The Greatest Suburban Electrification Scheme in the World
IN A SYLVAN SETTING. A Southern Railway electric train on the London to Reigate line.
MANY of the world’s most notable railway records are held by Great Britain. Among them is that of the largest single system of suburban railway electrification owned and worked by one railway company, to be found in or around any of the world's great cities. It is the Southern Railway Company that has earned, and richly deserves, this claim to fame. With commendable enterprise the directors of the company have electrified one section after another of their suburban lines, until the tentacles of this great electrified network now extend down to the South Coast. Already Brighton, Hove and Worthing are served by swift electric expresses from London; and further progress is always being made.
When the Southern Railway group was formed at the beginning of 1923, two of its three component parts, the London & South-
The old Brighton line was the first in the field. Spurred on to drastic measures by the competition of electric tramcars, the London, Brighton & South Coast Company first electrified its South London line, round from London Bridge to Victoria by way of Peckham Rye and Brixton, opening this route to electric traction in 1909, and followed with the lines from both these terminals to the Crystal Palace.
So successful were the results achieved that by 1913 a far bigger electrification scheme was prepared; but its carrying out was delayed by the War. It included the main line from London to Brighton. All this Brighton electrification was to have been carried out on the overhead system, with alternating current at 6,000 volts, 25 cycles; for it was thought that this would be the more economical method when it came to the long-
It was in 1915 that the first electrified sections of the London & South-
A MOTORMAN at the driving controls of an electric train. A clear view of the track ahead is provided by a large plate-
UNLIMITED POWER. High pressure alternating current is sent by means of overhead cables from the electric power-
After the grouping of the railway companies electrification went on apace, and since then scarcely a single month has elapsed during which the Southern Railway has not had some sections at least of its lines in course of re-
The three original railways contributed between them no fewer than seven terminal stations in London to the possessions of the Southern Railway. The London & South Western owned only one of these -
LONDON BRIDGE SIGNAL-
Then, at last, twenty years after the plans had been first prepared, there came the realization of the long-
New suburban lines have been built, too, such as the section from Wimbledon through the great St. Helier housing estate to Sutton, with the double object of tapping new sources of traffic, and of facilitating the through working of electric trains from London back to London as a continuous journey, without any reversal at the country end.
Over 1,000 Miles Electrified
By the beginning of 1934, when electrical working was brought into use for the first time to Sevenoaks, over both the main line from Orpington, and also from St. Mary Cray through Swanley and Otford, the single track electrified mileage of the Southern Railway had increased to 1,023, and the route mileage to 382; the Eastbourne and Hastings extensions were planned to add 123 miles to the former figure and 60 to the latter; and other minor plans had to be evolved to bring the total electrified track mileage to 1,160, and the total route mileage to 447.
In length, 447 miles is practically equivalent to electrifying throughout one of the northern main lines from London to Perth, in Scotland. The track figure of 1,160 is well over twice the route figure of 447, because a large proportion of the electrified routes has four tracks. A total of 1,160 miles is sufficient to extend from London to Inverness and back and still to leave 23 miles to spare. The vision of the Southern Railway administration in deciding on, and in carrying out, this immense plan has been well rewarded by the vast increase of traffic secured -
The use of electric traction means that more rapid starts can be made from stations than with steam; this, indeed, is one of the principal assets of electrification, for more rapid starting makes possible a reduction in the “headway” between trains. That is to say, more trains can be crowded on the tracks, and more frequent, as well as more speedy service given.
