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British Rail - EMU
4 Vep unit 3417 "Gordon Pettitt"

3417 at East Grinstead on day of arrival - 17 January 2009 - Derek Hayward

The unit on arrival at East Grinstead, 17 January 2009. The wooden item in the secondman's side cab window is a shoe paddle, used for lifting and isolating the electrical collector shoegear in an emergency. It is placed in the window to denote that the handbrake is applied in this cab. (Derek Hayward)

Class 423 4 Vep unit number 3417 named 'Gordon Pettitt' was formally handed over by South West Trains to the Bluebell Railway on Saturday 17 January 2009 at a ceremony at East Grinstead. The speakers were Roy Watts (BPRS Chairman), Mac Macintosh (former Engineering Director SWT), Gordon Pettitt (former General Manager of the Southern Region of British Rail), Ginnie Waddingham (Mayor of East Grinstead), and Graham Flight (Chairman of The Bluebell Railway PLC).

The unit remains in Bluebell Railway plc ownership, but as of May 2012 has been in the care of The Southern Electric Traction Group. This was founded in 2009 by staff members of South West Trains based at Wimbledon Park depot. A long-term loan agreement exists with the Bluebell Railway for SETG to provide specialist operational and technical knowledge to ensure the long-term future of 4VEP No. 3417, with the aim being to return the unit to mainline operation. The latest news on 3417 may be found on their news page.

Gordon Pettitt and 3417 - 17 Jan 2009 - Andrew Strongitharm
On 8 October 2014, Bombardier Transportation, in partnership with SETG and the Bluebell Railway, announced their sponsorship of the refurbishment of 3417, as part of Bombardier's extensive apprenticeship programme. The four-month refurbishment is planned to include corrosion repair and a high-quality repaint.

Right: Following the handover ceremony at East Grinstead on Saturday 17 January 2009, Gordon Pettitt stands next to the Vep unit named after him. Mr.Pettitt was the last General Manager of the Southern Region of British Rail prior to the creation of Network Southeast. (Andrew Strongitharm)


The end of steam on the Southern and the advent of the 4 Vep

The Southern Region of British Railways had a plan to electrify much of its system. Stage 1 of this plan was the Kent Coast electrification, which was completed in 1962. The second stage (planned for 1964) would have involved secondary routes: Redhill to Tonbridge, Reigate to Guildford, Sanderstead to Oxted, Oxted to East Grinstead, Oxted to Lewes, Eridge to Tunbridge Wells, Christ's Hospital to Shoreham and Ash Junction to Wokingham. This stage was not progressed and a couple of the lines were closed instead! Stage 3 was intended to cover Woking (actually Pirbright Junction) to Weymouth, Basingstoke to Salisbury and Winchester to Alton.

What finally materialised from Stage 3 of the plan was Woking to Bournemouth Central, with an extension to Branksome in order to access a new EMU maintenance depot built on the approaches to the site of the former Bournemouth West station (closed in 1965). The depot incorporated the old Bournemouth West carriage shed.

4 Vep at Eastleigh - 24 April 2009 - Richard Salmon
Left: In dry storage at Eastleigh, April 2009, with Trailer Second Open S70797 nearest the camera (Richard Salmon).

The opening of Stage 3 allowed BR(S) to achieve its goal of finally ridding itself of steam locomotives in July 1967. Thereafter, regular fast trains to Bournemouth were formed of "TC" trailer units (either 3 or 4-car), all these being converted from loco-hauled BR Mark 1 carriages. These were powered by 4 Rep tractor units to Bournemouth, where a class 33/1 (BRCW Type 3 fitted with push-pull control), took the train (without the Rep unit) on to Weymouth and propelled it back.

The 4 Vep (later BR class 423) was designed for semi-fast/stopping services with 2+3 seating and a door to virtually every seating bay on both sides. The first twenty units (7701-20) were delivered in 1967 and were allocated to the new Bournemouth electric multiple unit depot. The diagram below is extracted from the BR Southern Region Appendix to Carriage Working Notices dated 10 July 1967.

seating plan
The original livery of 7717 was overall blue with small yellow warning panels and cast aluminium double arrows below its driving cab side windows. Orange curtains were fitted in the second class areas.

Over their years of service, alterations were made to the Vep fleet. It was found that the curtains in second class were superfluous and these were removed. The sliding glass ventilators caused draughts during the winter and were largely superfluous, so these were sealed closed; some being later replaced by full sidelights. In the late 1980s, it was decided to renumber the fleet from the 77xx series to the 423 0xx series; only the last four digits being painted on the ends. By this time the 4Rep tractor units (originally numbered 3001-15) had been renumbered prior to their replacement and 7717 became (42)3017.

7717 at Waterloo in 1978 - Dave Ford
The units were built with a large guard's van area in the motor coach. After the parcels and mail business diminished, it was decided to convert part of this area into two seating bays. This work was undertaken at Eastleigh Works during the 1990s . As this job took longer than the overhaul on the other three cars, the latter usually left with the first complete motor coach available, hence our unit having the motor coach formerly in unit 7775. Units fitted with modified vans were renumbered into the 423 4xx series; once again, only the last four digits being painted on the ends. (42)3417 was later refurbished throughout including new strip lighting in the passenger areas.

A typical 4 Vep in service, unit 7717 stands at the buffer stops on platform 9 at Waterloo station on 11th March 1978. The 42 headcode denotes that it is about to work a service to Effingham Junc or Guildford via Cobham. Note the luggage/parcels lift to a lower level and the 4-wheeled BRUTE trolley, so common at that time. (Image courtesy David Ford)

In 2004 South West Trains repainted 3417 into its BR Blue livery to commemorate the final months in traffic of the slam-door fleet; this unit being selected as it was one of those which had the longest life-expectancy, being the last to receive major works attention. Between March and May 2005, about eight units remained in service with SWT, one of which was 3417. The last timetabled passenger working including a 4Vep on SWT was on 26 May 2005, although those units on Southern and South-East Trains worked until later that year.

3417 at Poole - 18 June 2005 - Hentis Rail 3417 and 1498 at Holes Bay - 11 June 2005 - Hentis Rail

Photos above of unit 3417 on the main line are thanks to Hentis-Rail. The photo on the left is at Poole, and the photo on the right is at Holes Bay, between Poole and Hamworthy (18 and 11 June 2005).

More details and photos of 3417 are on this second page covering 3417 in Bluebell Railway ownership and the current status of the unit.

Type: 4 Vep (Class 423) 4-car Electric Multiple Unit
Built: 1967, BREL York (62236 built in 1969)
Unit No: 3417 (423 417), previously 7717, 3017
Unit name: "Gordon Pettitt"
Vehicle Nos: DTCsoL 76262, MBSO 62236, TSO 70797 & DTCsoL 76263
Maximum speed: 90mph
To Bluebell: 17 January 2009
Owner: Bluebell Railway plc
Current status: handed over (May 2012) into the care of The Southern Electric Traction Group - see also SETG's Blog

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