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Here’s part 2 in the story of the Class 321 train family which were built at BREL York between 1988-91. The 321/4s were the second batch to be built, following on from the 3s in 1989-90. The only difference between the sub-classes was that the 4s had 28 1st Class seats instead of 16. Initially, all 48 four-car units were allocated to Bletchley depot to work Network SouthEast services out of Euston to Northampton and Birmingham. However, in the early 1990s 11 of the units (321438-448) were transferred to Ilford in East London for working Great Eastern services alongside the 321/3s. To standardise the FGE fleet 12 1st Class seats were declassified in the 4s and the saloon layout altered.

Unlike the earlier 321/3s, the 321/4s have had a much more nomadic life.

The units remained in service with BR until January 1997 when First Great Eastern took over the Ilford based units. The Bletchley based 321/4s were transferred to new franchise winner National Express (Trading as North London Railways) in March 1997. The franchise was rebranded ‘Silverlink’ in September 1997 and ran services until the franchise ended on the 10th November 2007, after which the 321/4s were taken over by London Midland who operated the units until 2009 when they were displaced by a new order of Siemens Class 350/2s.

13 of the Class 321s (321401-410 and 321418-20) transferred to First Capital Connect to be used on services out of London Kings Cross to Peterborough. Another 17 sets (321421-437) went to National Express East Anglia to join the 3s and the 4s transferred in the 1990s.

Initially, London Midland retained 7 sets (321411-417) for strengthening rush-hour services and also operating on the Watford Junction St Albans Abbey branch. These units were given up in 2015. After being converted to 3 cars and renumbered 320411-417 they moved to Abellio Scotrail to operate services in the Glasgow area.

More transfers followed in 2017 when the former FCC (now Great Northern) 321s were displaced. 10 (321402, 321405-410 and 321419) followed their sisters to Anglia metals whilst 5 more units (321401, 321403, 321404. 321418 and 321420) were converted to Class 320/4 for Scotland in 2018-19 bringing the Scottish total to 12 sets.

These units and the earlier Class 320/3s (320301-320322) built in 1990 will be the last of the 321 type to remain in passenger service.

The remaining Class 321/4s soldiered on in traffic on Anglia services until earlier this year when the last few units were stored. Several are earmarked to be converted to hydrogen powered Class 600s in a deal struck between owners Eversholt and Alstom. As yet, no work has taken place.

Here’s a selection of pictures looking back at the lives and times of the 321/4s. All pictures are my copyright.

The first of the sub-class, 321401 seen in unbranded Silverlink livery (London Midland had taken over the franchise the previous November) at Birmingham International with a Northbound service on the 2nd September 2008.
The same unit with a different livery, operator and route. 321401 seen speeding South towards Kings Cross at Welwyn Garden City on the14th July 2014 in full First Capital Connect livery.
321404 leads a sister unit on a Silverlink service from Northampton to Euston past Roade on the 6th August 2007.
Still sporting Silverlink livery but working for First Capital Connect, 321405 and 321404 stand inside the trainshed at Kings Cross on the 22nd January 2010.
The end is near. Having been transferred to Anglia services but increasingly surplus to requirements as new Class 720s come into service 321407 is stabled in the sidings at Clacton on the 8th June 2021.
Still working for Great Northern but with only a few months left before withdrawal at the next May timetable, 321409 is seen inside Hornsey depot on the 13th December 2016.
Still sporting NSE livery but with Silverlink branding 321410 calls at Harrow and Wealdstone en-route to Euston on the 23rd June 2001.
One of the sets retained by London Midland to operate rush hour services and the Abbey line, 321412 arrives into Euston on the 16th July 2010. These sets moved to Scotrail in 2015. Reduced to a 3-car, this is now numbered 320412.
321413 calls at Bricket Wood on the St Alban’s Abbey branch on the 4th November 2009. The is now another Scotrail Class 320.
Silverlink’s 321415 sits in platform 8 at Rugby during the station remodelling on the 26th June 2004.
Central trains leased some Silverlink 321s to operate services from Birmingham New St to Walsall. Here’s 321417 on such a run, seen at Thame Bridge Parkway on the 28th November 2007. In 2015 it became another Class 320 conversion.
Fresh from transfer from London Midland to First Capital Connect and before entering service the next month 321418 is seen with newly applied FCC livery outside Doncaster works on the 30th November 2010.
Here’s 321421, one of the sets transferred from West Coast to Anglia services in 2009. It’s seen at Braintree on the 4th August 2014.
321424 heads for Euston at Bushey whilst 37893 and another loco are involved in relaying the Down Fast on the 20th May 1999.
After National Express had taken over the franchise but before the Silverlink livery made an appearance a couple of units appeared in white undercoat. Here’s 321428 leaving Euston on the 6th September 1997.
Class 321/4s did occasionally stray. Here’s 321437 paying a visit to the Hornsey wheel lathe on the 27th April 1997.
Here’s one of the first batch of eleven 321/4s that were transferred to Anglia services back in the early 1990s. Sporting FGE livery but with added National Express white stripe and branding it’s pictured descending the bank into Liverpool St station on the 21st September 2009.
321447 arrives at Coventry from the South with the 16.46 to Birmingham on the 29th March 1997
The prototype ‘Renatus’ conversion, 321448 heads North from Colchester on the 25th July 2014.

Only a handful of the 321s were ever named. Here’s one (with a proper plate, although the name’s debatable). 321420 carried the name ‘Silver Service’ – although I’ve no idea from when – or why. Can anyone shed light?

You can find more pictures of the 321/4s to view or buy in the following Galleries on my Zenfolio website.

BR Gallery


London Midland

First Capital Connect


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