CENTRALIZED CONTROL. The interior of the great semi-
On the other hand, the frequency of the trains may be limited by other factors. Of these, the principal are the ways in which the tracks themselves are arranged, especially at junctions, and the type of signalling in use. Where junctions of double lines are arranged on the flat, it means inevitably that at least two of the tracks have to cross one another on the level, and that wider intervals between the trains passing through the junction are required in order to allow time for the switch and signal movements necessary to prevent collisions. If ordinary “manual” signalling is used, the space between trains is limited by the speed at which the signalmen in the boxes can carry out the necessary bell-
Added to the cost of electrification is the expenditure on all kinds of track alterations, and on the installation of electric signalling, both of which are essential if the maximum possible value is to be derived from the electrification itself. In this connexion the Southern Railway has decided to spend £500,000 in improving the approaches to Waterloo terminus. Out of Waterloo, which handles 1,550 train movements daily, there are eight running lines. The north side of the station accommodates the trains for the Putney, Reading and Windsor lines; in the centre the main line trains arrive and depart; and on the south side are the platforms for the suburban trains, which follow the main line to Wimbledon and beyond.
The Reading and Windsor trains keep to their separate tracks as far as Clapham Junction, where they diverge from the main lines, and so give no trouble. But the main lines have their two fast tracks in the centre, with the up and down suburban tracks on the outside; this facilitates the divergence of the various suburban trains to their branches at Raynes Park, Malden, Surbiton, and elsewhere, as these branches are led off by means of tunnels or overbridges -
The Problem of Waterloo
But what is of such value at the suburban stations is all wrong at Waterloo; for as all the up suburban electrics from the main line direction approach Waterloo they have to be switched on the flat right across the up and down fast tracks, in order to reach their own platforms on the south side of the station, in readiness for departure on the down suburban line. This means many complicated signal and switch movements, as well as considerable delay to trains at busy hours.
To construct a “fly-
Electric signalling, it was decided, should ultimately be installed all the way from Waterloo to Hampton Court Junction, beyond Surbiton, a distance of 13½ miles. Between the various junctions this signalling, as on other electrified sections of the Southern Railway, can only be automatic; at the junction points many of the ordinary signal cabins would not be suitable. The working must be concentrated in large cabins containing complex electrically-
Here, then, is an instance in which electric operation of trains has been proceeding for nearly twenty years. It is continually being speeded up, not always by means of new electrical rolling-
The installation of electric signalling has also considerable economic advantages in enabling signal-
At Brighton another new electric signal-
THREE BRIDGES CONTROL STATION has on the roof a semi-
Novel systems in this connexion include the electrical working of the junctions at Copyhold from Haywards Heath signal-
In the London suburban area the electric signalling is partly “three-
Remarkable Suburban Stations
So far as track arrangements are concerned most of the junctions in the London suburban area of the late South-
Probably the most remarkable system of junctions in the country is that north of Croydon. Here the main line from Victoria meets that from London Bridge; both are four-
Another complicated junction system occurs where the old South-
The current for the long-
But the main feature of interest in this installation is the way in which all the eighteen railway sub-
The two controllers at Three Bridges sit at a desk in the middle of the large D-
SPEED AND COMFORT are combined on the Southern Railway’s electric services. This interior view gives an impression of the luxurious appointments of a modern railway carriage.
The development of a fault at any one of the sub-
Telephonic communication is provided between the control office and each sub-
“Rush Hour” Traffic
Another novelty at these sub-
Now the trains themselves require description. Throughout the Southern electrification area “multiple-
For suburban service, multiple-
But the use of multiple-
"BRIGHTON BELLE," crack electric express of the Southern Railway. The train runs thrice daily between Victoria Station, London, and the terminus at Brighton, covering the fifty-
Although much of the stock used in the suburban electric services (trailer cars in particular) was adapted from the coaches in use in steam days, all the rolling-
Never previously in railway history have “motor Pullmans” been constructed. Three units have been built for this service, each comprising five cars measuring 68 ft 9 in over the buffers, and all equipped in the most up-
Biggest in the World
A complete unit consists of third-
Then there are the corridor units for the ordinary express trains, each made up of six coaches (one of which is a Pullman car), seating 236 third-
Seating accommodation is provided for over 600 passengers per train, and refreshments are served to passengers in their compartments by the attendants from the Pullman cars. Thirty-
There are some interesting features about these Pullman cars, which are of all-
Another feature of the cars is the readiness with which all the furniture can be moved, so opening up the whole of the interiors for cleaning.
