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BR MkI coaches

Full Brake

photograph by John Lewis

The MkI Full brake 99554 above was part of the VSOE "Ocean Liner Express" set of coaches. Originally numbered BG 80861 and built in 1956 on Lot 30162 by Pressed Steel, here it has been given B4 bogies and is painted in Southern Region green livery. Photograph taken at Clapham Junction.

Such is the scope of this subject it is not possible to provide definitive coverage so we only aim to give a flavour of this stock before it finally disappears from "mainline" service altogether . Today the majority of non-EMU MkI stock is to be found on preserved railways although some of these and the Rail Charter Services Ltd (RCS) MkI sets do appear on National Rail Network excursion services.

The Southern Region ran the majority of its BR MkI coach stock in fixed sets, as did to a certain extent Network SouthEast for services on former Southern lines.

When first introduced on the Southern Region MkIs carried the prevailing crimson and cream livery. The last BR(S) stock appeared in these colours in 1956 .  From then onwards coaches were constructed or repainted into the Southern's beloved green - albeit to a different richer and darker shade than SR malachite.  The original BR livery specification was for black coach ends but from 1964 onwards ends were painted the same colour as the body sides to take advantage of the new airless spraying techniques. From the late 1960s BR Corporate blue and grey prevailed, though it is rumoured the Southern Region took the BR blue/grey specification being for main line trains only too literally and turned out a small number of coaches for a short time in overall blue.  From the late 1980s the colourful and complex Network SouthEast livery was applied.

The Southern Region introduced continental style colour bands at cantrail level, initially on boat train services, in 1960. Yellow designated first class accommodation and red catering vehicles. This soon spread to other Southern Region coaching stock, including Maunsell, Bulleid and EMU designs. By 1963 this practice had spread to the rest of BR.

Although second class accommodation was generally abolished in the south in stages up to September 1923 the Southern Railway and Region retained it for use on continental boat train services. Fifteen MkI second class opens were specially constructed for Southern boat train services. Passengers were seated in eighth bays of 2+1 pattern with a central door on each side opening into a seating bay. When European second class was abolished on 3 June 1956 the former third class was redesignated second and these fifteen unique coaches were initially designated second without any special markings. However their 48 seat only capacity created rostering problems on intensive Southern services so in 1960 they were reassigned and relettered as Restaurant Cars until an early withdrawal.

Even though international passenger travel by boats had been largely killed by airliners the Southern still continued with its traditional Ocean Liner Boat Train service to Southampton, though in its later days concentrating on cruise liners and the remaining intermittent Trans-Atlantic services. However on 1 November 1991 the last Ocean Liner set consisting of eight MkI FKs and one MkI BSK was disbanded to provide additional stock for West of England services.

Following Southern Railway practice the Southern Region stabled its coach stock at various points throughout their system though with the progressive withdrawal of locomotive hauled services all hauled coaches were allocated to Clapham Yard by 12 May 1986 (excepting six BSKs for the remaining SE/Central newspaper services). Further rationalisation of hauled coach stock under Network South East saw stock for the few remaining Southern services being supplied by (horror of horrors to Southern enthusiasts!) Old Oak Common and Newton Abbot.

For more information on BR MkI coaches you are strongly advised to read the master work on this subject - the book "British Railways Mark 1 Coaches by Keith Parkin MA, published by Pendragon in association with the HMRS, ISBN 1-899816-07-0".

Following pictures of MkI coaches in BR(S) green are from the RCS "Golden Jubilee" set and in their current specification are not authentic for BR(S) service. Coaches from this set may not have been allocated to the Southern Region at any time and they now run on Commonwealth bogies whereas B1 bogies would have been used at least in early BR(S) service.

Click on the thumbnails below for a larger image and description.

  • BSK 35010

    Brake Second Corridor (BSK) 35010 pictured at Salisbury on 19th October 1986 on an up West of England service to Waterloo. Note the MkI is still in blue and grey on the left - since NSE had only been launched on 10th June that year - but the Mk2 First Corridor on the right is also in NSE livery.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • TSOs

    A pair of Tourist Second Opens (TSO) in Network SouthEast excursion service at Andover on 24th September 1988. Note the double heading Class 33s.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • TSO

    This photograph for end detail. A Mk1 TSO was observed stabled out of service - presumably because it had failed recently - at Andover on 24 September 1988. The swirly patterns on the black end are marks on the coach and not artefacts of jpeg compression!
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • BFK S17023

    S5027 from the RCS set at Yeovil Junction on 2nd October 1999. In 1981 this coach was allocated to the Western Region.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • FO S3123

    First Open (FO) S3123 from the RCS set also pictured at Yeovil Junction on 2nd October 1999.  FOs were not common on the Southern although a few First Corridors (FKs) were used. This coach was allocated to the Western Region in 1981.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • RBR S1696

    Originally a Buffet Restaurant (RB) now running as a Restaurant Kitchen Car (RBR) S1696 from the RCS set pictured at Yeovil Junction on 2nd October 1999. In 1981 this coach was allocated to the Eastern Region.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • TSO S5027

    Tourist Second Open (TSO) S5027 from the RCS set at Yeovil Junction on 2nd October 1999. In 1981 this coach was allocated to the Western Region.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • RMB S1818

    The Southern Region operated a number of RMB (Restaurant Miniature Buffet) cars which were very useful on the shorter routes where a Restaurant Car couldn't be considered. This is S1818 as running on the Bluebell Railway.
    Photograph by Glen Woods.
  • Destination

