Eighty years on: the revolution on rail which ended steam days

Iknow I have mentioned several times that this Sunday marks the fiftieth anniversary of the end of steam-hauled trains on the South Western Division of British Railways.

Monday, 3rd July 2017, 9:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:37 am
rw train 4-COR unit at Portsmouth harbour

4 COR STOCK AT PORTSMOUTH HARBOUR 1962.

The front car of a 4-COR unit at Portsmouth harbour in 1962. These sets of four were usually made into 12-car trains.
rw train 4-COR unit at Portsmouth harbour 4 COR STOCK AT PORTSMOUTH HARBOUR 1962. The front car of a 4-COR unit at Portsmouth harbour in 1962. These sets of four were usually made into 12-car trains.

But today we are celebrating, if that’s the right word, another anniversary, the complete opposite to Sunday’s events.

For today is the eightieth anniversary of the first timetabled electric train running to Portsmouth Harbour from London Waterloo.

Havant station was rebuilt for the occasion, and along with Portsmouth & Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour, had their platforms lengthened to 800ft to handle 12-car trains.

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rw restaurant car RESTAURANT CAR ON THE PORTSMOUTH LINE Many will not remember when there were restaurant cars on the London to Portsmouth route.

The new trains had corridors throughout and were called COR units, short for corridor although they were usually called Nelsons as the left hand driver’s widow contained the head code number in a bracket giving the appearance of just one eye, hence Nelson.

Forty-eight, four-car COR units were built with another 19, four-car units with a restaurant car as the third car. These were called 4-RES units.

The units were the most comfortable trains in England at the time with thick horse hair-stuffed seat cushions which gave a bouncy effect when the train passed over points.

All seats had armrests as well, although I am told that it was not too clever in the restaurant car if drinking coffee.

rw indicator board INDICATOR BOARD AT WATERLOO IN DAYS PAST. Remembered by many former commuters no doubt, the old indicator board at Waterloo.

A former steward told me that in the evening dinner began to be served when the train was still at Waterloo. By Woking most passengers had had their meal.

The steward then went through the train calling out ‘second sitting for dinner’.

By Guildford the restaurant car was full once again.

Can you imagine anything like that today in our modern uncomfortable trains? No, I thought not.

rw train 4-COR units TWO 4-COR UNITS LEAVE GUILDFORD IN DIFFERENT LIVERIES. 1970 and two 4-COR units are in different liveries as can be seen in this Portsmouth to Waterloo service leaving Guildford

The original 1937 COR stock was replaced in the early 1970s and trains have never been as comfortable since.

The following photographs have been loaned to me Geoff Burch and come from his marvellous book Rambling Railwayman’s Recollections.

To obtain a copy contact Geoff on [email protected]

rw restaurant car RESTAURANT CAR ON THE PORTSMOUTH LINE Many will not remember when there were restaurant cars on the London to Portsmouth route.
rw indicator board INDICATOR BOARD AT WATERLOO IN DAYS PAST. Remembered by many former commuters no doubt, the old indicator board at Waterloo.
rw train 4-COR units TWO 4-COR UNITS LEAVE GUILDFORD IN DIFFERENT LIVERIES. 1970 and two 4-COR units are in different liveries as can be seen in this Portsmouth to Waterloo service leaving Guildford