4/2 EPB (Class 415/6)


photograph by Ray Soper

An unknown 4 EPB joins the South Western mainline near Wimbledon with a West Croydon to London Holborn Viaduct via Wimbledon service on 16th November 1966.

In 1951 the Southern Region starting building a new type of suburban EMU - the EPBs - so named because they were fitted with electro pneumatic brakes. Although mechanically different and not compatible with earlier stock they essentially took over from where 4 Sub construction ended. Indeed many early 4 car units had trailers released from withdrawn 4 Sub units and in true Southern tradition underframe units from older withdrawn EMUs were re-used. The 1951 units were to SR Bulleid design, the chief spotting differences between the Subs and the EPBs being that the EPBs had roller blind headcodes (except for the few Subs that also did...), the driving cab front widows were more upright and rectangular on the EPBs, and most obviously the EPB driving cabs had side windows which were not mounted within a door - the cab now being reached from a door serving a vestibule. Early SR design 4 EPBs also had a rainstrip high up the roof - as on the Subs - but the later BR designed EPBs and all 2 EPBs had their rainstrip at cantrail level. BR designed EPBs were introduced in 1957. These were built to BR standard designs and so their body sides did not have the pronounced Bulleid curvature nor the lights above the doors. They also had a slight roof overhang on their cab ends (as with the contemporary Ceps/Beps).
An interesting photo, but what exactly was going on? Out-of-service EMUs were frequently towed to and from the place of repair/maintenance by steam engines, but that doesn't seem likely here. Q1 Class Nº33018 is attached to an unidentified 4 EPB at Guildford in 1958, but is it towing or propelling? The EMU hasn't had its shoes lifted, nor is there a brake van at rear (as the loco was vacuum braked and the EMU was air braked there should have been a brakevan at the rear for towing) so is the loco simply moving the EPB for some local requirement?

photograph by John Wills

Towed 4EPB
5041 Bulleid EPB 5041 at London Bridge during June 1970. Compare the curvature of the sides and the front profile to that of the BR EPB below.

photograph by Michael Taylor

The DTS of 2 EPB (class 416/2) unit number 5738 is seen basking in the sunshine, thought to be at London Bridge low level.

photograph by Michael Taylor

Mention should be given fifteen 2 car BR standard design EMUs built in 1954/5 that were inherited by the Southern Region in 1963 after the Newcastle to South Shields line was de-electrified. These were classified as 2 EPBs and whilst being similar to the 1957 2 EPB units for BR(S) they were distinguished by considerably larger guards vans in their motor coaches so reducing seating capacity by ten seats. They also had shallower roller blind windows compared with their southern counterparts and a slightly greater roof overhang over their cab ends.

Under BR TOPS 4 EPBs became class 415 with sub class /1 being the SR designed units and /2 the BR design units. Similarly the 2 EPBs became class 416 with the same sub class distinctions. When introduced the EPBs wore the smart BR(S) EMU green livery. In the 1960s they succumbed to the BR corporate blue image - being suburban units they were initially overall blue. This looked smart and had a very pleasing deep lustre when new and clean but this colour scheme weathered dreadfully. The EPB stock (excepting those units fitted with large amounts of blue asbestos which were withdrawn) started being refurbished in 1980 and these were renumbered and outshopped in blue and grey. There were reformations of units throughout this process. Whilst the main line livery did not fit the class particularly comfortably it reduced the impact of weathering.

From May 1985 facelifted 2 EPBs fitted with window bars were deployed to work the North London Line after it had been converted to third rail only operation. Following the murder of a young lady in an EPB compartment in March 1988 EPB units were again reformed to concentrate all compartment stock in a limited number of units. Known to the SE Division as 4 Com units this designation only appeared on documentation and not on the units, although compartment stock was denoted by a red strip at cantrail level, the first use of such colour coding for non-catering use. Such units were diagrammed not to be used after 8 pm, although they were used to maintain service if no other stock was available. Compartment EPB stock was finally withdrawn by December 1991.

In November 1990 4 EPB 5001 was reformed and painted into green and deployed as a "celebrity" unit in addition to its everyday usage. EPBs continued to be withdrawn over an extended period. By October 1994 only seven SR design EPBs remained although a number were kept in store for at least six months after the final EPB had been withdrawn. BR design 4 EPBs were the last to remain in service, the last working being on 31 March 1995. The EPBs served an unglamorous life plying the suburbs and serving commuters well - if not exactly in great comfort.

2 EBP A Bulleid 2 EPB trailing a Bulleid 4 EPB.

photograph by David Smith

Unidentified BR EPB units seen stabled outside Stewarts Lane depot on 10th April 1988.

photograph by Colin Duff


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