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


The History Zone

The Southern Suburban Electric Network

Part 2 - The Southern Railway Takes Over

The formation of the Southern Railway brought the management of three large and extensive suburban networks under one organisation. Both the LSWR and LBSC were joined by the lines of the South Eastern & Chatham Railway. The Southern decided to expand the electrification on the two former and commence work on electrifying the latter. But first it had to decide on which system to adopt as standard for future electrification work. Not surprisingly it chose the LSWR third rail system as the Southern Railway management was dominated by ex-LSWR managers. The decision did not prevent the completion of the last LBSC electrification to Coulsdon North and Sutton in 1925 but it meant that before the equipment was run in it would be replaced.

Work first began on adding to the LSWR electrified lines and the former SECR routes. On July 12th 1925 the LSWR routes from Raynes Park to Dorking, Claygate to Guildford and the section that joined these between Effingham Junction and Leatherhead were opened to electric traction with the SECR routes from Orpington to Victoria via Penge East and to Holborn Viaduct via Nunhead along with the branch from Nunhead to Crystal Palace (High Level) on the same date. Thus began the Southern Railway's tireless spread of suburban electrification with the third rail.

By the end of July 1926 all the routes from Dartford to Charing Cross and Cannon Street along with the lines from Lewisham to Hayes, Addiscombe and Orpington had been added. With the inner suburban routes of former LSWR and SECR completed attention turned to the LBSC lines still running with the original AC overhead electrification.

The electrification of these lines involved equipping some routes from new with third rail and also replacing the overhead system with DC third rail on lines so equipped by the LBSC. In the case of the later the overhead was kept in operation throughout the work on laying and connecting the third rail and was not switched of until the DC system was ready to come into use, thus providing, on the whole, a seamless changeover. During 1928 and 1929 the routes from London Bridge to Crystal Palace (low level),Caterham, Tattenham Corner, Victoria (South London Line), Coulsdon North, Epsom Downs, Norwood Junction, Selhurst & Epsom were either electrified from new or converted to third rail. In addition the lines from Wimbledon to Herne Hill and South Merton were electrified leaving only those lines from Victoria to be added. The line from Victoria to Beckenham Junction was electrified on March 3rd 1929, the same day as the short section from Victoria to Elephant & Castle was added. This left the through trains from Victoria to Coulsdon North and Sutton as the last left running on the LBSC overhead system. They last ran in September 1929 with the third rail electric service commencing from September 22nd.

No sooner was this mass electrification completed when the Southern Railway saw the potential to extend into outer suburban territory.

Continue to part two - The spread of the third rail