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3 coach bodyshell and powered by the famous EE507 traction motor (some of which had been salvaged from old 4-SUB units withdrawn in the 1980s) these 75mph units were originally destined for the South-Western division of the old Southern region.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.
456008 leads sister unit 456009 plus 455829 into Honor Oak Park in South London on the 4th October 2013.
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 sandwiched 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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