South London Units

A number of issues inspired the London Brighton and South Coast Railway to embark on the electrification of their system. Towards the end of the nineteenth century electric tramways were becoming threat and both the City and South London and the Waterloo and City electric underground lines were a success. The Metropolitan and District line had also embarked on their electrification schemes. At this stage the Volks Electric Railway had already been operating in Brighton for the nearly twenty years, albeit as a tourist attraction, but it had established a tradition that associated Brighton with electric trains. Proposals for a Brighton Direct Railway had been put forward and in 1901 a bill was submitted to parliament for this revolutionary high-speed electrically operated railway to run parallel with the LBSCR's mainline all the way from London to Brighton. It was thus becoming clear that electric traction was a viable proposition for mainline railways and with the LBSCR's less than perfect record of time keeping no doubt the railways directors comprehended the seriousness of these threats.

By this time various systems were available for consideration. The principle of the multiple unit electric train had been pioneered using systems of relays to control several traction motors throughout the length of the train and both high voltage overhead and low voltage third rail systems were available.


LBSCR's Official photograph of a new South London three car unit. The livery would have been light cream upper panels and umber brown below the waist line. Note the large bow collector on the roof

Bucknall Collection/Ian Allan library

In 1909 the first section to be electrified by the LBSCR was opened but this first route was not to counter any threat from competition for traffic to Brighton itself but rather to recover the losses to the electric trams currently being introduced into the streets of London by the London County Council. This was the South London line between Victoria and London Bridge by way of Peckham Rye. In a major marketing move the system was was advertised as the "Elevated Electric Railway" and despite the fact that the fares were increased to secure a return on the new investment the system was an immediate success.

To provide the service the coaching stock consisted of eight electrically powered multiple units each made up of three coaches, which were built by the Metropolitan Amalgamated Railway Carriage and Wagon Company.

A three-car South London Line unit at Wandsworth Road in 1909 shortly after the service had been inaugurated

photograph:R C Riley


South London Units | 2-Sl | 2-Wim |

All photographs are copyright

return to picture gallery page

This page was created 22 November 2010

SR Target

Valid CSS!    Valid HTML 4.01!