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Motor Luggage Van (Class 419)

photograph by David Smith

Unit N°9004 is seen here in the NSE colour scheme at Redhill during April 1990. The traction battery hatch covers can clearly be seen on the left. The LSE sector was re-launched as Network SouthEast when Chris Green became its Director.

Ten motor luggage vans (MLV) were built between 1959 and 1961 to provide sufficient luggage space on boat trains to and from the Kent ports. Unlike their contemporaries the 4 Ceps/Beps, with whom they mostly worked, they had a non gangwayed suburban cab. These unique vehicles had quite a fascinating history. The first two, delivered in April/May 1959 had the capability when marshalled intermediately within a train to convert air braking on one side into vacuum braking on the other. A few trial runs were made in the early 1960s with an EMU + MLV + Bulleid loco-hauled 3-set formation. All ten units did however have vacuum exhausters and were able to haul vacuum braked vans in the conventional way.

The second batch of eight were delivered between December 1960 and March 1961, all being in all-over multiple unit green and with no unit number (they did not have any for many years) shown on the end. The coach numbers 68001 - 68010 were in the usual location on the body sides.

Actual completion dates were as follows:
68001       25 April 1959
68002       5 May 1959
68003       23 December 1960
68004       29 December 1960
68005       4 January 1961
68006       16 January 1961
68007       24 February 1961
68008       9 March 1961
68009       14 March 1961
68010       28 March 1961
68001/2 were LOT number 30458 and 1957 'phase 1' units.
68003-10 were LOT number 30623 and 1957 'phase 2' units.

All were built at Eastleigh on frames from Ashford to the standard length of 63' 6", overall length was 64' 6" over bodywork with length over buffers (extended) was 67' 1".
The cabs were 4' 2" deep and the Guards compartment was 6' 7" wide at the number 1 end of the vehicle (above the motor bogie). The remainder of vehicle was divided into two luggage compartments, the larger (at the No 1 end) being 27' 7" long, the smaller one 18' 6" long. Both had a pair of outward opening doors each side. The overall capacity of vans was 132 cubic yards, divided 80 and 52. Overall weight was 45 tons and load of 7 tons was permitted.

Phase 2 units were built with conduits and wiring for AWS equipment though this was not fitted until about 1985 (the first two were also equipped at this time). The SR electrical codes were AF for 68001/2 and AF-1A for remainder, all to Diagram No 498.
These units had BR Mk 3 bogies, the motor bogie with 8' 9" wheelbase, trailer bogie with 8' 6" wheelbase. The motor bogie was fitted with two 250hp English Electric traction motors and shoegear was fitted to both bogies. The motor generator had an auxiliary generator attached which charged the traction batteries. These batteries supplied power at 200v for the traction motors, compressors and vacuum exhausters.

The special feature of the MLVs was that they could work over non electrified lines using battery power, mainly to allow them to proceed onto the extremities of the pier lines at Folkestone and Dover. The MLVs could work singly, hauling a limited load and in multiple with EP type stock.
The vans were initially mainly restricted the South Eastern Division working boat trains from Victoria to the Channel Ports and also some internal mail trains overnight, sometimes hauling vans as part of these duties (from Ashford via Canterbury to Ramsgate was a regular turn with vans in tow). They also worked regularly to Newhaven Harbour.
The amount of luggage and registered traffic on some boat trains was sufficient to require the use of two MLVs and a 2x MLV+12 Cep (or Cep+Bep+Cep) formation with a conductor rail index of 16 which was near the limit of the power supply and also had an excessive power to weight ratio. This led to the conversion of six former loco-hauled BGs at Selhurst during 1968 into Trailer Luggage Vans (TLVs) 68201 - 68206. These vehicles, with no cabs, were unpopular and caused shunting difficulties, particularly at Victoria and as traffic declined the TLVs were all withdrawn from this use in 1975, one MLV being adequate for all the traffic.

By 1985, with a further decline in boat train traffic, surplus MLVs were working more on mail trains and about this time all were fitted with Speed Sensors, a device to prevent the driver selecting neutral on the master controller above 6MPH without a full brake application being made, thereby circumventing the 'deadmans handle'. The units were then able to be used for 'Driver Only Operation' (Non-passenger) or DOO NP. An agreement with the trade unions allowed lines to be cleared for such operation only after a regular train had operated over them for a period of six months, and therefore MLVs increased their sphere of activity quite considerably, with regular diagrams from London Bridge to East Grinstead/Horsham and from Brighton to Seaford/Littlehampton/Bognor whilst these routes were DOO cleared for ECS trains. They ran singly and empty on these workings.
Several different sources state that an overnight mail train from London Bridge to Ashford was diagrammed for a MLV and this was diverted regularly via Redhill due to engineers possessions. When so routed it was booked to have loco assistance from Redhill to Tonbridge, but on a few occasions when there was no loco available it had run from Redhill to Tonbridge using the traction battery supply. This required the co-operation of the local signalmen as a signal stop at Godstone, Edenbridge, Penshurst or outside Tonbridge would almost certainly mean the train would be unable to restart again, and a clear run was essential. These must have been the longest runs attempted on battery power, this line being virtually flat.

