


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British Rail 411 Unit (4 Cep) and variants “Slam Door”

I make no apologies for this blog.  These are the trains from my area of the country (North Kent) when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  The familiar sound of these “Slam Door” trains were the soundtrack to the rush hour, with the sound of said doors ringing through the major London Termini of Charing Cross and Victoria.  So here is a short history of these workhorses of the North Kent and Chatham Main Line.

The 411 unit, also known as the 4Cep, were built for British Rail between 1956 and 1963, mainly ran on the Chatham/North Kent lines.  A total of 133 units were made, mainly just passenger based, although around 22 had buffet cars installed, these were re-categorised as 4 Bep units.  The 4 referred to the 4 car formation, two driving cars which also had standard seating, the middle two cars having a mix of 1st class corridor and standard class corridor coaches.  They had a maximum speed of 90 Mph.

Each area of seating contained a door, which was inherently dangerous as it could be opened at any time.  This lead to many doors being opened way before the stopping, and people would literally jump from a moving train onto the platform.  You really had to stand away from the platform edge when a slam door was coming in, otherwise you may had had a door in the head!

If you had ever ridden in one, or heard one you would not forget it.  They were dangerous, accidents such as the Clapham Rail Crash of 1988 with Vep and Rep variants would prove to be catastrophic.  Replacements such as the Networker and Electrostar would follow, with their automatic doors and safer designs.  But they never quite recaptured the feel and seating comfort of these trains.

A sample of these trains are below, with credit to the photograph takers.  I will look at other rolling stock and locomotives of the Kent region in further blogs.

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In Network Southeast livery (By Image by Phil Scott (Our Phellap) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=441072)

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In Connex livery (https://kids.kiddle.co/British_Rail_Class_411)

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As a 4 Rep, in British Rail Blue (https://www.flickr.com/photos/frinton/39402257412)


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Medway Stations 4 – Cuxton

Continuing my look at stations in the Medway area, this time I shall look at a small station on the Medway Valley line – Cuxton.

Cuxton Station was opened in 1856, and from the outset had two lines.  Two platforms served by an level crossing at the south end of the station allowed passengers to travel to Maidstone to the south, and Strood to the North.  In 1862, a signal box was erected adjacent to this level crossing, and is still there today (2018)

In 1931 a small siding was opened to the south of the station, trailing off the “down” line, which served a national business (Besto Co.) making fruit baskets. This was followed in 1939 with a goods loop installed to the north of the station.  Unfortunately, none of these sidings survive today, both having been removed by the end of 1990.

A footbridge was installed at the south end of the station in 1961, adjacent to the level crossing and the Signal box.  A note about the level crossing, as it is still manually closed  by the signalman at the time of this Blog (2018).  A really rare sight, and (unfortunately) I will assume this will become automated at some time in the future.

Two views from Cuxton in 2016 follow.  The first shows a light engine class 66, travelling on the “down” line towards Maidstone.  This view is to the north, and the bridges across the M2 can be seen, the nearest one being the HS1 line.

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The second view is to the south, showing the signal box, overbridge and level crossing, as well as a stone train travelling on the “up” towards Strood.

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Currently at Cuxton, there is only a PERTIS (permit to travel) machine installed here, the majority of the station buildings being disused for many years.  The station is served at this time by Southeastern, with 2 trains per hour (northbound “up” to Strood, southbound “down” to Maidstone (1 Tph continues to Paddock Wood, the other to Tonbridge). (correct as of June 2018)

A few freight trains run though the day, to or via Hoo Junction (to the north) or to the south, some of which come from or go to ARC sidings just outside Allington in Maidstone.  Freight is mainly hauled by class 66 locomotives, although some class 70’s have also been seen on the line.


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The Class 700

On Sunday 20th May 2018, new rail services were due to start between Rainham in Kent and Luton.  Unfortunately, as well publicised in the media (here) things didn’t go according to plan.  But this is not what this blog is about.  This blog looks at the workhorse of that service, the new Class 700 unit, most of which at the time of this blog were owned by Thameslink (although Great Northern will have some).

The trains were built between 2014 and 2018 by Siemens in Germany.  The initial order was for 60 Eight car trains and 55 twelve car trains.  They are scheduled to replace all the class 319s on the Thameslink Network.

