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The Southern Railway (SR) was established in 1923, linking London with the Channel ports, South West England, South coast resorts in Kent. It was the smallest of the ‘Big Four’ railway regions with most of it’s revenue coming from passenger traffic rather than freight in the more densely populated region of southern England.
A number of famous ‘named’ trains were operated by SR including the Brighton Belle, Bournemouth Belle, Golden Arrow, the Night Ferry (London – Paris and Brussels), Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle.
Both Richard Maunsell and Oliver Bulleid served as Chief Mechanical Engineers to the SR between 1923 and 1948 and both designed new locomotives and rolling stock to replace those inherited in 1923.
The electrification of the region began in 1929 under the management of Sir Herbert Walker. On completion it was the world’s largest electrified railway system.
Southern Railway gave the designation 2-BIL to the DC third rail electric multiple units built during the 1930s. The formation was a 2-car set: MBTL-DTCL, and were called 2-BIL (2-car Bi-Lavatory stock) because each set had two lavatories, one in each car. They were built to work long distance semi-fast services on the newly electrified lines from London to Eastbourne, Portsmouth and Reading.
Between 1935 and 1938, a total of 152 sets of the Class 2-BIL were built in 4 batches and were numbered 2001-2152. Numbers 2001-2010 in 1935 for service on the London to Eastbourne sector. Numbers 2011-2048 in 1936 for the London Waterloo to Alton and Portsmouth slow service. Numbers 2049-2116 in 1937 for the Portsmouth to Bognor Regis service and numbers 2117-2152 in 1938 for the London Waterloo to Reading route.
The steel panelled wooden framed bodied were built at SR Eastleigh Works and the steel underframes at SR Lancing Works. Each 2 car unit measured 129ft 6in long and 9ft 2in, wide and were powered by two English Electric traction motors of 275hp (205kW) with a maximum speed of 60mph. The units were fitted with automatic air-brakes The 2-BILs weighed 74tons 15cwt and had a passenger capacity of 24 in the First Class and 84 or 88 Third Class area.
In the early years WWII Southern Region suffered considerable damage due to it’s proximity to the coast, including the loss of some 2-BIL units. By the end of the War the proportion of the freight carried had increased from 25% to 60% as the region had been a marshalling area for troops and armaments destined for the invasion of Europe.
The remaining units stayed in service and passed to the newly formed British Railways in 1948 where they were re-classified as Class 401 and continued in service on BR Southern Region but by 1969 all the units have been withdrawn.
The only 2-BIL unit to survive was number 2090, formed of carriages 10656 and 12123 and is now in the National Railway Museum, York. See Picture above
The 2-BIL unit represented in this pack is BR No. 2134 and is formed of Brake No. S10700S and the Composite No. S12167S and was part of the 4th batch built in 1938 for service on the London Waterloo to Reading route.
Designer: Southern Railway
Entered Service: 1935
Number Built: 152
Motor: 5 Pole Skew Wound
DCC Ready: DCC Fitted
Detail: Chassis and bogie detail