On first overhauls in 1964, units gained small yellow warning panels on the cab fronts, a few also had their vehicle numbers added in the usual 'unit number' position, though some never carried these whilst still in green. In March 1967 68004 was painted all-blue with full yellow ends, whilst all others went direct from green to blue/grey with full yellow ends, the last being done about July 1970, with blue 68004 following in August. In early 1986 vehicles began being repainted into the LSE sector 'Jaffa Cake' two tone brown livery, 68001/3/5/6/7/8/9/10 being done. Early in 1987 the vehicles were allocated unit numbers for the first time given a class number of 419, becoming 419001 - 419010. The new numbers were applied on cab ends each side just above the windows rather than high up in the centre as previously, and only the last four digits were shown. This renumbering order caused some confusion as 9001/2/3/6/8 had their body side numbers altered in error though these were quickly changed back to 68xxx. The increasing use of these vans on mail and postal trains led to the repainting of 9001/9 in Post Office red livery in late 1988/early 1989. However unit 9004 was held-up and robbed on the Quarry Line near Merstham on 8 March 1989 whilst working a Brighton to London Bridge mail service and both were quickly repainted again, into the new NSE livery.
All ten MLVs had their brake rigging rearranged during late 1985/early 1986 to completely separate the braking systems on the two bogies. Previously, like other similar '1957' type EMU's, there was only a single brake cylinder on each vehicle and the rigging applied the brakes on both bogies. However, following a number of instances of signals being overrun and culminating in a buffer stop collision at London Bridge 18th April 1985, when a brake cylinder defect had affected the braking performance, all were modified to split the brake system into two (with another brake cylinder fitted) so that in event of a failure the braking capability was only reduced by 50%. Obviously this was not such a problem on other types of unit which always had another vehicle attached to assist with stopping the train when a fault arose. For this reason, the units were 'blacked' by drivers for a while, and then ran temporarily attached to 2Hap 'runners' until the modifications were completed, units 6011/6087/6103 being retained past their planned withdrawal dates for this reason.

From May 1990, carriage of mails by internal SR services ceased, and by this time most boat train duties had also finished and most of the MLVs became surplus with units 9003/7/8/9/10 going into store at Ramsgate. From May 1991 9001/3/5/7-9 were officially withdrawn followed by the remaining four from 30 September. All were then allocated numbers in the departmental series as 931091-99 and 931090, though many were not physically renumbered as they were out of use. A few were used at Ramsgate & Slade Green as depot 'shunting horses' for a while and 9006 was damaged in a shunting mishap at Ramsgate 6 December 1991 and later scrapped at Gwent Demolition, Margam.
The remainder were later gathered at Strawberry Hill and moved to Bournemouth for further storage prior to tender for disposal. Virtually all are now preserved with at least one in running condition. 68001 has been used on battery power to haul preserved 2EPB 5759 in passenger traffic between Sheperdswell and Eythorne.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
  • Side
    This picture of an unidentified MLV also shows the N°2 end. It is difficult to photograph an entire underframe broadside.
    Photograph by David Smith.
  • 68003
    N°2 end
    Now the other side of an MLV's underframe, in two parts, this being on unit N°68003, and here the N°2 end.
    Photograph by David Smith.
  • 68003
    N°1 end
    The N°1 end of unit N°68003's underframe.
    Photograph by David Smith.
  • 419004
    Royal Mail
    This picture of unit N°419004 (68004) captures it not only during its brief period in Royal Mail livery but also provides a very useful glimpse of detail on its roof.
    Photograph by David Smith.
  • 419005
    Also seen in in "Jaffa Cake" livery, unit N°419005 as photographed at Dover Priory during summer 1988. This has the earlier version of this livery, without the two black stripes bordering the orange band.
    Photograph by Ian Fossey.
  • 419001
    Royal Mail
    Another colourful scheme in the life of a unit N°419001 is seen here in Royal Mail Livery on the 25th May 1989 just north of Gatwick Airport.
    Photograph by David Smith.
  • 419004
    The LSE sector was re-launched as Network SouthEast when Chris Green became its Director, and unit N°419004 is seen here in the NSE colour scheme at Redhill during April 1990. The traction battery hatch covers can clearly be seen on the left.
    Photograph by David Smith.
  • 419002
    The second member of the class is seen here during its latter days in Network SouthEast Livery.
    Photograph by David Smith.
  • Underframe
    Two rare underframe views of use to anyone building the DC Kits or Southern Pride MLV kit, or merely if you are interested!
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • Underframe
    Unit N°68009 is in the London and South East Passenger sector "Jaffa Cake" livery which preceded Network SouthEast.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • Motor
    The motor bogie of unit N°68007 pictured far away from third rail territory at the Coventry Railway Centre.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • Trailing
    The trailer bogie of unit N°68007.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.

This page was last updated 3 March 2004

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