Suburban Electric Railway Association      
Located at the COVENTRY ELECTRIC RAILWAY CENTRE, Rowley Road, Baginton, Warwickshire           

Established 1996

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Class 457 Experimental EMU
Driving Motor Second Open - 67300

The origins of this vehicle start in 1979 when British Railways built two class 210 Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) prototypes; a four car unit 210 001 and a three car 210 002. These units were designed around the 20m Mark 3 suburban vehicle body shell that would be used for class 317 and 455 EMUs. The prototypes were being evaluated as a potential replacement for ageing stock on unelectrified outer suburban and provincial services. They were put to work on traffic around the Great Western lines through Reading to Oxford and Newbury, and despite being successful the design was to prove too costly and no more 210 DEMUs were built. The two prototypes were taken to Eastleigh works and put into store.

In the late 1980s British Rail were looking to create a new breed of EMUs, the traction equipment on these would be a radical departure from anything that had been used before in so much as the motors would run on three phase AC current as opposed to DC which had been exclusively used so far. AC motors are smaller and it is possible to have more of them for a small increase in current draw from either the third rail or overhead line equipment which was seen as a step forward in traction equipment for the UK. The trouble was that three phase traction had never run in the UK and a test bed unit would be required to see if its use had an adverse effect on signalling and power supply as the new generation of EMUs would have to run on existing infrastructure. The engineers looked to some of the now redundant class 210 DEMU vehicles as the basis of their test bed unit.

The vehicles selected were the driving trailers of both DEMUs together with a trailer open second from the three car unit. These were converted during 1988/9 with traction equipment being fitted to the driving vehicles 67300 and 67301. The three car unit was classified as class 457 and numbered 7001 in keeping with the Southern Region tradition of only using the last four digits of a unit's TOPS number. Testing began in 1989 on the Southern Region using the Shepperton branch. A vehicle with an additional air compressor was needed in the formation so a class 455 TSO was borrowed to strengthen the unit to four cars. One side of each motor coach was branded with the slogan 'Traction Development For The 1990s' and some passenger runs took place through 1990 between Waterloo and Windsor. The next stage of the test plan was to see how the unit behaved under wires on AC supply so the 455 trailer was swapped for a vehicle from a 313 AC unit which provided a transformer and a pantograph. The unit was re-numbered as 316 999 and spent many months on the Eastern region being evaluated. The unit returned for final testing on the Southern Region in 1991, the 313 coach being again replaced by the 455 TSO (unit number again became 7001). The testing came to an end and the unit went into store at Eastleigh works late in 1991.

7001 had proved that three phase traction was viable on Britain's existing infrastructure. It certainly hadn't performed faultlessly out of the box, but had provided the engineers in charge of the project with challenges to overcome and the data gathered and lessons learned enabled the situation we have now whereby all EMUs built after 1993 have three phase equipment as standard. both motor coaches of 7001 became available for disposal in 2001 and they were acquired by the SERA. 67300 was always intended for restoration in its guise as three phase pioneer 7001, whilst 67301 was held pending a scheme to reform a 210 DEMU, the later scheme failed to attract sufficient support and 67301 was sold back to a rolling stock lease company in 2004. 67300 has been restored as an example of a significant stage in the story of suburban electric railways.

When brand new and yet to enter service vehicle 54000 leads four car 210 DEMU pictured at the Railway Technical Centre in Derby in 1982. The vehicle was renumbered twice, first as 60300 and again as 67300 when converted to an EMU.
Photo: Colin Marsden

Looking forlorn and a couple of years away from the sale to the SERA, 67300 stands at the front of a three car 7001dumped and heavily stripped at Eastleigh Works.
Photo: Mark Bowman