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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
(Derek Hayward)

3417 at Poole - 18 June 2005 - Hentis Rail 3417 and 1498 at Holes Bay - 11 June 2005 - Hentis Rail Hentis Rail's photos of Unit 3417 in 2005


4 Vep unit number 3417 'Gordon Pettitt' was formally handed over by South West Trains to the Bluebell Railway on Saturday 17 January 2009 at East Grinstead.


Right: Photos of unit 3417 on the main line thanks to Hentis-Rail. The upper photo is at Poole, the lower at Holes Bay (18 and 11 June 2005)


Tom Waghorn's photo below shows the hand-over ceremony for the unit, presented to the Bluebell Railway by South West Trains. 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 Bluebell Railway PLC).


Gordon Pettitt stands next to the Vep unit named after him. (Andrew Strongitharm)


Report on the East Grinstead Open Day including links to many more photos and videos.

Handover of 3417 - 17 Jan 2009 - Tom Waghorn Gordon Pettitt and 3417 - 17 Jan 2009 - Andrew Strongitharm

Departure: Although only on site for a few days, the Bluebell Railway needed to honour its commitment to ensure that the 4 Vep is looked after. Following the hugely successful Open Day, the East Grinstead site reverted to a construction site and therefore became inaccessible, thus isolating the unit.

With construction works due to start at East Grinstead and the unit in an exposed position, the Bluebell Railway accepted the offer of short term accommodation at Eastleigh railway works.

Knights Rail generously sponsored the move to the works where it is under cover and back on the 3rd Rail. Along with LSWR B4 No.96 "Normandy", it represented the Bluebell Railway at the Eastleigh 100 event in May 2009.

All this has happened very quickly (it left at 12.50 on 22nd January in a special move organised at remarkably short notice) and we are grateful to everybody who has made this move possible an excellent example of team work co-operation to ensure that the unit will be in a much safer store.

73s arrive to collect the Vep - 22 Jan 2009 - Gavin Bennett The Vep at Eastleigh - 22 Jan 2009 - Clive Emsley

Photos: Above left: The departure from East Grinstead, 22 January 2009 (Gavin Bennett)
            Above right: Later in the day Clive Emsley happened to be at Eastleigh Station and managed to take this photo of the set there.

Return to the Bluebell Railway: The unit was able to attend the Swanage Railway Diesel Gala in May 2010, and then returned to the Bluebell Railway, arriving on 2nd September 2010 to play its part in the opening ceremony for the new platform a few days later, as seen in the photos at the bottom of this page.

3417 has now been used on several occasions at open days at East Grinstead, enabling visitors to have a short train ride over the northern part of the extension. It has usually gone off the Bluebell Railway afterwards for storage elsewhere. The last such occasion was in April 2012, prior to which it was given some TLC at Wimbledon Park depot. Having been stored under cover at Clapham Junction shed, due to maintenance work on that shed it is currently outside, but should move to another depot for the longer term. The unit remains in Bluebell Railway ownership, but as of May 2012 has been in the care of The Southern Electric Traction Group.


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 Left: 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)

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.

Vep welcomes visitors at Eastleigh - 23 May 2009 - David Chappell Right: Visitors boarding our 4 Vep at Eastleigh on 23rd May 2009 - the unit, along with LSWR loco "Normandy" represented the Bluebell Railway at the 100th anniversary celebrations of the works (David Chappell)

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.

73208 breaks the opening banner at East Grinstead - Michael Hopps - 4 September 2010 Opening of platform at East Grinstead  - Richard Salmon - 4 September 2010
Train on the viaduct - Mike Hopps - 4 September 2010


Opening of East Grinstead Platform, 4 September 2010

Nearly 1500 tickets were sold over the Saturday and Sunday when we officially opened our new platform at East Grinstead. Passengers were able to travel a few hundred yards over the viaduct and down to Imberhorne North, within sight of the tip.

Above: 73208 hauling 3417 breaks the opening banner at East Grinstead (Michael Hopps).
           Passengers boarding the first timetabled train to leave the station southwards since 1958 (Richard Salmon).
Left: The 4 Vep travels over Hill Place viaduct (Michael Hopps).

Vep comes off the viaduct - Tony Sullivan - 21 April 2012 2012 - Wimbledon Park and East Grinstead

Over the weekend of 21-22 April 2012 we held our last East Grinstead open days before the opening throughout of the Extension the following year. Tony Sullivan's photo on the right shows the Vep unit coming off the viaduct on the Saturday

We ran trips over the viaduct to the tip every 30 minutes over both days. The well filled trains contained both enthusiasts and local families. Our fundraisers (including the former Mayor of East Grinstead, Ginnie Waddingham, who had driven a digger as part of the launch of the removal of the rubbish tip back in November 2008) were busy (and successfully) raising money with "Fiver to the Finish" certificates.

The two photos below are from Mike Hopps and Nathan Gibson, again showing 73204 at the head of the Vep unit on the Saturday.

The final photo below, courtesy of the West London Line Group, shows the unit on the move a month earlier. The photo was taken from the passenger footbridge at West Brompton on Monday 12 March as the unit was moved from Clapham Yard to Wimbledon Park (taking a roundabout route to turn it). Whilst at Wimbledon the unit was prepared for use on the Bluebell, and was used, on the juice, to shunt "Tornado" which was also visiting the depot to make use of their wheel lathe!

73204 at East Grinstead with the Vep - Mike Hopps - 21 April 2012 73204 with the Vep - Nathan Gibson - 21 April 2012 Vep on the move - West London Line Group - 12 March 2012

In Clapham shed - Richard Salmon - 19 September 2011  
Storage at Clapham Shed and Yard - 2011-14

This photo shows the unit stored in the shed at Clapham, and was taken on 19 September 2011.

Due to work that was required to be undertaken on the shed, it was subsequently stored in the open at Clapham yard, as seen in the two photos below, pending a move under cover at another depot.

Richard Salmon's photo shows the unit on 10 September 2013, and that courtesy of the HMRS was taken on 27 March 2014.

Vep at Clapham - Richard Salmon - 10 September 2013 Vep at Clapham - Keith Harcourt/HMRS - 27 March 2014

Vep and Corfe Castle - 8 May 2010 - Ian Dixon 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
Current location: stored at Clapham Yard, but planned to move to another depot

Right: 3417 at Corfe Castle while visiting the Swanage Railway for their annual Diesel gala and beer festival, 8 May 2010 (Ian Dixon)

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Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional! © Copyright, 27 January 2009 by Richard Salmon, additional material 20 October 2010 by Martin Skrzetuszewski.
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Diagram from Martin Skrzetuszewski collection.
Last updated by Nick Beck, 10 November 2014
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