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


Established 1996


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  South Tyneside EPB - Principle Data

Number Of Coaches Per Unit  Two
Formation Of Unit Dvg Motor Brake Second - Dvg Trailer Composite
Motor Equipment Two 250hp motors on bogie under DMBS cab
Vehicle Weights DMBS - 40 tons : DTC - 30 tons
Vehicle Lengths (Excluding buffers) 64 feet (each car)

So Why Preserve One Of These ?

Of all the passenger units built for the original Tyneside electric system only one has survived to the current day. The BR South Tyneside EMU that is being restored at the Coventry Railway Centre is the sole representative of 63 years of third rail suburban passenger services in the North-east.

History Of The BR South Tyneside 2-EPB

The unit was one of a batch of fifteen built at Eastleigh in 1954/5 for use on the South Shields services, and therefore became one of the last Tyneside third rail EMUs ever built. Construction was of the style dictated by, the then, new British Railways standard for suburban rolling stock, similar two coach units were built at the same time for use on the South London suburban routes but the Tyneside units featured some characteristics in keeping with previous Tyneside EMU tradition such as a large brake van to accommodate the volume of fish boxes and prams that were frequently carried on these services. The traditional Tyneside electric headcode lights were carried on the cab front between the windows and above that was a roller destination blind. Unlike units of this style built for service in the south, the Tyneside variants featured a single compartment for first class

The units operated the South Tyneside services between Newcastle Central and South Shields, a route that had a busy commuter frequency and passenger numbers to match. British Rail decided to withdraw electric traction from these routes and the South Tyneside route was the first to be replaced by diesel units when that route was de-electrified in 1963. After this date all 15 were re-allocated to work the suburban lines in South London, Kent, Surrey and Berkshire which entailed some rebuilding of the cabs and the declassification of the first class compartment. The units continued in passenger service until 1985 when they were all withdrawn from traffic.

A number of units survived for a few years longer on non passenger duties as test or tractor units, this very unit being one of them. It was used for testing the Tonbridge - Hastings line electrification until the route was opened for electric trains in the Summer of 1986. This unit also carried out similar work on the East Grinstead electrification two years later and went on to see occasional use on other test and tractor duties for a number of years until laid aside in 1995, by which time it was the only original two car South Tyneside unit left in existence. This unit was purchased for preservation by SERA and was moved to Robertsbridge in Sussex for initial restoration work but was moved to the Coventry Railway Centre in 1999.

The work of the association in reverting the unit back to its 'as built' condition is both costly and time consuming but is being progressed by a dedicated team of SERA volunteers. It is hoped to bring the unit on a return visit to the North East when the restoration is completed. In the long term this unique survivor will always remain a unique and treasured example of a bygone age of suburban rail travel in the North East.

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View of a South Tyneside EPB set in the long gone suburban platforms at Newastle Central in 1962 ready to form a service to South Shields.

Photo: Michael Mensing

first class interior
The original interior of the first class compartment

Photo: SERA Archive

third class interior
The interior of a third class semi-saloon in original condition.

Photo: SERA Archive


Many years after transfer to the Southern Region and only a couple of years away from passenger withdrawal, 'Tyneside' EPB unit 5782 is pictured at the rear of a working that has just arrived at Waterloo from Windsor & Eton Riverside. At the time it was one of the last units to carry all over rail blue livery.

Photo: SERA Archive


A few weeks prior to being sold into preservation the preserved unit carrying its departmental number 930 053 and faded blue and grey livery catches the evening sun at Wimbledon Park depot.

Photo: Graeme Gleaves

Did You Know.........

This unit has made a couple of bits of railway history in its own right. Firstly it was part of the first electrically powered train to travel over the line from Tonbridge to Hastings on 3rd of April 1986 when the then newly installed third rail system on the route was being commisioned. Secondly, it was the first item of rolling stock sold by the, then, newly privatised Railtrack when sold for preservation.