    The side-mounted destination boards used on BR Mkl stock, seen here on RMB 1818 on 3 July 2003. Compare this with the high-mounted roof board of the Bulleid coaches.
    Photograph by Peter Richards.
  • Set 542

    Mark I set 542, (see next photo) hauled by bunker first N°80138, passes Groombridge Junction en route from Tunbridge Wells West to Eastbourne.
    This set was composed of:
    BSK 34936
    CK 15872
    BSK 34937
    This was amongst the few sets that remained on the Kent Coast after Phase 1 of the electrification scheme. It was transferred to the 'Oxted Lines' at the end of the summer service in 1962 (September/October) and remained on these services until October 1963 when it was reformed as:
    SO 4037
    BSK 34936
    CK 15872

    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • Set 542

    Mark I set 542, (see previous photo) hauled by bunker first N°80138, passes Groombridge Junction en route from Tunbridge Wells West to Eastbourne.
    Set 542 was then allocated to Tonbridge - Reading services. Therefore the photograph was clearly taken between these two dates, say circa March 1963 (as there is no yellow stripe on the first class). It is not possible to say which way round the set is as the CKs were not marshalled consistently - sometimes the first class was adjacent to the lower numbered BSK and sometimes to the higher one.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • Set 904

    Mixed Mark I and Bulleid set N°904 at Oxted.
    The formation of set 904 was (from the end viewed):
    Mk 1 BS (non-corridor) 43383
    BR built Bulleid CK 5891
    BR built Bulleid CK 5890
    Mk 1 C (non-corridor) 41064
    Mk 1 S (non-corridor) 46298
    Mk 1 S (non-corridor) 46297
    Mk 1 BS (non-corridor) 43382
    It was originally formed as a 6-set for the South Eastern section but was transferred to the Central section upon completion of Phase 1 of the Kent Coast electrification (when the two 1949-built Bulleid CKs replaced the ex SR rebuilt C, 4727). The three non-corridors 43383, 41064 and 43382 were originally intended as a 5th Exmouth set (156) but were diverted to the South Eastern. The two Bulleids ran as loose vehicles until they were formed into this set, most probably about the time S4727S was condemned (4 October 1958). Around June 1964 they were removed (5890 going to set 878 and 5891 to set 801) and replaced by Mark I CKs S16202 & S16203. This identifies the photograph as being taken between October 1958 and June 1964, but, as the end non-corridor appears to be in green, (they were supplied in crimson) the date would appear to be circa 1961. The set was booked to work, whilst on the Central, regular commuter services :
    07:03 a.m. Tunbridge Wells West to London Bridge and 05. 20 p.m. London Bridge to Tunbridge Wells West.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood, text and set details from Glen Woods.
  • FK S13006

    First Class Corridor N°S13006 (built in 1951 at Swindon) repainted in the then new 'Blue & Grey' livery at Clapham Junction on 15th November 1966.
    Photograph by Ray Soper, text and set details from Glen Woods.
  • FO S3501

    Open First N°S3501 was allocated to Boat Train Set 2 and is seen here at Clapham Junction on 15th November 1966 carrying "United States Line" carriage boards.S3501 was one of a batch of vehicles (S3500 - S3514) that were unique on BR in that they were the only Boat Seconds to be built by BR. They were introduced in 1953 for boat trains, where three classes were still in operation (third class was still in existence and lasted to June 1956). Upon the abolition of third class all the former TOs were reclassified as SOs. However, these vehicles were not freely interchangeable with the bulk of the SOs as they only had 48 seats as opposed to the 64 on what was now the standard SO. The Southern therefore decided to upgrade them to first class vehicles and this took place in 1959. Some were branded 'Restaurant Cars' but there were only 42 seats for dining as the bay with the outside doors, towards the centre of the vehicle, meant it was unsuitable for this purpose.
    Photograph by Ray Soper, text and set details from Glen Woods.
  • TSO Roof detail

    Roof detail on Mk1 TSO 5034 at Sheffield Park on 21st July 2001.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • RMB Roof detail

    The roof detail of RMB S1818 photographed at Sheffield Park.
    Photograph by Glen Woods.

This section was last updated 27 June 2020


Early versions had a wooden veneer finish with, in most cases, a useful lable telling what the wood was and from whence it came. Later versions used plastic laminate which, although lighter and "airier", didn't have the same ambience as the veneered ones.

The seating arrangements in the coaches varied according to usage. The normal in First Class was to have three seats either side of a compartment or a two plus one arrangement in an open saloon. Third/second/standard class, however, was not so straightforward. Whereas compartment stock was mainly of four seats per side, the open saloons had two arrangements, the two plus one arrangement for the longer journeys of the Eastern and Midland regions or the two plus two arrangement for their shorter journeys and for all useage on the Southern and Western regions. To differentiate the former were classified SO whilst the letter were TSO.

Click on the thumbnails below for a larger image and description.

  • First double

    First class double seat in FO M3116 of 1961, now in service on the Bluebell Railway.
    Photograph by Peter Richards.
  • First single

    First class single seat in FO M3116.
    Photograph by Peter Richards.
  • Close-up

    Close-up of the seat material used in FO M3116.
    Photograph by Peter Richards.
  • Third/second/
    standard material

    C Third/second/standard class seat in TSO M4957 of 1962. Originally a Midland Region coach it was subsequently modified slightly for use on the short-lived "Travelling College" train, in which it was used as a lecture room, and is now another in the Bluebell Railway's carriage fleet
    Photograph by Peter Richards.
  • Close-up

    Close-up of the seat material used in TSO M4957
    Photograph by Peter Richards.

This section was last updated 22 November 2003

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