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


Class 503 EMU Restoration Project


In 2013 marked the 75th anniversary of the introduction of the Class 503 units and the commencement of the electrified services on the Wirral Peninsular between Birkenhead and West Kirby and New Brighton. To mark this event SERA launched their long term plan for restoration of the last surviving Wirral EMU and have the vehicles returned to their former glory. This would take a number of years given the outdoor nature of the work and the resources that are to hand but by breaking the project down into smaller, achievable steps; and with the support of wellwishers and supporters, it has continued to make slow but steady progress.

The project has been led by SERA member Dave Stretton


The plan to cosmetically restore the vehicles and does not involve ANY work on re-instating their ability to self propel, at this stage, and all high tension electrical circuits are not required to be operable for the purposes of this plan. Work will focus on the following.

  • Welded repair of the bodywork.
  • Renovation of the interior woodwork and fittings.
  • Replacement of any broken missing glass.
  • Replacement of any missing components.
  • Overhaul of the compressed air system, including brakes and door mechanisms.

  • As this is a three car unit and we have a small dedicated team of volunteers we chose to tackle the project not only one coach at a time but each of those coaches is further split into project areas that are tackled one by one. The first vehicle to recieve attention is the driving trailer and the vehicle is to be approached in the following order:

  • Semi-saloon at rear of vehicle and rear passenger doors.
  • Roof of entire vehicle including ventilators.
  • Semi-saloon at centre of vehicle and forward passenger doors.
  • Semi-saloon at front of vehicle and driving cab.
  • Underframe and running gear, including hand and pnuematic brake equipment.



    Several rotten sections of metal have been cut out of the body skin and replacement fresh steel sheet sections have been welded in. The same has happened along the guttering, an area that has understandably suffered a lot of corrosion over the years. new gutter sections were made from scratch. We ordered enough of this to do the whole train as it kept costs down.


    The interior section has been stripped out, including all the seating, wall panels, lino, trim and fittings such as lights, vents and strap hangers. The vehicle lost all of its windows years ago before it came to Coventry courtesy of some stone throwers when it was parked at the Pacific Road tram shed in Birkenhead.

    The removed components are assessed for either repair or renewal depending on their condition. Items that will need renewal are the lino and some of the timber parts that comprise the seating and interior panelling. The latter is mainly built with plywood with hardwood trim. The plywood has been very susceptible to the ravages of time with moisture entering the vehicle getting into the material and separating the individual sheets that make up the plywood. The only option for timber damaged like this is a like for like replacement with new material. The hardwood components have faired considerably better and most require simply being rubbed down and having their tint restored by wood dye and then re-varnished; examples of this are the seat ends with one such item being pictured above right in the process of restoration.

    The welding on this end has now been completed and we can begin to think of re-construction. Windows are to be ordered and in order to fit them we have ordered some bespoke new oak frames to the original patern that hold the glass against the vehicle body. It will be a while before we have an soft furnishings in there but the project is continuing in the right direction.

    All of this will take not only a lot of man hours but also a lot of money. We are asking for those willing to support this project to sign up for our mailing list. We will send you regular updates on the project and information on progress and how you can help out.

    To sign up to this mailing list simply send an email to: we shall add your email address to the list - its that simple!