Published: 28th April 2016
The EPB Preservation Group is a registered charity (1132225) dedicated to the preservation and restoration of third rail electric multiple unit (EMU) trains that have operated on the former Southern Region of British Rail.
Railway preservation is a huge business and has provided employment for hundreds of people and boosted tourism across the UK in the vicinity of preserved railways. And campaigners have convinced the ‘powers that be’ to re-open many stations and some major rail routes closed half a century ago.
A small section of this industry has preserved some carriages from trains used for decades on the Southern electrified network and one leading group is the EPB Preservation Group which has been based at the East Kent Railway at Shepherdswell for almost 20 years. Its lease is not being renewed and the carriages have to find another home by mid July.
There are four motor luggage vans (MLV) numbers S68001/2/8/9, 2 EPB unit 5759 and 4 Cep 7105, a total of 10 carriages. The indications are that No. 5759 and S68001 will be allowed to remain at the East Kent Railway (EKR) once a new lease has been signed.
There has been some ‘turbulence’ within the EKR management over the last three years resulting in a gradual decline in the relationship with the EPB Group and the looming expiry of the group’s agreement has triggered some swingeing demands upon it. In fact, the Group has been asked to relocate the trailer buffet car S60913 from Unit 7105, the trailer brake composite S70235 and MLV S68009 from the railway.
Two other coaches, from train 7105 and MLV 68002 which are currently being restored at other locations will not be allowed to return to the railway.
There has been an attempt to mediate between the organisations facilitated by the Heritage Railway Association and at a joint meeting between the EKR, EPBPG and the Southern Electric Group, MLV S68008 was added to the eviction list with an October deadline given. But then a subsequent letter from the EKR brought forward this deadline to July 14th and added the group’s spare motor and trailer bogies and other equipment stored on site to the removal list.
These former electric trains are air braked and are fitted with buckeye couplings which forms the reason for the EKR’s initial removal demand as the stock cannot be used by the railway being incompatible with their operation. This is code for the EKR does not have a locomotive to pull the train but the reason was subsequently changed to storage space being needed and then another reason given was that the carriages were an eyesore.
The Group say that carriage S68009 needs a repaint, S68008 is nearing completion of repainting but that S69013 is arguably the smartest looking vehicle on the line. One side of the vehicle has been completed, the other side is being attended to but outside so work is weather dependent as is work on S70235. It is thought that the trailer carriages from unit7105 are the only ones authorised to run on the national network today having a UAT certificate.
Work continues at Eastleigh Works on the restoration of unit 7105’s motor coaches to the original configuration and MLV 68002, based at Southall is in good condition and has attended depot open days recently.
The worst case scenario is that if a home cannot be found, this unique collection is likely to end up in the scrap yard because the cost of relocating carriages is immense and consumes cash set aside for restoration.
Given these trains were introduced in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and operated until 2003, their demise would leave a huge gap in railway history.
If you can help find a home for these unique carriages which once transported millions of commuters please contact Bob Baines, the Group Chairman at:
One other electric unit is based at The Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway and this will be operating trains on Saturdays 30 April and 27 August. This is a three coach 3-CEP EMU No.1198 Linda the Lymington Flyer which used to operate on the Brockenhurst to Lymington branchline. Given that there is no 3rd rail electrification in the Chilterns, the train will be diesel hauled using power provided by Class 08 locomotive No.08825.
The unit's owners and the supporting EMU Preservation Society (EMUPS) team continue to work to preserve this rare example of railway heritage and the railway is pleased to have the unit take its place alongside and complementary to, our traditional steam and heritage diesel traction, thereby providing a unique heritage railway experience for visitors.
The EKR notified the EPB group in July last year that their agreement was in its last year and had a reply from this group saying to renew on their current terms, those terms were written by their chairman whilst he was also chairman of the EKR, a clear conflict of interest and the agreement offered no benefit to the trust, only the third party. The EKR subsequently gave notice to remove their vehicles back in January with a 6 month notice period. There has been no shock as you can see.
There is no “code” for the EKR not being able to use their equipment, they had their own loco which they operated and they sold in 2013. We do not have a suitable air braked loco to haul their stock in service at this time, not only that, you cannot use some of it due to its condition. The reasons for removal are tri-fold, the condition, the lack of space and the lack of compatible locomotives. On top of this the EKR cannot even move this stock around on site as it is all chained and locked and the group have refused to issue the EKR with keys. The EKR is disposing of its own unsightly stock and is replacing its mainstay DMU as it is tired. The EKR is obtaining replacement stock yet our sidings are stacked full of redundant unusable stock.
There has been no turbulence in our management, the simple fact is, the EPB chairman was removed 3 years ago. The past two years have seen huge improvements at the EKR and record passenger numbers.