Their maximum speed is 100mph, and are electrically supplied with a third rail shoe (750 V DC) as well as a pantograph for overhead operation (25 Kv AC).  They are fully fitted with air conditioning, and a regenerative braking system.

The units are capable of working as ATO (Automatic train operation), which means the train can drive itself.  This is already in operation along the “Thameslink Core” which  links the East Coast mainline to the network around St Pancras.  The usual safety AWS is installed, as well as the ability to upgrade this easily to the new Digital Railway signalling as and when it is operational.

Two shots of the exterior of the train are below, one is of the information plate :P1000809P1000811

Interior shots of the train taken by myself at Rainham are below:

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The images above show the standard configuration in standard class.  1st class carriages have slightly better seats and tables.  As you can see, the train is totally able to be walked through, although first class carriages are separated.  On the 8 car trains there are 3 toilets (1 disabled).  I believe this is increased by one each om the 12 car trains.  Luggage racks above the seats are large, plenty of space for a small case.

The new information boards show various information, including carriage loading indicators and information on the London transport network:

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They also show the time and the next station stop, as well as the usual scrolling information about the service you are on and its destinations.  Overall, these are very impressive and very informative.

As good and shiny as this train is though however, its glaring problem is the seating in standard class, which is well documented if you perform a basic internet search.  Having done a full 2 and a half hour journey from Rainham (Kent) to Luton, I can indeed say that these seats are not built for that length of journey.  They are quite hard, and realistically I see only around an hour and a half being the maximum journey time you would want on them.

This however is not a problem.  The train is really designed with the commuter in mind, so the core user would only be using it for a short journey, either up to London from Medway, or up to London from Luton.  As a modern train it really performs well, with good acceleration and the ride comfort in relation to bumps and jolts is really very smooth. All onboard announcements are clear and concise.

If the lessons from the seating can be learnt, then new variants of this train could be learnt and improvements made to what is in essence a very fine unit.  As an addition to the fleet roster in the south east it is very capable, and notwithstanding the seats, a very enjoyable ride.


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Sheerness-On-Sea Railway Disaster 1971

In this blog, I will write about the railway accident which occurred on 26th February 1971 at Sheerness-on-Sea railway station.  All relevant links to content are at the foot of this blog.

On the evening of 26th February, the 17:16, 10 car train from Victoria to Sheerness entered the station but failed to stop and the first carriage ended up careering into the station, demolishing most of the booking hall.  Unfortunately 1 person died and 13 injured, including the driver.  A more detailed look at the accident is contained below.

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Sheerness-on-Sea station 1971

The train itself was a 2-HAP built for the Kent Coast line between 1958 and 1963.  This particular train comprised of 5, 2-car trainsets, all steel construction on standard BR bogies.  The power to these trains was via a controller in the cab which requires it to be depressed at all times in order to take power.  If this handle is not depressed, the brakes will apply automatically, with around a 2-3 second delay.  This so called “dead man switch” still applies today, in various forms.

As noted by various eye witnesses, many of whom were railway staff, the train appeared to slow correctly when entering platform one, but was seen to be going too fast as it ran along the platform.  Indeed one eyewitness – railwayman M.Gordon remarked to a colleague “that train is not going to stop”.

A few seconds later, the leading cab ploughed into the platform 1 buffer assembly, at what is believed to be around 10-15mph.  The upper portion of the front coach detached from the bogie assembly and carried on over the concourse, demolishing most of the ticket office and taking out a centre beam before crashing though the front of the building and coming to rest, as seen below.

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(c) John Gamble – Via KentOnline

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(c)Kevin Ali – Sheppey Website

The fatality was a Mrs Joyce Carr, who had just bought a ticket from the office.  The 13 other injured were taken to Medway hospital, including a near term pregnant woman who gave birth 2 hours later.

The Official Report states the following conclusions to the accident.

The driver – Mr Rothwell, had suffered a head injury at Holborn Viaduct a year earlier, in which he was unconscious for around 8 minutes.  After extensive testing and evaluation, he was passed fit to drive again July 1970, and re-examined in October the same year.  Another test was planned for April 1971.

