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


The History Zone

The Southern Suburban Electric Network

Part 3 - The Spread Of The Third Rail

The 1930s saw a continuation of the Southern Railway's suburban electrification programme, during this decade they would complete the electrification of all lines to destinations within an hour of London and also to many outer suburban areas within 90 minutes of the capital. This was also the decade that the SR would begin the electrification of the main lines to the south coast, but that is another story and it is with the suburbs and just beyond that this story concentrates.

Eastern Section Extension

Dartford - Gravesend Central went live on 6th of July 1930, thus completing the first phase of electrification on the former SECR lines. There followed during 1933 and 34 a 'filling in the blanks' style of electrifying a few spur lines that linked but had been omitted from the earlier programme. In January 1935 the next noticeable extension was switched on being the two routes to Sevenoaks; one from Orpington, the other from Bickley via Otford. The short section from Nunhead to Lewisham was electrified from September 30th 1935 and thus enabled the operation of peak hours workings between Dartford and Victoria and Holborn Viaduct.

The last parts of the Eastern extensions were completed just before the outbreak of World War II being opened to electric traction on the 2nd of July 1939, they being the lines from Shoreham to Maidstone East, Swanley to Gillingham and Gravesend to both Maidstone West and Rochester.

Central Section Extension

1930 saw the completion of the newly constructed line between Wimbledon and Sutton via St. Helier, six months later on the 6th July 1930 the Wimbledon to West Croydon line also saw its first electric trains. The next work on the central section that wasn't connected with the Brighton line electrification was the switching on of the route between Woodside and Sanderstead on the 30th September 1935. This effectively completed the suburban lines of the Central section and within three years most of the sections main lines would also be electrified.

Western Section Extension

The royal town of Windsor saw it's first electric trains on the 6th July 1930 when the routes to there from Twickenham and Houslow via Staines was switched on. It was a further six and a half years before any further third rail was energised on the section which came about on the 3rd of January 1937 When the lines between Surbiton and Guildford via Woking along with the branch from Weybridge to Staines via Chertsey were electrified. The line from Woking to Winchester was electrified as far as Alton on the 4th July 1937 and this was as far as the third rail ever got on this section of line. The former LSWR line from Virginia Water to Wokingham and the former SECR section from Wokingham to Reading along with the branches from Ascot to Aldershot and Guildford to Aldershot joined the electrified network on New Years Day 1939.

A new suburban branch from Motspur Park (on the Waterloo - Epsom line) to Leatherhead via Chessington was given approval for construction during the mid 1930s. It was to be electrified from the outset and construction started well with the section from Motspur Park Junction to Tolworth opening on March 29th 1938 and the line extending to Chessington South from the 28th of May 1939. The outbreak of the second world war later in 1939 caused the temporary abandonment of the work. But this proved to be the last electrification by the Southern Railway as the project was never resumed after the end of the war by either the Southern Railway or their successors and the uncompleted works for the line beyond Chessington were permanently abandoned .

Continue To Part Four - Southern Railway Suburban EMUs