Kent Rail

Class 204 / 205

Hampshire / Berkshire DEMU


The first Diesel Electric Multiple Units on the Southern Region and indeed, the South Eastern Division, were the ‘’Hastings’’ formations, introduced during 1957 and 1958 to replace narrow-width steam-hauled stock on the Charing Cross to Hastings route via Tunbridge Wells Central. The second generation of DEMUs for the SR were this time destined for the South Western Division, to work short to medium-distance and branch line services in Hampshire. Hitherto, these had usually been operated by push-pull formations consisting of an ex-LSWR ‘’M7’’ Tank Engine, a parcels van, and two pre-nationalisation carriages. An initial batch of eighteen replacement two-vehicle DEMUs was assembled at Eastleigh during 1957, based on the prevalent suburban BR Mk 1 carriage design of the era. The advantage of DEMU operation over the customary mechanical drive of DMUs on other regions was that the SR was able to standardise components with the existing EPB third-rail fleet and the 2-Hap EMUs being introduced concurrently. The units became ''2H'' - referring to the number of vehicles and the the county of Hampshire - when introduced during 1958 on the Portsmouth to Salisbury line, and under the pre-TOPS system became Nos. 1101 to 1118. What the 2H Class DEMUs lost over their 2 EPB and 2 Hap counterparts was nearly half the seating capacity in one of the driving vehicles, space of which was required to house the 500 HP English Electric power unit. By the end of the decade, the units were also working between Alton, Southampton and Andover.


The type's South Eastern Division interest begins in 1958 with the construction of a second batch of two-vehicle units at Eastleigh, destined to replace steam traction on the bleak line across the Romney Marsh, between Hastings and Ashford. The light traffic loads on this route deemed it uneconomical for electrification and indeed, the line between Appledore and Ore was degraded to single-track working in September 1979. This batch was only four units strong - Nos. 1119 to 1122 - but this number was set to increase to eight later on in the year with the building of a further batch, Nos. 1123 to 1126. These four units had been bolstered with an additional trailer in-between the driving vehicles in response to increased passenger loads, and engines had been uprated from 500 HP to 600 HP. By the end of 1959, most steam-hauled services on the line had been totally replaced, although the Sunday mornings 06:50 Hastings to Ashford working remained with steam traction until Summer 1961. A third and final batch of seven units - Nos. 1127 to 1133 - saw construction in 1962, and again these consisted of three vehicles with the more powerful engine, but were instead bound for the Reading to Salisbury line and branches in Berkshire. These units and the original builds which had been strengthened, became ''3H''.


Steep gradients between Winchester and Alton did pose problems for strengthened units and the new three-vehicle builds. The class had been fitted with 90 MPH express gear ratios, which were proving unsuitable for the powerful acceleration required on this particular hilly route. Whilst the use of two-vehicle DEMUs was part of the solution, British Rail also initiated a bogie swap between ''Hampshire'' units and 4 EPBs: the latter had been fitted with 75 MPH gear ratios (65:16) from the outset. This was undertaken progressively throughout the 1970s, thus ''Hampshire'' units received 75 MPH gear ratios and a number of 4 EPBs received the express bogies. However, the EPB units involved in the bogie swap were still listed on paper as having a maximum speed of 75 MPH. This is an ideal example showing the advantages of standardisation across DEMU and EMU fleets. In addition to this modification, there have been numerous unit reformations, as class members have been reallocated to alternate areas, or withdrawn altogether and centre trailers re-used in active formations. In all the unit formations, two lavatories were situated within the Driving Trailer Composites (DTC) - one for First Class, one for Second Class. These units had no connecting corridors between vehicles, thus if one was in either the Driving Motor Brake Second Open (DMBSO) or Trailer Second Open (TSO), then the toilets could not be reached without disembarking onto the platform, then re-entering the train! Gangways then appeared in 3H (Class 205 under TOPS) unit No. 205011, when it was subject to an experimental refurbishment programme at Eastleigh. Internally, the unit received a wooden veneer and fluorescent lighting, whilst externally, high-intensity headlamps were fitted. Consequently, this member became the sole unit of the sub-class 205/1, being renumbered 205101. This then lost its centre trailer, but retained the same number, although in 1995 the set was again provided with a TSO, but this time from a refurbished 4 Cep (some of these units were being reduced to 3 Cep at the time), thus seeing it renumbered to 205205. By 1995, all three-car formations had connecting gangways, which had given rise to another sub-class: 205/2.


4th April 1992


No. 205025 is seen at the replacement Uckfield station. This was a single platform face which came into use

in 1991 and allowed the elimination of a level crossing. Sadly, the original station was subsequently bulldozed.

© David Glasspool Collection


20th October 1992


No. 205028 is seen trundling into Buxted from London, nearing journey's end. Singling of the route between Hever

and Uckfield was completed in January 1990 as an economy measure. This photograph was taken from Buxted's

former ''up'' platform, which fell into disrepair after route singling, but still managed to retain a pair of SR concrete

bracket lampposts with hexagonal lampshades at its northern end. © David Glasspool Collection


27th January 1994


No. 205018 is seen entering the staggered platform layout at Edenbridge, forming a Reading to Tonbridge service.

The rusty conductor rails show that electrification is imminent. This scene has been largely transformed, the offices

on the right having given way to high density housing. Note that even at this time, the dock platform, complete with

timber cattle pens, still existed, although recently fenced off. © David Glasspool Collection


19th March 1994


No. 205032 is seen entering Nutfield from the Tonbridge direction. The photograph was taken from the footbridge

which had been erected two years previously as part of the Redhill to Tonbridge electrification scheme. Conductor

rails are in place, but have yet to be used. © David Glasspool Collection



Next >>


Return to the Kent Rail Homepage or alternatively, check for Updates.

Website & Copyright information - Links - Contact the Webmaster


All content is copyright © David Glasspool unless otherwise stated