Mr Rothwell when interviewed stated that he remembered applying a slow brake to the train when entering the station, but that the next thing he remembered was being slumped over the cab after the accident.  This was in agreement with at least two other witnesses who found Mr Rothwell in the cab afterwards

The overall conclusion is that the driver had blacked out, slumping over the controls, thus still providing the connection with the controllers Dead-Man switch.  The train carried on at 10-15 Mph, before connecting with the buffers. This caused immediate application of the emergency brake, slowing the rest of the train.  Indeed, only the second carriage was further damaged, most of that ending up on the detached bogie of the leading carriage.

The following pictures show the extensive damage to the station after the wreckage was removed.  They are still images taken from 8mm footage, this can be viewed via a link at the bottom of this blog.

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(c) Graham White

Following the disaster, the station building was demolished, and a new one built to the side.

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(c) David Glasspool

The following are links to the original source for this blog:

KentOnline – Sheerness train crash remembered

Sheppey Website – Sheerness train crash

KentRail – Sheerness-on-Sea

Runaway Train – YouTube Video (c) Graham White

Official MOT Report 1971


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Medway Stations 3 – Chatham

Part 3 of my small potted history of my local stations contained within the Medway area.

Chatham station on its current site opened on the 25th January 1858 by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway.  This only took the line towards Faversham initially.  The station at this time comprised of 3 running platforms, one serving the ‘down’ line towards Faversham.  The other was an island platform serving 1 ‘up’ line and the other serving trio of loop sidings.  Above the lines, a road bridge crossed, which has stairs down to the platforms and the station building, at this stage at platform level.  The picture below shows a train on the ‘up’ line in 1939 (c)David Glasspool.

chatham 1939

The station is situated in a tight cutting, and flanked either end by the Chatham and Fort Pitt tunnels, seen below in two photographs from 2004 and 2006 (c)David Glasspool (the top being Chatham Tunnel)

Chatham_Tunnel

Chatham_fort pitt

Full running from Victoria to Ramsgate was realised from 5th October 1863.  Around this time a major remodelling of the station took place.  The main change was the addition of a main booking hall over the tracks on the road bridge, and the demolition of the original booking hall on the platform.  The sidings were mostly removed at this time, however two still remained adjacent to the ‘up’ and ‘down’ platforms respectively.

Electrification arrived in July 1939, including electric lighting to the platforms.  The mechanical signals were removed in 1959, replaced by 3 colour aspect signals, controlled from the new power box at Rochester.  Two years later, new buildings on the ‘up’ platform were completed and the station has not really changed since, except the replacement of the signals during 2013-2017.  Here is the station building photographed in 2004 (c)David Glasspool.

Chatham_2004

Chatham_2006

All photographs are not my own, but (c)David Glasspool.

For more detailed information on Chatham Station, head to Kent Rail Website.

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WW2 – Upchurch railway disaster

A short re-telling of a local story.

On August 16th 1944, a V-1 ‘doodlebug’ rocket was chased by a Spitfire pilot from Dover.  After many unsuccessful attempts to shoot it down, he eventually managed to tip it with his wing, but unfortunately instead of landing in an empty field, the missile landed under the bridge of the railway line at Oak Lane, Upchurch.

It was found that a railway worker sheltering under the bridge was killed instantly.  The bridge was totally demolished in the explosion, and unfortunately the 1535 Victoria to Ramsgate was speeding towards it, having just left Rainham.  Despite the best efforts of the driver, the train encountered the now demolished bridge.  Amazingly the main cab jumped the gap but the tender fell into it and the first few carriages were heavily damaged.  In fact the 4th coach ended up straddling the gap completely.

In total 7 passengers lost their lives, they came mainly from the from the front two carriages.  Many were severely injured, and were taken to several nearby hospitals.  Miraculously the driver and fireman survived.

Being as this was the mainline through to the coast and up to London, after the investigations and clear up were completed,  a new bridge was constructed in November 1944 at a cost of £3,800.

Four pictures follow, the first from the Daily Mirror (Dated September 14th 1944) the second which has come from Rainham History website . The third and fourth are (c) Bob Ogley, and show the locomotive being transferred back to the tracks, and the bridge as it is today (picture c.1990)

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