Kent Rail

Class 419

MLV: Motor Luggage Van


This was an innovative breed of traction which, if a North Eastern Region variant is accounted for, eventually comprised a fleet of eleven vehicles. In Autumn 1955, Eastleigh Works completed a single Motor Parcels Van (MPV). Externally, the MPV resembled a BR-designed EPB unit: non-gangwayed cabs were fitted at either end, complete with Pullman rubbing plates, and each four-wheel bogie set was equipped with two third rail pick-up shoes. Detail differences externally, compared to SR electric stock, included the presence of a rectangular destination board at the top of the cap front, in place of the SR head code box in-between the windows, and five marker lights (four white, one red). The vehicle was equipped with four English Electric traction motors, rated at 250 HP, and weighed 49 tons. The paint scheme was all-over BR Green, complete with Early ‘’Cyling Lion’’ Crest. The MPV was dispatched from Eastleigh Works to Peckham Rye Depot at the end of October 1955, where it was based during a period of trial running on Central Division lines. On 24th November of the same year, the vehicle began running between London Bridge and Brighton, hauling a rake of Blood and Custard Maunsell-designed carriages. Operation on the SR was brief for the MPV, and in the following year it was sent north to the electrified Newcastle to South Shields line. The vehicle became No. E68000 – this was a coach number, not a class of unit. It was formally put into service in South Tyneside on 19th March 1956, again after a period of trial running which had started at the beginning of the month. No. E68000 joined fifteen 2-EPB units on South Tyneside, also Eastleigh-built, and its raison d’être was to convey holidaymakers’ luggage between the city and coast, in addition to carrying large quantities of freshly-caught fish. Indeed, the aforementioned 2-EPB units had been equipped with a spacious luggage area for this very purpose, a feature not shared by the SR fleet.

The Kent Coast Electrification Scheme was approved in February 1956 and as part of this undertaking, a further two motor vans akin to No. E68000 were ordered. Again, these were assembled at Eastleigh and completed in Spring 1959, becoming Nos. S68001 and S68002. Finished in all-over BR (S) Green, the differences between these later vehicles and No. E68000 were in fact numerous. Two, rather than four, 250 HP English Electric traction motors were in evidence, and the vehicles weighed in at a reduced 45 tons. Standard SR cab fronts were incorporated, with Pullman rubbing plates and ‘’buckeye’’ couplers, and along each body side could be found three sets of double doors. The pair were referred to as ‘’Motor Luggage Vans’’, rather than MPVs, and were procured specifically to operate as part of boat train formations on the South Eastern Division. Extensive luggage accommodation produced by these units was necessary on such trains where the size of Guards’ compartments on 4 CEP/4 BEP stock was inadequate. For safety reasons, quay lines at Dover Marine and Folkestone Harbour were without third rail. As a result, Nos. S68001 and S68002 were equipped with 230 amp/h batteries to enable them to run over these sections of non-electrified line under their own power. A full battery could provide about twenty minutes of power and was charged from a 200-volt motor generator. Conversely, No. E68000 was without batteries and could only operate directly from the third rail. Singly, the SR vehicles could haul a dead weight of up to 100 tons, and their maximum operating speed was 90 MPH.



No. E68000

Nos. S68001 to S68010

Nos. 68201 to 68206


Motor Parcels Van

Motor Luggage Van [Class 419]

Trailer Luggage Van [Class 499]

Body Length

64-feet 5-inches

64-feet 6-inches


Body Width




Body Height

9-feet 3-inches

9-feet 3-inches

9-feet 3-inches

Overall Weight

49 tons

45 tons

30 tons 17 cwt


Where cwt = 112 lbs

In addition to battery power, flexibility of MLV stock was further increased by equipping Nos. S68001 and S68002 with both vacuum and air braking. The latter became the standard among BR (S) electric passenger stock, and the former allowed MLVs to haul vacuum-braked parcel vans. Being equipped with two forms of braking, MLVs could also be used as ‘’translator’’ vehicles, sandwiched in-between vacuum and air-braked stock. This ability was also shared by Type ‘’JA’’ Electro-Diesel Nos. E6001 to E6006. In 1960, assembly of a second batch of MLV vehicles commenced at Eastleigh, the first two, Nos. S68003 and S68004, being completed at Christmas of that year. By April 1961, another six had been built, bringing the SR fleet size to ten. Crucially, these later builds were unable to work as ''translator'' vehicles between air and vacuum-braked stock, as per the Electro-Diesels numbered E6007 and above. Like Nos. S68001 and S68002, MLV Nos. S68003 to S68010 housed a pair of driving cabs, a single Guard’s area at one end, and long and short luggage compartments.

On the SR, electrification was very much the order of the day, but up north, the North Eastern Region had other ideas. On 7th January 1963, the Newcastle to South Shields line switched from electric to diesel operation. The fifteen 2-EPB units were cascaded down to the SR, where all were initially deployed on the South Eastern Division. The unique MPV, No. E68000, was instead transferred to the Midland Region to work a parcels service between Southport and Liverpool, on a route which was also third rail electrified. The MPV received formal Midland Region allocation on 10th August 1963, and was renumbered M68000. Sadly, the vehicle’s career was ridiculously short compared to its SR counterparts; it was withdrawn from service in late spring 1967 and subsequently scrapped. Perhaps the lack of batteries made No. M68000 an unattractive prospect for a transfer to the SR?

Mention should also be made of the six Trailer Luggage Vans (TLV) used in conjunction with the MLV fleet. In April 1968, six Full Brake BR Mk 1 vehicles, maroon in colour, were converted at Selhurst Depot into unpowered luggage vans. They were equipped with high-level jumper cables to work in tandem with EP-type multiple unit stock and were procured to increase luggage accommodation on boat trains between Victoria and Dover/Folkestone. The vehicles were sandwiched in-between a 4-CEP and MLV within a boat train formation. Reportedly, TLVs were unpopular with crews because the lack of cabs meant that shunting was virtually done ‘’blind’’, with the risk that someone could unknowingly be struck. Initially, a number of TLVs ran with their existing maroon colour scheme, but all, like the MLVs, were eventually repainted into BR Corporate Blue and Grey. The vehicles were numbered S68201 to S68206 and remained in service until early 1975, by which time a reduction in boat traffic negated the requirement for such large amounts of luggage space. This was not the end of the line for the TLV fleet, however, and the carriages were eventually converted into barrier vehicles for use in connection with the delivery of new High Speed Train stock.




Carrying its vehicle number and BR Corporate Blue and Grey livery, MLV No. 68001 is seen leading a 12-CEP formation as it storms through Ashford. Head code ''56'' indicates a Folkestone Harbour to London Victoria boat service, via Orpington and Herne Hill. The layout in evidence here dated from the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme. © John Horton




A grubby No. 68005 (419005) is seen standing upon one of two electrified sidings which were formerly engine shed roads at Ramsgate. In evidence here are the three sets of double doors, along the body side, and at the far end, the battery hatch covers. © John Horton




An absolutely filthy No. 68009 (419009) is seen at Ramsgate, with the SR signal box just visible in the background, the carriage cleaning shed on the left and, on the right, one of two island platforms. No. 68009 had arrived with the 02:30 mail working from Ashford. © John Horton


13th February 1986


MLV No. 68005 at Tonbridge: 13th February 1986

Also in need of a clean, ''Jaffa Cake'' No. 68005 is seen leading a pair of 4 CEP units through Tonbridge on a Dover Western Docks to Victoria service, via Orpington and Herne Hill. © David Glasspool Collection


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