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Sunday 16th January saw the last passenger services operated by the old BR built Class 456, 2-car electric trains. The whole class of 24 units has now gone off-lease from Southwestern Railway and will be returned to the company who owns them, Porterbrook. It’s extremely unlikely these 750v 3rd rail units will find work elsewhere so it looks like a one-way trip to the scrapyard beckons. They were originally meant to be surplus to requirements in 2019 but long delays to the replacement class 701 sets being built by Bombardier at Derby meant they hung on for another two years. As 3rd rail units they were confined to the old ‘Southern’ network they were built for in 1990-91 and have led a busy but undistinguished career.

Constructed at York and based on the Mark 3 coach bodyshell and powered by the famous EE507 traction motor (some of which had been salvaged from old 4-SUB units withdrawn in the 1980s) these 75mph units were originally destined for the South-Western division of the old Southern region. A change of plan occurred during construction which meant that they were allocated to the Central section instead. Although they’d been due to enter service in early 1991 a problem with the inability of drivers to see platform mounted CCTV screens clearly meant they had to have the drivers seat modified so didn’t enter passenger service until the 30th September 1991.

Their main sphere of operation was the South London lines, especially the route from Victoria to London Bridge. In later BR years under Network South East they increased their sphere of operation to include such places as Tattenham Corner and the loop via Crystal Palace.

At the end of BR the units became part of the Connex franchise, although only one unit (465024) ever wore that companies livery. They soldiered on under later operator Southern (who refurbished the entire fleet) until 2013 when they finally made it to the old South-Western they’d originally been ordered for – only by now it was run by the South-Western Trains franchise! Refurbished once again when the appearance of the front ends was changed by removing the prominent covers off the top of the jumper cables the units settled down to working services from Waterloo to destinations such as Guildford and Woking.

I’ve compiled a picture record of all 24 members of the fleet which stretches back to 1991 when they were still being tested and drivers trained before they entered service. It covers all the 5 operators of the trains, BR, Connex, Southern, SWT and SWR.

n the 15th April 2011 456001 and another member of the class call at West Norwood on a service to London Bridge.
The 27th April 1991 was a beautifully sunny day in London and I was lucky enough to get this shot of new 456002 on test from Selhurst depot, pictured here at Norwood Junction. It’s sporting the Network South-East livery that all the units were delivered in.
Sitting on Wimbledon Park depot on the 30th June 2014 is newly refurbished and repainted 456003 which has been transferred from Southern to South-West Trains. In the background is 456013 which is awaiting its call to works.
Here’s 456004 leaving Streatham Common with a service from East Croydon to London Victoria on the 16th July 2001.
Passing a London skyline that’s changed dramatically since this picture was taken on the 5th April 2005 456003 (left) and 456005 (right) cross the viaducts outside London Bridge with a service for South London.
It’s the 1st November 2012 and the final member of the class (024) keeps company with 456006 which is carrying the rail safety advertising livery it gained after being the first of the class to be refurbished at Wolverton works in 2006.
On the 28th April 2014 a pair of 456s with 456007 bringing up the rear depart from Guildford with a service from Ascot. Whilst the units still carry Southern livery all branding has been removed and they are in fact working for South-West Trains.

456008 leads sister unit 456009 plus 455829 into Honor Oak Park in South London on the 4th October 2013.

Back at Guildford on the 24th April 2014 and another pair of unbranded ex-Southern units with 456009 leading 456005 wait to operate a service to Ascot from the Surrey town which became one of the main destinations for the fleet under SWT aegis.
Here’s a scene that’s disappeared completely now. 456010 sits in platform 11 at the old London Bridge station before working the 17:59 service to Caterham on the 3rd March 2003.
It’s the 20th April 2010 and 456011 in multiple with a Class 455 works a Southern service into Norwood Junction from London Bridge.
With just over a month left in service, 456012 is seen at London Waterloo with a service to Guildford on the 7th December 2021.
456013 leads a 10 car formation with two class 455s around the curve from London Rd station into Guildford on the 3rd April 2018.
456014 in tatty NSE livery arrives at Clapham Junction from London Victoria with a service for Epsom Downs on the 31st March 2004.
Another photographic location that’s changed dramatically over the years is this shot of the approaches to London Victoria with the old Battersea power station as a backdrop. Here’s 456015 ambling into the station on the 22nd April 2004.
This is the (in)famous Waterloo platform extension blockade in 2017 during which another class 456 derailed and hit the adjacent engineers train due to a signalling fault. On this day (5th August) 456016 arrived on the rear of its train without incident.
456017 enters the tunnel at Crystal Palace with a service for London Victoria on the 1st October 2013.
456018 sits in the bay platform 3 at Woking whilst working Woking – Waterloo shuttles on the 21st December 2019.
456019 calls at Honor Oak Park in South London on its way to the country on the 16th June 2011.
Working a route the units were synonymous with for so many years, 456020 calls at Denmark Hill station whilst working a service from London Victoria to London Bridge on the 12th November 2011.
It’s the 31st August 2007 and 456021 is pictured calling at South Croydon on its way to London Victoria.
Yet another aspect of the London skyline that’s changed dramatically since this picture was taken. Here’s 456022 pulling away from Wandsworth Rd with a service from London Bridge to Victoria on the 15th March 1996.
Almost exactly a year later than the previous picture at the same location. 456023 works a London Victoria – London Bridge service into Wandsworth Rd on the 6th March 1997.
The final member of the class, 456024 leads a pair of class 455s off the Hounslow loop into Twickenham on the 4th July 2019.

I mentioned that only one member of the class ever received Connex livery. Searching through my archives I realised I only ever managed to capture it in one picture – and that was by accident! Here is is sandwhiched between wo other units outside London Bridge station on the 5th April 2005…

I hope you’ve enjoyed a look back at the life of these units and pictures that show them in service for over 30 years. Many of the old BR Classes are disappearing over the next year or two so expect other blogs like this – just don’t expect pictures of each class member. 24 is more than enough! But, you can find many more pictures like these on my Zenfolio website. Just click on this link. Cheers!

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