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.
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?
I’ve a favour to ask…
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