In the Southern Railway’s own stock that has been built for these services many novelties have been introduced, such as arm-
The train services are some of the most lavish in the world over so great a distance. At every hour from 9 in the morning to 12 midnight a 60-
THE GREAT NETWORK in the Southern Railway’s suburban area. Thick lines denote electrified track, the thin lines show routes served by steam trains.
Then there are semi-
It is no secret that times far quicker than 60 minutes from London to Brighton were achieved by electric trains when preliminary experiments were being made. The quickest time on record for the 51 miles from Victoria to Brighton was 46 minutes 43 seconds from start-
But it was rightly considered that punctuality would be one of the most important assets of the now electrified service, and that strict punctuality would be possible if the electric trains had plenty of power in reserve. And so, when the express trains are running to time, the drivers are instructed, as soon as they have reached the summits of certain specified long gradients, to shut off the current, and to run their trains by gravity alone; and special display boards are erected at the line-
But if trains have been delayed by signal or permanent way checks, then the driver has the capacity for fast downhill running, and speeds of 75 miles an hour and more will be attained in order to recoup the lost time and to arrive punctually. So it is clear that no stone has been left unturned by the Southern Railway management to ensure success in the working of this vast electrical enterprise.
As a conclusion to this article, it is fitting that we should make a journey by one of the “Brighton Electrics”, and the most attractive train to choose for the purpose is, of course, the “Brighton Belle”.
For many years after its first introduction, during the days when, it was hauled by steam locomotives, this train was known as the “Southern Belle”, and was content to make one double journey a day; now the “Brighton Belle” runs from Victoria to Brighton and back three times every day, making a total mileage of about 306 a day, and 2,142 a week. In the whole year more than two thousand journeys -
THE LINE TO THE COAST, from the North Downs to the English Channel.
The three departures from London are at 11 o’clock in the morning, three in the afternoon, and seven in the evening, returning from Brighton to Victoria at 1.25, 5.25, and 9.25 pm. If we catch the 11 am down, we shall start neck-
The short distance between Pouparts Junction signal-
From here onwards the main line to Brighton is on rising gradients for 16 miles. It has three well-
LABYRINTH OF LINES running southward over the Thames just outside Cannon Street Station. This London terminus handles an enormous volume of suburban traffic, and all the points and signals are operated by electricity.
A little less than ten miles out of Victoria comes the complex system of junctions north of Croydon. First, the slow lines dive down under the track on which we are running. Then at Windmill Bridge Junction we join the lines from London Bridge, and immediately afterwards clear East Croydon Station, where speed may be increased to Coulsdon North. Mounting through a deep chalk cutting, in the middle of which the original route is crossed, we pass through Quarry Tunnel, and then drop down, first along a high embankment, and then through a short tunnel “by-
tracks converge to two, the second summit is reached, and we pass through Balcombe Tunnel itself.
This stretch of track is one of the busiest sections of the route, as only two tracks have now to carry all the trains. But it would be costly to widen, as in addition to Balcombe Tunnel there is the great stone viaduct, near Balcombe, over the Ouse Valley. Travelling at high speed through Haywards Heath we pass Wivelsfield, and, beyond, Keymer Junction.
Clayton Tunnel, over a mile in length, carries the train up to the last of the three summits, at its southern portal. Another deep chalk cutting, and the “Brighton Belle” dashes down the final 1 in 264 to Preston Park, where the Hove and Worthing line branches to the west. And finally we travel smoothly into Brighton Central Station, exactly one hour after leaving Victoria.
1 and 8 March 1935]
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THE GUARD of an electric train is provided with a periscope giving a clear view of the track ahead. The periscope comprises a pair of inclined mirrors, one placed in a housing in the roof, the other on the wall of the guard’s compartment.